Lazarus resurrection: Christ was bringing life to the dead by his own death

From the Editor’s Desk (Wednesday, 07-29-2015, Gaudium Press) On the feast day of Saint Martha we are pleased to present an excerpt of Sermon 10 by Blessed John Henry Newman, entitled ” Tears of Christ at the Grave of Lazarus”Lazarus.jpg

… Alas! there were other thoughts still to call forth His tears. This marvellous benefit to the forlorn sisters, how was it to be attained? at His own cost. Joseph knew he could bring joy to his brethren, but at no sacrifice of his own. Christ was bringing life to the dead by his own death. His disciples would have dissuaded him from going into Judea, lest the Jews should kill Him.

Their apprehension was fulfilled. He went to raise Lazarus, and the fame of that miracle was the immediate cause of His seizure and crucifixion. This {137} He knew beforehand, He saw the prospect before Him; He saw Lazarus raised; the supper in Martha’s house; Lazarus sitting at table; joy on all sides of Him; Mary honouring her Lord on this festive occasion by the outpouring of the very costly ointment upon His feet; the Jews crowding not only to see Him, but Lazarus also; His triumphant entry into Jerusalem; the multitude shouting Hosanna; the people testifying to the raising of Lazarus; the Greeks, who had come up to worship at the feast, earnest to see Him; the children joining in the general joy; and then the Pharisees plotting against Him, Judas betraying Him, His friends deserting Him, and the cross receiving Him. These things doubtless, among a multitude of thoughts unspeakable, passed over His mind.

He felt that Lazarus was wakening to life at His own sacrifice; that He was descending into the grave which Lazarus left. He felt that Lazarus was to live and He to die; the appearance of things was to be reversed; the feast was to be kept in Martha’s house, but the last passover of sorrow remained for Him. And He knew that this reverse was altogether voluntary with Him.

He had come down from His Father’s bosom to be an Atonement of blood for all sin, and thereby to raise all believers from the grave, as He was then about to raise Lazarus; and to raise them, not for a time, but for eternity; and now the sharp trial lay before Him, through which He was to “open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” Contemplating then the fulness of His purpose while now going about a single act of mercy, He said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth in Me, {138} though he were dead, yet shall he live, and whosoever liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die.”

Let us take to ourselves these comfortable thoughts, both in the contemplation of our own death, or upon the death of our friends. Wherever faith in Christ is, there is Christ Himself. He said to Martha, “Believest thou this?” Wherever there is a heart to answer, “Lord, I believe,” there Christ is present. There our Lord vouchsafes to stand, though unseen-whether over the bed of death or over the grave; whether we ourselves are sinking or those who are dear to us. Blessed be his name! nothing can rob us of this consolation: we will be as certain, through His grace, that He is standing over us in love, as though we saw Him. We will not, after our experience of Lazarus’s history, doubt an instant that He is thoughtful about us.

He knows the beginnings of our illness, though He keeps at a distance. He knows when to remain away and when to draw near. He notes down the advances of it, and the stages. He tells truly when His friend Lazarus is sick and when he sleeps. We all have experience of this in the narrative before us, and henceforth, so be it! will never complain at the course of His providence.

Only, we will beg of Him an increase of faith;-a more lively perception of the curse under which the world lies, and of our own personal demerits, a more understanding view of the mystery of His Cross, a more devout and implicit reliance on the virtue of it, and a more confident persuasion that He will never put upon us more than we can bear, never afflict His brethren with any woe except for their own highest benefit.

Source: Newman Reader – Works of John Henry Newman – The National Institute for Newman Studies

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