Sunday, March 09, 2008

Lazarus! Come out!

Today's Gospel was the Lazarus story. Our celebrant reminded us that it's probably the longest story (21 chapters) and contains the shortest verse (Jesus wept.) He went on to make an analogy with the ever-popular "books for dummies", in that the Gospel of John could easily be called "The Gospel for Dummies" because it includes everything we need to know about the nature of God and the nature of Jesus. He also noted that this central chapter, the raising of Lazarus, would probably qualify as one of the Top Ten Moments in Salvation History.

I've read a few commentaries this past week on the Lazarus story, in preparation for this, the 5th (and last) Sunday in Lent. Some writers have specifically commented on the part where Jesus is "deeply disturbed"... Always a popular theme... wondering why... speculating on all the various reasons that the Son of God might be disturbed.

Okay, I'm no different. I think we're all guilty at some point of looking to our sacred texts for justification of our own particular slant on the way life works, or ought to work. I'm in the camp of those who believe Jesus didn't always have all the answers, that he spoke off the cuff, ad libbed, and sometimes made it up as he went along.

I interpret the story of Lazarus this way: whether he planned to be so late or not, his delay caused a number of consequences. For one, sweet Mary and faithful Martha were both overcome with grief, and neither could help but add the dig "if you had been here..."

Knowing that his action (or inaction) had caused their grief was bad enough. But he was really late, and the body had already begun to decompose. How much physical reversal would be required for a body that had not had breath nor blood supply for four days? Of course he would be deeply disturbed. All his previous resurrection miracles had occurred prior to entombment. This would be very different. Still... Jesus went for it.

As I've noted before, the faith of those wishing to be healed, (or of others... friends or relatives) has been documented over and over as practically indispensable to the miracles that Jesus worked. Martha didn't disappoint him. "Yes, I believe that you are the Son of God..."

"Lazarus! Come out!" And the rest is history. Except there is no recorded history about the man who emerged from the tomb after four days of decomposition. Was he a mess? Did he have severe brain damage? Was he disappointed to be alive again after experiencing the mystery of the other side? Why is nothing ever mentioned about Lazarus again?

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