Monday, April 11, 2011
Status Quo by Pastor Bettye
April 10th, 2011 John 11: 1 – 53 The Fifth Sunday in Lent Status Quo Grace, mercy and peace to you this day in the name of Jesus, the one who came that we might know eternal life. Amen Part One : The Ending Our Lenten journey is a journey of preparation. All that we read and study as Christians during these forty plus days are crafted, prepared to get us to one place…the cross of Christ. Our final steps to the cross are prophesized today by the High Priest Caiaphas, a Pharisee dedicated to maintaining the status quo. Today’s text revels that for good political reasons, perhaps even patriotic reasons of ethnic solidarity one man, namely Jesus should die. After all, Caiaphas explains, we do not want this renegade Jew to continue his SIGNS and “tick off” the government and thus affect the lifestyle so carefully crafted and protected by the Temple elite. Jesus is a threat to a tenuous balance between Jews and Romans. This balance offered the Jews a semi- peaceful controlled life style….a status quo that must be continued. This meant that one man must die for the people. One man must die for the people. With this statement we hear the prophecy of one of the Christian church’s theological tenets or building blocks to the Christian faith. From the high priest Caiaphas, the Christian church first hears the theology of atonement – the self- sacrifice of one by whom not only the Jews, not only believers but the entire cosmos, the whole created order will be saved. God in the words of Caiaphas is transfiguring the evil plot of the moment into the gospel story itself. One must die for all. It is this moment for which Jesus was born. It is not proclaimed in glory but in hate filled, fear filled tones of one trying desperately to maintain the status quo. Part Two – How we got to the ending Back to the story of Lazarus. The story of Jesus and Lazarus is especially poignant when the readers engage the story only in the words of Jesus. The clarity of Jesus road to the prophecy of Caiaphas is seen then in words of Jesus without the additional comments of the other participants. The road to the prophecy of Caiaphas as well of the foretelling of the road to the cross and the empty tomb is granted the listener who is sensitive to the words of Jesus. Listen to just the words of Jesus from John 11: 1 - 45 “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” “Let us go back to Judea.” “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” “Your brother will rise again.” “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 35 Jesus wept. “Take away the stone,” he said. “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” , “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” , “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Out of context, flying in the face of any status quo experiences the reader can imagine…what did you just hear? From the words of Jesus we learn to today what is to come and why and to God’s glory. We begin the final countdown of Lent with a preview of one man’s death and resurrection as Lord of Lords. And still we hear the following: 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” 49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. John 11: 45 – 53 The story of Lazarus is a foretelling of the events which will unfold in the three days of what the Christians call the triduum – the three days of death which begin Holy Thursday, include Good Friday and is completed on Holy Saturday with an Easter Vigil. Today we hear from the words of Jesus what to expect on those days and why. At the death of Lazarus we hear the promise of the resurrection. WE learn that what God is about to do in Jesus will glory the Father. We hear how Jesus removes all illness and heals which also means “to save”. We hear that Jesus as both human and divine shares our bed of emotions as “weeps” for us. We learn that Jesus will stand for us in front of the Father out of great love. We see today that the stone will be rolled away and the grave clothes no longer bid the dead to the grave. At the resurrection of Lazarus we hear the reason for the cross. Embedded within the three days we see how God has disrupted the status quo with a willing sacrificial lamb. We continue our thought filled Lenten journey today with a prophecy that is a cornerstone of the Christian church. Next Sunday we will see the brevity with which people trust in the promises of God in order to maintain the status quo………..