Summary: March 17, 2002 -- FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT Ezekiel 37:1-14 Psalm 130 With the LORD there is mercy and plenteous redemption. (Ps. 130:6-7) Romans 8:6-11 John 11:1-45 Color: Purple John 1
March 17, 2002 -- FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT
With the LORD there is mercy and plenteous redemption. (Ps. 130:6-7)
Color: Purple John 11: 1-45
Title: “Resuscitation vs. Resurrection”
Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
Chapters eleven and twelve, form a distinct unit in the overall structure of the gospel. In this section Lazarus is raised from the dead, causing the Sanhedrin to condemn Jesus to death. Lazarus’ sister, Mary, anoints Jesus for burial and Jesus enters Jerusalem, his “tomb,” signifying the end of his public ministry. This “end” or, as John would say, “coming of the hour,” is signaled by the arrival of the Gentiles on the scene, whose coming signals, in turn, the beginning of the disciples public ministry.
This is the seventh and last “sign,” miracle, we might say, in the first half of John, called “the Book of Signs,” for obvious reasons, leading into the second half, called “the Book of Glory.” In the Synoptics “signs,” are called “mighty works,” and “wonders.” There are many more examples of Jesus’ unique power than the seven John highlights. John interprets these signs for his community, using them as a springboard to expound and expand on their hidden meaning. In the Synoptic tradition Jesus raised the son of the widow of Nain Luke 7: 11-17 and the daughter of Jairus Mark 5: 35-43, but only John reports the raising of Lazarus. He gives it unique importance. Whereas in the Synoptics Jesus is condemned to death by the religious authorities for his whole career and for all his “mighty works,” in John it is this one miracle that causes the axe to fall. John takes this one miracle and makes it the primary representative of them all because it captures, more than any of them, what it is Jesus brings, does and gives: life.
We should distinguish between resuscitation and resurrection. Resuscitation restores ordinary, earthly life, the physical level or level one; resurrection involves eternal life level two or the spiritual level. The physical life that Jesus gives to Lazarus is still not resurrected life. Like the widow’s son and Jairus’ daughter, Lazarus would physically die again. However, the resuscitation is a sign of resurrection, the transition to the state of glory. In the Prologue 1: 1-18, the Word gave light and life to humans in creation. Now the Word-made-flesh gives light in chapter nine, light to the man born blind) and life in chapter eleven, the raising of Lazarus, as signs of eternal light and life.
In verse one, Now a man was ill. Lazarus…Mary…Martha: This cast of characters is introduced, a sick brother and two sisters. “Lazarus,” means “God helps.” It is a Greek form of “La`zar,” an abbreviation of “Eleazar.” “Martha” means “Lady” and “Mary” means “Excellence.” The town of Bethany is on the east side of the Mt. of Olives about two miles east of Jerusalem. Today it is called El `Azariyeh, derived from Lazarus or Eleazar.
In verse two, Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord: This verse is clearly an editorial addition, referring to a scene in chapter twelve, which has not yet been narrated.
In verse three, Master, the one you love is ill: The word for “love,” here means friendship-love Greek philein, level one love. Jesus and Lazarus were friends and Mary and Martha thought he should know of his illness. Jesus’ subsequent failure to drop everything and go to him is not because of indifference. He has a greater purpose in mind. Where other humans see tragedy level one interpretation, Jesus sees opportunity level two interpretation.
In verse four, this illness…is for the glory of God: The symbolic, level two, importance of the miracle Jesus will perform is made clear from the beginning. Looked at from the light of eternity, there is no need for alarm. Lazarus will die but will not stay dead. If the end turns out well, why worry about the middle? God’s power to give life will be made manifest just as his power to bestow light became clear in chapter nine, with the curing of the blind man.
That the Son of God may be glorified through it: On level one this would mean that people would praise Jesus for the miracle. However, John means it on level two, in the sense that this miracle will lead to Jesus’ own death, which is a stage in his ultimate glorification. The “glory” referred to here is on level two, not level one. Hidden in the darkness of the crucifixion is the light of the resurrection.
In verses five and six, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus: The verb of “love” here is agapein. In Greek it is noticeably different from the friendship-love Greek philein used in verse three. Here we are told Jesus has the kind of love for Lazarus and his sisters that marks Christian love: laying down one’s life for friends love, sacrificial love, one-way love, unemotional, attitudinal love. This love, love in and from the eternal perspective gave Jesus cause to pause. His natural impulse would be to go to Lazarus. However, in the bigger picture, his physical death would become an opportunity to do something greater, to give glory to God. Jesus would be of even more help to Lazarus when he was dead. So, Jesus will wait. He would put his emotional love, friendship, in second place and refrain from rushing to Lazarus, something his sister Martha would need to have explained to her. As verse nine, will show, Jesus distinguishes between a state of emergency or panic, which this situation is not, and a sense of urgency or anticipation, which reflects the attitude Christians are to have in the light of imminent death.