Ezekiel 37:12-14;Romans 8:8-11; John 11:1-45
The readings for today resonate with resurrection themes. The full passage from Ezekiel (I always find it hard to read the excerpts if they don't tell the full story) is a step-by-step process of raising the dead, from bleached bones to infusion of spirit, with the guiding hand of God present throughout. Paul certainly continues the theme in the excerpt from Romans, but Paul seems to emphasize more the presence of the spirit in the whole resurrection process. And the story of Lazarus is certainly one of hope for all who believe in Jesus - there will be a resurrection. And so at one level faith in the resurrection of the body at God's hand is central to today's readings.
I can't help but reflect on how Jesus must have felt during these few days of Lazarus' sickness, death, and resurrection. He waited patiently for several days once He heard that Lazarus was ill - why? He must have prayed for guidance from God concerning what He should do. Jesus knew God would intercede when He asked (see verse 41), so why not, as the naysayers pose the question, intercede sooner rather than later? A dear friend had suffered and died, and Jesus stood by watching this unfold from a distance. We know that Jesus was an emotional man, and so these events must have tested Him. Yet the gospel does not intimate that Jesus Himself was undergoing a challenge to His faith, even though this event could well be a temptation to act prematurely or for His own self interest, much like the traditional temptations by the devil.
Jesus was astutely aware of the religious and political climate, and knew this miracle would exacerbate the tensions with the Jewish establishment. Thomas certainly thought so - he is quoted as saying "Let us go along, to die with Him." Yet Jesus went to Mary and Martha and Lazarus in person instead of healing/raising from a distance, as He had done with the centurion's mother. I see this as yet another sign that Jesus knew of His impending crucifixion, and His acceptance of God's will.
Would it be wrong to think of Jesus as being exasperated with His followers at this point? He has been all over the region with them for several years, they have witnessed untold miracles, have heard Him teach and enlighten, yet He still feels the need to pray aloud so they can hear and make the connection between His intercession and the result He desired. Their doubts "troubled Him in spirit." At this late date He feels they still need signs, much like the prophesy from Ezekiel, that He is here to fulfill the scriptures, that He is the Messiah, that raising the dead is another corroborating piece of evidence.
And so, I see Jesus as being tempted here to act counter to God's will by interceding too soon or from a distance, and successfully fighting the temptation. I see Him being concerned that His followers still do not "get it." I see this drama as a necessary prelude to Jesus' own death and resurrection, as one more building block in the wall of our faith that He is the messiah, that we will be resurrected in glory through faith in Him.
By Tom Purcell