The Gospel reading this coming Sunday is John, chapter 11, the raising of Lazarus (read it here).
A few thoughts….
This is not a story of comfort. This is a political story, in which the status quo is overthrown.
In a world in which the ability to inflict death is seen as the ultimate form of power, a story in which death is overcome is the ultimate threat.
In a world in which the inflicting of death is understood as the ultimate form of punishment for behaviour that is utterly beyond the pale, calling someone out of death and back into life will be perceived as the most hostile act of rebellion against the powers that be.
In a world in which death is the reserved prerogative for a select few (i.e. the government), someone who is capable of challenging and overturning that prerogative will be viewed as public enemy number one.
In all the gospels, but most especially in John, the machinations of the powers that be are shown in their true colours: as small, pitiful and ultimately powerless against the love that is God.
It should surprise no one, therefore, that Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospels, would become the target for the wrath of the powerful.
It should also surprise no one that, in those places and times in which Christianity has had a recognized societal impact, the powers that be would do all they can to pull the Gospel’s teeth, and recast this story as one of comfort for a future sky kingdom, and downplay the challenge to the status quo which is really at the heart of this story.
The raising of Lazarus is , in reality, a politcal manifesto, in which the powers of the world are rendered null and void, and the victory of God’s love, light and life are demonstrated.