I will preach on the John 11 passage about the grief of Jesus' friends, Mary and Martha, over the death of their brother Lazarus. Of course Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, but telling that part of the story is only two verses of the 45 we will hear together.
I discovered near the end of the week that Jean Vanier, Canadian founder of the L'Arche movement has speculated that Lazarus was disabled or challenged in some way. I have never considered this, yet I find the possibility quite moving. The sisters remind Jesus that he loves Lazarus, so he better get to Bethany before their brother dies. Could it have been that Jesus had a special love for him because of his with physical or cognitive challenges?
We have several people with cognitive challenges at Bridge St. most Sundays, so perhaps this is why the notion hits home for me. Have a read.
Lazarus, loved by Jesus
This is one of the simplest and most beautiful
chapters in the Gospel of John.
It reveals how profoundly human and totally divine Jesus is.
It is about Jesus loving people and raising from the dead
a man who had already been in a tomb for four days,
whose body was starting to decompose.
It is about Lazarus, who was sickly (asthenes).
In the language of today, we would probably say
"who was disabled."
The Greek word asthenes can be translated as
"sick," "without strength," "feeble" or "insignificant."
Lazaurs is deeply loved by his two sisters
and Jesus has a special relationship with him.
At one moment his life is in danger,
so the two sisters send word to Jesus:"Lord, the one you love is sick." v. 3
And the evangelist tells us:Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. v. 5
Later Jesus says:"Our friend Lasarus," v. 11
and further on in the chapter,
when people see how Jesus is deeply moved
by the death of Lazarus, they say:"See how he loved him." v. 36
This is the first time in the Gospel of John
that we hear of Jesus' love
for individual people,
the first time that John, speaking of Jesus,
uses the Greek words agape and philia. (from Drawn into the mystery of Jesus through the Gospel of John, 2004, p. 195).