Meditations and Prayers for Lent and Easter

The Fifth Sunday of Lent:
Raising Lazarus From The Dead

Meditations and Prayers for the Fifth Week of Lent by Victor Hoagland, C.P.
John 11:1-43

Raising LazarusThe blind man sees, Lazarus lives. John’s Gospel links these two figures closely because of the gifts they receive from the Word of God, Jesus Christ. “In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.” John 1:4

Light touched the blind man, as the Word of God enlightened his spirit along with the gift of physical sight, and he believed in Jesus.

And Life came to the tomb of Lazarus, as Jesus, “the resurrection and the life,” raised him from the dead.

More is known about Lazarus than the nameless blind man. Most likely from an influential family, he and his sisters, Martha and Mary, were friends of Jesus, whom they welcomed to their home in the village of Bethany, a little under two miles from Jerusalem. There Jesus often stayed when visiting the Holy City.

Jesus was not there, however, when Lazarus died some days before the Passover. Threatened by Jerusalem’s authorities, he had left the area, traveling down the ancient road to Jericho, then to the safety of Transjordan where John had baptised.

Once he heard the news of Lazarus’ death he returned up the same road to be with his friends.

John’s account describes a typical Jewish burial. Wrapped in linen strips, Lazarus’ body was buried the same day he died; his tomb a cave, sealed with a stone, outside the village. His sisters, Martha and Mary then began the customary 30 days of mourning at home, receiving the condolences of their friends and neighbors.

By the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus was dead four days, the point the rabbis claimed no trace of the soul remained in the body. Decomposition had set in.

Hearing that Jesus was coming up the road, the two sisters left their home to express their grief. “And Jesus wept.”

Then, deeply moved, he went to the tomb and ordered the stone removed. Looking up to heaven, Jesus prayed to his Father and in a loud voice cried, “Lazarus, come out.” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with linen bandages, his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said, “Loose him; let him go.”

The raising of Lazarus, which John’s gospel places immediately before Jesus’ passion and death, made the Jerusalem authorities finally decide to put Christ to death. It is an irony like others the evangelist makes. Jesus, bringing life, is put to death and placed in a tomb.

His death and resurrection are life-giving, the church’s faith proclaims. Dying and rising from the dead, he brings hope of eternal life to all who, like Lazarus, must die. That hope is realized in the sacrament of Baptism:

“Are you not aware that we who have been baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into his death? Through baptism into his death we were buried with him, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. If we have been united with him through likeness to his death, so shall we be through a like resurrection.” (Romans 6:3-5)

Lazarus was only a sign of what the Savior of the world, the Resurrection and the Life, would do for all humanity.

Lord,
like the traveler
lifting the fallen one
on the Jericho road,
healing all his wounds,
you went to Lazarus’ tomb,
and would not let him die
but loosed the bonds of death,
so great was your love for him.

Savior,
we believe
you weep at every death,
and pray at every tomb,
for all the dead
whose faith is known to you alone.

Like Lazarus,
call us your friends,
stay in our company,
share what we have,
come to our aid when we call.
and grant us eternal life.


Illustration: The Raising of Lazarus, from a painting by Karl Isakson
May the Passion of Jesus Christ Be Always in Our Hearts

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