“Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
“Although the Resurrection [of Jesus] was an historical event that could be verified by the sign of the empty tomb and by the reality of the apostles’ encounters with the risen Christ, still it remains at the very heart of the mystery of faith as something that trancends and surpasses history.”
CCC 647 (emphasis added)
Martha was Jesus’ friend. When her brother Lazarus was sick, she called Jesus to come and to heal him. She knew that Jesus was a miracle worker and had the power to heal people who were ill. She trusted that Jesus would come and deliver her brother from his illness.
Jesus didn’t come, and Lazarus died.
It didn’t make sense. Jesus could heal. Why didn’t he heal Lazarus?
When Jesus finally arrived he wept. Lazarus illness and death are not what Jesus wanted for him. Jesus is firmly on the side of life. His delay is a mystery. Illness does not make sense.
But he does promise Martha something. “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (Jn. 11:26).” He promises eternal life. This eternal life is not just life free of illness or pain; it is beyond human experience.
As a sign that Jesus has power over death itself, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, freeing him from the bonds of death. Illness and death are not the final word. Life is!
The sign of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is a foreshadowing of Jesus’ resurrection. In his resurrection, Jesus invites us to a life that is beyond our experience. It is not simply life as we know it; eternal life is something more. Eternal life begins now, in the midst of our suffering and illness. Lazarus is a sign for us of the life that never ends.
Dcn. Lincoln A. Wood