When we are confronted with death there can be many temptations that often assail us: fear, sorrow, doubt and a pessimistic attitude concerning life. In the account in John’s Gospel of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45) all of these temptations are present among the disciples, Martha and Mary, and the Jews who were present there.
The disciples begin by expressing their fear to Jesus, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” (John 11:8). Next we encounter Mary’s sorrow because Jesus was not there to help her brother before he died, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). The Jews present there see Jesus and doubt his ability to raise Lazarus from the dead, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” (John 11:37).
Finally, there is a pessimistic attitude that Martha adopts, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days” (John 11:39). Why do we place all of these obstacles before Him? Is it because our faith in Him is not deep enough? Are we still looking for other possible solutions to the drama of life?
Jesus reminds us “I am the resurrection and the life: he who believes in me, though he die, shall live” (John 11:25). Faith in Jesus is not simply a passive affair. It involves an abandonment of our entire selves to Him. Yet on a much deeper and consoling level it implies that the answer to our fears, sorrows, doubts and even our pessimism is not a theory, a philosophy or even a disciplined way of life but a person, Jesus Christ.
John 11:1-47 John 11:1 24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."
28 ¶ When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying quietly, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; 34 and he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" 38 ¶ Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39 Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, "Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?" 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me." 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out." 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go." 45 ¶ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him; 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, "What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.
God bless you,
Dc. Jeremiah Myriam Shryock, CFR
St. Leopold Friary, Yonkers, New York