Raising Lazarus: context

Dodekaorton 6 Raising of LazarusJohn 11:1-45.  1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. 3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” 4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.

The remainder of the gospel reading can be found here.

Context. In the Lenten season (Year A) the 4th Sunday in Lenten recounts the story of the healing of the man born blind (John 9:1-41). In the commentary on that gospel it was explained that the miracles (called “signs” / semeia) in the gospel according to John point beyond themselves to the divine – not just the divine as a vague power, but to a person. They identify Jesus as the light and life of the world, the bread of life from heaven, and the Logos who, through the semeia/signs, reveals his own glory, which is also the glory of God his Father, since he and the Father are one and since he does the Father’s will and works. These signs are given that we might believe (Jn 20:26). For John, sin is the failure to believe and accept the consequential changes in one’s life. All the characters of John 9 (on-lookers, neighbors, parents, the Pharisees and other religious leaders) are judged in their failure to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and Savior and to subsequently become witnesses to Jesus as the glory of God.

Chapter 10 continues the revelation of Jesus – and like the chapters before it, also reveal faith among people in the way they respond to the signs – or sin in the way they fail/refuse to respond to the sign. In John 10, Jesus reveals/identifies himself as the good shepherd (10:11,14) promised by Zechariah 34 who would bring the lost sheep of Israel back into the covenant relationship. The religious authorities respond that Jesus must be possessed by a demon – a far graver accusation than those levied against Jesus in John 9.

This represents an intensification of the growing conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities. Even as the authorities are divided, yet increasingly hostile to the person of Jesus and his ministry, at the same time, some have believed in Jesus. In the midst of this Jesus has already made oblique references to his death and resurrection (being “lifted up” in 3:14, 8:28). Those references will become concretized in John 11 when many parties begin to speak about Jesus’ impending death

Seeking to put all questions to an end, the authorities command Jesus to tell them plainly if he is the Messiah. Jesus’ answer is simple – I already did and if you can’t believe my words, then consider my works. This concludes with Jesus’ statement, “The Father and I are one.” The authorities clearly understand his meaning and take up stones (10:31) to kill Jesus because he has blasphemed (v.33) in claiming to be God. Jesus leaves Jerusalem and “went back across the Jordan to the place where John first baptized, and there he remained. Many came to him …And many there began to believe in him.” (John 10:40-42)

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