Today’s Encounter with Christ was well-attended and although we again had a short meeting (schools were being released early for incoming storms) the upcoming Sunday’s gospel was made priority and we spent extra time on this beautiful reading.
This coming fifth Sunday of Lent, we will read John 11:1-45, The Raising of Lazarus. (We used New American Bible Revised Edition version, which can be also be accessed through the USCCB website: http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/040217.cfm)
We read the longer version, which for many of us held new inspirations; my own included the clarification that Mary, the sister of Lazarus was the Mary who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears, when I had always thought that it was Mary Magdalene. (Huh, just goes to show how we miss things sometimes!) Some of the inspirational lights were really great (as usual) so I will highlight them to share:
- “Your brother will rise”; speaking of the hope of the Resurrection in Lazarus, but also for all of us. Christ was speaking to us, reminding us that we WILL rise again.
- “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me;” Christ recognizes and says what we all should do in prayer; thanking God first for what He has done for us, hearing our prayer in this example, and acknowledging his goodness and all that He does for us. Do we acknowledge HIM in all that we do? Do we thank Him? Do we know that He does hear us and make the act of faith to THANK Him first?
- “but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” Retelling the unfolding of this amazing passage, Jesus goes back to raise Lazarus when he had just left the dangers he faced in Judea, and the possibility of being stoned there. He made the journey in faith, despite being warned by the apostles that he could be killed. (Even “doubting” Thomas adds at this point “Let us go to die with him.”) When he got there he not only met Martha, but the crowd that had followed her to comfort her. Providentally, this miracle was to be performed knowing that there was a crowd to see it, as he stood in the face of grave danger to comfort friends and glorify God.
- “Jesus was perturbed.” This was the first time some of us noticed this word to describe the way that Jesus was feeling about the death of Lazarus, whom he loved so much, as the gospel tells us. “And Jesus wept.” One of the shortest verses in the gospels, and certainly one of the most powerful. So Jesus waited two days after he heard that Lazarus was seriously ill before leaving for Judea, because he knew that in order to glorify God, he was going to REALLY let this be a BIG miracle, because of how long Lazarus had been dead, and how much Jesus loved him. *Here we also took notice of the powerful word “stench” that is used to warn Jesus of just how long Lazarus had been dead. So knowing this, why would he be “perturbed”? Perhaps it is the idea that being perturbed is also to “stir up” something. The passion with which Jesus was moved by Lazarus death, and to great extent the weeping of his beloved friends Martha and some of the other Jews who had accompanied her, had stirred him up inside. It is this sense of righteousness which is sometimes needed in my own life to “stir me up” and get me to act in justice, out of compassion for another.
The loss of loved one, especially a sibling is a heart-wrenching occurrence in life. It was shared that one person, experiencing great sorrow after the loss of a brother, opened the scriptures, hoping for some kind of a message of comfort from the Lord, and that the line from this very passage “Your brother will RISE” stood out. The sign wasn’t neon; it wasn’t flashing; it was just four words that popped out of a page which was randomly opened in hope of a sign. “Your brother will rise.”
It was further discussed that perhaps the great faith of this person, being given a small sign, just four words, well-timed, hopeful and consoling, was such a great miracle because it wasn’t like the crowds that Jesus constantly had to reprimand for needing a sign, and still not believing in the salvation of the Lord. Why would Jesus need to stay behind and wait for the death of his dear friend to pass four entire days, while his other friends so grievously struggled to endure his loss, to the point of Jesus’ own sorrow and perturbation? Because of the “stubborn generation” that was constantly demanding greater and greater signs from him. Meanwhile, four small words, gave hope to one person for years on end, because of her tremendous faith.
Another story of an untimely loss of a sibling was shared, but in its sorrowful context rose unmistakable affirmations that God was along the for journey in this grief, spiritually embracing and offering signs of consolation that couldn’t be circumstantial.
It is our faith that determines the size of the miracles in our life. Time and time again we cannot be expecting God to do amazing things for us when we have no expectation that He actually is GOD and HE CAN do it. He can do WHATEVER HE WANTS. And what HE wants, is for us to have everlasting joy (IS 35:10), to prosper and not to be harmed (Jer 29:11), to rejoice (Phil 4:4-9) and glorify Him (Ps 157). What is holding you back right now from receiving an assurance from God? What is stopping you from THANKING HIM (1 Thes 5:18) in advance for hearing your prayer and listening to you? Read the passage yourself and glean the hope that rises from another example of death that is defeated and ended in life (1 Cor 15:55).