5th Sunday of Lent- Gospel of John 11:1-45
As many of you know, this past week was spring break. Along with many others, my wife and I headed south in search of warmer weather. We packed up our shorts and t-shirts, swimsuits, sandals, and big brimmed hats, and away we went. Visions of the sun’s heat warming our faces and our sandal shod feet filled our heads and lifted our spirits.
That first morning of our sun seeking spring break adventure… snow! Looking outside through the frosted window, I cried out, “Let us go farther south, surely it will get warmer.” My wife wholeheartedly agreed, and we packed up and headed more south.
The second morning of our sun seeking spring break adventure… dark clouds and rain. The morning temp, 33 degrees. Our solution? Go more south! “Surely there must be sunshine and warmth there!”, I said. So, we packed up the RV and more south we went.
The 3rd & 4th mornings of our sun seeking spring break adventure… more dark clouds and rain. A cold rain, a wind driven rain, a rain that sometimes looked more like snow than rain, rain. Our solution? We sat in the RV and played Boggle, Scrabble, and Shanghai Rummy until I said, “Let us go more south?” Kristina said, “Sure, why not”. We packed up our things and went even more south.
During our 6-day spring break adventure, we experienced 1 day during which it neither rained nor snowed.
I want to be clear; I am not complaining. We had a wonderful 6 days together which included rest, great meals, lots of reading, and multiple walks in beautiful places between rain and snow storms. To be honest, the biggest frustration I experienced during this past week is that my 5-year long losing streak in both scrabble and boggle is still intact. Yet, our expectations of a sun filled spring break adventure were not fulfilled. And that, I can safely assume, is the one thing we all share in common… we all have had the unpleasant experience of unfulfilled expectations.
No matter the circumstance; whether it is a last-minute vacation cancelation, or a rained-out weekend outing, or an accidentally overcooked holiday meal, or well-earned job promotion pass-over, or a once serious relationship break-up… we all have experienced the sadness, the disappointment, and, yes, even the anger, that accompanies unfilled unmet expectations.
Today’s Gospel provides us a bit of insight into unfulfilled expectations.
Today’s Gospel begins with the significant illness and eventual death of Lazarus. Upon hearing about Lazarus’s illness, Jesus tells all who will listen that Lazarus will not die, and that he will make use of this tragic event to glorify God. In other words, Jesus told everybody what they could expect from him, and what he was expecting from them… to see and believe that he is the very Son of God, God incarnate who came to this earth for the salvation of all humankind.
However, not all were able to meet this expectation.
First, the disciples. Yes, they believed Jesus to be the Messiah, but they failed to see Jesus in his entirety, as the very Son of God, God incarnate. Their political aspirations, as intertwined as they were with Jesus as the restorer of Israel as a political kingdom, prevented them from realizing that Jesus was calling them to so much more than political power and authority. Their concern for physical safety, “Rabbi, the Jews were just trying to stone you, and you want to go back…?”, and Thomas’ announcement that they should all go and die only affirms that their understanding of Jesus was limited by their unwillingness to believe in Jesus beyond his immediate benefit to them.
Next was Martha. Four days later, as Jesus and his martyrdom seeking disciples arrived at the outskirts of Bethany, Martha goes out to meet him. She immediately states, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Did she believe Jesus to be the great healer and savior, yes! Yet, her inability to see Jesus as nothing more than a healer and a savior prevented her from believing in Jesus in his entirety. Jesus wanted Martha to see him as he truly is, the Son of God, God incarnate, but Martha’s faith was limited by her unwillingness to believe in Jesus beyond his immediate benefit to her.
Mary, at the invitation of her sister Martha, rushes out to meet Jesus, who is still on the outskirts of the city. She too evidences her faith with the very same words of Martha, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Yet, just as in the case of the disciples and her own sister Martha, Mary’s faith was limited by her unwillingness to believe in Jesus beyond his immediate benefit to her, as she joins those in mourning the death of her brother Lazarus.
What is Jesus’s response to all this? St. John writes, “he became perturbed and deeply troubled.” In other words, Jesus was so taken back by their lack of faith that he became angry and upset. In verse 35 (the shortest verse in the Bible, in case you ever need an answer to a Bible trivia question) “Jesus wept.” He wept not out sadness for the death of Lazarus. He knew from the very beginning that Lazarus would be resurrected. He wept because he was angry and disappointed when those whom he loved failed to meet his expectations.
Jesus so desperately wanted his disciples, Martha, Mary, and all those who followed him to see him in his entirety… as the Son of God, God incarnate. Not just as the promised King of Israel with authority and power. Not just as the Miracle Worker and Savior, who takes away pain and suffering and promises eternal life. Rather, Jesus wanted his disciples to know him as the very God who created them, who sustains them, who loves them, and wants to have a deep and intimate relationship with them.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, if that is what Jesus desired for his disciples, Martha, Mary, and all those who were present that day some 2000 years ago, then this is exactly what Jesus desires for us… to have a deep and intimate relationship with him.
This being the 5th Sunday of Lent, with Palm Sunday just one week away, we are being called to put aside our own limitations of faith. To identify and remove the false ideals which prevent us from seeing Jesus as he really is, the Son of God, God incarnate, who absolutely loves us and desires to be in an intimate and all-consuming relationship with us.
Faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior are not just words we utter in the Creed or in our “Amen”. Faith in Jesus Christ is a relationship. A relationship of love and trust. A relationship in which he is calling us to live more deeply and more intimately in love with him every day. He expects this from us.
A relationship with Jesus is a real thing. It is not some mysterious concept, or fleeting feeling, or some rigorous allegiance to rules and traditions. Our relationship with Jesus is personal, intimate, and real. It is manifested here when we stand in front of this altar and profess his presence. It is manifested in our relationships with one another, in the words we use, in the service we perform, in the charity and kindness we share. It is manifested when we see ourselves as sinners in need of salvation and recognize we are exactly like very other human being on this planet… a person whom Jesus loves.
Our challenge this day is to move our relationship with Jesus beyond that of, “what can Jesus do for me”, and to let go of those things that prevent us from seeing him as he truly is, the Son of God, God incarnate who absolutely loves us and desires us to be in an intimate and all-consuming relationship with him.
One thought on “UNFULFILLED EXPECTATIONS”
Well said, thankyou.