Now this, from John’s Gospel…
The very alert among you may have noticed that, while we are generally hearing Matthew’s Gospel proclaimed in church this year, the last few weeks we’ve heard from John’s Gospel. Why did the lectionary designers do this?
As we draw close to Holy Week and Easter, the stakes are getting higher for any of us who try to follow Jesus. He is heading toward confrontation and extermination by the powers that be. If we follow, death is likely to be our fate also. John’s Gospel is the one that confronts death head-on. John asks the hard questions. Who really can give us life, both on this earth, and beyond it?
In today’s long story of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, Martha is the strong character. She sends word to Jesus of Lazarus’s illness. Jesus comes…but not until the fourth day. Martha greets Jesus with the stinging words: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Here’s where it gets up-close-and-personal for me. My eldest brother David was bi-polar, and took his own life in his early twenties. At the age of 14, I was Martha, saying “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
If we live long on this earth, we all have losses and heartbreaks; we all face death. The ultimate religious question, I believe, is: Who gives life, even in the midst of death? St. John’s unequivocal answer is: the God of Jesus. This God gives life to the Samaritan woman at the well, to the man born blind, and to Lazarus in his tomb! This God raises his own son Jesus to life after the powers of this world dispatched him. In the end, Martha’s tough faith sustained her; God did not leave abandon her. God does not abandon us. Do you believe this? JBM