John 11: 1-45
In today’s Gospel we hear the story of Christ raising Lazarus from the dead. Perhaps, like me, you thought you knew the story of Lazarus already and succumbed to the temptation to just glaze over it. When I challenged myself to actually sit with the Gospel and allow God’s word to encounter me, my eyes were opened to my own story laid out in front of me. Your story is there, too, by the way. Did you catch it?
In this Gospel reading, we see Jesus speaking and crying out. However, when Jesus speaks, something big happens. His word raises the dead. This ought to give us a clue into the very identity of Christ. In the beginning, God spoke his word and the chaos of the cosmos was brought into order. He spoke his word, and ALL things were created. Here, the Word Made Flesh, speaks, and Lazarus undergoes a kind of re-creation. This moment is meant to echo for us our beginning, my beginning, your beginning. God doesn't toss around his word lightly, he doesn’t speak by accident, and he doesn't create by accident. You and I are intended from the very beginning. God spoke with authority over the cosmos so that you and I could not only exist, but be in an intimate relationship with Him.
We also see in this Gospel the consequences of sin: death, decay, disorder, chaos, and sorrow. Check out the face of Lazarus in Rembrandt’s painting. Let’s be honest, it isn’t a pretty sight. However, Christ isn’t afraid of the mess in the tomb, but seeks to enter into it to bring Lazarus back to life. Here, in the middle of history (his-story), God has not only joined himself to you and I through our shared humanity, but he actually seeks us in the depths of our own tombs caused by our sin - right in the midst of our stench. Your stench is actually the fragrance that draws Him to you. How often do we keep him at arm’s length when we sin? How often do we want to remain in our tombs and hide when the healer, Himself, is literally calling out to us? Why do we continue to fall for the perennial lie of the enemy that keeps us away from Christ?
The irony of this Gospel is that Lazarus would die a second time. You and I are going to die, it is a fact and there is no getting around it. In the face of this difficult truth, Christ makes an epic statement and asks us a pivotal question in this Gospel: “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?” Jesus has us looking forward to the third part of our story: the resurrection on the last day. You and I, although we will die, will be raised again and will live as men and women forever united with the God who we thirst for. Our deepest desires are for a communion that no person or thing on earth can possibly fulfill. God alone can fill this place, and when all is fulfilled, we will experience joy beyond our wildest imagination. Have you allowed God to reveal your story to you? Do you live knowing that you have been chosen by God and that He desires an intimate relationship with you? Have you allowed your deepest desires to show you who you have been created for? Do you believe this?
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