Saturday of Lazarus

Yesterday on the Church Calendar was the Saturday of St. Lazarus. On this day we recall Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Had a good turnout in church in part because we had a 40 day memorial so the family was there it was nice to have a full church.

This day is the bridge between Great Lent (which ended last night at Vespers) and Holy Week that begins today with Palm Sunday. I was going to record my homily but once again I forgot to press the little record button on my digital recorder. You have to push it two times to record. So I will just post my notes from the homily and see if you can make any sense out of them. I have not written a homily out in about a year so these notes tend to wander. I hope to record today’s homily and will post that latter on as a podcast.

And Jesus Wept…

The Saturday before Palm Sunday is know on the Orthodox Calendar as Lazarus Saturday. The Gospel reading for this day comes from the Gospel according to St. John. St. John is the only one of the four Gospel writers to have this account of the friend of Jesus and His sisters.

The Saturday of Lazarus and Palm Sunday are the connecting days between Great Lent and Holy Week. At the Vespers of Lazarus Saturday Great Lent comes to a close. The day itself is a celebration of Resurrection and is one of the only days that the Resurrectional Liturgy of Sunday is celebrated. The theme of this day is the victory of Christ over Hades. Hades signifies death and the inescapable darkness that swallows up life. But through the raising of Lazarus death begins to tremble as a duel between life and death begins and will end with the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

The writer of the fourth Gospel uses the figure of Lazarus; much like the writer of Genesis used Adam, as a representation of all of Humanity. Lazarus is each one of us and his resurrection is a foreshadow of the resurrection of all that will come in the end times. Bethany, the home of Lazarus and his sisters is representational of the entire world.

The Gospel writer calls Lazarus the friend of Jesus. We, all of humanity that is, were created for friendship with God. Our Fore parents, Adam and Eve, walked with God in the Garden. We were created for an intimate knowledge and friendship with the Creator and to be in communion with Him. We were created to share our life with Him and for Him to share His life with us.

So it would appear that Jesus took His time getting to Bethany after he heard of the sickness of His friend. Bethany was a days journey from where Jesus was. A day for the message to reach Him, two days while He contemplated His next move and a days journey for Jesus and the others with Him. Why four days? Jewish Talmudic tradition taught that for three days the soul returned to the grave thinking that it would return to the body; however when it sees that the color of its face has changed it goes away and leaves. Four days would have made sure he was in fact dead by Jewish tradition. So he arrives to find Lazarus dead and in the tomb.

The shortest verse in Scripture comes at this point in the story. We read in verse 35 and Jesus wept. Why did He weep? Surely He knew that He would go to Bethany and raise His friend from the dead. Was he showing his human side by doing this? Can we separate the human and divine in Jesus? The Orthodox Church teaches that all of the actions of Christ are both divine and human they are actions of the same person, the Incarnate Son of God. So when the human weeps the divine also weeps.

At the grave of Lazarus Jesus comes face to face with death. Death as the power of sin and destruction, of hatred and of despair. He meets the enemy of God and His creation and He wept. It was because of His weeping that He had the power to raise Lazarus. The power of resurrection is not Divine it is the power of love, love as power. God is love and love creates life, love weeps at the grave of one who has fallen asleep and love restores life.

The tears of Jesus were tears of love and in these tears is the power of love. Tears for His creation that has fallen into sin and death. Love is the foundation of life and the source of life. Because two people loved each other we have life. Love is at work here at the grave of Lazarus love that redeems and restores the darkened life of humanity. It is love that says LAZARUS COME FORTH!

We see in this Saturday of Lazarus the beginning of the Cross and the supreme sacrifice of love. We also see in this day a foretaste of the common resurrection. What we shall see in a week is the ultimate triumph of love, the Resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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