April 6, 2014 – Fifth Sunday of Lent Lectionary: 34
A vintage photo in the men’s room of a Cary grocery store shows sunset on a beach over a quote from the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, who said “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” The same may be said even more truly of Grace.
Scripture readings today affirm that God does nothing by half measures. He is “all in,” and what makes this commitment marvelous in every sense of the word is that God is all in for us. “With the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption” – that refrain from Psalm 130 anticipates Saint John’s assertion that “God is Love.”
Have you heard or seen “God is Love” so often that it seems like cheap sentiment, fit only for message boards maintained by unimaginative pastors? Do you remember enough high school English to smile because verses today include “Jesus wept,” which was a favorite of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn for being so short?
If either of those things is the case, then parts of the story of Lazarus are shocking. John writes that Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus, so when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was. The conjunction there is easy to miss, but important, because it creates a chain of events: Saint John wrote “so,” rather than the “yet” we might expect.
In other words, Jesus waited not despite his love for Lazarus and his two sisters, but because of it. His delay is purposeful, but not callous, and not incidental to the story. Love did not fly to the side of the beloved, because the better thing to do was to arrive when it seemed to be too late, and strengthen the faith of everyone touched by the miracle that Jesus would perform. What Jesus does for Lazarus did not stop with him. We are all called to the same trust that Martha and Mary were.
It’s also worth remembering that this story reminds us how good it is to pray for each other. Lazarus is the man raised from the dead, but Saint John says nothing about his faith. Instead, we hear about his sister’s faith. Jesus says to Martha (and to us): “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Yes, Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!