Walking Dead

Today’s Gospel reading is John 11:3-7, 20-27, 33b-45.

The sisters of Lazarus sent word to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” 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.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “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?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” 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?”

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. 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.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. 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.” And when he had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.”

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

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We’re all familiar with the above happenings. Over the years we’ve heard the story so many times its like we were there. You can almost see the crowd, hear the murmuring, feel the suns heat, and smell the dust in the air. We know God has unlimited power. There has never been a grave He couldn’t open and empty. I heard someone say once that if Jesus hadn’t prefaced the words “come out” with the name Lazarus all of the dead would have risen. Interesting thought. But there’s one thing in all of the above, more than any other aspect of the story, that I think stands out.

“And Jesus wept.” John 11:35.

Why? In this instance we usually think of Christ’s humanity and that he cried because his friend Lazarus had died. And that makes sense. But remember what he’d said earlier? “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.” And he had told his disciples plainly that Lazarus wasn’t dead but only sleeping. Have you ever noticed that when a believer who has died is spoken of in the Bible they’re described as sleeping? And when someone dies away from God they’re spoken of as being dead? Lazarus was a real and faithful believer. Death can’t hold someone who dies in God’s grace because God is the Author of Life, not death. Real death is to be separated from God. So Lazarus wasn’t really dead, not even if his body was decaying. ” … everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And Jesus knew what it was that he was going to do before he did it. So, why the tears?

Remember what we’re told? … He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” 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?” … Some said he cried because his friend was dead. That’s generally what we say too, isn’t it? But what were the others saying? I mean, what were they saying really? They were wondering, asking “Why?”, and perhaps casting aspersions. We may feel like we were there, we’ve heard the story so often, but we weren’t. We didn’t hear the tone that went with these words, neither did we see the facial expressions. But Jesus did. And he became perturbed.

Christ proved himself over and over. Anyone willing to see could recognize him as the Messiah and his works spoke for themselves. And still they doubted. Personally I think their doubt was cause enough for Jesus’ tears. So what did he do? He proved himself once again. Lazarus came forth.

Over the millennia Jesus has proven himself so many times there’s no way to count it all. He said, “Do this as a remembrance of me.” And all over the world, daily, this happens. After all these centuries isn’t that a proof? For hundreds of years the walking dead have entered the confessional only to exit alive and well. Isn’t this a proof? We have a God given gift of nearly 2,000 years of unbroken Papal reign. Doesn’t that sound like a proof? We have a Bible that’s been maligned by many and butchered by some. But we’ve still got it, don’t we? And in a world so sick with sin that it makes the light almost impossible to see at times God still makes saints that shine like the Son. But people doubt anyway, regardless of the evidence, despite the proof. If you think about it its enough to make you cry.

Why did Jesus cry? If someone you loved was dead wouldn’t you cry? But we’ve already seen that Lazarus wasn’t really dead but only sleeping. You don’t cry over someone sleeping. But the people who’ve seen the proofs and still don’t believe, the ones murmuring sarcastically about Jesus, while turning a blind eye willingly, were they alive? How could they have been? They were without Christ while he was standing right there in front of them. Jesus saw all of those walking dead, those willingly blind, the people who refused the proofs, the people he loved enough to leave Heaven and die for, and Jesus wept.

Its up to each individual what we do with the poof of God’s Love and Truth. We can make sarcastic remarks about the priesthood because we didn’t like the homily, having had our toes stepped on, while forgetting that this same priesthood has been miraculously ongoing for 2,000 years. We can shun confession because we decide we’re OK without it. After all, don’t we know what’s best for our souls? We can forget all about the examples of Pius XII, John Paul II, Mother Teresa, and the ongoing list of martyrs, all proofs of God’s power and love. We can center on Johnny Depp and the wrong Madonna instead. After all, its a popular thing to do, isn’t it? And we can, if we choose to, separate ourselves from the company of Lazarus, who lives, and live with the murmuring dead instead. Its up to us. Its up to us whether Jesus weeps again or not.

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4 Comments

  1. Although the disciples thought Christ was speaking of natural sleep, He was actually speaking of Lazarus’ bodily death, so attests the Evangelist (Jn 11:13-14). God bless!

    • Yes. Gives a whole new meaning to “Rest in peace” doesn’t it? 🙂 (Death being compared to sleep I mean.)

      • Christ’s mention of “sleep” is an apt euphemism for death, at least for the believer, for such a one “wakes up” after the mourning of bodily death to the morning of everlasting life. Thank you for your post, J-M. Good food for thought, especially during Lent.

  2. My heart is strengthened with those Words of Jesus to Martha: Did I not tell you that if you BELIEVE you will see the GLORY OF GOD?


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