Fifth Sunday of Lent, 29th March

John 11:1-45

a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the
one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her
brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, ‘Lord, he whom
you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it, he said, ‘This illness does not lead
to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified
through it.’ Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,
after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place
where he was.


after this he said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea
again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to
stone you, and are you going there again?’ Jesus answered, ‘Are there not
twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because
they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because
the light is not in them.’ After saying this, he told them, ‘Our friend Lazarus
has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.’ The disciples said to
him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.’ Jesus, however, had
been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to
sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad
I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ Thomas, who
was called the Twin, said to his fellow-disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may
die with him.’


Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four
days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of
the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When
Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at
home. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not
have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know
that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to
her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though
they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the
Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’


she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her
privately, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ And when she heard it,
she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village,
but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her
in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed
her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When
Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him,
‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw
her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly
disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They
said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See
how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of
the blind man have kept this man from dying?’


Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone
was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of
the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been
dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you
believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And
Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew
that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd
standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said
this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out,
his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth.
Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’


of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did,
believed in him.



Gospel is about liberation and freedom through the narrative of Jesus rising Lazarus
from the dead.  It can be understood how
Jesus frees us from death on the one hand and how Jesus is free to choose on
the other hand. 


would like to propose we start the Gospel from the end because it says
something about us, about our freedom that is not free. 


dead man, Lazarus, comes out from the tomb at Jesus’ command, his hands and
feet are bound with strips of cloth, and his face is wrapped in a cloth.  Jesus says to the onlookers, “Unbind him, and
let him go.”  At this point, Jesus also
invites us to be unbound.  We cannot do
good things because our hands are tied.  We
cannot go to where our helps are needed because our feet are chained.  We cannot see sufferings around us because
our eyes are covered.  We cannot defend
the good and our faith because our mouths are stuffed.  All these say how unfree we are though we are
living in a free society.  Our freedom is
hindered by our environment, society, education, culture, media reports and
even our religious practices.  The root
of our unfreedom is our inordinate attachments. 


image of Lazarus bound with strips of cloth also reminds us those who are
written off by us, our society, our community, our culture and even our


the other hand, we see how free is Jesus. 
He is free because he loves.  He
loves because he trusts in the Father, who will do great works through
Jesus.  People around him can sense his
love, as they see where Jesus begins to weep when he is told where Lazarus is


they, including Martha and Mary, cannot sense his trust in the Father.  Hence, Jesus gently leads them, particularly
the two sisters, to gain faith over death by his teaching.  At this point, it is very hard for the two
sisters.  It happens to us as well.  Although we believe eternal life, we still
mourn for the lost of our loved ones.  At
that particular moment, our heart and our mind are not synchronized. 


this difficult situation, Jesus knows how to help the two sisters and us.  Apart from teaching, he encourages us to take
action.  Here, he commands Martha to take
the stone away from the tomb.  He also
commands us to take away the stone blocking our faith. 


we move to the beginning of the Gospel where we are told that Jesus returns to Judaea, the place where he will die.  But he is in perfect freedom to make the
choice to return.  Such perfect freedom
is his complete trust and faith in the Father. 
His community, the disciples, is also with him.  The disciples have been told what would
happen to Jesus when they go to Jerusalem.  Nevertheless, they would like to take the
risk because they love him also.  Their
love and risk are repaid by the new experience of turning death into new life
and freedom as the narrative develops in the Holy Week.


Today, we pray for the grace to realize that in the long
run, nothing is more important than my answer to Jesus’ question: “Do you
believe that I am the resurrection and the life?”  Amen.