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Jesus Wept

Lent 5     Year A

A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
www.hebrewcatholic.org.nz

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St. John 11: 1 — 44

 

Introduction

We have another long reading from St. John’s Gospel during the holy season of Lent. It is the beautiful and deeply touching story of our Lord raising Lazarus, his dear friend, back to life. Because of its length, we will base our Reflections on the commentary by Ronald Cox from “The Gospel Story”. (Slight modifications to the text are made to render it suitable for the Internet).

Click here for a printable copy of the text.

 

Some Reflections on our text

Verses 1 — 16        At Archelais: Jesus Receives News of Lazarus’ Death

1     Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village
       of Mary and her sister Martha.

2    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.

3    So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master,
      the one you love is ill.”

4    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.”

5    Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6    So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for
      two days in the place where he was.

7    Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go
      back to Judea.”

8    The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were
       just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?”

9     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.

10   But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because
       the light is not in him.”

11   He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus
       is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”

12   So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep,
       he will be saved.”

13   But Jesus was talking about his death, while they
       thought that he meant ordinary sleep.

14   So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.

15   And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you
       may believe. Let us go to him.”

16   So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples,
       “Let us also go to die with him.”

This incident is found only in St. John; he is taking for granted the reader’s knowledge of the intimacy of Jesus with the Bethany household…. The family at Bethany kept in touch with our Lord’s activities, through travellers coming up to Jerusalem; the Jordan valley was the main trade route from the north. The message, sent by hired courier, makes no mention of Lazarus by name, nor does it ask Jesus to come. This gives the right atmosphere: the need of secrecy because of the great danger to Jesus at Jerusalem. Lazarus died while the courier was on his way to Jesus; yet His reply is meant for the two sisters, as well as His apostles. Because He intends to test their faith, the true way to perfect union must come through belief in Him who is their God, as well as their friend.

Our Lord was probably at Archelais, a few miles north of Jericho; it is not necessary to take him back to the east bank of the Jordan. The whole of the Jordan valley was often spoken of as an area distinct from both Judea and Perea; in this instance, ‘Judea’ really means Jerusalem, the headquarters of Jesus’ enemies. It would be a good day’s journey, about thirty miles uphill, from Archelais, passing through Jericho on the way.

The thought of another visit to Jerusalem filled the disciples with dread; the deep discussions, the cold hatred of the leaders, baffled and bewildered them. In a little parable, Jesus explains that no harm can befall Him, until the time set by the Father has come; there are still a few weeks to go before the ‘night’ of his passion and death. But the knees of his disciples have turned to water; so He tries to shame them by calling Lazarus ‘our friend'; He Himself will go alone if they hold back. They make another pitiful attempt to escape by seizing on the reference by Jesus that Lazarus had fallen asleep. Sleep was  an accepted medical sign that the patient was recovering. It would be foolish to go into danger, now that Jesus’ presence at Bethany is no longer needed. Our Lord dashes their last hope of reprieve; Lazarus is dead. With a touch of bravado, Thomas proclaims the loyalty of the twelve: “Let us also go to die with him.” (verse 16)

 

Verses 17 — 37    At Bethany: Jesus Comforts Mary and Martha

17   When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had
       already been in the tomb for four days.

18   Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two
       miles away.

19   And many of the Jews had come to Martha and
       Mary to comfort them about their brother.

20   When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she
       went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.

21   Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here,
       my brother would not have died.

22   (But) even now I know that whatever you ask
       of God, God will give you.”

23   Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”

24   Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the
       resurrection on the last day.”

25   Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the
       life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,

26   and everyone who lives and believes in me will
       never die. Do you believe this?”

27   She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe
       that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who
       is coming into the world.”

28   When she had said this, she went and called her
       sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and
       is asking for you.”

29   As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and
       went to him.

30   For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but
       was still where Martha had met him.

31   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.

32   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.” 

33   When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who
       had come with her weeping, he became perturbed
       and deeply troubled,

34   and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said
       to him, “Sir, come and see.”

35   And Jesus wept.

36   So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

37   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?”

In Palestine, funerals took place the same day that the person died; it was customary for relatives and friends to visit the grave for three days after death, but not on the fourth day when decomposition began; sympathetic mourners came to console the relatives for seven days after the funeral. Probably a servant of the household was posted to watch for Jesus’ arrival; as soon as the group on the Jericho road was identified, word was brought to Martha; she met Jesus on the eastern edge of the town. Martha’s first remark (echoed later by Mary) shows how confident she was of Jesus’ affection, and her belief in his supernatural power. His message by the courier had puzzled both sisters. Could it be that He intended to bring their brother back from the dead?

Jesus does not say that he will raise Lazarus. Martha, like most Jews, believed in the general resurrection; but that was looked upon as a long way off. Actually Jesus is raising her mind to supernatural life; faith in Him gives the believer access to a life which death cannot destroy; it is eternal. Through union with Jesus, Lazarus is still united to Martha. Her faith is strengthened; she feels consoled, but she does not conclude from his words that her brother is to rise that very day.

Meanwhile Mary is in the house besieged by comforters who can give her no relief from her sorrow. Jesus tells Martha to extricate her quietly from the visitors. Mary’s thoughts were on Jesus all the time: ‘If only He were here.’ At the mention of His name, she is out of the room in a flash; on past the tomb she runs, weeping as she goes. There is the same contrast between the two sisters, as in two other scenes at Bethany; Martha the elder and more practical, Mary intense and emotional. With Martha, Jesus reasoned; he wept with Mary.

 

Verses    38 — 44    Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead

38   So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was
       a cave, and a stone lay across it.

39   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.”

40   Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe
       you will see the glory of God?”

41   So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his
       eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.

42   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.”

43   And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud
       voice, “Lazarus, come out!”

44   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.”

This is one of the most dramatic scenes in all literature. The real human emotion of Jesus, moved to the very depths of His being; His anguish more intense as He caught sight of the tomb of His friend; His words brief, almost abrupt, like a man afraid to trust his voice. And then the prayer of one intimately united to, and speaking in the Father’s name; the commanding voice of Him to whom even death is obedient; the astonishing miracle of divine power. The human and divine natures of our Lord are here portrayed with the simple naturalness of an eyewitness.

A well-known picture of the resurrection of Lazarus shows him wrapped up in bandages like an Egyptian mummy. That is false. ‘Cords’ are either rope or leather thongs, not bandages; the Jews did not swathe their dead. They wrapped the body in a white linen sheet (sindon in Greek), as our Lord (Chap 19), or buried the person in his own clothes, as the widow’s son (at — Nain) and Dorcas (Acts 9: 36 — 41). Lazarus was laid in the tomb in his own clothes, not covered from head to foot in a linen sheet. A white shrouded figure rising from the grave would have had a terrifying effect on the spectators, not to mention his own embarrassment when freed, after the miracle. The object over his head was a ‘chin band’ (soudarion in Greek; the same article is listed, distinct from the sindon, in our Lord’s tomb). It was tied under the chin and over the top of the head like a handkerchief, to keep the mouth closed. It was an essential article of Jewish burial. The ‘cords’ are not mentioned elsewhere in burial literature; possibly they were used to keep the body in position till rigor mortis set in. Both were visible as Lazarus appeared from the tomb, which was below the surface of the ground; a flight of steps led down to it. He that could not walk or talk, or even lift a hand to help himself, stood there obedient to the voice of His Lord.

An Observation

Although the customary liturgical reading finishes at verse 44, it is helpful to consider for a moment the final two verses of the actual account in John.

Verses 45 and 46

45   Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and
       seen what he had done began to believe in him.

46   But some of them went to the Pharisees and told
       them
what Jesus had done. 

We see in this area the bad effect, which the raising of Lazarus had on some who saw it. Instead of being softened and convinced, they were hardened and enraged. They were vexed to see even more unanswerable proofs that Jesus was the Christ, and irritated to feel that their own unbelief was more than ever inexcusable. They therefore hurried off to the Pharisees to report what they had seen, and to point out the progress that our Lord was making in the immediate neighbourhood of Jerusalem.

The amazing wickedness of human nature is strikingly illustrated in this verse. There is no greater mistake than to suppose that seeing miracles will necessarily convert souls. Here is a plain proof that it does not. Never was there a more remarkable confirmation of our Lord’s words in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus: “If they believe not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.”

Here is the same miracle, seen under the same circumstances, and with the same evidence, by a large crowd of persons: yet while some believe, others believe not! It is like the case of the two thieves on the cross, seeing the same sight, one repenting and the other impenitent. The same fire, which melts wax, hardens clay.           J.  C. Ryle


Conclusion

Our account on first reading, seemed so very human and tragic. Our Lord is seen as so “perturbed”. Yet amazingly, He moves quietly and gently into a mode of dignified authority. He orders the tomb of His friend to be opened. Immediately He raises His eyes and thanks His Father for always listening to every word He says. What a snapshot of the Son of God — the Word of God: thanking God the Father for listening to every word He speaks, so that the Father always hears Him! And behold, the Word who brought everything into being at Creation, now calls Lazarus to come out and stand before Him. Without any outward signs of glory, power or dominion, the Messiah calls out, in a loud voice, commanding the dead man to resume his life among them. The early Church lost no time in identifying this event as a manifestation not only of His own divinity, but also His reverence and humility in the presence of His Father. Likewise it was a powerful demonstration of the loving concern for His friends and all who were sincerely following Him.

Blessed be HaShem forever!

 Shalom!

 

Further Reading

For those who would like a detailed study resource
on the readings for Sunday, please visit:

Agape Bible Study — Lent 5 ― Year A

If you require only the section on the Gospel reading,
just scroll down the page.

To view all the material on the Agape website please visit:

www.agapebiblestudy.com

This website is highly recommended:

 

 Proclaim the Gospel to Every Creature

(Mark 16: 15)

The real Jesus, is the real answer to the real needs of the world!

Let us remember God’s teaching, contained in His Word and in doing
so, remain close to Him. The following are only examples illustrating
how you can note the gems the Holy Spirit highlights for your on-going
reflection.

      Jesus Wept

Lent 5   Year A                                    John 11: 1 to 44

1.    In the text, our Lord interacts with Mary and Martha, so as to try and help
       them see things at a spiritual level; He tries to raise their minds above a
       mere earthly perspective. We need to remember that Jesus continues to
       do this with all His disciples down through the ages. That includes each
       one of us. Reflection on how we have responded to His intimations in the
       past is a good practice to engage in from time to time.

2.    Some who saw Lazarus raised back to life had not the slightest regard
       for him. Instead, it enraged them and they resented it. We had better get
       used to bitterness, jealousy, suspicion, gossip and bad will towards us,
       if we are going to try and model our life on Jesus the Messiah.

3.    Some people look constantly for spectacular miracles to keep their faith
       alive. They follow so-called evangelists who perpetuate an image of
       being travelling wonder-workers drawing vast crowds who have become
       dependent on them “to deliver” virtually on-demand. Such “miracles” may
       impress these road-show devotees, but what really counts is
       demonstrating growth in true Faith in our Lord Jesus and His promised
       Return in Glory! That comes from devoted listening to our Saviour and
       applying His divine message in our daily lives. When we do that, we do
       not need to go seeking travelling miracle road-shows. We see the
       marvellous works of God occurring every day all around us: if only we would
       look and listen with the eyes and ears of the heart.
                                                                        
  (St. Benedict’s Rule — Prologue).

 

Let us pray for one another that the eyes of all our hearts will be open to beholding the glorious things of God which abound everywhere. And let us give glory to God for even the smallest items of His Creation and His daily blessings poured out on all of humanity. In the face of so much despair and suffering, this may be difficult for us — but it is the misdeeds of evil-minded people which could so easily throw us into doubt — not the failure of God to sustain His Creation with constant loving care.

Shalom!

Click here for a printable copy of these Reflections

 

John 11: 1 to 44

Lent 5     Year A

New American Bible 

1    Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary
      and her sister Martha.

2    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.

3    So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you
      love is ill.”

4    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.”

5    Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6    So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days
      in the place where he was.

7    Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to
      Judea.”

8    The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying
      to stone you, and you want to go back there?”

9    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.

10   But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is
       not in him.”

11   He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is
       asleep, but I am going to awaken him.”

12   So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will
       be saved.”

13   But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought
       that he meant ordinary sleep.

14   So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died.

15   And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may
       believe. Let us go to him.”


16   So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let
       us also go to die with him.”

17   When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been
       in the tomb for four days.

18   Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away.

19   And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to
       comfort them about their brother.

20   When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet
       him; but Mary sat at home.

21   Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother
       would not have died.

22   (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will
       give you.”

23   Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”

24   Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on
       the last day.”

25   Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever
       believes in me, even if he dies, will live,

26    and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do
        you believe this?”

27    She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you
        are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into
        the world.”

28    When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary
        secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”

29    As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.

30    For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still
        where Martha had met him.

31   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.

32   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.”

33   When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with
       her weeping, he became perturbed 7 and deeply troubled,

34   and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir,
       come and see.”

35   And Jesus wept.

36   So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

37   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?”

38   So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave,
       and a stone lay across it.

39   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.”

40   Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will
       see the glory of God?”

41   So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said,
       “Father, I thank you for hearing me.

42   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.”

43   And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice,
       “Lazarus, come out!”

44  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.”

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition (c)
2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington D.C.
and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of
the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in
writing from the copyright owner.

 

 

 

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