Jesus is resolute in the face of death. Are we?

“The Raising of Lazarus,” by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1310–11

We say odd, even senseless things in the face of death. We talk of “heaven needing another angel.” We wonder why God did not take someone else, someone older, more ready. We even say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (Jn 11:21).

Nothing is more certain than death. Yet normally, nothing is more hidden from our view. We do most everything that we can to not look death in the face. Death riles us, but our Lord remains serene when told that his dear friend Lazarus is sick unto death:

“This illness is not to end in death,
but is for the glory of God,
that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (Jn 11:14).

Christ is calm, yet quite committed. Jesus decides to return to Judea, the place where, not long ago, he was almost killed:

The disciples said to him,
“Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you,
and you want to go back there?” (Jn 11:18).

In John’s Gospel, Jesus is always resolute. He looks darkness and sin—and now even death itself—in the face. He stays staunch. The Christ knows who he is, who he came among us to be:

“Are there not twelve hours in a day?
If one walks during the day, he does not stumble,
because he sees the light of this world.
But if one walks at night, he stumbles,
because the light is not in him” (Jn 11:9-10).

Revealing his mission, asking for belief in his own self, Jesus then assails the tomb, much like a lone knight calling up to the barricades of a fortified castle, one bristling with armaments. He tells the evil lord who holds his captives that his end has come. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead but at a cost most dear. Having given such witness, having revealed himself so fully, the desire for his death redoubles in the gathering darkness:

And the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus too,
because many of the Jews were turning away
and believing in Jesus because of him (Jn 12:10-11).

The beloved disciple records all of this,

that you may [come to] believe
that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,
and that through this belief
you may have life in his name (Jn 20:31).

Christ himself addresses us in the words and grace of the Gospel. Are we resolute in the face of death?

“I am the resurrection and the life;
whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25-26).

Readings: Ezekiel 37:12-14 Romans 8:8-11 John 11:1-45

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

[Sign up to receive the Word, a weekly newsletter featuring current scripture reflections and material from our archives.]

The latest from america

If Mr. Biden is really listening, he will understand the value of preserving the abortion funding bans that have stood for decades. (CNS photo/Kevin Lamarque, Reuters)
A ban on taxpayer funding of abortions began as a bipartisan policy and remains popular, writes Charles A. Donovan of the Charlotte Lozier Institute. President-elect Biden should keep it in place.
Charles A. DonovanJanuary 22, 2021
Registered nurse Nikki Hollinger cleans up a room as a body of a COVID-19 victim lies in a body bag labeled with stickers at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed 400,000 in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
It is as though there are two parallel universes co-existing here, one hopeful and “normal for now,” the other overwhelmed by suffering.
Jim McDermottJanuary 22, 2021
Two sisters reflected for America on the experiences of faith and grace they have found in the midst of a profoundly challenging time for their community.
Mary Andrew BudinskiJanuary 22, 2021
“There’s more to being pro-life than abortion and assisted suicide,” said organizer Kathleen Domingo. “We want to keep our families safe. We didn’t think it was worth the risk. Life is precious.”
J.D. Long-GarcíaJanuary 22, 2021