Fifth Sunday of Lent

John 11:4
Jesus said, this weakness is not to death, instead for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified through it.

            A wonderful encouragement and a great display of Christ’s power and love. To hear again this great comfort, this beautiful truth, especially at this time. Here, the last miracle before His passion, the Sunday before He enters Jerusalem, we see that Jesus truly is the Resurrection and the Life and those who trust in Him have life after death and everlasting life. And yet it doesn’t play out as we might expect. Jesus does not drop everything to rush and heal the sick man, as He does at other times. Instead He waits 2 days and only then comes to the grave of the one He loved. Martha and Mary’s speech shows their doubt in Christ’s power, if you had been here, if you ask God He will give. And of course, the Jews of Jerusalem seeing Jesus has power to raise from the dead decide they should try killing Him. And they succeed. How does this weakness and death glorify Jesus, the Son of God?

            And now sickness comes to Australia in this pandemic, weakness in our country’s economy and in manys financial security. How at this time is our Heavenly Father’s name hallowed, as we pray in the Lord’s prayer, how can we glorify Christ Jesus? Do we ask Him to just whisk us away from all these troubles, to stop COVID19 and bring prosperity back to the world? If He doesn’t come should, we doubt or reject Him, because He doesn’t take away our suffering, our weakness? If He doesn’t heal us, does that mean He doesn’t love us? Surely just as if your spouse had the power to heal you of the cancer you might get, surely Jesus would heal us who He has promised He loves! But what did Christ do for the one whom He loved, and the brother of those He loved, what did Jesus do for Lazarus in his weakness? He let him die. And Jesus Himself as He pleaded with our Heavenly Father that He might not have to suffer, a very human cry, still chose to go according to the divine will to His own suffering and death. But He declares, Jesus is glorified in the death of Lazarus and in His own. Truly the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18).

            To our human ears it makes no sense that Jesus would wait when His friend was sick. It says that it was because He loved him, He let him die. If He loves, why wouldn’t He heal Lazarus straight away? He did it with the centurion’s servant. Why if He loves us has He promised suffering in this life, for us His siblings persecution because we trust in Him (John 15:20; 16:33; Philippians 1:29; 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:12)? Why is this pandemic continuing, and the economy crumbling? Why does God allow evil? The book of Job teaches us this very question, we hear the preface and know why it’s all happening, yet Job never is told. He asks his wife, who had just told him to curse God and die, ‘shall we receive good from God, and shall we not also receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin, he spoke what is right (Job 2:10). Job and his family suffered immensely, and yes he complained (7:11), he demanded that God answer him (10:2), and yet through it all and in the end he glorified God (19:25; 42). Job is the one who declared, I know that my redeemer lives (19:25). Just the same Lazarus suffered and died, yet through it all his sisters kept the faith and Christ showed them and all the Jews what is to come, the glorious resurrection of the dead foretold by God through Ezekiel (37:1-14). Through this Christ was glorified 2000yrs ago, and by John’s inspiration all Christians might glorify God and praise His name as we hear and believe. In 2 weeks time is the greatest celebration in the church year, Pascha, Easter, the celebration of Christ’s suffering, death, burial, and resurrection. All of this is to God’s glory, Father, Son and Spirit, we can praise Him in suffering, death, burial, and resurrection. To God be the glory! It’s not just that Jesus suffered, but that God incarnate suffered for you and with you, we die His death to sin, we are buried in Him who is life, and so we wait together for the final resurrection, the revelation of His life over death in us.

            And as we are joined with His life, we too expect suffering and persecution. This pandemic and economic downturn need not surprise us. We have a sure foundation in Christ, set in Him by the Spirit in the waters of Baptism, we need not be shaken. Yet now as we live in this world of weakness and death, we ask how might this be to the glory of God? How is His name hallowed through this emergency? How can we, who are saved by Christ’s death, and joined to Him who is Resurrection and Life, you now free from death and eternal death, how can we bring glory to God as our country suffers and as we suffer while we wait for God’s timing to bring into reality the final resurrection and the new heavens and new earth?

Our complete union with Christ our life, the king crowned on the cross, and with Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and all those believing Jesus, the saints past and present. Until this time glorify God and receive His peace which passes all understanding guarding your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Joseph Graham.