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Friday, April 4, 2014



John 11:1-45

We start our reflections this Sunday with some general background in understanding John’s Gospel which is also known as the Fourth Gospel.   It opens with a Prologue (Jn 1: 1-14) . It is composed of two books namely the Book of Signs (chapters 1-11) and the Book of Glory (chapters 12- 20).    The gospel ends up with Chapter  21 which is  the Epilogue.  Although Jesus must have performed many miracles, the Book of Signs contains only seven miracles which are called signs by John.   The seven chosen  signs are revelatory in nature which manifest the glory of Jesus as the “Word made flesh”.  Examples: in the wedding at Cana Jesus was New Bridegroom; in the story of the man born blind, Jesus was the light; in the walking on the water Jesus was the Lord of creation, etc.  Whilst the seven signs are equally important in John’s portrayal of the divinity of Jesus, the raising of Lazarus holds an eminent position being placed almost at the centre of the Fourth Gospel.  Being the peak of the divine revelation manifested through the works of Jesus, it was the most spectacular sign which can only be achieved by someone who was divine.  It was the event that triggered the religious leaders of Israel in their final intent to kill Jesus.

When Jesus was told that his friend Lazarus was ill, he seemed not be affected by its urgency in fact he waited for  four more days before responding to the situation.   Jesus was in full control and he had a greater plan in mind.   There was a belief during the time that the soul of a dead person roamed around for three days and could still revive the dead.   Waiting for four days, Jesus made sure that Lazarus was declared officially dead so he won’t be accused of raising only a sleeping man.  In the following dialogue between Jesus and Martha, he said one of the most beautiful proclamations in the New Testament: “I am the resurrection and life; he who believes in me though he die shall live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”  Now he needed a sign to validate such bold proclamation.  In  his empathy with the grief of Martha and Mary, Jesus was deeply troubled and wept! He then asked the people a number of  tasks  to do: firstly he inquired where the tomb was, even if he knew where it was; secondly, he told them to “take away the stone”, when he had the power to unroll it;  thirdly he asked them to “unbind him, and let him go.” Through these acts, the grieving community became active participants rather than just mere spectators in the grandest sign he would ever perform.   With their hands on as witnesses, no one could accuse  Jesus later that it was not Lazarus he raised.

After asking the “assistance” of the community, he turned to his Father in prayer.  Now empowered by his Father, he cried with a loud voice “Lazarus, come out.” Why not something like "Lazarus, arise!" It was because Lazarus needed to come out of the tomb and be seen by people.  Yet John commented “the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth.” Rather than just a mere commentary of the cultural ethos of the time, John portrayed Lazarus coming out still a living dead for the people. Jesus said to them “Unbind him, and let him go.”   Now it was the task of the community to give back life to Lazarus by freeing him of their judgment, prejudices and biases otherwise he would still be dead for them.  After this, many of the Jews believed in Jesus.

When we are in the most desperate moments of our life, know that God is in charge.   If he is not moved by our sense of urgency, it is because he has better plans for us, something grand beyond our imagination.  
Death is our last enemy; it is most frightening because it is something that we have to face with utmost uncertainty.  Jesus fully understands our fear because he himself grappled with the pangs of death.  The prophecy of Ezekiel in the First Reading (“I will open your graves and raise you from your graves”) would be fulfilled by Jesus when he himself rose from his grave and will do the same to all his followers.   When we come face to face with death one day Jesus reminds us that he has overcome death and it has no more power over us: “Where, O death is your victory? Where, O death is your sting?” (I Cor 15:55).  

Lazarus was resuscitated back to life but he did not live forever.  It was because the raising of Lazarus back to life was only a sign of a greater reality of the resurrection which would belong to Jesus.

Jesus also asks that we “unbind and let go” ourselves and others so that after being freed from our slavery to sin we can be instruments of freedom and channels of life.  After we "unbind and let go" ourselves from the shackles of fear, jealousy, anger, prejudices and other un-freedoms of sin we will truly experience resurrection here and now and in the life to come....


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for making this such a grace-filled and memorable Lent, Father Vlad; nourishment for the journey and food for the soul. Margaret.