We start with Ezekiel as he proclaims graves will be open and people will rise from them. Through the teachings of our Church, we know this will happen. Ezekiel was six hundred years before Jesus, so this is really a remarkable prophecy. But so that the people will know God will put a spirit in them so that they will live. We do not know if Ezekiel understood the prophecy, but we can look at it now as a promise of resurrection. This leads into the gospel for today.
The community of Bethany is only two miles from Jerusalem, literally just on the other side of the mountain. The distance can easily be walked in a few hours. The question of course is why did Jesus delay. The gospel gives us a remarkable answer. It is for the glory of God. How can someone dying, and a family grieving, give glory to God?
This is why we need to know what has happened in the gospel of Matthew up to now. The gospel is complete document, not just short stories of Jesus. Jesus has been exorcising demons, curing diseases, and giving sight to the blind. All of this, of course, is giving glory to God. It is also demonstrating that Jesus is God as He is doing the work of the Father.
Now the greatest of all miracles will be the raising of Lazarus from the dead. We should shout: Rejoice, Bethany! God is coming to your town. You are about to experience a wonderful miracle. Lazarus will be raised from the dead! The only problem with this is that Jesus is the only one who knows what He is going to do. All others are experiencing the grief and loss of a friend who has died. They do not feel like rejoicing.
What great faith Martha has. She could have been angry that Jesus did not come immediately. But she realizes that Jesus is speaking of the resurrection. And Martha believes. I don’t think we realize the great faith of Martha. Martha is sorrowful. She knows Jesus would have healed Lazarus. But Martha also knows it is better to think of eternal life, which is forever, than just living another day here.
Jesus, fully human and fully divine, weeps. He experiences the grief of Mary. Even though Mary is the contemplative one, her faith is not to the level of Martha. Martha is a woman of great faith that is comparable to Peter’s faith.
Lazarus is dead for four days. There will be a stench. Anyone driving through the state of Wisconsin knows the smell of a dead deer, or raccoon, or worst of all, a skunk. We know well the stench of death.
Jesus calls his friend. Lazarus, bound hand and foot would have to hop to the entrance. Unbind his hands and feet. Remove the wrappings from his head.
I think of the people who came forward to remove the bindings. What horrible thoughts must have been in their minds as they did this. What shock they must have experienced when they saw no decay and no stench. Lazarus is alive. Rejoice Bethany, God has come to your community.
Jesus has overcome death. Jesus will defeat death with His Resurrection.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen