Posts filed under Lent

Jesus Raises Lazarus back to Life

The sisters Mary & Martha send a message to Jesus:  Lord, the one you love is sick (v.3).  Clearly, Jesus had a special relationship with this man and his sisters (v. 5).  Yet John chapters 11 and 12 are the only reference to Lazarus in the New Testament.  This request is very similar to Jesus' mother's request at the wedding of Cana (2:4).  It presents a need but does not dictate to the Lord how He should respond.  In these requests we have a model of intercession that makes a need known to the Lord with humility and a recognition that it is His will that should be done.  Such humility and submission are key characteristics of true disciples.

Jesus had responded to His mother by saying it was not yet His hour, a reference to the cross (2:4).  Now, however, his hour is fast approaching.  Mary and Martha must have known how dangerous it had become for Jesus to be in the vicinity of Jerusalem.  They might have known that Jesus could heal at a distance (cf. 4:49-53), yet they seem to want Him to come to heal Lazarus (11:21,32).  Perhaps their anxiety for their brother led them to summon Jesus.  But love is the laying down of life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16), and the sisters seem to think that Jesus would be willing to risk His life for the sake of their brother, whom He loves.  Whatever they may have been thinking, we see that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was indeed willing to risk his life for His friend (cf. 10:11, 15), though He was under no real danger since He was doing the Father's will and under his protection (10:39; cf. 10:29).

Jesus' love for Lazarus and his sisters teaches us that our faith in God's love, even in the midst of adversity, is well grounded.  Even those especially dear to God must endure such things.  The one sick, the others sad, all of them beloved: but He who loved them was both the Saviour of the sick, nay more, the Raiser of the dead and the Comforter of the sad.

In all that Jesus does we see the glory of God (1:14), for we see God's love and life-giving power.  Now, in the raising of Lazarus, we will have the most spectacular manifestation of this glory.  God is the one who brings life to the dead out of his love for those in such need.  This is the heart of the Gospel.  God's glory is thus seen in his victory over death--indeed, it is possible only through death--first the death of Lazarus, and then the death of Jesus himself!

Posted on April 6, 2014 and filed under Lent.

John 4:5-42: The Samaritan Woman & Jesus

Jesus' discussion with the disciples occurs in the midst of the discussion with the Samaritans. The disciples here represent normal everyday Jews who are afraid of the Samaritans because there was constant battle going on between them: raids, conflict, people being assaulted when they came through Samaria. Talking with a Samaritan woman was a major violation of the law for a Jewish man. Men did not speak to women in public and especially not to Samaritan women. The challenge is to convey that the radical approach by Jesus and the reconciliation between Jews and Samaritans that is implicit in the Samaritans believing that Jesus is the Messiah. This is a remarkable story about the transformation of ethnic, political and religious conflicts that exist within the new bonds of community.

 

In this dynamic conversation between Jesus and the Samaritan woman Jesus makes one provocative statement after another. Gradually her hostility is transformed into first curiosity and then respect. In order for this conversation to be credible as an invitation to the transformation of the woman, Jesus' voice needs to have no tone of distain or criticism at all when he says, "You are right in saying you have no husband. You have had five husbands and the one you are with now is not your husband. What you said is true." It is simply a factual description. Jesus’ voice is the voice of one who recognizes the truth but is utterly non-judgmental. If it were judgmental, the conversation would have been over. So, in order for these words to be believable, they need to be said without disdain or a tone of judgment or critique.

 

When Jesus and the Samaritan woman discuss religious matters, Jesus' statements about their relationship and conflict as Jews and Samaritans are radically different than what anyone else is saying. That is, Jesus is asserting that these conflicts between Samaritans and Jews that have been going on for over seven hundred years have no reason to continue anymore. The hour is coming when everyone, Jews and Samaritans, will worship God not through sacrifices in the historic temples in Samaria and Jerusalem but in a spiritual and intellectual worship, a worship of spirit and truth.  The water that Jesus will give is Living water gushing up for eternal life for all persons, regardless of their position in life!

 

Posted on March 23, 2014 and filed under Lent.