Homily 5th Sunday of Lent 26th March 2023
One of the things about this Gospel reading is how many times the people involved, even the apostles, even Christ’s close friends, Martha and Mary, tried to tell Christ he was going about all of this all wrong.
At the very outset , Martha and Mary invite Christ to come visit Lazarus who is sick. But Christ doesn’t go. He waits two days more. Then he says to the apostles, “Ok, let’s go now.” But they object. They say it is too dangerous a trip to make. Christ says, “Lazarus needs me.” They answer, “No, he doesn’t. He’ll get better on his own.” Finally Christ tells them, “He is already dead. Now let’s go.” Interestingly enough it is Thomas, the doubter, who is the first to say to the others, “Well, we’ll probably all be killed but ok, let’s go.”
And when Jesus arrives at Bethany, the first thing he hears is somebody else telling him he hadn’t handled the whole thing very well. Martha says, “You are late. You should have come sooner.” In effect, she tells him, “if you had don’t it my way, it would have worked out all right.”
At the tomb they are joined by Mary, and the first thing she says is the same old line, “Where were you? If you had acted like a messiah is supposed to act, you could have prevented all this.”
By that time, the chorus had been fairly well taken up by the whole crowd. If he could cure a blind man, he should have been able to prevent this. And so again ‘troubled in spirit’, the Gospel says Jesus asks some of the men to move away the stone that sealed the door of the tomb. And again, Martha tells him he is doing it wrong. This time her complaint is about the odour from a four day old corpse.
And the outcome of it all, of course, was that the trip, which had seemed pointless, even foolishly dangerous to the apostles, the death and pain of separation that had seemed so burdensome to Martha and Mary, the confidence, the trust that had seemed so misplaced to the rest of the bystanders, all of this was seen to be very purposeful indeed.
Once they stopped trying to write the script, and simply, honestly, began to at least try to see their lives as God sees them, then everything that had been so bad became good.
Lazarus was alive. Christ had not been too late. The apostles were in no danger from the crowds. The promise of life was kept, and the faith of Christ’s friends, their love for him, grew stronger.
In a life lived on God’s terms, there is no tragedy, none that lasts. What Christ said to Lazarus as he opened his tomb, he says to each of us, to all of his people, “Untie them. Let them go free.”