Fifth Sunday in Lent 26 March 2023
“UNBIND HIM; LET HIM GO FREE”
Reading today’s gospel text. John uses this as a ‘sign’ of the new world, which will be brought about by the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ resurrection is not just a resuscitation. It brings in a new order of reality not least in the way that the baptised are given the new life of union with God in this life and in the next. “On arriving at the house, Jesus found that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days already”. Jesus was in the tomb for three days. The power of his resurrection breaking through the barriers of sin and death, extends not just to four days but beyond into eternity.
I love the words on Martha’s lips. They are the unspoken words in all of our hearts, especially when things apparently go wrong, and we do not understand. “If only you had been here my brother would not have died”. The “if only” questions lie at the heart and at the crossroads of every person’s life.
Jesus said to her “Your brother will rise again”. Martha said to him “I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day”. In the last two hundred years before the time of Jesus, a number of Jewish people started to believe in life after death. You will see this in the last book of the Old Testament – the second Book of Maccabees (12:42-46).” It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead”. “I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day” Martha says – almost impatiently. “But I want him alive now. I don’t want to lose him. My faith isn’t strong enough to believe that union with God in heaven is the meaning and the destiny of us all”. Whilst fear of dying is common to us all, the reality of death itself and its implications is a different question.
“I am the resurrection and the life. If anyone believes in me, even though he dies, he will live, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” That question is directed to each one of us. Going to the tomb, Jesus said “Take the stone away”. The early Christians would have recognised immediately the contrast between the people of Bethany “taking the stone away” and the stone in the Garden of the Resurrection which had already “been rolled away”.
Unbind him. Let him go free. The death and resurrection of Jesus is to unbind us. To let us go free, not wrapped in the swaddling clothes of our birth or in the grave clothes of our death.
Please join the Holy Week pilgrimage – 2pm daily reflections at Brackley Methodist Church (and if you can’t make the afternoon the session will be taking place at 6.30pm at Silverstone Methodist Church).
love and prayers Revd Sara