Raising of Lazarus,Passiontide,lent fifth Sunday

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The raising of Lazarus is a lengthy Gospel. Its cast of Lazarus, Mary, Martha,and the disciples, are all well known by their descriptions laced throughout the Gospel narratives. They are friends and obedient disciples of Jesus. Yet, though they are among his most loyal followers this is the account that most tests their faith. In this account Jesus does not simply heal, here he conquers death itself. That conquering of death is not ambivalent as the gospel makes abundantly clear that the Lazarus they encounter is a corpse.Jesus does not heal Lazarus,emphatically Jesus brings him back to the living. What is interesting about this as the Gospel of Passiontide is that is a preview of the Easter resurrection when the stone will again be rolled away from the tomb, and Jesus will emerge as the light of the world. Martha’s faith can be seen when she says that she knows she will see her brother’s resurrection on the last day. It still can be seen that she is still learning about Christ when Jesus tells her Lazarus would rise that day. It is then that she learns that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” Nothing is as difficult to conquer as death, and the death of a loved one must have been particularly tough on the disciples. In conquering death though Jesus does return full dominion back to God, after all both life and bodily death are the dominion of God. They both are part of Gods creation, living beings journey from beginning to end. Inanimate objects are stagnant. If Jesus was truly to bring about a healing, that healing has to be granted to both the living and the dead. If Jesus preached a Kingdom of God here and now, and preached an ever present and merciful God, how could the dead be allowed to wander on some distant galaxy? How could he leave them suffering for the way they died, rather than rejoicing in the way that they had lived? Death is something Jesus needed to conquer. Note too though that although it was Jesus the brought a Lazarus living back to Martha and Mary, they also had to do their part. They had to unbind him and “let him go.” Letting go was letting Lazarus continue with his life, including life after death; and not those human constraints placed on that life. In unbinding him Lazarus was no longer bound by death, but given everlasting life through Christ. So much of this reading speaks of how Jesus started his ministry, and how we enter into a life of Christ through baptism. Baptism is a dying and a renewed life. It is the waters we enter the Church through, and the waters that are sprinkled on us as we make our final entrance into Church: a death to sin and a rising to life. Christ walks with us for the entirety of life, life eternal, even after death.

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