Saturday, April 1, 2023

Passion Week 2023 - Lazarus Saturday

"Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead."

John 12:1

Lazarus Saturday marks an interesting change in religious rites.  A joyous celebration carried over into Palm Sunday, sandwiched in between the penitence of Lent and the sorrow the latter half of Holy Week will bring.  The celebration of the Great Sabbath, Shabbat HaGadol (שבת הגדול) before the Passover.  A time in Jewish tradition where they read the prophecy of Malachi, prophesying the return of Elijah to announce the great and terrible Day of the Lord.  

We see in John's text, that Jesus celebrated this Great Sabbath with Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  Jesus would have spent this upcoming holy week with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.  He would arrive there before his triumphal entry, and would later be anointed at their house by Mary on Spy Wednesday.  

In services recognizing this day, the focus is usually on the Gospel narrative of Jesus's resurrection of Lazarus, and His two competing natures in the act.  We clearly see the power of his divinity in the act of resurrection.  Of bringing life from the dead.  And in how Martha and Mary recognized Jesus's ability and authority to heal.  Both indicated that had Jesus arrived earlier they knew that their brother would have been healed, and even in their grief allowed Jesus to work his power, despite their doubts.  Jesus used this opportunity to show the immenseness of his power.  The greatness of his authority.  To do exceedingly great things.

We also see in that account the humanity of Jesus and his love for us.  His concern for us.  Jesus came to their house knowing full well what he was going to do, but he still wept with them and for his friend.  He took the time to speak with both Mary and Martha before he raised Lazarus.  And in coming back to their home on this Great Sabbath, to make their home his temporary refuge in what would be the most trying week of his life, we see the depth of his connection to them.  

Are we cultivating that level of friendship with Jesus?  Are we so strongly celebrating the resurrection he has accomplished in our lives, that we keep space for him?  Would we provide refuge?

Having completed the forty days that bring profit to our soul, we beseech Thee in Thy love for man: Grant us also to behold the Holy Week of Thy Passion, that in it we may glorify Thy mighty acts and Thine ineffable dispensation for our sakes, singing with one mind: O Lord, glory to Thee.

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