Saturday, March 27, 2010

Illness not to Death but to Glory

Meditation on Lazarus Saturday
Yesterday, the 6th Friday, marked the last day of Great Lent in the eastern Churches. Fasting does not stop on the last day, but rather intensifies through the next week, Great and Holy Week. Lazarus Saturday prepares us for what is to come.
Lazarus Saturday is, in many ways, the 'Feast of The Test of Faith' for as you read at the end of the critical Scripture text below, the Chief Priest of the Temple suggested that Lazarus be killed because this last great resurrection miracle had caused many people to believe what was said concerning Jesus, who he was and why he had come.
This text completes the cycle of action that begins with the sorrowing Jesus declaring that he and the apostles must return to Judea, and the Apostle Thomas' sonorous declaration, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” It is clear from this resurrection pericope that those who loved Jesus knew there was a price on him and they believed that many would die with him, and perhaps even thought that they might be willing to die in his stead.
But the key to knowledge and insight, as always, is Jesus. Knowing why he had come better than any other, he says quite clearly, about the ailing Lazarus, “This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” The sickness of Lazarus, the sickness of fallen mankind, are what took Jesus to Judea, and to the Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
This feast as none other save Pascha itself turns our attention to redemption, pain, death, healing, and resurrection. It is a 'Test of Faith' offered by the Master Teacher, who is the substance of Faith itself...the substance of things seen and unseen.

Critical Scripture texts for the Saturday of Lazarus
Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not to death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he stayed two days still in the same place where he was.  Then after that said he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say to him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone you; and go you thither again?  Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him. These things said he: and after that he said to them, Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.  However, Jesus spoke of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus to them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent you may believe; nevertheless let us go to him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, to his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was near to Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.  Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.  Then said Martha to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died.  But I know, that even now, whatever you will ask of God, God will give it you. Jesus said to her, Your brother shall rise again. Martha said to him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Believe you this? She said to him, Yes, Lord: I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.
And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calls for you. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came to him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goes to the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. And said, Where have you laid him? They said to him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?
Jesus therefore again groaning in himself comes to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay on it. Jesus said, Take you away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, said to him, Lord, by this time he stinks: for he has been dead four days. Jesus said to her, Said I not to you, that, if you would believe, you should see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard me. And I knew that you hear me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that you have sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said to them, Loose him, and let him go. (John 11:1-44)
A great multitude therefore of the Jews knew that he was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests thought to kill Lazarus also: Because many of the Jews, by reason of him, went away, and believed in Jesus.
And on the next day, a great multitude that was to come to the festival day, when they had heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried: Hosanna, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, the king of Israel. (John12:11-13)


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