Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

In the Name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Therefore [Lazarus’] sisters sent unto Him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick.’  When Jesus heard that, He said, ‘This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, . . .’  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  When He heard therefore that Lazarus was sick, He stayed two days . . . where He was.

The response of our Lord to the news of the sickness of His beloved friend, Lazarus, is, to say the least, puzzling, if not shocking!  It perplexes the most conscientious among us, and maybe even offends us at the seeming insensitivity of this One Who has been known for His utmost compassion.  His seeming nonchalance about so critical a matter defies what most of us would be inclined, if not, compelled, to do.  We would no doubt drop everything we’re doing and find the next flight out of town, especially if it were a loved one.  In fact, it even seems like Jesus got it wrong!  He stated with confidence upon receiving word that “’this sickness was not unto death,’” and yet in a couple of days He reports quite plainly to His Disciples that “’Our friend, Lazarus, sleepeth.’”  No getting them ready.  Just, “’Lazarus is dead.’”  Period.  End of story.

Hearing the news, Jesus lingers.  But, why?  What’s up with that?  Why does He Who loves this family from Bethany lollygag?  Yes, He has confidence in God.  He was quite clear that this sickness of Lazarus was not unto death, but that in it God would be glorified.  But, does such faith and confidence, albeit admirable, engender such callousness?  Later on, both Martha and Mary will tell Jesus (perhaps remind Him, maybe even gently chastise Him?), “’Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died.’”  The crowd of mourners, however, shows less mercy and passes an even harsher judgment, “’Could not this Man, Who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?’”

Yet, even in the face of this lingering of the God-Man, Jesus Christ, in the face of their beloved brother’s death, the sisters nevertheless have all the confidence in the world – faith, hope, and love – that if anyone could do anything, it is this Jesus!  “’Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother would not have died,’” is as much – can be as much – a confession of faith as it is an allegation.  So often, because we are broken, sinful persons living in a fallen world shrouded with the effects of sin and death, that we can be simultaneously people of faith and unfaith, of belief and unbelief, just like the frantic father of a demon possessed boy in last Sunday’s Gospel who cried out, “’Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mk. 9:14-29).  Rare is the soul who isn’t an admixture of belief and unbelief.  When we are, may God grant – as He did to this father – that we may err on the side of faith, come to Jesus, confess our unbelief, and place the fullness of our hope in Him, as we pray and fast, awaiting the answer to our prayers.

But, Jesus the God-Man lingered.  Why?  Why does God seemingly take His sweet old time?  Lazarus is dying; the blind need their sight restored; innocents are being slaughtered; disease is running rampant; darkness has descended upon a world confused by its infatuation with itself and no longer able to clearly “follow the science” of elementary biology.  And, Jesus, the God-Man, the Word of the Father made flesh, lingers.  “’This . . . is . . . for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.’”

Beloved, if we are believers in this Jesus, His baptized brethren, the sons and daughters of God the Father, we know that this sickness – whatever it may be – is not unto death but will ultimately be to the glory of God and the glorification of His only-begotten Son!  Jesus as God-in-the-flesh knows this precisely because He is God and not merely a Man.  The Light of His Presence confounds the world and its darkness: it can neither comprehend Him nor overcome Him (Jn. 1:1-5).  His wisdom is foolishness because His ways are not our ways nor His thoughts our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9; Rm. 11:33; 1 Cr. 1:18-31).

Jesus lingered, as God so often seems to do from our restricted, finite view.  But, why?  He lingers because God will be glorified.  He lingers for the sake of Lazarus.  He lingers for the sake of Martha and Mary.  He lingers for all of those gathered who mourn the death of Lazarus, who await from the Lord His “great and rich mercy” (Augmented Litany).  He lingers for us.  For these souls, and for all those like them, there is redemption, salvation, sanctification, and glorification in the lingering of God.  “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God,” says the Apostle Peter who was a witness there at Lazarus’ tomb, “that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Pe. 5:6-7).  This same Apostle assures us, “The Lord is not slack [slow] concerning His promise[s], as some count slackness [slowness], but is longsuffering toward us, . . . .” (2 Pe. 3:9).    

In another Gospel, our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ tells a parable of a widow who had a case pending in the court of a certain “’judge who did not fear God nor regard man.’”  The sense of the parable is that she sought justice repeatedly, almost ad nauseum, from this judge who seemingly lingered and drug his feet.  Finally, as though worn down by her tenacity and dogged persistence, the judge relented, “’lest by her continual coming she weary me,’” he says.  To this our Lord offers His comment, “’Hear what the unjust judge said.’”  Wisdom!  Attend!  “’And shall not God avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?  I tell you that He will avenge them speedily.  Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’”  St. Luke tells us that Jesus told this parable to encourage us to always pray and not lose heart. (Lk. 18:1-8).

This is one of those parables whose juxtaposition of God with the unjust judge isn’t to imply God is unjust and has to be bullied, if you will, to pay attention.  But, to say, if an unjust judge will be eventually moved to action by a widow’s dogged determination, how much more will God Who is good and loves mankind, Who seemingly lingers interminably from the fallen human perspective?  “’I tell you,’” says our Lord, “’He will avenge [the prayers of His elect] speedily.’”  Of course, God’s speedy response isn’t in human terms.  It is on God’s terms and must be embraced on His terms and according to His time.  What for God Who is eternal is but a mere blip is for us who are bound by time, an eternity.  It was, then, an “eternity” from the time our Lord received word of Lazarus’ sickness until the time He stood before the mouth of that stench-reeking tomb, the undeniable sign of man’s sin and corruption by death! 

“’Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’”  Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ has come to be Lord of both the living and the dead (Rm. 14:9).  He does not fear lingering “since He has both the power and the means to act” (Peter Chrysologus).  He knows His Father and the power of the Godhead to act.  He counsels Mary and Martha – and us! – to believe and to trust in Him.  “’Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me’” (Jn. 14:1).  “’I AM the Resurrection and the Life.  He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.  Believest thou this?’”  

“’Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’”  Will Mary and Martha have faith?  Will those gathered to mourn have faith?  Will those who will greet Him with palms and branches have faith?  Will those who will curse Him and call for His Crucifixion have faith?  Will we have faith?  We confess the Triune God of the Creed, but do we really believe this Triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?  The implication of our Lord’s question, “’Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?,’” in the Greek is, “No, He will not.”  We are reminded by our Lord in another Gospel, speaking of those end times, “’And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many [and by extension, faith] will grow cold.  But he who endures to the end shall be saved’” (Mt. 24:12-13). 

Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ lingers, but in His lingering He engenders greater faith in those who await from Him His “great and rich mercy.”  He leads Mary and Martha to deeper faith and hope.  He leads them to see that the Resurrection they have confessed at the end, now is very much present in Him, with Him.  In fact, He Himself as God-in-the-flesh is the Resurrection and the Life, and the glory of God will shine forth and illumine the darkness enshrouding their brother and all mankind.  For “’the people who sat in darkness have seen a great Light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned’” (Is. 42:7; Mt. 4:16).   “The Light of Christ illumines all” (Presanctified Liturgy).  This will become even moreso when the Son of God is glorified in His being lifted up on the Cross.  Today, He summons forth but one dead man – the four-day-dead Lazarus.  On Great and Holy Friday, He will draw all men unto Himself (Jn. 12:32).

“Jesus Christ,” beloved, “is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Hb. 12:28-13:8).

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, O Lord Jesus Christ our God,

have mercy on us and save us.  Amen.

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!


Hb. 12:28-13:8

Jn. 11:1-45