Saturday, April 09, 2011

Raising Lazarus

The Lord does not go to Lazarus immediately after his death. He is making a point: Lazarus is left long enough in the tomb so that when Jesus acts in this extraordinary way, it will be all the more powerful. No-one will be able to say ‘Very clever, but he wasn’t really dead.’ Jesus satisfies the Rabbinical authorities, fulfilling what the law demanded - but transforms its meaning.

We have an incidence of what scholars call an ‘I am’ sayings in this Gospel. ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ Again, this is an extraordinary claim. Even in first century Judaism it was fairly commonplace for people to talk of the resurrection of the dead (with the well-known exception of the Sadducees), but for Jesus to identify his own person, his own being, with this concept is startling.

We might expect Jesus to lay his hands upon Lazarus, anoint him, maybe. He does nothing of the sort. Last week we saw how he took the earth (adama) and applies it to the man’s eyes in order to ‘complete’ the creation of the man born blind. Today we are looking to the creation narrative once again. God said ‘let there be…’, and so there was. Jesus said ‘Lazarus, here! Come out.’ Jesus himself is enough to raise Lazarus from the dead, because he is the very Word spoken by the Father.

Jesus acts in extraordinary ways, with extraordinary deeds: in doing so, he raises our expectation of what is ‘ordinary’. It is a matter of course for us to say during the Creed ‘We look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.’ This is not just a metaphor for heaven. It is something more complete, more challenging, more transforming than simply ‘going to another place.’

The raising of Lazarus takes place before the glorification of Jesus. To the eyes of those observing this event, it is Lazarus, as he was, who is raised. To the eyes of those who see from our side of the Paschal Mystery, it tells of a different hope: the body will be transformed. This is the promise of Baptism, because we are washed in the living water that flows from the side of the risen Christ.

And so onwards, towards Jerusalem.

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