2 November 2010 All Souls
Reading Wisdom 3:1-9
The Destiny of the Righteous
But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.
2In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died,
and their departure was thought to be a disaster,
3and their going from us to be their destruction;
but they are at peace.
4For though in the sight of others they were punished,
their hope is full of immortality.
5Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good,
because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;
6like gold in the furnace he tried them,
and like a sacrificial burnt-offering he accepted them.
7In the time of their visitation they will shine forth,
and will run like sparks through the stubble.
8They will govern nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord will reign over them forever.
9Those who trust in him will understand truth,
and the faithful will abide with him in love,
because grace and mercy are upon his holy ones,
and he watches over his elect.*
Gospel John 11: 17 – 27
Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."
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. Anyone 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?"
27 "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
First 3 gospels – miracles. In John – signs. Raising of Lazarus – last sign in John’s gospel.
Usually, when Jesus performs sign or miracle – it is then followed by interpretation or discourse about it.
Here – events prior to sign receive bulk of space. Raising of Lazarus gets only 2 verses. Jesus comments on the sign before it actually happens.
Focuses our attention on the discourse, not the sign. Not to say raising of Lazarus is unimportant. One of only 2 examples in gospels. Only one where the person had been dead several days.
Discourse is with Martha. Mary stayed at home. Remember Lazarus had two sisters – in Luke, when Jesus visited their brother – Martha complained Mary sat listening to Jesus whilst Martha did all the work.
Martha again complains. Why did Jesus not come earlier? Maybe life saved?
Jesus’ does not answer her directly. He replies: “I am the resurrection and the life.” What sort of answer is that?
What he is saying is – eternal life more important than a few more years here on earth. Lazarus is dead – no doubt – but he will rise again.
Notice that Jesus makes two claims. One – resurrection is through him. I am the resurrection. That’s something we can understand. Many Jews believed in a resurrection – so did Martha. So do we.
Second claim is harder to understand. I am the life. Resurrection is promise of new life in the future. But Jesus also says there can be new life in him today. Right now.
Martha heard the first part clearly. Knew her brother would rise again. Did not hear the second part. What Jesus was actually saying to her was that even though Lazarus was dead, even he could share in the life Jesus offers to us all – not in the future but now, on earth, this evening, right now.
For Lazarus – that meant the dramatic event recorded later on. For us, if we thought I am the resurrection and the life meant essentially the same thing, as we celebrate the life of our loved ones departed, we can examine our own lives and consider what, for us, Jesus meant when he said I am the life.
In the next chapter, the anointing of Jesus takes place at the home of Mary and Martha in Bethany. We are told that Martha served, Mary anoints Jesus, and Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, was one of those at the table with him. The raising of Lazarus gave him new life with Jesus.
So, for Lazarus I am the life did not mean something in the future, but right now. For us too, our intimacy with Jesus need not be something we can only enjoy after we die, after the resurrection, after the end of time as we know it, but here and now.
For the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. Amen