There was a time, we used to speak about the bedside manner of doctors or nurses and how important that was to create a sense of trust between medical professionals and their patients.
This trust, cultivated through a good bedside manner, often meant that when outcomes were not as good as hoped for by patients or their families, that the medical staff were less likely to be blamed.
So in this story from the Gospel according to John…What do we make of Jesus’ bedside manner?
It is disconcerting how the story depicts Jesus’ lack of concern, for the plight of an severely ill Lazarus.
Jesus does not rush off to Bethany to provide comfort or assistance, let alone healing,
When I was seeking a visual for the bulletin cover… the Brick Testament shows Jesus lounging in a hammock after he hears of Lazarus’ illness.
We don’t know what Jesus did except that he waited 2 days before heading to Bethany.
you and I, We have been Mary and Martha… sending word to Jesus, praying to Jesus about our child sick with a fever, or our friend in ICU, our loved one awaiting test results
and we have waited for an answer
When Jesus arrives— Lazarus has been dead 4 days
Martha confronts him… if you had been here my brother would not have died…
she is grieving, angry, frustrated… we sent for you, why didn’t you come?
the promise is given here in the middle of the story…
Jesus responds to Martha….
‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
The promise of life
Jesus does not give Martha an explanation of why things happened the way they did…
no answer… we don’t know why things happen the way they do…
but we have a promise calling us forward… in face of a situation we cannot understand
too many times there is no good explanation for the death of innocents in Florida or Nigeria or Pakistan for tumors and hospice, for accidents… no reasonable explanation as to why they are dead
We need to cling to the promise of Christ
Death is real… death is real but it is not final
We have been given the promise of life, of resurrection by Christ… life abundant with God and Christ eternally
God’s presence is real, grace upon grace
This is a story packed with symbolism that both looks forward to the resurrection and looks back to what Jesus has already said about life,
It provides an opportunity for deeper reflection on what Jesus meant by new life.
The fact is that Lazarus’ new life in Bethany was not for ever. Lazarus would, grow old and die again, later.
The miracle of the raising of Lazarus is explored differently than most miracle stories.
It is a slower, it builds gradually as John portrays Jesus exploring the understanding people had of life and of new life as his followers.
He uses Martha and Mary and their responses to help us unravel something of the mystery of life.
We journey with Martha as she seeks out Jesus.
We hear her grief, anger and frustration
We see Mary as she grieves over her loss.
They both thought that Jesus could keep their brother from dying, but neither actually thought Jesus could bring him back to life.
We get a sense of the community’s bewilderment as they gather around the tomb again.
They had just been there. It was too early to return to the tomb
What must have they been thinking?
These are ordinary people with a certain view of how the world is and how the world works.
Martha and Mary had heard Jesus talking about a different Way, but they have not fully grasped what that meant.
Mary and Martha both believe that Jesus has power in the present, but they don’t yet believe he can fix the past.
But isn’t that exactly what he does? He goes to the tomb and cries out, “Lazarus, come out!”
Into their bewilderment and lack of understanding Jesus brings clarity, the light of the world will bring an end to their stumbling in the dark.
New life, in Jesus, a new way to understand life and what it means, a fresh start: resurrection and life.
Catholic, feminist theologian, Elizabeth Johnson wrote in regard to this story, “Jesus pulls the hope of the future resurrection into the present, promising abundant, eternal life that begins here and now.”
But he also, in some way, redeems the past, maybe even indicating that the resurrection begins way back then.
You and I want explanations…we want an answers to our whys… at times… but sometimes it has to be enough to know that God’s presence is real
that Christ is here in the mess…
It was while Lazarus was still cold and dead in the tomb that Jesus promises ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. …’
Let us claim the promise of resurrection and life abundant… that can begin now…and will not end in death…
Let us claim the hope of the promise that Death will not have the last word
That Jesus promised more than a conquering of death… of abundant eternal life with God and Christ beginning now. Amen
Narrative Lectionary: Lazarus Lost Edition (John 11:1-44)
Spill the Beans, Issue 26