Death and Glory

Next Sunday is the 5th Sunday in Lent, Year A. You can read a complete commentary on the Sunday Gospel here.

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.

7 Then after this he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back there?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If one walks during the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 He said this, and then told them, “Our friend Lazarus is asleep, but I am going to awaken him.” 12 So the disciples said to him, “Master, if he is asleep, he will be saved.” 13 But Jesus was talking about his death, while they thought that he meant ordinary sleep. 14 So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. 15 And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe. Let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go to die with him.”

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” 29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. 31 So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” 35 And Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” 37 But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” 38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. 42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” 45 Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he had done began to believe in him. (John 11:1-45)


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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