Fifth Sunday of Lent: “Dying once is sufficient…”

April 3, 2022

This is where we begin, this earth; but this is not where we end.  While Jesus resuscitates Lazarus for a time, Lazarus will die.  The gospels make no mention of Lazarus again.

The very first words of Jesus today are: “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified.”  Therein, is the point of today’s story.

Remember, that the gospel of John was written at the end of the first century.  John writes today’s story with parts of the original story, but having Jesus make comments – which are actually his and other Christian commentators who know now that Jesus is risen from the dead.

John explains the story more fully now – that Jesus waited deliberately to let Lazarus die before coming to Bethany, to help everyone realize that this is what we all have to do.

John tells us also that Jesus wanted the circumstances of Lazarus dying and being resuscitated to stimulate a sense of trust in Jesus, in his disciple friends.

It never dawned on Mary or Martha or the disciples, that Lazarus was not dead.  They thought that he was dead and entombed.

Medical practice was not as precise as clocking the moment when one dies today, and we can wonder, perhaps, if Lazarus fell into a very death-like coma and was not really dead.

Jesus gives in to the deep sorrow of Lazarus’ two sisters and goes to the tomb and shouts at Lazarus to wake up and come out (holding his breath).  Lazarus woke up, his burial clothes were untied and Lazarus walked away for another day when he would die, die finally.

Maybe there was something to this Jesus, many people began to think.  Remember that Jesus had told his disciples that he was glad they were not there when Lazarus died, making a curious comment, “so that you may believe.”

Jesus makes a comment at the end of the story: “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

What is “the glory of God?” That Jesus will die on the cross and rise from the dead and that we shall die and rise from the dead as well.

Today, Jesus is asking us whether or not we really believe that he is the resurrection and the life.

We are living the life of the Resurrection now because Jesus lives in us and we in him.

Because of that, we have a different and “eternal life” approach to life.  Instead of running away from dying and death, we need to be aware and not stumble into shock and despair.

Personally, I think about and wonder often how I will die… by an accident or through an announcement of cancer that brings the dying and the death.  I would like to be able to say to God, “Thank you very much for my life and all those who were a part of it.  I am not quite ready yet, but I will get ready now.  I don’t need any advanced treatments that do more damage than good.  I don’t need resuscitation.  Dying once is sufficient.  I just need to know that your glory will be mine, and hopefully, hospice will help and make it easier.  Maybe hearing Handel’s Hallelujah Choir could be a final touch.”  That’s what I think!

“Did I not tell you,” Jesus said, “that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  Each day we live, we are chosen for that glory to come.

We can skip the Lazarus part, but not the “glory of God” part.  Martha and Mary believed that if Jesus had come, Lazarus would not have died.  But Lazarus did have to die and so do we, but that is not the end.

We will never die in the sense of vanishing or ceasing to exist.  It seems that we are just going to exchange something to which we have grown accustomed, for some new fabulous way to be and to live.  This is what Jesus talks about today as “seeing the glory of God.”

The prophet Ezekiel spoke of the Restoration of Israel as kingdom after their exile like it would be rising from the grave of abandonment and slavery.  Through Ezekiel, God promised to place his spirit in the people of Israel so that they could live again. – but that was only for this lifetime.

St. Paul reminds us that we possess the “Spirit of the One who raised Jesus from the dead because the Spirit dwells in us…”  That Spirit will give us the new eternal life.

When the time comes to leave the earth, we should be encouraging one another to “go for it.”  Today, we are invited not to be short sighted like Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  

Let Jesus’ question in today’s gospel ring in our heart and sing on our lips.  “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Now, I hope to live a good and full life here, and I look forward to somewhere else in the future “to see the glory of God.”

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