By

In the movie, Tuesdays with Morrie,

Mitch says, “Death ends a life, not a

relationship.” We see this played out

in the vision of Ezekiel and our story

from John.

Margaret Odell reminds us that “from

the time Ezekiel first began to speak

in 592 BCE, the (Hebrew) people’s

long history of rebellion against God

and now also against (King)

Nebuchadnezar has sealed their fate.

Destruction was inevitable, and by

586 BCE Jerusalem lay in ruins.” But

God would not forget God’s people.

Even though there was a Valley laden

with dry bones, God would not

abandon the people forever. Even

after so many died, God would not

allow divine relationship to die. He

would breathe life into those dry

bones, saying, “and then you will

know that I am the Lord.”

Centuries later, Jesus was born. He

is God’s way of breathing life into the

dry bones of our existence.

While Jesus was somewhere near the

Jordan River, he received word that

his dear friend, Lazarus, was gravely

ill. Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary,

begged Jesus to hurry to their home

in Bethany.

But Jesus tarried at the place where

he was for two more days before

heading to Bethany.

The text reveals that he intentionally

dragged his feet, staying away from

his friends – even though he knew he

was desperately needed and very

much aware of the consequence of

his delay.

I wonder if Jesus was waiting to see if

his friends’ faith was strong enough to

provide them assurance of God’s

active presence, even while grieving

their loss. Whether this was his

intention or not, it didn’t work out that

way.

When he finally arrived in Bethany,

Martha and Mary let Jesus have it.

They were angry with Jesus and

disappointed in him taking his own

sweet time in responding to their

need. Both sisters voiced, “If you had

been here, Lazarus would not have

died.” Yet, they still believed in their

friend, however overshadowed by

their frustration and grief.

There have been times in my life

when I thought God didn’t respond as

quickly as I needed.

I recall thinking: “What is God waiting

for?” I understand Martha’s and

Mary’s frustration. Maybe you

understand it as well.

Jesus responded to their anger and

disappointment in several ways.

First, he reminds them that he is

God’s Anointed One, the Messiah.

He is resurrection and he is life.

Second, Jesus says that those who

believe in him, even though they die,

will live. He’s priming them to be able

to receive what God so desires to give

Martha and Mary: hope and life

grounded in God’s immense love and

concern.

Jesus’ third response to his friends’

anger and disappointment in him is

his own visceral reaction. He is

upset, not only sad at the death of his

friend, but also distressed and

disillusioned by the lack of faith

displayed by his friends.

Don’t they know that he cares?

Don’t Martha and Mary get it, that

being Messiah, he is motivated to act

not on his own, but through God’s

guidance and God’s love?

Can’t the sisters believe just a little bit

more and wait just a little while longer

to see how God is present

somewhere in all of this? Jesus was

taken aback.

So, when he arrived at the burial site,

Jesus couldn’t contain himself any

longer. He wept. Jesus sobbed not

only at the death of Lazarus; not only

from deep compassion for Martha and

Mary. I think Jesus cried for himself,

thinking: “Will people ever get what

I’m offering them? Will they ever be

open to trusting in God’s immense

love? Do they recognize by now that

God’s love always prevails and never

abandons?” I wonder.

Jesus was led by God to act.

Oh, he’d done this before. He raised

a little girl from her death bed and a

young man from his funeral bier. But

this time was different. Lazarus had

been dead 4 days. Jewish tradition

said that after 3 days, a person’s soul

exited the body. Lazarus was truly

dead.

Also, Jesus had become very well-

known for his healing and teaching

and criticism of narrow-minded, rule-

based religious leaders.

Most of the Jewish religious hierarchy

wanted Jesus gone.

Would this particular display of God’s

limitless power and compassion bring

the Jewish leaders to transformative

awareness or would it bring about

increased opposition? No matter;

Jesus took the risk.

He called to Lazarus, “Come out.”

The dead man listened and came out,

his body and soul having been

revived.

Jesus told the community to free him

from his burial cloths. Then word

began to spread.

Unfortunately, our reading ends

prematurely. We are told in

succeeding verses that because of

this might act of God, many believed

in Jesus as the Messiah.

We are also told that, after this event,

the Jewish religious authorities would

be tolerant of Jesus no more.

They opted to find a way of killing

Jesus, and along with him, eliminate

evidence of his uniqueness. So, the

Jewish authorities resolved to kill

Lazarus as well. This time for good.

Little did they know what God would

do to vindicate Jesus and have the

final word. But we know that will

come a little later in the story.

Let these stories encourage you. Let

them remind you that God loves you.

And out of love, God has given you

and men and all God’s children God’s

life-giving Spirit wrapping around us

and moving in us, assuring us that

God breathes life that never ends – a

quality of life that is freedom from

death and anything that attempts to

hold us back from residing in God’s

love.

All we have to do is believe – that

means, accepting the love God has

for you & me, and inviting God to

come alive in us.

Let this way of living be your daily

habit.

 
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