At the time of Our Lord, ‘bench’ tombs
became common, due to Greek influence. There was
a central court surrounded by burial chambers,
each of which contained waist-high benches on
which to place the body. Some tombs, like that
of Joseph of Arimathea (in which the body of Jesus
was placed), were hewn out of the soft limestone.
The entrance was sealed with a stone set in a
groove in front of the tomb. The stone could be
rolled to seal or open the tomb. Even a small-sized
stone, e.g. four feet in diameter and six to ten
inches thick, would be almost impossible for one
person to move. The reason was re-use and to prevent
theft. [Incidentally, the fact that Jesus was
buried in the tomb of a stranger, even that of
a friend, was the crowning insult. He was not
interred among his ancestors, like the patriarchs;
he did not ‘sleep with his fathers’. No one sought
to put this right].
THE RAISING to life of Lazarus
was not resurrection, because he would die again.
It was however a death leading to resurrection
because it led to the death of Jesus—a sad commentary
on what human conviction can lead to. If Lazarus
had to die again, what was the point of raising
him? John answers that it was a sign, as he had
said about the miracle of the wine at Cana: “so
that they may believe it was you who sent me”
and a sign that in Jesus we have eternal life.
For Jesus what mattered was seeing the glory of
God. The raising of Lazarus will reveal the mystery
of God, who wants men and women to have life and
be free. “Unbind him; let him go free” When we
allow our sight to be obscured by suspicion, mistrust,
doubt, it is as if we put on dark glasses and
no longer see the light. Faith breaks away the
Faith in the resurrection was affirmed clearly
amongst the Jews only two centuries before Christ.
At the time of Jesus not everyone accepted it.
Martha accepted it but only as I know he will
rise again at the resurrection on the last day.
Jesus corrects her: I am the resurrection
and the life. . . whoever lives and believes in
me will never die. God created Adam to live
and be happy on earth with God. In the Bible then
death means alienation from God. Death, in this
sense of separation from God, has been overcome.
His promise to Adam: fill the earth and subdue
it and have dominion is accomplished in mankind
being set free: for nothing, not even death, can
separate us from the love of God. Mary greets
Jesus as ‘Lord’ unlike Martha and at his feet.
Jesus shows genuine emotion. Is it compassion,
or is he disappointed as well that Mary is so
swallowed up in the emotion surrounding the death
of her brother that not even she shows confidence
in what he can do for Lazarus? John uses a different
word in Greek for Jesus’ ‘weeping’ than he uses
for the weeping of the ‘Jews’ and Mary. The people
round the tomb have not accepted who Jesus is,
so he prays to the Father for them more than about
Lazarus, so that they may come to faith. Some
believe; some just report the miracle.
|1. How does: “Unbind him.
Let him go free” affect me? Do I recognize
freedom in Christ?
|2. The friends and family of
Lazarus seem completely engrossed in their
sorrow at his death. Should my experience
of bereavement differ from theirs?
|3. Most of the time we do not
want to think about death or eternal life.
Might reflecting on today’s gospel be a source
of strength to me?