April 6, 2014 – Fifth Sunday in Lent

Lent 5   April 6, 2014   John 11:1-46 (see below)    Take away the stone ******************************* Jesus receives a message from beloved friends, Mary and Martha, saying their brother Lazarus is seriously ill. But Jesus tarries…We’re told Jesus loves Martha, Mary and Lazarus – love is not the issue – but still Jesus takes his time, waiting another two days before starting on his journey.  Not exactly what I’d hope for, if I were Mary or Martha. But Jesus isn’t asking me. And Jesus surely seems to see life from a rather different perspective… Notice, for example, how Mary is introduced – as “the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair” – even though that hasn’t happened yet, and won’t til the next chapter. (Reminding us we’re still on Jesus Standard Time.) It’s maybe a little strange also that Lazarus, the one dying, is introduced merely as brother of Mary and Martha. His character’s never developed, not even a little in the telling of the story. Probably to let us know the story isn’t about Lazarus, whose name means ‘God helps.’ By the time Jesus shows up, brother Lazarus has been dead four days –  and it’s looking kind of late even for God to help. But again, we’re in Jesus Standard Time… And Jesus isn’t even asking about the brother’s faith. He does ask Martha if she believes. Martha has perhaps been letting her disappointment with Jesus show, as she says, “Lord if you’d been here my brother wouldn’t have died.” On the other hand, she also says, “even now I know God will give you whatever you ask.” And Jesus affirms her faith as he tells her, “your brother will rise again.” “I know he’ll rise again in the resurrection on the last day,” Martha says. Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life – and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God,” Martha says. She indeed has strong faith. Yet still not the fullness of faith Jesus is looking for. *** Jesus does a series of seven signs in John’s gospel. He heals a crippled man in chapter 5, multiplies loaves and fishes in chapter 6, gives sight to a man born blind (chapter 9). Each sign is called a sign (rather than a miracle) because with each sign Jesus also gives some theology afterwards, to help us unpack what he’s done. This time, though, it’s not show and tell but – tell and show. This time Jesus gives theology first, then the sign to illustrate. Jesus says “I am the resurrection and the life.” Martha already believes the resurrection part – believes her brother will rise again on the last day. But Jesus wants us to know – yes, he’s the resurrection – and – also the life. The abundant life – life eternal – Jesus gives begins the moment we believe. Jesus wants us to know this – now. We’ve entered life eternal as soon as we’ve first believed. Which changes our present lives dramatically. Like Mary, who is introduced with a reference to what she will do later on, in the future – we too should be known...

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