Fifth Sunday in Lent • April 10, 2011
Psalm 130 (5)
Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, your Son came into the world
to free us all from sin and death. Breathe upon
us the power of your Spirit, that we may be
raised to new life in Christ and serve you
in righteousness all our days, through
Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who
lives and reigns with you and the
Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
I am the resurrection | and the life;
whoever believes in me will | never die. (John 11:25, 26)
1a. CONTEXT - John 11: 1-45
Our text occurs near the end of the first half of John. In this section Jesus reveals to the world glory (doksa)--both his and the Father's (2:1-12:50). In the next section (13:1-20:29) Jesus receives glory, the height of which is his crucifixion. Our passage, together with chapter 12, is the transition from the first part of the gospel to the second. It gives the narrative motivation for the succeeding chapters: namely, the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus, which serves to crystallize into a
definite plot the opposition of the religious leaders. (On theories of sources, including the semeia source, editing, and possible Synoptic connections see Haenchen, 67-69; and Schnackenburg, 318-20, 341-44.)
The author is unknown to us. In recent years his community has been identified as being in Asia Minor, Syria, and possibly even Samaria. The usual date assigned to the final version is somewhere in the 90's.
1b. TEXT- John 11: 1-45 (ESV)
11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so 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 Lazarus  was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin,  said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles  off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, [46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.]
 11:6 Greek he; also verse 17
 11:16 Greek Didymus
 11:18 Greek fifteen stadia; a stadion was about 607 feet or 185 meters
 11:25 Some manuscripts omit and the life
2. ANALYSIS- John 11: 1-45
John 11:1-4 Scene 1 - Message to Jesus; Jesus' Response. The name Lazarus immediately connects this chapter with chapter 12 (12:1, 9, 17).
Vs. 2 makes a similar connection to 12: 1-8, the annointing for burial performed by Mary. Jesus responds oddly to the sisters' message, predicting that Lazarus will not die and that his illness is (a) huper teis doxeis tou theou; and (b) hina doxasthe ho huios tou theou. Jesus throughout this gospel seeks the glory of the Father (7:18, e.g.); in seeking the Father's glory, Jesus himself is glorified, since he and the Father are one. How will the upcoming action glorify them? First, through the revealing of the life-giving power in Jesus, and secondly, by leading to the cross, which is the final and greatest glorification (12:16, 23, 28; 13:31-33;17:1, 4-5).
11:5-16 Scene 2: Jesus and the Disciples. The disciples object to returning to Judea (vs. 8; see 8:59; 10:31, 39), asking Jesus, "Are you going (hupageis) there again?" Elsewhere hupago refers to the threat of death in rather explicit ways (7:3, 8:22), but it more frequently refers to Jesus' returning to the Father (7:33; 8:14, 21;13:3,33,36; 14:4,5,28; 16:5, 10,17).
The way by which he returns is the crucifixion. It is therefore interesting that in 11:44, Jesus directs the bystanders to "Unbind him, and let him go" (hypagein). It is the act of Jesus in "hypago-ing" Lazarus that provides the opportunity for him to hypago to the Father (see also 12:11). Jesus explains his euphemism about Lazarus' death (vs. 15)! hina pisteusete foreshadows the meaning and function of the Lazarus event. Thomas reminds us once again that this entry into Judea will result in Jesus' death (vs. 16).
11:7-17 Scene 3: Jesus and Martha. The word "tomb" mnemeion (vs.17), assumes an unusual importance. It is used in John in three settings: (a) in 5:28-29 Jesus predicts the nearness ofthe hour when all in the tombs will hear the voice of the Son of God and come forth; at one level, that is exactly what is to happen in this miracle story; (b) in our current pericope
in verses. 17, 31, and 38; (c) in the burial and resurrection of Jesus (19:41, 42; 20:1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 11). Thus Lazarus and Jesus are closely linked by the use of the term.
Martha expresses her confidence in Jesus (vs. 21), and vs. 22, with its kai nyn oida, carries a strong confessional sense. At the center of the miracle story is the great revelation in vs. 25a: 'ego eimi he 'anastasis kai he zoe. Jesus is the Revealer; as in the other ego eimi sayings, he here reveals who he is. Yet that is not to say that in some metaphysical sense Jesus "is" resurrection and life. Rather, the nouns describe what Jesus does for humanity: i.e., he raises and gives life to the
one who believes in him. While Martha expects a future resurrection of the dead, the one with the resurrection power stands before her now.
The death in vs. 25b is biological death; such death does not end the life found in Jesus. The death of vs. 26 is death in relationship to God (spiritual death), a death which is not possible for the believer (note the ou mh of vs. 26a). The significance of believing is underlined by Jesus' final question, "Do you believe this?" Martha's confession in vs. 27 is solemn and formal: she calls him kyrie, and says, pepisteuka, literally,
" I have believed" (the perfect tense), which has the sense of "I firmly believe."
11:28-37 Scene 4: Jesus, Mary, and the Jews. While she repeats the first sentence of her sister (ves. 32 and 21), Mary's faith is only at the miracle-working stage; she is unable to take the next step taken by Martha. The reaction of Jesus in vs. 33 is anger.
The verb is 'enebrimesato, which literally means to snort like a horse. It is normally used for anger (Mark 1:43, 14:5, e.g.). He is angry at the inability of Mary and the Jews to understand who he is (vss. 25-26). They wail (klaiontas) and mourn, while Life stands before them. And so when these unseeing people tell Jesus to "come and see" (vs. 34), he can only weep (edakrysen). Vs/ 37 reminds the reader of 9:1-34, the healing of the blind man. By recalling that episode, John links the healing of the blind man and the raising of the dead man. Who is Jesus? He is and Light and the Life of humanity.
11:38-44 Scene 5: Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead. Once more Jesus snorts like a horse, this time at the remark in vs. 37. In vs. 39 Jesus commands; Martha objects, but she has good reason. The common belief among Jews at the time was that the soul stayed with the body for three days; after that period the soul entered the realm of the dead and the body began to decay. By the fourth day there is no possibility that the soul can reenter the body. Besides that, by now "he stinks" (hozei). Jesus' response in vs. 40 once more reminds us of earlier themes: vss. 4, 25-26. The key, though, as in the earlier exchange with Martha, is believing. Only by faith can one identify in the miracles the glory of God.
The miracle itself is characteristically brief and emphasizes the power of Jesus' effective word. The soudarion (vs. 44) was a cloth band that went over the head and under the chin; it was used to keep closed the mouth of the corpse. In John the word is used only here and for Jesus in 20:7, where, however, the soudarion had been laid aside in his resurrection. Jesus will leave behind forever the burial clothes which Lazarus will have once again to don.
11:45-53 Scene 6: Reactions. The fear of the leaders is outlined in vss. 47-48: Jesus and his signs are too popular. As more believe in him (as Messiah? see 6: 14-15) the Romans will become interested and will destroy "our place," meaning the temple ("holy" is not in the Greek) as well as the nation. To that Caiaphas responds, vss. 49-50. At one level, his statement simply means tht it would be better to get rid of one man,
Jesus, so that the nation and its institutions (including the positions of the priests and Pharisees!) could continue. At another level, the meaning is that Jesus dies for the nation and for the scattered children, i.e., the Gentiles, thus creating one new people of God (cf. the oneness theme in 17:11, 21-23). The final result of the meeting is the coalescence of disgruntled feelings into a definite plan (vs. 53). Jesus, the giver of life to Lazarus, must die.
3. STRATEGY- John 11: 1-45
One of the difficulties in preaching on this text on this Sunday is the proximity of Passion Sunday and Easter Sunday over the following two weeks. It will be difficult to avoid preaching about resurrection!
Perhaps the provisional nature of the "resurrection" of Lazarus (really a temporary resuscitation) can serve as a brake to our overly much anticipating Easter.
What then can be dealt with?
(a) Jesus glorifies the Father; the Father will glorify Jesus. But how?
Through the cross. An exploration of the topic of true glory, particularly given the current penchant in popular American religion for gloryland theology, could be quite helpful.
(b) At this point in Lent a consideration of the place of belief in Jesus and the meaning of his death would be most appropriate; one could built especially on vss. 25-26, 40, 42.
(c) Christ brings life to humanity; humanity in turn tries to kill the life-giver.
(d) Through faith God frees us to live life as God intended us to live. This theme would be especially approppriate if the first two lessons were used.
(e) Christ gives (eternal) life now. One could explore the Johannine idea--frightening that it is--that there is nothing the believer or unbeliever will have in the eschatological future besides what she or he has now. Life and death are present tense experiences.
4. REFERENCES - John 11: 1-45
Brown, Raymond E. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN (i-xii). Anchor Bible 29. Garden City: Doubleday, l966.
Bultmann, Rudolf. THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: A COMMENTARY, trans. G.R. Beasley-Murray, gen. ed. Philadelphia: Westminster, l971.
Haenchen, Ernst. JOHN 2: A COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN CHAPTERS 7-21. trans. Robert W. Funk. Hermeneia. Philadelphia: Fortress, l984.
Kysar, Robert. JOHN. Augsburg Commentary on the New Testament.
Minneapolis: Augsburg, l986.
Schein, Bruce E. FOLLOWING THE WAY: THE SETTING OF JOHN'S GOSPEL. Minneapolis: Augsburg, l980.
Schnackenburg, Rudolf. THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN, Volume 2. trans. Cecily Hastings et al. London: Burns & Oates, l980.
5. MUSIC SUGGESTIONS- John 11: 1-45
AN EXCELLENT ENTRANCE HYMN IS LBW #265 (HB 6/7) , "Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies," especially if the glory theme from John is developed.
Two hymns are good sermon possibilities: LBW #97, "Christ, the Life of All the Living" and LBW # 464, "You Are the Way." Both would work well with the theme of life.
LBW #207, "We Who Once Were Dead" would be an excellent communion hymn, as would LBW #210(HB 174), "At the Lamb's High Feast We Sing," especially vss. 1-5.
Gathering: Through the Night of Doubt ands SOrrow (ELW 327, LBW 355)
The Day: Abide with Me (ELW 629, LBW 272)
Offertory: Come to the Table – 481
Communion: My Faith Looks Up to Thee (ELW 759, LBW 479)
Sending: In the Cross of Christ I GLory (ELW 324, LBW 104)
Exegete: Walter F. Taylor, Jr.
Dr. Taylor is the Ernest W. and Edith S. Ogram Professor
of New Testament Studies, and Director of
Graduate Studies at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio.
6. FURTHER READING
For an interesting examination of the Easter theme of Resurrection,
see the work RESURRECTION, by Pheme Perkins ( Garden City,NY:
Doubleday, 1984). Perkins, a member of the theology faculty at Boston
College is one of the outstanding New Testament theologians today.
she received her PhD from Harvard and has published numerous books and articles in the field of New Testament studies. Hers is the rare ability to be able to bridge the great gulf that exists between the academic specialists in thelogy and ordinary laypersons (Luther's "simple ploughmen"). RESURRECTION has been compared with Raymond Brown's BIRTH OF THE MESSIAH for its thoroughness and thoughtfulness. During the brouhaha over the “gospel” of Judas a few years ago, Perkins issued an Excellent critique in AMERICA:
LEXEGETE © 2011