Why Did the Lord So Love Lazarus and Martha and Mary?

A Homily on Lazarus Saturday

Photo: hram-feodosy.kiev.ua Photo: hram-feodosy.kiev.ua In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Today we are celebrating a special service dedicated to the greatest miracle performed by the Lord: the resurrection of the holy and righteous Lazarus, the friend of Christ, as Christ Himself called him. And when his sisters sent to Him to say that he whom You loved has died, the Lord confirmed it, but His word was mysterious, saying that Lazarus was sleeping, but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. The disciples couldn’t understand at first, but then the Lord said to them plainly that Lazarus was dead. And it is instructive for us that the Lord does not hurry to His friend when He receives the news of his sickness. He even rejoices that He wasn’t there when it happened, because from time immemorial, God knows all His works. He takes care for the salvation of men, allowing various temporary woes and even death itself. He desires only to lead us to the highest—to faith in eternal life, to the attainment of Divine love, by which the world was created and by which the world exists. Therefore, the Lord does not hurry to His friend. And then He hears a reproach from Lazarus’ sisters: If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

The Lord did not hurry, so he would die, to manifest this great miracle when his body had already undergone natural decay, so all would be assured that death had truly occurred, that it wasn’t sleep, but real death. Similarly, when the Lord raised up the daughter of the chief of the synagogue Jairus, there was verification of her death in that when He said that the girl had not died, but was sleeping, everyone began to laugh at Him, because they were completely certain that she had died. And here there was even greater verification from the sisters themselves. When the Lord commanded to roll the stone away from the entrance to the cave, the grave, they tried to object to Him that he was already stinking; it was already the fourth day. But none dared disobey, and this Divine command was fulfilled.

Then the Lord called out to the dead one: Lazarus, come forth. And the dead man miraculously came out, although he was wrapped in a funeral shroud and, of course, could not move, but then there occurred a supernatural action of God, and the spirit returned to his already-decaying body. We know that the brain immediately loses its ability to function, literally in a matter of seconds, but some organs still continue to somehow exist, and hair even grows. But here four days, the body has already been completely given over to corruption, but the Word of God performs the greatest miracle. The Lord reveals His power and love, for the world was created by Divine power and Divine love. It was created from nothing, but we can say that it was created from God’s omnipotence, for there was nothing but God, and everything created by Him found its being according to His word: Let there be. And here we hear the same word from the same Creator, for the entire world was created by Christ the Son of God: Lazarus, come forth.

And the dead man came forth. And this was such a clear miracle, so convincing that a great multitude of Jews who had hitherto doubted couldn’t decide if it was truly Christ or just one of the prophets brought back from the dead—John the Baptist—as people said, and no one could know for sure, except a few. And many found faith in the Son of God, in Christ God. This miracle has such a great significance that it extends to this day, to each of us, for we all fear corruption, we fear death, as the Apostle says: Through fear of death, all were subjected to the bondage of the devil. He scares us with death; he scares us with illnesses and various hardships. And performing this miracle, the Lord strengthens us in the fact that for Him it’s as easy to resurrect already-decaying flesh as to heal the sick and to create this world. The creation of the world is ever manifested to us. For example, spring is also an image of the Resurrection, it is also a miracle of God, when nature is seemingly dead but comes to life again, revealing the power of the Creator. Therefore, today we are experiencing this miracle, and we are as it were witnesses in the spirit of God, in the life of the Church, so we can perceive the mystery of the Resurrection of Christ, for this is why the Lord performs this miracle, “confirming the universal resurrection before His Passion,” as the Church sings (cf. troparion for Palm Sunday).

Today is the day of the memory of the resurrection of Lazarus and tomorrow is the day of the Entrance of the Lord into Jerusalem. In fact, this entrance, so solemn, majestic, and significant was made thanks to this miracle. For so many people believed in Him as the Messiah that they met Him accordingly and paid Him royal honors, laying out their clothes and throwing flowers and palm branches to show their devotion and faith in the coming Messiah. And He is coming to suffer freely. So that the disciples wouldn’t doubt, the Lord was transfigured before them on the mount, to strengthen their faith in the fact that His sufferings were voluntary. He spoke to them several times about the Resurrection, but they still couldn’t accept it yet. Here the Lord prepared His disciples and followers for the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection.

We know that the Lord loved both Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary. And Mary, as we know, anointed Christ’s feet with precious myrrh, thus performing an act of love and making a special preparation for the Savior for His burial. Why did the Lord love Martha and Mary and Lazarus? For the purity of their souls, of course; for their faith in Him. And they truly confess this faith, although this faith still needs to be strengthened, because they complained that the Lord was not with them when their brother died. If Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee. That is, their faith is imperfect, but the Lord says to her: Thy brother shall rise again. And Martha answers: I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. This faith in the resurrection was so beloved by the Lord that He chose them from many and visited their home and found comfort there.

And the Lord says: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. We must always remember these words. Because the evil one always confuses us with thoughts and fears. And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die. Believest thou this? the Lord asks Martha, and she answers: Yea, Lord: I believe that Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. This confession was, I think, the foundation of the love that the Lord gave these people.

And this applies to all of us. If there is such faith in Christ the Savior in our souls then the grace of God will touch us and the Lord will give us assurance of His love and perform the miracle of the resurrection of our souls unto eternal life, although He won’t rush to do it, as He did not rush to resurrect Lazarus. He gives us a certain amount of time to prepare to accept this miracle. All in due time. Let us never complain that the Lord doesn’t hear our prayers. The Lord hears them even before we turn to Him. But all in due time. It’s important for us to give God freedom of action, not to impose our will on Him, about how to save us, but to believe that this is all that God is engaged with in the world, and that the whole world was created to save those who desire it. I wish all of us to be among those who respond to the love of God, who will overcome the fear of death and by faith in the Resurrection of Christ will be able to reach the Kingdom of God.

Amen.

Archpriest Sergei Teplov
Translated by Jesse Dominick

Alekseevsky Monastery

4/11/2020

Comments
A.T.4/11/2020 10:22 am
A beautiful article.
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