Posts Tagged ‘Lazarus’


Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel according to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Martha was busy with much serving.   Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of saving doctrine,  results in mere activism and busy-ness as evidenced in Martha, and with it resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her: “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”.  Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person.  Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world.

In the Collect (Prayer) of the Day above, we pray that the might serve Jesus, “…faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus“.  Serving, learning, and hoping in Jesus Christ is our life in Him.  Lazarus represents everyone’s life without the Lord:  dead, spiritually and physically.  In the tomb, Lazarus could not really want to be alive or make “his decision for Christ”, only the Lord’s Word makes alivet and does for us.  As it is clear in the Bible, “…we were dead in our trespasses” and only Christ in His Word to Lazarus, and Mary and Martha, makes us alive, faith holding tight to Christ, 

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2).

The Apostle Paul continued in his letter to Ephesians,so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Mary, Martha and Lazarus show us the immeasurable riches of Christ Jesus’ grace.  A saint is a role model, not of mere moral goodness but of the Lord’s goodness, His grace toward sinful man and woman. Amen.


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Mary Anoints Jesus at Bethany

Collect for the Day:

Almighty God, grant that in the midst of our failures and weaknesses we may be restored through the passion and intercession of Your only-begotten Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Old Testament LessonIsaiah 50:5–10

Psalm of the Day: Psalm 36:5–10; antiphon: v. 9

Epistle Lesson1 Peter 2:21–24

Gospel Lesson:  St. John 12:1–23

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”  (John 12: 23b “…for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.” (John 12: 43).

The glory that comes from  the Old Adam always praises the glory of man. As a pastor wrote after “the Oscars” ceremony:  Idolaters worshiping their idols as their idols receive an idol. This is as old as Babel.

  And all man’s Babylons strive but to impart/The grandeurs of his Babylonian heart. (Francis Thompson)

We think that man’s glory will last the ages, as the 1,000 Year Reich proclaimed, but even the vainglorious ancient Romans knew something of the transitory nature of earthly glory:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeteers, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments. The conquerors rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes his children robed in white stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.” (General George S. Patton)

“In the cross of Christ I glory, tow’ring o’er the wrecks  of time”. Not all glory is fleeting: The glory that comes from God glorifies His Son in love for us all, and His love is before the foundations of the world, ancient yet ever new (Ephesians 1: 4-5).  The Holy Monday Gospel is the severe contrast between the poverty of the glory that comes from man with the glory that comes from God. 

The evangelist John and many other eye witnesses of the Word testified, “…we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth’(John 1: 14). The glory coming from God is His extravagant and costly mercy, as seen “when Mary anointed the Lord’s feet”.  Judas was pinching pennies,not understanding such love, nor the Giver at the table.  Judas and the Pharisees magnifies the Adamic  lust after the glory of this world.  Judas could not understand Mary’s joy that her brother Lazarus was alive by the Word of Jesus.   Like Judas, the Old Adam is a thief, stealing to get ahead, attempting to rob God of the glory for one’s self.   As old as Eve (Genesis 3: 5). The glory coming from God is finally the costly blood of His Son for those who are poor in spirit to anoint our heads and feet with His forgiveness (Matthew 5: 3).Human reason, unaided by the revelation of God’s grace in Jesus Christ, can not understand such love. As  Mary anointed the Lord’s Body for His burial, the Lord has anointed us with His blood so our sin, our self itself is buried with Him, and that as He is risen,we too may walk in the newness of life (Romans 6: 4).  As our Lord said after His anointing:

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (St. Mark 14)

We do not proclaim any good news of the rich and famous, Caesars and presidents, for there is none. In the whole world we remember what Mary did.  After the dust collects on trophies and awards and diplomas, they are forgotten but we remember with joy those who loved us. The Lord’s  love and mercy is never in the black, but always in the red, that is, in His blood.  A slave stands behind our ears who is the Lord of heaven and earth and says, ‘The glory of this world is fleeting, but  behold, I am with you even unto the end of age’ (Matthew 28: 20). 

O Lord  Jesus Christ, You who were anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, give me grace so that I may sprinkle Your feet with penitent tears and may thus be enabled to anoint the members of Your spiritual body—especially the needy and suffering ones—with the oil of compassion and gentle kindness. Amen.  (prayer by Pr. Johann Gerhard)

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Christ’s passion is for us.  The Passion of Jesus Christ is not reserved for Holy Week only. His whole life is His passion.  His passion is for us and for our salvation.  His felt first His passion, in the first drops of His blood in His circumcision.

His passion is not for material wealth, but the riches of His grace for us all. 

His passion is not to seek to be loved, but to love.

His passion is not to be served, but to serve. 

His passion is not to be number 1 but to give His life as a ransom for many.

His passion is not for the eternal death of sinners but that sinners repent and come to Him, as He said:  His yoke is easy and His burden is light. 

His passion is not for sin but for sinners. 

His passion is not to fool people, but lead His People.

His passion is not to expel people and so lose them but to find the lost.

Lent is about avoiding sinful passions to see more clearly His Passion; and His  Passion makes us clean and clear. The passions of men are for greed, lust, vengeance, for themselves the Lord’s Passion is for grace, mercy and peace for us and for our salvation.   His passion is not for the words of men but the Word of God. 

He laid it in on the line: I am the Resurrection and the life.  He is not at all like Buddha, Mohammed, Joseph Smith etc. laying out new principles and programs for one to follow.  I am, He says many times in the Gospel:  I am the Bread of life, I am the Light of the World, just before today’s lesson, I am the Good Shepherd.  He went and found Lazarus dead to show forth His Word: I am the resurrection and the life.  Jesus Christ is no principle nor program, though He is principled. No principle can console in death’s dark vale, only the One Man for all man, His passion for His friends. He did what the Law and no law can do:  change the heart, soul and mind.  He fulfilled every law and the prophets.  How?  The Word became flesh, all of our flesh, every atom of it.  I am the Resurrection and the Life, then in public ministry, but today He is the I am.  He fully and finally laid Himself on the line, so to follow Jesus Christ to the day in which there will be no sunset. “No greater love hath a man than this that He lay down His life for His friends”.  He said He has authority to lay down His life and take it up again.  He has.

His Passion is our passion. Here in John 11, we see His passion pointedly in the tumult of battle with the last enemy, death.  He sees death and sorrow and mourning and it is reported that Jesus was visibly moved, shakento  the divine depths, indignant that death had undone so many.  He saw the terror of death in His loved one’s eyes. We can so easily gloss over in the narrative of the raising of Lazarus is He loved him and his sisters.  He who knew what is in the heart of man, saw the terror and fear in their hearts. We all know that terror, the fear of death.  Martha told the Lord the obvious that it has been four days and there will be an odor.  Death stinks.  No amount of the smells invented by man can cover death’s stink. Mortal man does not control death’s terror, and neither does moral man.  Sin is death and as we cannot control death and so it follows, we cannot control sin.  Maybe externally we can refrain, but not in the heart unless we buy the lies of the super spiritual:  do this, do that then you will be free. Law cannot set one free.  This only results in pride or despair. Lord’s hates both in His grace toward us. Better despair so that to the Lord, we may repair. The only we are repaired from the effect of sin which is death is by the Lord entering the fray. Jesus went inside.  Move the stone, He said, at the tomb.  He crossed the border from life to death, so that He crossed from death to life to lead the way looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith, so we can lay down the sin which so easily entangles the race. He would be in His tomb very soon.

His passion was not  to possess those whom He met.  He loved people and used things perfectly.  Man tends to use people and love things. Our passions are for many things, sports, jobs, family, cars, television, food…and the myriad and sundry ways of breaking the 1st commandment, though He alone has given all that for our need, and even for our passion.  But when such passion becomes more than our need for the Lord, then we have a false god. He crossed into the valley of the deities, and unlike any other god, Jesus Christ, true Son of the Father, died and rose so we are baptized into Him, as His passion is our passion.

His passion is our compassion.  We live and work amongst people we like and love and dislike and hate.  Yet for all them God so loved the world He gave His begotten Son that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish but have eternal life.  His passion is the cause of our compassion for our neighbor, not only His Law, but His blood shed for us all.  It is disorienting to see His Cross for someone we do not like, even hate. Yet, His passion orients us into His Way as He is the truth and the life, to see according to His Word.  We may wish someone’s eternal damnation but that is not the Lord’s goal, as He is compassionate with us every step of the way.  Seeing His cross is the only to forgive, die  and rise and bear our cross.

 His passion is for each of us.  This Lent we have heard 4 conversation Jesus has had with people, centering each time on one person:Lent 2, Jesus and Nicodemus, Lent 3, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman,Lent 4, Jesus and the Man born Blind, today, Lent 5,  Jesus and Lazarus

In other words:  Jesus and a Proud Man, Jesus and a Heretical and Adulterous Woman,Jesus and a Blind Man,  Jesus and a Dead Man.  There surely seems to be downward trajectory of the persons involved from pride to heresy/adultery to blindness to death,  and that’s the way of it in Adam and Jesus is going downward every step of the way with them and for them, and He will take them up from His tomb, every step of the way.

Spiritual tombs and physical tombs, now, the spiritual, and on that day, the physical tomb, as Lazarus’ was rent so all will be rent.  Yes, these are conversations between Jesus with many people involved, however, looking ahead in hope in Christ Jesus, the series is not complete: Jesus and Nicodemus,  the Samaritan Woman, the Man born blind, today,  Jesus and Lazarus and  every Day of the Year Jesus and YOU!  Passiontide is about Jesus and you and me, His passion for each of us, for our neighbor, every step of the way, our way, in His way.  Next week Sunday, Palm Sundaym begins the great week, Holy Week, the culmination of His passion on earth. It took 6 days to create the heavens and the earth, it took 33 years for the Lord to redeem it.  We need to hear, pray, and sing His passion and invite a neighbor to so sojourn and walk.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8)

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FWIW, I think the Lenten Gospel readings for this year (year A of the 3 year lectionary), are an embarrassment of the riches of Scripture because of the length of,  and the personal and public conversations that each episode reports between Jesus and the individuals in the narrative…and those riches we actually need. The Gospel readings for the remainder of the Sundays in Lent are:

  • Lent 2, St. John 3: 1—17: Jesus and Nicodemus
  • Lent 3, St. John 4:  5—42: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman
  • Lent 4, St. John 9: 1-42:  Jesus and the Man born Blind
  • Lent 5, St.  John 11: 1—45:  Jesus and Lazarus

In other words: 

  • St. John 3: 1—17: Jesus and a Proud Man
  • St. John 4:  5—42: Jesus and a Heretical and Adulterous Woman
  • St. John 9: 1-42:  Jesus and a Blind Man
  • St.  John 11: 1—45:  Jesus and a Dead Man

There surely seems to be downward trajectory of the persons involved:  from pride to heresy/adultery to blindness to death,  and that’s the way of it in Adam and Jesus is going downward every step of the way with them and for them, and He will take them up from His tomb, every step of the way:

Christ is risen from the dead,
Trampling down death by death,
And upon those in the tombs
Bestowing life!                                                                                      
(Paschal Troparion in the Orthodox Church)

Yes, these are conversations between Jesus with many people involved, however, looking ahead in hope in Christ Jesus, the series is not complete:

  • Lent 2, St. John 3: 1—17: Jesus and a Proud Man
  • Lent 3, St. John 4:  5—42: Jesus and a Heretical and Adulterous Woman
  • Lent 4, St. John 9: 1-42:  Jesus and a Blind Man
  • Lent 5, St.  John 11: 1—45:  Jesus and a Dead Man
  • Every Day of the Year, All Scripture, in His Church:  Jesus and YOU!

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Agnus Day

The following comic strip is on  today’s Holy Gospel,  St. Luke 16:  19-23.  Agnus Day is by Lutheran Pastor,  James Wetzstein: Agnus Day Comics. He cites a scholarly citation in the quoted intro below.  It is an interesting look at this Lesson.    

“Some of the rarer manuscripts add the editorial comment that Jesus also told this story in Bethany at the banquet given for his friend (the comfortably middle-class) Lazarus, after he was raised. According to this variant, everyone at the table had a good laugh. That Jesus is such a kidder.”

After all, did Lazarus,  the dead brother of Mary and Martha (St. John 11) do anything to raise himself from the dead? Wasn’t it all by the Word of Christ Jesus?  As Vicar Jim preached on Saturday:  did the poor man Lazarus have any good works in order to gain heaven to be at the bosom of Abraham?    And days before Luther died, he said, “It is true, we are all beggars.”   –Pr. Schroeder

 Agnus Day appears with the permission of http://www.agnusday.org

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