We have completed the season of the Great Fast and now we come to two days of celebration before the rigors of Holy Week. Tomorrow we shall greet the Lord as He enters into Jerusalem and today we behold the resurrection from the dead of Lazarus!
These days are given to us by the Church to strengthen us and encourage us as we move forward into the coming days in which we will experience the betrayal, the sufferings, and the death of our Lord. Today we are given a foretaste of what awaits us when we approach the tomb of our Lord. Christ proclaims: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.’
These astonishing words are proven out in action by our Lord through the resurrection of Lazarus. It was a such a great mercy to all those close to our Lord to behold this miracle just prior to Christ’s arrest and sufferings. It provided some tangible hope that His words were true.
When the sisters of Lazarus, Mary and Martha, sent word to Christ to come quickly, the message they sent was: ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’
What a perfect description of mankind! What a perfect description of you and me! ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’ We are spiritually ill… but our Lord and Physician loves us. These are comforting and hopeful words!
Jesus did not immediately rush to aide of his sick friend. The Gospel tells us that He stayed two more days in the place where He was. He told His disciples, ‘Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.’
When Jesus arrived He was met by Martha who exclaimed, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ And later, Mary said the same thing in her great sorrow.
Our Lord knew what He was doing in delaying to come to Lazarus. He had said to His disciples that He was glad that He was not there, for their sake, that they may believe. Lazarus had been dead for four days by now… a spiritually significant number of days – for Jewish and Orthodox tradition teaches that the soul may linger about the body for the first three days after death, but at the end of the third day, the soul must go forth. Delaying to the fourth day assured to all that Lazarus was hopelessly dead and therefore the miracle of his being called forth from the tomb becomes all the more astonishing!
The Gospel tells us that as Christ stood about the mourners, He groaned in His spirit and was troubled. When He was led to the tomb of Lazarus, we are presented with the shortest verse in all of Holy Scripture… two words: ‘Jesus wept’.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ!... Let us reflect upon this scene and upon these two words: ‘Jesus wept’. Christ our God and Creator groans in His spirit over us! Do we realize this? He sees us entombed in the stony insensibility of our sins and He weeps. May God have mercy on us!
Christ, standing at the tomb of Lazarus said: ‘Take away the stone’ – to open the grave. Martha warned that by this time there would be a stench, for Lazarus had been dead four days. Jesus replied: ‘Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’
So they removed the stone blocking the tomb and Christ called out ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave-clothes and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him and let him go.’
Can we even begin to imagine the astonishment and the joy of those who witnessed this miracle?
And yet, let us make no mistake… we are also called to participate in this miracle. May we, through repentance, remove the stone away from the tomb of our cold hearts… May we listen for and then heed the call of the Lord to ‘come forth’. And if we can do so, then may we also be released from the sins that bind us and hear the words of our Lord, ‘Loose him and let him go!’ …Coming into the light and receiving life.