Closing the Divides

Lazarus-Rich-Man…between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.…”  Such are words spoken about Lazarus and the rich man, traditionally known as Dives. The words describe their fates in the afterlife: Lazarus comforted by Abraham while Dives languishes in a hellish afterlife.

But here is the thing – the chasm really wasn’t new; it was fixed a long time ago and made wider every time the rich man came and went to his safe, secure and plush home and ignored Lazarus. Don’t get me wrong, this parable indeed talks about the eternal consequences of the life we lead, but it is also about our lives now. And maybe, just maybe, St. Luke has been talking to us about the chasms, the great divides we have slowly built into our lives – and our failure to see them in the here and now. Continue reading

What we pursue: context

Lazarus-Rich-Man19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. 22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ 25 Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. 26 Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ 27 He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, 28 for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ 30  He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ 31 Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’” Continue reading

Raising Lazarus

Dodekaorton 6 Raising of LazarusThe Raising of Lazarus
Upon arrival at Lazarus’ tomb, the evangelist simply tells us, Jesus wept. How Jesus’ weeping is interpreted depends on how his being ‘perturbed’ (33, 38) is understood as described above. The weeping of Mary and ‘the Jews’ is denoted by the Greek word klaiō, found forty times in the NT and eight times in the Fourth Gospel, and very often in the context of weeping and wailing. There is only one other place in the Gospels where it is recorded that Jesus wept: when he wept over Jerusalem and its impending judgment (Luke 19:41). On this occasion the common Greek word klaiō is used of Jesus’ weeping. It may be significant that the evangelist uses a different and rare word, dakryō, for Jesus’ weeping in 11:35, the only place it is found in the NT. Perhaps he is showing by his choice of this word that Jesus’ weeping was of a different order from that of Mary and ‘the Jews’. He was not joining with them in their weeping and wailing, but expressing his sorrow at the faithlessness he found all around him. Continue reading

Raising Lazarus: Bethany

Dodekaorton 6 Raising of LazarusJesus Arrives at Bethany. Upon their arrival in Bethany, Jesus’ assertion about Lazarus’ death (v.14) is confirmed. The four-day period underscores the finality of death. According to the popular belief, the hovered around the body for three days after the death, hoping to reenter the body. But after the third day, when the soul “sees that the color of its face has changed,” the soul leaves the body for good (Gen. Rab. 100). When Jesus arrives fellow mourners had already arrived to console the grieving sisters – but they will also serve another purpose: witness. Continue reading

Raising Lazarus: should Jesus go?

Dodekaorton 6 Raising of LazarusCommentary. In a key and important way, John 11 continues the central narrative about the signs that Jesus performed in order to people might believe and because of that belief have life. The sign given in John 11 is the raising of Lazarus – technically a resuscitation, i.e., being restored to the life that was before. Too quickly people move to point forward to Jesus’ own resurrection as though Lazarus only served to point to that event. As all the other signs (semeia) in John, the raising of Lazarus points to Jesus who is the source of life – both here and in the “last days.” John has already introduced us to the “life” theme when speaking of rebirth (Nicodemus) and living water (Samaritan woman); in reference to the life-giving word; in context of the life-giving bread (Jn 6); in Jesus’ self description as the “light of life” (8:12); as well as the previous chapter’s assertion “I have come that they might have life and have it to the full” (10:10). All of these accounts continue to remind us that meeting Jesus always operates on the physical and spiritual level – and often the miracle (sign/semeia) serve as the vehicle to make this point clear. Continue reading

Raising Lazarus: context

Dodekaorton 6 Raising of LazarusJohn 11:1-45.  1 Now a man was ill, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair; it was her brother Lazarus who was ill. 3 So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Master, the one you love is ill.” 4 When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that he was ill, he remained for two days in the place where he was.

The remainder of the gospel reading can be found here. Continue reading

The Sign

There are no miracles in the Gospel of John. Well, at least he does not call them as such. John seems to assiduously avoid calling them miracles, preferring to call them “signs.” In fact the first part of the Gospel of John is called the “Book of Signs” – and there are seven.

  • Changing water into wine in John 2:1-11
  • Healing the royal official’s son in Capernaum in John 4:46-54
  • Healing the paralytic at Bethesda in John 5:1-18
  • Feeding the 5000 in John 6:5-14
  • Jesus’ walk on water in John 6:16-24
  • Healing the man born blind in John 9:1-7
  • Raising of Lazarus in John 11:1-45

Each sign is meant, not only to grab your attention, but to serve as a pointer, not that which has just transpired, but to the person of Jesus. The signs also serve to point to a choice.
That has been the motif in the Gospel of John all along. At the end of the first sign, the words of the Blessed Virgin Mother in the story from Cana make it evident. Her last words in the Gospel of John are the clearest and most poignant sign: “This is my son, do what he tells you.” She points to the person of Jesus and points to the choice each will have to make: do what he tells you. Every disciples, every reader, each one who hears this Book of Signs is brought to that moment where choices are made to follow, or not, the one who is the Living Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ. Continue reading

Lazarus and the Rich Man – context

Притча о Лазаре. 1886Luke 16:19-31

19 “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. 20 And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. 22 When the poor man died, he was carried away by angles to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Continue reading

A Thought for Labor Day

Jesus was a master of the story form known as parables.  One of the most memorable parables can be found in Luke: the story of Lazarus and the Rich man (Luke 16:19-31). The parable starts simply enough:  “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day.  And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores.”  Very quickly in the parable the two men die.  The unnamed rich man goes to a fiery afterlife of torment while Lazarus rests in the arms of Abraham, awaiting the day when Jesus will open the gates of Heaven for the faithful. Continue reading