Daily Reading for March 9 • The Fifth Sunday in Lent
The account of the raising of Lazarus is a wonder marveled at by generations of Christians. It speaks of God’s redemptive action in the midst of human life, of divine fulfillment of the ancient covenant in the person of Jesus. It proclaims Jesus as the Christ, the fount of eternal life.
Beyond this, the Johannine passage is an incredibly rich mine of images and ideas that can enliven its hearers. It contains the poignant account of Jesus’ friendship with this family, the encounter with the weeping Mary with her distraught accusation—“If you had been here”—and the episode of Jesus’ tearful response to her grief. Even more strikingly, it contains Martha’s confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Except for the confession of Peter found in Matthew 16:16 (and the confession of Andrew to Peter in John 1:41), there is no other comparable statement of faith discovered in the gospels. For the early church, to confess Christ in this way was the mark of an apostle. Thus we have here a somewhat lost tradition, apparently current in the community from which the Gospel of John comes, of Martha as the first witness to Jesus as the resurrection, the one who brings new life.
The Lazarus passage speaks eloquently to me of hope and healing, especially as it is discovered in the communities of friendship in which we find ourselves. It is a Gospel that speaks of tears and compassion and the empathetic suffering we share with one another, a suffering which raises us beyond our own small sorrows and limited vision. It is a Gospel that proclaims the miracle of renewal that is discovered as we allow ourselves to know our interdependence. Our personal lifelessness, our private wounds are made whole as we tenderly touch and are touched by one another.
This late Lenten Sunday is one in which we enter into the mystery of pain and brokenness, both our own and the world’s, to discover that we are not alone, that what seems hopeless is in fact hope-filled, that what appears dead can spring forth into life. It happens because we are embedded in a wider, more sustaining matrix of love than we can possibly imagine.
From The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost by Wendy M. Wright (Upper Room Books, 1994).