I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
(A biblical refection on THE FIFTH SUNDAY OF LENT [YEAR A], 2 April 2017)
Gospel Reading: John 11:1-45 (Shorter version: John 11:3-7, 17, 20-27, 33-45)
First Reading: Ezekiel 37:12-14; Psalms: Psalm 130:1-8; Second Reading: Romans 8:8-11
The Scripture Text
So the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord he whom You love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it He said, “This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go into Judea again.”
Now when Jesus came, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met Him, while Mary sat in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb; it was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he had been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard me. I knew that Thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that Thou didst send me.” When He had said this, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in him. (John 11:3-7,17, 20-27,33-45 RSV)
Throughout history, human beings have struggled with the problem of pain and suffering but have not come up with many suitable explanations. Thus, we often encourage a sick friend to accept an illness because “It is God’s will”, almost as if we are saying God not only wants us to suffer but also takes some kind of pleasure in seeing us in pain. Today’s Gospel reading gives us reasons to question this way of thinking.
The author of the Gospel according to John provides us with a glimpse of the human side of Jesus when Lazarus, one of Jesus’ close friends, dies. John tells us Jesus was troubled and wept openly upon hearing about Lazarus’ death. Since this is hardly the reaction we would expect from a deity who enjoys seeing people suffer, we can conclude from this story that Jesus is a God who does not like to see His friends in pain. So, let’s stop blaming Him for all the evil in the world and let’s stop telling people who are suffering to accept their pain because “it is God’s will”. It is not God’s will that we suffer and die.
Where, then, does suffering and pain come from? Scripture tells us that pain, the drudgery of work, and death are consequences of sin and did not become part of life until man and woman disobeyed God (see Genesis 3). Since the devil introduced sin into the world, it is the devil, not God, who is responsible for all the pain and suffering we experience.
Finally, in today’s reading, Jesus says He is both the resurrection and the life. This is just one of the seven famous “I am .......” statements we find in John’s Gospel. The other six are: “I am the vine and you are the branches” (15:5) “I am the bread of life” (6:35) “I am the good shepherd” (10:11,14); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (14:6); “I am the sheep gate” (10:7); and “”I am the light of the world” (9:5).
Prayer: Lord Jesus, I praise You for restoring what was dead in me and for raising me up to new life. Yes, Lord Jesus, I do believe in You. I want to rise with You. Let me know Your presence today. Amen.
Jakarta, 1 April 2017
A Christian Pilgrim