StF 103 God is love, let heaven adore him
To remind us that whatever our situation, God is there with us.
Reflection on John 11 v 1 - 45.
The fifth Sunday in Lent and our journey to Holy Week, the last eventful, exciting, traumatic week in the earthly life of Jesus is progressing. The Gospel reading, John 11 v 1 – 45, focuses on the death and resurrection of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, close friends of Jesus, whose home is in the little town of Bethany, a stones’ throw away from Jerusalem where Jesus and his disciples are travelling to celebrate the Feast of the Passover.
So lets take a look at the basic story.
Lazarus becomes ill and the 2 sisters send a message to let Jesus know that his close friend is ill. On receiving this message, Jesus waits a further two days before setting off for Bethany. During this time Lazarus dies. When Martha hears that Jesus is on his way, she sets out to meet him. Breaking the news that her brother has now died she says ‘Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died. Jesus says ‘Your brother will rise again’. Martha replies ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day’. She goes on to acknowledge that she knows Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who was to come into the world. She then goes off back to tell Mary who on hearing the news immediately sets off to meet Jesus and has a very similar conversation with him as her sister had. Jesus is overcome with emotion and weeps but then asks for the stone in front of the tomb (or cave) to be moved. He then calls in a loud voice ‘Lazarus come out’. The dead man the appears from the tomb covered in grave clothes which Jesus asks the onlookers to take off.
These then are the bare bones of the story as recorded by John so why did it take 45 verses to tell this? I think because John wanted to include more detail. So lets now look at some of these other details.
Contained in this narration is the last of the ‘I am sayings’ of Jesus in John’s gospel ‘I am the Resurrection and the life’.(v25-26). Jesus uses this ‘happening’, the death and resurrection of Lazarus, to reveal himself to be the Resurrection and the Life. He goes on to say that ‘he who believes in me will live, even though he dies’. This story is called the death and resurrection of Lazarus but more importantly it is the revelation that Jesus is the Resurrection and the life – the highpoint of the ‘I am’ statements (I am the bread, vine, way. etc) and the heart of John’s gospel. Much as Jesus loves Martha, Mary and Lazarus, this illness has a Godly purpose so that His son, Jesus, can be glorified.
There are some parallels between the resurrection of Lazarus and that of Jesus himself. Both were buried in a tomb sealed by a large stone which was later moved. Jesus asked Mary ‘Where have you laid him’ (v34) which is the same question Mary will ask of the person in the garden who she thinks is the gardener at the tomb of Jesus. There are a number of days between death and resurrection, 4 in the case of Lazarus and 3 Jesus. The grave clothes are featured in both accounts.
If we read up to verse 47 we see that the pressure against Jesus continues to build. Some of the Jews who witnessed this event went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus had done and a meeting of the Sanhedrin was called.
When Jesus told the disciples they were to go back into the area of Judea in order to visit Bethany, they were obviously nervous and perturbed and pointed out that it was in Jerusalem, only a couple of miles from Bethany, where the Jews had tried to stone Jesus. They recognised the danger they would be exposed to, as their fate was linked to that of Jesus. However Thomas said to the other disciples ‘Let us also go that we may die with him’. I wonder if we would be brave enough to echo these words?
So the shadow of Jerusalem hangs over the account of the raising of Lazarus. The stage continues to be set for the conflict between good and evil which comes to its conclusion in Holy Week. Are we sufficiently brave to continue our Journey to Jerusalem as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus our Lord and saviour? .
StF 252 Jesus the Lord said I am the bread
Particularly v 5 Jesus the Lord said I am the life, the Resurrection and the life am I.
Loving God, if we are ill strengthen us, if we are tired fortify our spirits, if we are anxious help us to consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air.
Help us not to stockpile treasures from supermarkets in the barns of our larders, Don’t let fear cause us to overlook the needs of others more vulnerable than ourselves. Fix our eyes on your story and our heats on your grace.
Help us always to hold fast to the good, see the good in others and remember there is one world, one hope, one everlasting love,with baskets of bread for everyone.
In Jesus we make our prayer, the one who suffered and died and was raised to new life, in whom we trust these days and all days. Amen. (Rev Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference)
Lord God, help us to feel your presence with us today, uniting us through and in you, even though we may be far apart. Help us to find ways of being your church and following your way even though life is far from easy at the present time. Help us to find different ways of worshipping you whilst we are tasked to ‘stay in’, ‘to stay put’ and keep us strong in faith and love. Amen.
Merciful God, renew our hearts with the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. May we shine more brightly and share more boldly the treasure of good news through lives of radical generosity, unconditional love, faith-filled hope, merciful justice and liberating forgiveness. For your glory we pray. Amen (Leslie Newton, Chair Yorkshire North and East District)
StF 103 Beyond these walls of Worship. Guitar and vocals Ian Worsfold, singer Paul Wood.
Copyright: Words and Music Ian Worsfold and Paul Wood
May the road rise to meet you; may the wind be always at your back, may the sunshine be warm upon your face, may the rain fall soft upon your fields, And until we meet again, May God hold you in the hollow of the hand.
These are the Worship at Home Services, led by our Ministers :-