Fifth Sunday Of Lent (April 2, 2017)

The sports-caster pushes through the crowd for a postgame interview. “Congratulations, coach, what was the turning point in the win?

The retired general or admiral is writing his memoirs. He reveals unknown details and strategies in the war. The most important chapter is his conclusion: his interpretation of the turning point. In the Napoleonic wars, it was the battle of Waterloo; in WWII, the battle of Midway. The author analyzes the hinge on which the large door of victory swung open. The beginning of the end.

John tells the story of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. He writes to inspire faith in unbelievers and to encourage the faith of believers.

What was the crucial moment for the writer of the 4th gospel? It is today’s gospel: the raising of Lazarus. The raising of Lazarus was the point of critical mass of his enemies’ anger; Jesus’ popularity reached its highpoint with this miracle. The level of threat to the status quo -leadership now exploded. Jesus had to go! The beginning of the end.

People will commit great evil to protect their positions of power.

--- The Watergate scandal in American politics
--- The Enron executives in Houston
--- Some American bishops in regard to the sex-abuse scandal
--- Martha Stuart - provide examples.

Some folks, who normally attend church, hold responsible positions, treat their families and friends with kindness will commit acts of cruel deception if their power is threatened.

Jesus was a threat, absolutely. The people were judging that he spoke and acted more authoritatively than the Pharisees.

Today, Jesus stood alone, in the midst of a crowd. For Jesus to raise Lazarus was tantamount to entering the tomb himself. John sees this as the beginning of the end for Jesus

John gives us clues in the text. Although those present interpreted his tears as human tears for his friend’s death, scripture scholars argue that the reason he wept was not only for Lazarus; but he weeps in the agony of his present situation. To do what he felt called to do would bring about his death. Thomas the apostle recognized the danger before they left for Judea; he speaks of going to Judea to die with Jesus.

John writes a “high Christology;” that is, he portrays Jesus as being more god than man. Read john’s sanitized passion:

-- No mention of Jesus’ sweat of blood in the garden.
      Scholars say his agony was here at the tomb in john’s version of the agony “in the garden”
--- Jesus defends himself brilliantly before the authorities.
--- Jesus carries his cross by himself; john says so explicitly.
--- Finally, john does not say Jesus dies, but “he delivers over his spirit.”

Though that day may have been bright and sunny, Jesus saw the storm clouds gathering on the horizon beyond Lazarus’ tomb. Standing alone, he saw the rising fury of the Jewish leadership. He knew that doing what he felt called to do would push them over the edge. He may have surmised that the next time he looked at a tomb - it would be his own - and he would look at it from the inside.

John saw this as the final turning point, the beginning of the end.

My image of god, our father, does not allow me to believe that the father exacted from his son the torture of a crucifixion-death as payment to him for our sins. That seems to make the father an ogre, not an Abba.

I believe that the father sent his son to model for us how a person is to live a life of love - regardless of the consequences.

I believe that that is what is meant by “taking up one’s cross” taking up one’s cross does not mean to me beating oneself on the head for love of god. [To me, that is foolishness.]

As Jesus stood before Lazarus’ tomb, he knew what the loving thing to do was: he called Lazarus forth, to restore him to his sisters and relieve their terrible grief as a sign of his and his father’s love. But, that, in effect, meant that he would be killed.

And us. Let’s humbly thank / congratulate him for showing us what it means to have the courage of loving conviction.

Let’s look deeply into our lives. Are we avoiding, perhaps looking the other way, distracting ourselves from loving things that we are called to do?

What will we do in these final two weeks of Lent?