The Fifth Sunday in Lent; Year A (April 6, 2014)

Texts:Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 130 Romans 8:6-11 St. John 11:1-45

Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, your Son came into the world to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon us the power of your Spirit, that we may be raised to new life in Christ and serve you in righteousness all our days, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” 11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” 13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

St. John 11:1-45, New Revised Standard Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

To the Glory of God

This week’s Gospel lesson is our third enormously long reading in a row. Last week we spent time with the Man Born Blind, who received the gift of seeing (in more way than one) from Jesus. The previous week we met the Samaritan Woman at the Well, whose time with Jesus touched her heart and soul — as should be the case whenever we spend time with him. Now this week we have Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, dear friend of Jesus. In total, during these three weeks we have read 123 verses of St. John’s Gospel.

This Gospel lesson includes one of my favorite New Testament verses. When some of the disciples caution Jesus against going to see his friend in Bethany (just outside Jerusalem), because it is too dangerous, Thomas, who is often remembered as one who doubts, says, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” Thomas may have had his doubts, but but he is a man of faith and commitment, willing to risk it all for what he believes.

Both the disciples and Thomas are right, of course. It is indeed very dangerous for Jesus to be back in the vicinity of Jerusalem, and in fact, the events that are described in this week’s Gospel will lead directly to the plot to kill him. (11:53) It is indeed the follower’s responsibility  to stand with the leader, even if it means assuming considerable risk.

At the heart of this story is Lazarus: one who enjoys a loving friendship and the experience of new life — both gifts from his friend Jesus. The entire community seems filled with grief at his death. The disciples seem more concerned about Jesus' safety than Lazarus' wellbeing. But for Jesus, this is an “occasion for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” In the glory of the resurrection, we see the presence of God in Jesus. A gift for Lazarus. A gift also for us. Amen!

David J. Risendal, Pastor

Exploring This Week’s Gospel:

  1. What do we learn about St. Thomas from this text?
  2. Why was it so dangerous for Jesus to return to Jerusalem?
  3. What did the raising of Lazarus mean to those who opposed Jesus?

Connecting with This Week’s Gospel:

  1. When have I needed to exhibit the courage of Thomas and stand up for my beliefs?
  2. How have I experienced new life through my relationship with Jesus?
  3. In what ways does my Christian faith give me hope?