Gospel Reading April 12th
(John 11: 1-45)
This Gospel passage narrates the circumstances in which Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. Coming only two days before Holy Week, Lazarus Saturday is a powerful reminder to Orthodox faithful of one of the key purposes of Christ’s approaching Passion and suffering – that we might learn that He has complete power over death. It is the ‘tremor’ which precedes the coming ‘earthquake’ of the Resurrection.
St John Chrysostom’s homily on this passage focuses our attention on why Christ, despite being informed of Lazarus’s illness, nevertheless lets him die. He could have spoken a single word from a distance and that would have been sufficient to save Lazarus from death. Christ, however, wanted to prove a point – “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (v. 25). He needed to do this because, despite the many miracles He had performed, there were people who still doubted Him. Even Martha and Mary (who were both devoted to Christ) doubted that Christ could do anything after Lazarus had died. Christ wanted to silence these doubts. Not only did He allow Lazarus to die from his illness, but He left him buried four days in the tomb while He took His time in travelling to Bethany. He then instructed that the stone be removed from Lazarus’s tomb so that all who were present could smell the stench from Lazarus’s decaying body. It is at that point that He commanded – “Lazarus, come forth!” (v. 43). St John Chrysostom emphasizes that Christ did not invoke the Father to raise Lazarus. The command was issued under Christ’s own authority. Lazarus responded to this command by returning to life and walking from the tomb, leaving no one in doubt as to Christ’s power over death. The event also confirmed the truth of Christ’s words – “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (v. 25).
Source: April– May 2014 Lychnos Edition