The Raising of Lazarus: 20 February 2015


John 11:23-26 23 Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ 24 Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ 25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

1 John 5:11-13  11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Jesus’ greatest teachings often came in short words. Here he set two words against all dying – resurrection and life. He reminded us that every time we stand beside an open grave and bid good-bye to a loved one, we participate in a grieving illusion. No Christian grave is eternal.

Often when Jesus spoke, he presented a definition in process. This is one of those occasions. Martha would require six more weeks to fully appreciate what Jesus was saying, much as we are spending these six weeks pondering the depths of Easter art.

These two resurrections – Jesus’ and Lazarus’ – are quite different:

Lazarus’s coming back to life represented only a regaining of his pulse and respiration. When Jesus came back to life, he had outgrown his dependency on oxygen.

Lazarus would come back to life only to face another dying later. Jesus returned forever free of all dying.

Lazarus’s return to life was only a short reprieve, a biological postponement. Jesus’ resurrection was truly an everlasting triumph over death.

In some ways, Lazarus’s resurrection was a kind of “theological overture to the symphony of Easter”. In other ways it was like a report from behind the high gates of death, over which none could see and which all believed could not be opened.

Lazarus’s resurrection was a bold reversal, strong enough to declare that in all matters of death and dying, God always gets the last word.

Lord, help us to see that life—not death—is real. Help us to keep Lazarus in our minds, so that we can really understand what you have in store for us. We want your words of resurrection and life to define the “foreverness” that marks our future.