Read John 11:1-45, John 20:1-18 and John 20:19-31.
At the beginning of April and in the depths of Lent we find ourselves watching Jesus stand by a graveside. And like many before and after, he is shedding tears, weeping as he witnesses the grief of others and experiences his own grief.
Even though he knew what was about to happen, he also knew the pain of death and the loss of someone he loves.
‘May the tears shed by Jesus provide some comfort to the thousands who stand by gravesides, or who walk through the shadow of the valley of death today.'
This is a pain known only too well by communities and our partners in Nepal as they approach the second anniversaries of the earthquakes that claimed nearly 9,000 lives on 25 April and 12 May 2015.
A pain that threatens the lives of thousands on the brink of starvation in East Africa, caught in the grip of the most recent food crisis.
A pain that pierces the hearts of so many who have seen the passing of the sixth anniversary of the Syria conflict.
May the tears shed by Jesus provide some comfort to the thousands who stand by gravesides, or who walk through the shadow of the valley of death today.
With Martha, and with some of the onlookers, I find myself wondering why Jesus lingered before he came? Why did he wait for two days after hearing of Lazarus's illness before coming? Why didn't he rush to be by the side of his friends to comfort them? Or even to prevent this from happening?
How prone I am to this train of thought as I read the stories about the East Africa food crisis, as I reflect on the Nepal earthquakes and on the conflict in Syria.
The question is not 'why is this happening?', but 'why isn't it being prevented?'
But even as I ask the question I am also drawn to look again to the tears dripping from Jesus' eyes, and to sense the grief God has for the pain of the world.
Jesus seemed to know that no matter what time he had left for Judea, he would have been too late. 'Lazarus is dead', he tells his disciples. We're not told how long the journey to Judea takes, but Lazarus was four days buried by the time they arrived.
Jesus the teacher sees in this moment an opportunity to nurture belief in those who follow him. Belief that he knows they will need in the challenging days to come.
‘May the loud voice of Jesus echo still and awaken those he loves to what is possible in these challenging times.'
Offering a foretaste of his own journey, he asks for the stone to be removed and with a loud voice he calls the one he loves to 'come out!' And Lazarus, bound in grave clothes, comes out, blinking into the daylight. May the loud voice of Jesus echo still and awaken those he loves to what is possible in these challenging times.
As we journey towards the end of Lent and encounter the wonder of Easter, we find ourselves standing by another grave. An empty grave.
And, as we listen to Mary's confusion in the garden, and as we sense the disciples' fear in the upper room, we are offered grace for our own questions and confusion at the pain of the world.
But as we stand by that empty grave we are also given the grace to believe that another world is possible. A world where love wins and abundant life is available for all, now.
Read our prayers for this month.
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