By Deacon Turf D. Martin
Surprise! Many of us have been to a surprise birthday party or surprise anniversary celebration. There is a surprise party going on right now and we are invited. The surprise is to look on life with the eyes of faith, to see exactly what we see now but to see it in a different way.
The raising of Lazarus is a revelation, a sign, a pledge of the power Jesus has over death.
We see that many times in the Gospel of John people understand Jesus’ words in a human way but Jesus wants to raise people’s thinking and understanding to a new higher way of looking at life. His words surprise people, because he is asking them to see him in a new way, divine rather than human.
In today’s Gospel, St. John chooses to convey this life-giving doctrine, this wonderful Good News of salvation, by means of a drama. The focus of the drama is not so much on Lazarus, as on the relationship Jesus has with his two sisters, Martha and Mary. We know these women already from St. Luke’s Gospel: Martha typically active; Mary apparently passive, yet the one whose love of Jesus is deeper, and who follows him more closely.
Jesus loves them both, as he loves Lazarus. Yet, remarkably, Jesus deliberately allows Lazarus to die. He could have saved him. The sisters know that. Why did he not act? How could he allow Lazarus to die, and them to suffer such sorrow and loss?
Jesus says to Martha, “Your brother will rise.”
Martha professes her faith in the resurrection at the last day, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
But Jesus wants to take her to a new understanding of resurrection, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus wants Martha to know that it is through Jesus himself that Lazarus will rise again. Jesus is the resurrection. Jesus also wants Martha and us to know that for anyone who believes in Jesus, death has only the appearance of death because we live after death, “whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.”
When we live as Jesus calls us, there is a continuation from this life to the next. The resurrection is not just something in the future—Jesus offers life now. The new life in the resurrection is for now. To prove his words to Martha, Jesus raised Lazarus.
Don’t miss out on the offer of Jesus’ life to you now. Don’t waste life. Live life with Jesus! Live the life of Jesus now so that you will not die. Allow Jesus to raise us up to new life. The resurrection is not just something in the future, Jesus offers life now. The new life in the resurrection is for now.
Ordained in 2013 in the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., Deacon Turf Martin ministers at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Sedalia, Mo., which Missionaries of the Precious Blood founded and where they previously served. Deacon Turf and his wife, JoAnn, are Precious Blood Companions.