Monday, March 3, 2008

Lazarus, Come Out!

I was privileged to be at the RCIA retreat last weekend, when our Associate Pastor led the class in a lectio divina style reflection on a Gospel passage. He asked us to listen to John 11:1-45, the raising of Lazarus from the dead; then he proceeded to repeat the reading verse-by-verse and offered a meditation on each, and invited us to open our hearts to a phrase, word or image that stood out. I share my own reflection here.

Jesus had been notified that His friend Lazarus was sick and dying. Yet He had waited two days before declaring that they (Jesus and his disciples) should attend to Lazarus. In fact, Lazarus was already dead; by the time they arrived in Bethany he had been dead for four days. Martha, the sister of Lazarus, greeted Jesus outside the village, with the lament that if only He had been present earlier then Lazarus would not have died. Despite her faith in Jesus' Messianic identity, she seems to have still not understood what He was saying about Lazarus "rising." Martha's and Lazarus' sister Mary also came out to see Jesus, with the same lament, and followed by other Jewish mourners (and presumably by additional onlookers, both believers and skeptics). Jesus wept for Lazarus, but was still jeered by some in the crowd who doubted His supernatural persona. Jesus ordered the stone at the mouth of the tomb (cave) moved, and then He prayed and "cried out in a loud voice:"

"Lazarus, come out!"

Put yourself in the scene at that exact moment. The crowd had gathered, some already believing Jesus the Messiah and some clearly hostile. All of them must have been silenced by Jesus' cry, suddenly fixated on the dark quiet mouth of the cave, awaiting... something. Just imagine the few moments in between His words the what happened next. If nothing happened, then Jesus would have been happily exposed as a charlatan my many in the crowd. Mary, Martha and the other faithful, however, must have suddenly had their hearts leap into their throats at the command; could this really be about to happen??

It's that moment of anxious hope and faithful following, when Jesus' future, and the culmination of Salvation history, would be determined. Lazarus did indeed emerge, still rapped in his burial bands tied around his hands and feet. Four days in the cave would have ensured everyone that Lazarus wasn't somehow just in a coma but truly dead-- I suppose that's why Jesus had waited to go the Bethany?

Many converts were made that day. But, there were some who took this evidence to the Pharisees, who became intent on killing Jesus. By following both His human and divine natures in this situation, Jesus chose in yet another example to follow the Father's will to complete the plan of mankind's Salvation.

I also imagine that Satan was perched somewhere near, whispering to Jesus to just let the cave remain dark and lifeless; fail as the Messiah and turn away from the Father to save Yourself the torture and death.

Praise be to God, the Christ did not succumb!

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