lent 5a: the confluence

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Gospels / Lectionary / New Testament

I grew up in Ocean City, New Jersey – a wonderful island and shore town that has kept vestiges of it’s Methodist roots through the years.

To the west of the island is the Little Egg Harbor Bay. To the east of the island is, of course, the Atlantic Ocean. And to the north of the island is a short stretch of water that separates Ocean City from the larger island of Ventnor/ Margate/ Atlantic City.

And, at that northern tip of the island where the Little Egg Harbor Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet is a choppy, white-capped wave mess.

I’ve traveled from Bay to Ocean many times there by boat, and it’s always a little frightening. Always an event.

The confluence of those two bodies of water is violent. And beautiful. And worth the trip across to see the great expanse of ocean.

In the eleventh chapter of John there is another confluence which is far more powerful. It’s the confluence of the humanity and divinity of Christ.

For eleven chapters John has been setting up Jesus as The WORD, the pre-existent Logos that was present in the beginning, and who is God in the fullest sense . For eleven chapters Jesus has been engaging in a ministry of signs – signs of power, love, healing, and hope. He’s turned water into wine, restored sight to the blind, thousands have been well fed on a meager offering, and those who were paralyzed get up and walk.

And the seventh sign – and notice the importance of the number ‘seven’ in the Hebrew Bible – is the raising of Lazarus.

He was stone cold in the tomb.

He was so dead that he had begun to stink of de-composure.

And Jesus tells him to walk out of the tomb.

And he does.

At this point, is there any doubt as to who Jesus is, and what Jesus is capable of?

I mean, the only thing greater than raising someone else from the dead might be…well…oneself raising from the dead…but we’ll get to that in a couple of weeks.

Clouds Over Curacao And yet, as powerful and holy as that storyline is – it’s not the only part of the story.

Because in this story of Jesus trampling down the power of death, Jesus is also presented as very…human.

Jesus has friends. Real friends. Whom he visits, and eats with, and whose home he stays in when he’s in town.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus might be described as disciples in some larger sense, but really they are more than that. They are Jesus’ friends.

And, when one of them – Lazarus – dies, Jesus comes, he talks with his friends, he gets agitated, and he weeps.

Jesus weeps over the death of his friend. Jesus succumbs to that most primal of human reactions, and he cries. Openly.

And then, after wiping the tears from his eyes, he raises the one for who he cries.

We’re hundreds and hundreds of years away from the great Christological controversies of the Church. No longer do we argue about the divinity and humanity of Christ, and if he might be both, and if both then how he can be both at the same time.

And we lose those conversations at our peril. Far too often people look at Jesus as only God. As Gray Temple says, “Jesus is more than a hematological function.” It’s not just about his blood.

AND, far too often, we hear about Jesus just being some nice guy, who was a good teacher, and who has some wonderful ideas about us all holding hands and singing kumbaya.

But, this is not the Jesus that we find today in the eleventh chapter of John. He’s weeping and mourning – like us. And he’s raising people from the dead – like only God can do.

Here we find that Sacred Confluence of humanity and divinity commingling in our world and waking a dear friend from the deep sleep of death.

And that’s Jesus. All of him.