Sermon by Bishop Mitrophan (Znosko-Borovsky) on Lazarus Saturday
The Lord one day received a message from the usually joyous home of the sisters Martha and Mary that the one whom He loves is gravely ill.
Holding out no hope for his recovery, the sisters earnestly asked that He come as quickly as possible to console them in their sorrow. But Christ did not immediately set out. He came to Bethany on the 4th day after the death of Lazarus. But this delay served to the greater glory of God.
The sisters could not understand the unfortunate delay, and Martha, meeting the approaching Christ on the road, exclaimed: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” But faith and hope took hold of her spiritual pain and she added the words “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
Christ confirmed her faith: “Thy brother shall rise again.” “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” answered Martha sadly, but Christ, revealing His divine essence, in which lies the Source of our resurrection, said to her “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live again. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” Martha, answered confidently “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
This conversation emboldened Martha and she went to her sister, saying “The Master is come, and calleth for thee.” “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” said Mary, falling to the feet of the Savior. This faith of one spirit of the two sisters in the omnipotence of Christ over death and life, along with the sorrow rending their souls, touched Christ, and he quietly uttered: “Where have ye laid him?”
As he followed the sisters to the tomb, silent tears flowed from his eyes. Some of the Jews who were present saw in his tears evidence of His love for the dead man, while others said “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” The Lord, Who sees all men’s hearts, knew what they were thinking. All of this, the sorrow of the sisters, the hired weeper, the hatred some harbored for Him, troubled Him, despite the coming glory of the Resurrection of the dead man. He wept.
Christ stood at the entrance to the tomb, from which the stink of death pushed back the crowd, who held their breath; then Jesus lifted His eyes to the heavens, thanking God, “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me,” and raising his voice, exclaimed, “Lazarus come forth!”
To the horror of everyone who was there, the dead man arose and emerged from the tomb in his frightening death-cloth. These were removed, and Lazarus calmly went home, while the crowd, in horror and bewilderment, followed Lazarus and pondered, Who could perform such a great miracle? The resurrection of Lazarus was the third resurrection performed by Christ. The daughter of Jairus was raised by Christ right after her death. The son of the Widow who was being taken to the tomb was likewise raised. But with the raising of Lazarus, Christ convincingly proved His Divine essence, for He raised a man who was dead for four days, who was already touched by corruption.
“I am the Resurrection and the life,” says Christ even to us. He is the source of our own resurrection.
And as a confirmation of this Resurrection, we receive the Holy Gifts of His Body and Blood, for in the words of the Savior, “He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.”
Today, six days before Pascha, we lift our praises to the Victor over death, Christ. Many of the people in Bethany, beholding the raised Lazarus, believed in Christ as the Messiah, the Savior of the world, but there were many also whose persistent spiritual darkness could not be overcome even by the raised Lazarus. Such spiritual darkness! This is the result of a proud intellect and its falling away from the Living God. May this not befall us, let us together with Martha and Mary, exclaim: “Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.” Amen