John 11: 1-45
All movement in today’s gospel is towards the tomb. Every word and action of Jesus is moving everyone in that direction. In many ways, to learn to die before they encounter the great death. Lazarus is obviously already there, bound now for four days, surely there will be a stench. Yet, the lesson is for everyone else that Jesus encounters on this journey to Bethany. Before they can encounter the fullness of life, they too must go where Lazarus has gone, led by Jesus to where none of them want to go but need to go. It provides us the opportunity to put ourselves in place of some of people Jesus encounters and what it is that needs to die.
Certainly the Jews, the scribes and Pharisees, are a continuous part of the journey. Jesus too is trying to inch them towards the tomb. For them I see that it is resistance that they need to let go of and die. As time goes on the resistance deep within them continues to build and grow ever more resentful of Jesus. They don’t like what he has to say and certainly don’t like what he is doing. It is causing a deep restlessness within them. Now when they see the tomb they take it at face value. They see death, despair, hopelessness. Despite being led by Jesus, they won’t go there. They don’t want to change. They know what they know and it gives them perceived power over others. Rather than embracing the tomb as a place of transformation, they will in turn act out of their insecurity and restlessness and bring about the death of Jesus, projecting their own pain onto him. Where is the resistance in my own life? Where am I resisting change and letting go? Where do I see despair and hopelessness in my life? So often it’s our judgments, minds, our egos that stand in the way and cause us to dig in our heels. Where is the Pharisee in me resisting letting go and experiencing life?
Then there’s Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters. Martha has one motive in mind, the return of her brother and being bothered that Jesus wasn’t there to stop it. But again, all his words and actions are leading them to the tomb, where they don’t want to go, which somewhat explains this two day wait that he takes before heading to Bethany. Martha too needs to go where her brother has gone. Yes, she believes to a point, but doesn’t know in totality who this Jesus is. She just wants her brother back and she knows that Jesus has some tricks up his sleeve to pull it off. I am the resurrection and the life, Jesus says. Martha will come to believe but for a different reason. How often have we just wanted God to bring back a loved one after the experience death? Jesus will lead Martha to the tomb of her brother, where she has avoided, to come to understand just who Jesus is. Where in my life to I avoid grieving? Where do I cling to what no longer is? Where is the Martha in me being led by Jesus to the tomb, the cave of transformation?
And yes, Mary. The one who believes. The one who falls to the feet of the Lord. The one who has anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped them with her hair. Mary, the believer. Yet, for some reason Jesus moves and nudges her to the tomb as well. How will Mary react? All the negative voices of the leaders and doubters continue to grow and it begins to impact Mary’s belief. You don’t need to go there. This is crazy; what does this Jesus know about life and death? This is a place of despair. And Mary begins to doubt and question. Mary too needs to let go and die before she dies. And Jesus wept. Jesus weeps for all of humanity. He understands the human dilemma of dealing and experiencing death. Yet, as he does for all these characters he does for us, he nudges us to the places of resistance in our lives, where we do not want to go in order to bring about life. Where have I doubted? What about me do I believe God can never love that leads to doubt and despair? Where have I given into the negativity of life, that as God nudges me to those places in my life, I turn away out of fear, not wanting to go?
Yet, Jesus nudges us along to where Lazarus is. Lazarus has gotten it right. But as much as God continues to lead us to that tomb before we experience the great death, if we move with faith and trust rather than fear, we too hear, as Lazarus does, come out! Come out, unbind us and set us free! Yes, God will move us to that place of resistance and is there every step of the way, but he is also the gentle voice that calls us out to freedom. It is God that allows us to see not as man sees but as God sees, that the tomb is not a place of hopelessness and despair, but a place of change and growth and life. Yes, death happens but in turn life follows. Imagine those words being proclaimed to you today…come out!! Unbind and be set free from death to fullness of life!