Raised From The Dead

– Sunday Week 5 of Lent –

‘Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”’  [John 11:43–44]

The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the last of the miracles or ’signs’ of Jesus’ divinity that John mentions. It occurs only in John’s gospel. Placed where it is in the gospel, it both sums up Jesus’ divinity…he who has power over death itself…and prefigures Jesus’ own imminent death and resurrection. John’s intent is not to report events, but to underscore the central message of this gospel, that Jesus is divine and equal to his Father in every respect.

This gospel account is long and contains details about Jesus that occur nowhere else. John portrays Jesus as demonstrating great compassion for the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary and weeping with them. This miracle offers insight into the nature of God, one who truly understands the pain we feel and who wishes to bring life from death.

For the sake of those gathered outside the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus explicitly declares that he is acting on the power and authority of God. Then he calls the dead Lazarus to life.

The witnesses’ responses to this miracle, as in the case of the other miracles that Jesus wrought, fall into two camps. In the first camp, some correctly interpret what Jesus has done and accept who he truly is. In the second, there is an absolute resistance to this truth. It is reported that some of those witnesses “went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done” (verse 45-46). This would count as evidence against Jesus that the Pharisees would value.

In the readings of week five of Lent, we see that Jesus’ identity is once again called violently into question by some of the religious leaders. They cannot accept that in his person is the fulfilment of the law of Abraham and Moses, and the one foretold by the prophets. The manifestation of his divinity in proving he has power over death enrages the religious leaders who jealously clutch at their own power and plot to kill him.

“And Jesus wept. In this simple sentence, St John gives us the Lord’s reaction to Lazarus’ death, the death of his friend, the death of one he loved. But is a way, Jesus’ sorrow over Lazarus symbolises his sorrow over all human suffering and pain, the grief of survivors, the pain of victims, the heartbreaking anguish of parents watching their children suffering deprivation, the cruelty of war” (Pope Francis, Homily at Mass for the people of Lampedusa, July 8, 2013).


by Janiene Wilson

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