31 July 2020John 11:1-16
'Lord, he whom you love is ill.' (v. 3)
Psalm: Psalm 92
Lazarus is the most fascinating character in the Gospels, or rather, the most fascinating non-character. He is extremely special to Jesus but only appears here and in the follow up in the next chapter. He neither says nor does anything, apart from (spoiler alert) come out of the grave! He is possibly unique as a named character who has no speaking lines. His sisters are far more important and he is identified through his relationship to them.
Jesus’ words, saying that Lazarus’ illness will not lead to death perhaps bring to mind Jesus telling his family that he will not go to the festival in John 7. For all the exalted Christology of this Gospel, it also features changes of mind and direction. This creates dramatic effect, reminding us that we are engaging with creative, dramatic writing.
We can see Lazarus as the centrepoint of this Gospel, his story is at the halfway point, like Peter’s confession in the Synoptics, leading to Jesus’ declaration (see tomorrow’s reading). This is the Gospel of Resurrection, the Synoptics are Gospels of the ‘Messiah’. If Lazarus is a plot device then his sisters are of more importance, though they also feature more in tomorrow’s reading. In fact, Martha makes her own confession in the next section, though she is not the first to do so in John’s Gospel.
Finally, “Lazarus is dead” (v. 14) is not the end of the story.
- What do you make of Lazarus?
- How do you relate to the creativity of the Gospel writers?