March 26, 2023
So what do you make of this Lazarus story? –it is the most spectacular of all Jesus’ miracles recorded in the New Testament. I mean, a man dead four days, already buried and Jesus calls him back to life! People are expecting that his body has already started decaying! –What’s surprising is that the other three gospels leave that story out! All the disciples must have known Lazarus. Jesus went to his home more than once.
If we are going to be rational about it, we almost have to assume that Lazarus is not really dead- maybe just in one of those coma states, or else John has exaggerated the story to make his theological point. We know John has told the story to make his theological point clear, that Jesus “Is the Resurrection and the Life.” -which is what Jesus tells Martha when she comes out to meet him. This is another one of the Johannine community’s faith statements woven into story form. You Remember John puts them throughout his gospel, “I am the Bread of Life” “I am the Good Shepherd” “I am the Way the Truth and the Life”… There are seven of them, eight, if you count his telling the Woman at the Well that he is the Messiah. John is not so concerned about telling history as telling who Jesus is. In fact John tells us his whole gospel, we are told in chapter 20, was written, “So that you will believe that Jesus is the Christ… and that believing, you will have life in his name.”
Our faith is not so much built on believing this miracle happened just as John recounts it, as coming to the faith affirmation that underlies John’s gospel. My Meditation Thought in the bulletin by theologian, Marcus Borg, makes that point.
The problem with a miracle like this is that we begin to define our expectations for miracles around grand extravagant happenings that defy all logic we and begin to overlook simple everyday miracles around us.
Let me just tell you a story from the news recently. -Many of you have already seen or heard it I’m sure. It is from the Turkey/ Syria Earthquake. A CNN reporter was interviewing one of the clean-up and rescue workers, Ozer Aydinli. Aydinli recounted how he and his team rescued a 13-year-old boy named Mustafa from the rubble 228 hours — nearly 10 days — after the quake.
“We, of course, thought this wouldn’t be possible. When [our friends] said, ‘We found a person alive,’ we thought, ‘No, they must be hallucinating.’ We couldn’t believe it. It is a miracle. … The only thing we can say is that this is a great miracle,” he said. “I have no clue how he survived for 228 hours, because the excavator was in operation, there was more debris falling around, filling the space above and under him, and so we couldn’t see any intact residential structure, because it was all rubble.” Amid the rubble, Aydinli, said, there was just a pair of eyes and then the call of ‘Brother!’ We got him out, digging him out by hand. When we saw it, when we heard it, there were 70, 80 people in the crew, and when we said there was a person alive, all our friends swarmed the area,” Aydinli said. “Nobody moved, and we all cried. And even now, we get tears in our eyes from time to time.”
Clearly, we would all call it a miracle. Of course, there are ways of explaining it, but that doesn’t make it less of a miracle, -a wonder, -a mystery of blessing,- it is something that goes beyond the expected order of things –not a miracle with no possible rationalizations; there will always be those who find “Miracle” to strong a word. -And yes, we know it happens from time to time, in accidents and disasters, someone survives beyond all expectations, but that doesn’t negate wonder. Many more “Little Miracles” go un-acknowledged and often unnoticed.
Probably only you know the times in your life when things could have gone another way, a more painful way, but didn’t, or an un planned and unexpected blessing came into your life. Someone has said, “Miracles are the coincidences in life we can’t explain” –And we often let them slip by almost unnoticed, or unrecognized for what they are.
John wants us to understand that Jesus’ Life, Death & Resurrection was a miracle of
God’s of God’s grace. And that God works in lives in ways we don’t always recognize.
This holy season may the power of Jesus’ presence be a continuing miracle in your lives.