Compassion and the Devil — John 11:01-37

Sunday, April 06, 2014




In 1984 in Manhattan, everyone from the Mayor downward was firing people with AIDS, excluding them from schools and cafeterias and so forth. We all tend to run away from suffering, disease, or death.


In the gospel, however, Jesus does not avoid suffering, disease and death.  Rather, He expresses compassion with Mary and Martha; and strong disturbance (tarassein) in the face of the realm of Satan.

But then Jesus walks right into the tomb or grave of Lazarus — walks into our grave or tomb –and then calls us out.

In so doing, Jesus “catches the disease of Lazarus”.  For Jesus raised Lazarus, and then Jesus as a direct consequence went to his own cross and resurrection.  Through his cross and resurrection, Jesus’ offer of life extends to all of us.  The indwelling of Christ brings life of a new quality, a life which comes from God because we are now right with God (Ro 8:6-11).

This miracle of raising from the dead was prophesied, for in Eze 37:1-14 we read that God instructed Ezekiel to prophesy that the dry bones would live.  In the Gospel of John, in chapter 5, Jesus promised resurrection.  Here in chapter 11 we actually see the fulfillment of that promise, in the Lazarus miracle, the last of seven signs, and the climax of Jesus’ ministry.  This miracle of Jesus in John chapter 11 shows the compassionate nature of Christ; the power of Christ; and it shows faith as the access to eternal life now.  This miracle shows the power of Jesus over life and death, and the compassion of Jesus in responding to the prayer of Mary and Martha.


Meister Eckhart (in Fox page 419) says this:  “The devil is conquered by nothing so much as by compassion;” and, (page 423), to be compassionate toward another person deepens the compassion one has for oneself.

Compassion produces life NOW, both in the giver, and in the receiver.

Returning to AIDS in Manhattan in 1984, the Roman Catholic sister of St. Vincent’s hospital, however, were different from others: Not knowing whether or not they would die, in compassion, the nuns immediately opened the first AIDS ward.  It is a sign of the one who seeks to follow Christ, to care for those who are hungry, imprisoned, or sick.

What should a plague or contemporary disaster teach me?  It teaches me humility, for one thing; another is gratitude for the life that I still enjoy.  Most of all, it teaches me compassion of the kind that Jesus offers to all who mourn and suffer.


In certain ways, it is Martha that is the focus of this miracle.  Verse 39 shows that Martha does not yet believe in [Jesus] power to give life.  She believes in the resurrection on the last day, regards Jesus as an intermediary who is heard by God (22), but she does not understand that he is life itself (25) (Ray Brown John :433).  Do we fully realize that Jesus is present and offers us eternal life NOW – and each day?


Many ignored Jesus, or turned away from Jesus, at that time, and still do so now.  God, who in love for us sent the divine Son calls you and me today to join those who embrace Jesus in faith (v. 15).

Offer your life to God today and this week. Receive God’s life in the person of Jesus.  Discover real life through pouring your life out in compassion. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”*  Amen.

*Albert Einstein:  “A human being is a part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.”

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