Rev. Andrew Cunnington
6th April 2014
The Tomb of Lazarus… Not Within Easy Reach

It took Jesus a while to get to Lazarus’s tomb in Bethany and if you go there today, it will take you a while too.

If you start out from Jerusalem, It is situated beyond the security wall and, by road, you can only get there by a round about route.

The town is busy, but forlorn. It feels dusty and parched. Refuse collection is irregular and water supplies disconnected at a whim.

The church of Martha and Mary is a peaceful oasis in the midst but you may not be able to visit the tomb of Lazarus, for it is under the control of the local Muslim community.

There is a school just down the road, and we supported it in the Lent appeal last year The staff and orphaned children battle cheerfully against the odds. They hope the children stay healthy because getting to the hospital can be a problem.

And so at the end of this long Gospel reading, Jesus cries “Lazarus, come out!”…and then to the bystanders, “unbind him and let him go”, and I think that might remain his prayer for Bethany today for it is a place where people remain captive.

Martha and Mary find Jesus’s inaction when their brother is sick and then dies to be inexplicable, but nevertheless, in spite of the time delay, they still believe he can do something.

Bethany stands as an icon for the frustrations we sometimes face in our own lives. We know there is a goodness and a love we ought to be able to tap into. We know the freedom of our faith is more than words, but it is hard to get to the point where we feel truly free. So much seems to hem us in and prevent our flourishing.

Our reading is wonderful because it shows the Easter Day event happening to someone other than Jesus. Lazarus is raised from the dead, and if he is raised then can we anticipate the same thing coming our way too.

Last week, I enjoyed seeing the musical Jesus Christ Superstar at the Harlequin. It was superbly done, but there was something that left me a bit cold and I think it was that it is put over as something that happened to Jesus, but I want to say, that is of limited impact, unless it’s something that can happen to me too.

Two weeks to go to Easter. Fourteen days until the empty tomb is blown open. I guess I’m asking myself what it is that is walled away inside me and which I try to make as inaccessible as possible in my own personal tomb. Where is it, as I look around, I see situations starved of love, cut off from relationships and isolated.

Where can the songs of Superstar be sung in my life and the lives of those around us.

If there is a way of prayer to discover today, it is that we be like Martha and Mary and bring Jesus to the tombs that remain enclosed in our day and ask him to shout again “Come out, unbind him and let him go!”

JOHN 11:1-44