The Fifth Week in Lent: The Raising of Lazarus
Click here to access this week’s passage — John 11:1-45 — which is worth reading but probably longer than what I wrote below!
I named my blog “Into Resurrection” because the idea that Jesus is the resurrection now, that the kingdom of God is breaking in all around us now, has been transformative to my faith. It means that I’m not just waiting for some future salvation, but that I’m watching for the places where God is working salvation in the present. It means that I’m not just saved from something (hell), but saved for something, for working towards building God’s kingdom in the world around me.
There are plenty of theological clarifications and nuances I could make here, not least of which is the constant tension between looking for God’s kingdom now and also hoping for its full arrival later — and the question then raised of how our work now fits into the coming kingdom.
Nevertheless, believing that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life right now, in ways that directly impact my life and the lives of those around me, has given me immense hope and peace.
So it shouldn’t be at all surprising that I love today’s gospel passage, John’s account of the resurrection of Lazarus.
Of course I love the story of resurrection literally breaking into the world, as Jesus calls Lazarus out of the tomb. But what I most appreciate about this story is how it reflects the tension between the already and the not-yet, how it fully acknowledges the pain and grief of the not-yet-fully-redeemed world while simultaneously showing us the glorious hope of the resurrection.
Famously, this story of Lazarus contains the shortest verse in the bible: Jesus wept. Just two words; a factoid tucked away by every kid who competed in sword drills. But these two words are incredibly profound. Think about it: Jesus already knew that Lazarus was dead. And Jesus also already knew that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. But instead of telling Mary to buck up, instead of telling the mourners to stop, Jesus sits down with them and weeps.
What a profound acknowledgement of the pain, suffering, and grief we experience now. Jesus doesn’t try to diminish or deny any of that — and in fact, Lazarus isn’t resurrected into a happily-ever-after but into death threats as an associate of Jesus. Our tears have not yet been wiped away; death still occurs; we do not live in the fully-realized kingdom of God.
And yet. And yet. Lazarus does hear Jesus' call, does emerge from the grave back into life, back into the arms of his sisters and friends. Resurrection has come, the kingdom has broken into this household of Martha and Mary, this village of Bethany.
Last week, I wrote about being a non-anxious presence in the world. This hope of resurrection, not just the future hope but the present hope of seeing it break into the world around us, sustains our non-anxious presence.
We aren’t surprised by brokenness and grief; we know that Jesus is weeping alongside us. But we also expect God to show up as we look for resurrection life all around us. We can’t stop this resurrection any more than we can stop the robins from returning and the first crocuses from blooming.
In the liturgical year, as in our lives, we are moving through Lent, through lament and suffering and pain and brokenness. We live in a world where Lazarus dies and his sisters weep. But Easter has come and is coming. Jesus defeated sin and suffering and death, and will defeat them once and for all.
And so, because of resurrection, as we live as resurrection people, we live with hope.