By the Rev. Darren Miner
All three readings today deal in some way with the subject of life coming out of death.
Ezekiel tells us of a vision in which he looks over an ancient battlefield strewn with the desiccated bones of Israelite soldiers. He is told to prophesy to the bones and bring them back to life. And he does! Helpfully, Ezekiel also tells us the meaning of his vision: the dispirited and subjugated people of Israel, exiled in Babylon, will be given a new spirit of life and will be returned to their home. (I don’t know about you, but this prophecy makes me long for the day that we can return to our parish home!)
St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans, contrasts life in the flesh with life in the Spirit. Life alienated from God and focused on self, we are told, is no life at all, but living death. Life in the Spirit, on the other hand, yields peace in the present and eternal life at the Resurrection.
Finally, we come to the story of the raising of Lazarus (whose name appropriately means “God helps”). Jesus is in the land across the Jordan, when a messenger arrives from Bethany with a message from his friends Mary and Martha begging him to come heal their brother Lazarus, who is seriously ill. By the time Jesus and his entourage arrive, Lazarus has been dead four days. This detail is significant, because according to popular Jewish belief, the soul stayed in the vicinity of the body for three days and then departed to its final destination. So, after four days, the expectation would be that the soul was irretrievable.
After speaking with the two sisters and seeing their grief, Jesus is moved to tears. This response seems like such a small thing. But it really isn’t. Ponder this for a moment. The Son of God, the Incarnate Word, the third person of the Holy Trinity, is moved to tears at the sight of human grief and suffering. In the words of Psalm 8, “What is man that you should be mindful of him?”
Jesus then proceeds to the tomb and orders that it be opened. He prays to his Father, and in a voice loud enough to be heard in Hades, yells out to Lazarus: “Lazarus, come out!” And the now-resurrected man comes out of the cave, free to resume his life.
There is so much that we can learn about Jesus, and his Father, from this account. But right now, it is enough if we come away with two minor epiphanies: 1) Jesus cares about our suffering and 2) Jesus is more powerful than death. With the spread of COVID-19 and all the ensuing deaths, I have no doubt that Jesus is weeping for the world even now. For he knows our pain, our grief, our fear. Likewise, I have no doubt that, just at Jesus did with Lazarus, so he will raise up all the faithful who have died in him. For “I am Resurrection and I am Life, says the Lord. Whoever has faith in me shall have life, even though he die. And everyone who has life, and has committed himself to me in faith, shall not die for ever.” Believe this and live!
© 2020 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.