Facing Down Death

Scripture Reading

Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil
and dried his feet with her hair;
it was her brother Lazarus who was ill.
So the sisters sent word to him saying,
“Master, the one you love is ill.”
when Jesus heard this he said,
“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
So when he heard that he was ill,
he remained for two days in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to his disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?”
Jesus answered,
“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him.”
He said this, and then told them,
“Our friend Lazarus is asleep,
but I am going to awaken him.”
So the disciples said to him,
“Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.”
But Jesus was talking about his death,
while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep.
So then Jesus said to them clearly,
“Lazarus has died.
And I am glad for you that I was not there,
that you may believe.
Let us go to him.”
So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
“Let us also go to die with him.”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.
And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them about their brother.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went to meet him;
but Mary sat at home.
Martha said to Jesus,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
But even now I know that whatever you ask of God,
God will give you.”
Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise.”
Martha said to him,
“I know he will rise,
in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus told her,
“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?”
She said to him, “Yes, Lord.
I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God,
the one who is coming into the world.”

When she had said this,
she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying,
“The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
As soon as she heard this,
she rose quickly and went to him.
For Jesus had not yet come into the village,
but was still where Martha had met him.
So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her
saw Mary get up quickly and go out,
they followed her,
presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him,
she fell at his feet and said to him,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping,
he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said,
“Where have you laid him?”
They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
And Jesus wept.
So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”
But some of them said,
“Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man
have done something so that this man would not have died?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb.
It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”
Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him,
“Lord, by now there will be a stench;
he has been dead for four days.”
Jesus said to her,
“Did I not tell you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?”
So they took away the stone.
And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
“Father, I thank you for hearing me.
I know that you always hear me;
but because of the crowd here I have said this,
that they may believe that you sent me.”
And when he had said this,
He cried out in a loud voice,
“Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out,
tied hand and foot with burial bands,
and his face was wrapped in a cloth.
So Jesus said to them,
“Untie him and let him go.”

Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what he had done began to believe in him.
(John 11:1-45)

Scripture Study

11:1–45. This chapter deals with one of Jesus’ most outstanding miracles. The Fourth Gospel, by including it, demonstrates Jesus’ power over death, which the Synoptic Gospels showed by reporting the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mt 9:25 and par.) and of the son of the widow of Nain (Lk 7:12).

The evangelist first sets the scene (vv. 1–16); then he gives Jesus’ conversation with Lazarus’ sisters (vv. 17–37); finally, he reports the raising of Lazarus four days after his death (vv. 38–45). Bethany was only about three kilometres (two miles) from Jerusalem (v. 18). On the days prior to his passion, Jesus often visited this family, to which he was very attached. St John records Jesus’ affection (vv. 3, 5, 36) by describing his emotion and sorrow at the death of his friend.

By raising Lazarus our Lord shows his divine power over death and thereby gives proof of his divinity, in order to confirm his disciples’ faith and reveal himself as the Resurrection and the Life. Most Jews, but not the Sadducees, believed in the resurrection of the body. Martha believed in it (cf. v. 24).

Apart from being a real, historical event, Lazarus’ return to life is a sign of our future resurrection: we too will return to life. Christ, by his glorious resurrection through which he is the “first-born from the dead” (Col 1:18; 1 Cor 15:20; Rev 1:5), is also the cause and model of our resurrection. In this his resurrection is different from that of Lazarus, for “Christ being raised from the dead will never die again” (Rom 6:9), whereas Lazarus returned to earthly life, later to die again.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today’s Gospel speaks of Jesus’ conquest of death in the raising of Lazarus. What if death is not at all what God intended. Mind you, I mean death as we experience it—as something fearful, horrible, terrifying. This comes from having turned from God. Jesus came primarily as a warrior whose final enemy is death. It is easy to domesticate Jesus, presenting him as a kindly moral teacher. But that is not how the Gospels present him. He is a cosmic warrior who has come to do battle with those forces that keep us from being fully alive.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is dealing with the effects of death and a death-obsessed culture: violence, hatred, egotism, exclusion, false religion, phony community. But the final enemy he must face down is death itself. Like Frodo going into Mordor, he has to go into death’s domain, get into close quarters with it, and take it on.

Coming to Lazarus’ tomb, Jesus feels the deepest emotions and begins to weep. This is God entering into the darkness, confusion, and agony of the death of sinners. He doesn’t blithely stand above our situation, but rather takes it on and feels it at its deepest level.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.