5th Sunday of Lent John 11:1-45 The readings for this Sunday are phenomenal and they get to the heart of our Catholic faith and the scriptural promises of God. Let's start with this, everyone was waiting for and expecting the Christ to do something. Even before Jesus was born of Mary the whole people Israel were expecting the long-awaited Messiah to show up and fulfill the countless promises of the Old Testament. Some examples would be that He was to unite the Tribes, defeat Israel's enemies, speak with greater authority than Moses, be born of a virgin, and yes... even raise people from the dead. The Messiah was going to fulfill the promise in Ezekiel of opening the graves and breathing life into the dead dry bones. The Spirit of God would rest upon the Christ and that Spirit would bring life! Mary and Martha were doubtlessly expecting Jesus to do something. Martha goes ahead and says it first, "Lord, if you would have been here my brother would not have died." Then beautifully she goes on, "But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Amen. Yes, maybe her particular expectation was not met but that did not shake her or her sister's faith in Jesus. They knew that this is just what God does, He heals, He corrects, He loves. When Jesus stands before the tomb, surrounded by the chaos of wailers and mourners, He is heartbroken at the pain of death, a principle effect of sin. There's the first thing, Jesus is heartbroken when it comes to sin and death. Too often we foolishly think that God is this distant angry tyrant when it comes to our sin who just wants to punish us, or worse we think that our sins do not really matter and they certainly cannot matter to an all powerful God. Here's the third option that I think is more to the truth of the matter, He isn't angry or aloof, He isn't disinterested or distant, rather He is heartbroken. He is heartbroken because just like Lazarus, He loves you immensely! Just like Lazarus those things of sin and death get in the way of your love-affair with Christ! He is here to fix all that and set things right. So now to the main event, Jesus standing in the midst of the chaos outside the tomb, facing down death itself, speaks His Word, the Word of authority, the Word of the King, the Word of the Spirit, the Word that had moved over the waters of chaos in creation, the Word made Flesh, "LAZARUS COME OUT!"
"And the dead man came out." Can you imagine? Can you even begin to picture the gravity and the shock that would have hit the onlookers, that would have hit Martha and Mary who had been mourning their brother for four days? Imagine, when the stone was rolled back, when the Christ spoke to His Father, when He commands a dead and rotting man to get up and exit the grave... and Lazarus comes out! What did you expect to happen? Like all the onlookers and I'm sure most of the Apostles and disciples, we would probably have to admit that we expected the dead to stay dead and a word of faith to have its reasonable limits. The promise of order is written into creation, the promise of justice is in some way pronounced every time one of us dies (not one of us is without guilt), and yet there is a greater promise and a greater word that precedes everything else and it is that when the Word of Life and Love speaks, the world is created anew. My friends, people keep saying that we live in unprecedented times, that this virus and the surrounding effects on society are like nothing we have ever experienced. Maybe that is true and maybe it isn't. In scriptural history people rarely guess right at the details. Can I just say this though... What did you expect? I mean shouldn't we expect the cross? Expect an opportunity for patience, expect trials, expect a challenge that needs to be faced, and virtue that needs to be proven. Expect that all that you've loved in this life will need to be defended. Expect that you will have to claim your faith as your own, you will have to fight for your family and friends, expect all that and more all the way to death. But my friends more importantly, expect the Word of creation to be spoken over your life. Expect that faith is rewarded. Expect a Messiah who is heartbroken over sin and death to show up when you most need Him! Clearly death and disease do not have the final say. Our story is still being written and God is still faithful to His promises, we are perhaps saddened like Martha and Mary, or in a frenzy like the onlookers, or dumbfounded like the disciples, and yet today like every day Christ comes to us out of love. Calling us forth, out of sin and death, giving us life and love, and keeping His promise! After all, what did you expect?