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Lent 5 A ~ John 11:1-45 Exegesis, Homiletic Reflection & Strategies ~ Rev. Richard Eslinger

Once again, John is faithful to the literary structure of a sign narrative. By now we expect some sort of need or lack to be stated at the outset and we are not disappointed. The need relates to information that a certain Lazarus was sick.

A great deal of information is provided to locate this “certain man” in relation to

Jesus and the readers. Lazarus is from Bethany, “the village of Mary and her sister

Martha” (11:1). Moreover, Mary is surprisingly identified in a prolepsis as the one

who would anoint Jesus with perfume (the phrase is told in the past tense, thereby locating the readers as the post-crucifixion and resurrection community).

Lazarus is once again identified as ill with the additional knowledge being provided that he was Mary’s brother. So the need has to do with Lazarus’s illness and the implied concern and anxiety of the two sisters. A “lack” is also obvious—Jesus is not only not in Jerusalem (two miles from Bethany), but has sought refuge from those who were about to stone him, by descending from Zion and crossing the Jordan to an old familiar place. He is in the area of the Baptist’s ministry recounted in 1:19-42.

Through an amazing coincidence, that place of refuge and remembrance in the

Trans-Jordan was also named “Bethany” (cf. 1:28)! So the irony is that while Lazarus

needs the healing ministrations of Jesus, Bethany is a long distance from the

other Bethany. Across the distance comes the message, “Lord [kyrie], he whom you love is ill” (v. 3). (Here, the term for love is phileis. Much will turn on the interplay between such friendship and agapé.) However, for Jesus to respond to this call by showing true friendship—and being near him in his illness—also means that Jesus would need to place himself in grave danger from his Jerusalem opponents.

Also faithful to the anatomy of the Johannine sign, a dominical non sequitur

immediately follows upon the statement of the lack or need. Jesus responds to the news: “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the

Son of God may be glorified through it” (v. 4). However, the readers (along with

the disciples) are thrust deeper and deeper into a state of confused questioning.

First, the Fourth Evangelist tells us that even though Jesus loved (egaptā) Mary

and Martha and Lazarus, after hearing of the illness, “he stayed two days longer

in the place where he was” (v. 6). After the two days, Jesus then announced to

the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again” (v. 7). The disciples remind Jesus (and the

readers) that the Judeans had just attempted to stone him and now he is planning to return to that deadly location! This incredulous comment by the disciples provides an opportunity for a further dominical pronouncement, involving the oppositions of light and darkness, the twelve hours of day and of night, walking and stumbling,12 wakefulness and sleep.

Employing another double-meaning term, Jesus concludes this pronouncement by stating that “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep,” adding, “but I am going there to awaken him” (v. 11).13 For the first and only time, the disciples grasp an interpretation “from above.” If he has fallen asleep, he will soon awaken. However, Jesus intends a very earthly meaning: “Lazarus is dead” (v. 14).14 Jesus reveals that the delay in going to his now-dead friend is on behalf of his followers’ belief. When Jesus states: “But let us go to him,” Thomas tells the others, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16). The reference is left ambiguous. Does Thomas mean Lazarus or Jesus? Of course, the statement will become deeply ironic when Jesus is arrested and killed and Thomas disappears until a week after the resurrection when he returns to doubt the Easter proclamation. But acting upon the earthly meaning of his words, Jesus turns again toward Bethany, and toward Jerusalem.

Paul Minear notes that “In telling the story the narrator turns the spotlight

successively on three groups: the disciples, the sisters, and the Jews.”15 With the

words of Thomas still echoing in our hearing—“that we may die with him”—the

Fourth Evangelist now turns the spotlight on the sisters. Each of the three groups,

Minear observes, “responds to Jesus in its own characteristic way.”16 As Jesus arrives in Bethany after his journey from the area of John’s baptizing, the narrator tells us several significant pieces of information we need before this second scene (“the sisters”) unfolds. First, we are informed that Lazarus “had already been in the

tomb four days” (v. 17). This settles matters for Jewish readers and for the sisters.

Some rabbis opined that the soul hovered near the body for three days following

death, Raymond Brown instructs, adding that the detail “is mentioned to make it

clear that Lazarus was truly dead.”17 So the first piece of knowledge the Evangelist wishes to equip us with is this: Lazarus is really dead. Jesus is certainly needed for pastoral care of his friends, Mary and Martha, but the primary task of his dangerous mission is already out of the question.

However, a related item of crucial information is immediately added. This location is “near Jerusalem, some two miles away” (literally, “fifteen stadia”; v. 18). Moreover, “many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother” (v. 19). This additional information, on one hand, confirms Jewish burial customs while, on the other, the presence of so many mourners makes the occasion a very public event. How can news of Jesus’ arrival be kept from the irate and violent leaders in Jerusalem when the mourners return to the city? And what will be the outcome of this news getting out? We will soon learn of that outcome in the last scene of the story as the spotlight turns to those Judeans. But for now, a minute detail confirms our fears about this visit “going public” in Jerusalem. As “the sisters” scene opens, John tells us that Martha heard that Jesus was approaching Bethany. The Jerusalem grapevine was working and will work as expected!

The scene’s action begins with the narrator’s locating the two women and in so

doing, confirming their stability as characters within the Gospels. After hearing of

Jesus’ approach, Martha “went and met him, while Mary stayed at home” (v. 20).18

However, even as the stable characters of the two sisters is in the process of being

confirmed by John—Martha is the active one, while Mary sits—there are, as we

would expect, some shifts and turns from the Synoptic tradition here. Martha is

the initially active one in coming out to meet Jesus, but John gives her activity a

more positive interpretation: . . . whereas in Luke, Martha’s activity is criticized as generating worry that distracts her from the important faith practice of contemplation, in John, her activity implies a measure of discipleship, as she leaves her culture to go to Jesus.19

What Wes Howard Brook does not go on to say relates to the other side of

the coin. Mary is sitting, to be sure. Yet she is not sitting at the feet of her Lord,

but remains shut away in the house in her grief with the mourners. Both of the

sisters are depicted as fulfilling the stable roles of their characters (as, for example,

Peter does in all four Gospels), but in John, the action of each is given almost a

reversed meaning. Is Martha showing real discipleship while Mary is “worried and

distracted by many things” (Luke 10:41)? Martha initiates the conversation with

a statement of a certain level of faith: “Lord [kyrie], if only you had been here, my

brother would not have died.” She adds, “But even now I know that God will

give you whatever you ask of him” (vv. 21-22). Do the two statements add up to

full faith from the perspective of the Fourth Gospel? Internally, we do not know.

To be sure, Martha acknowledges Jesus as “Lord,” and holds to the conviction that

his presence earlier would have changed the situation. Furthermore, she confesses belief in the intent of God to answer Jesus’ every prayer. Put simply, these two statements sounds very much like expressions of the fullness of Johannine faith.

However, that Martha still remains in some darkness is confirmed in her response

to her Lord’s pronouncement, “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23).20 Martha’s

response discloses a much more conventional belief than full Johannine faith: “I

know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” (v. 24). In this,

Martha shares the belief of the Pharisees and perhaps many in the community of

the Beloved Disciple. What the Beloved Disciple’s community knows, however, is

that this anastasis has decisively happened with their Lord on the First Day. There

is a contradiction between this “new knowledge” that Christ has risen from the

dead and their “old knowledge” that, with Martha, all such risings will only occur

on the last day. This opposition, Minear suggests, “produced pressures for them to

modify their former notions, a procedure that is always difficult.”21

Jesus now sets about this difficult procedure with regard to the faith of his friend Martha. “Egō eimi,” he proclaims, “I am the resurrection and the life” (v. 25). The readers by now have come to expect that every “I am” pronouncement of Jesus will both more fully disclose his identity as the Lord and Son of God and propel the story in which it is embedded in new and deeper directions. “Living water,” “bread of life,” “gate for the sheep,” “good shepherd”—the “egō eimi” imagery has tumbled out of the narratives, each taking on a life of its own. Yet they all are being woven anōthen (“from above”) into a seamless garment by John.

And now comes “resurrection and the life.” In the present scene with Martha there outside Bethany, however, the statement needs to be interpreted more specifically so that this modification of former notions may proceed. Jesus adds, “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die” (v. 26). Now, Martha has encountered the “earthquake shock” of the gospel; the conventional wisdom regarding life, death, and life beyond death is now turned upside down. Those who believe in Jesus “will never die”! The pronouncement comes in three successive utterances, each illuminating distinct aspects of Jesus’ identity and vocation, his “works.” The effect of all three is to leave behind irrevocably such inadequate attributions of Jesus such as “rabbi,” “a good man,” or the dim-sighted confessions of the man born blind before Jesus sought him out.

Each statement of the pronouncement requires further elaboration: “I am the resurrection and the life.” The “egō eimi” statement could be interpreted by the reader as one of John’s prolepses: information provided ahead of time, before it is discovered in the course of the narrative. Thus, the narrator has given us Jesus’ words about “the Son of Man being lifted up” (8:28) and about the “hour” that is to come but is not yet (2:4). Left by itself, this pronouncement could be heard by the Johannine community as yet another prediction of the events that so dramatically will erupt at Jesus’ hour when the Son of man is lifted up—on a cross and in glory. Of course, a more radical assertion is being made here, but will need further uncovering.

“Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live . . .” Now, there is a

more direct announcement that those who believe in Jesus will participate in

the resurrection. Two issues are raised: First, the assertion, if left by itself, could be

interpreted as ratifying the old knowledge of the Pharisees and the members of

the Johannine community. Life-death-new life. Second, a closer scrutiny of the

statement brings to the foreground its obverse as a real question. Those who do

not believe in Jesus, even though they die, will they live? The question will be

answered by way of a subsequent “I am . . .” statement: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (14:6).

“Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” It is this final pronouncement of the series that sets the “earthquake shock” into motion. The trajectory of this shock wave, though, will need to be traced, as Wes Howard Brook notes, between a metaphorical and a literal interpretation.22 On one hand, a literal interpretation would have it maintained that those who believe in Jesus simply do not die in the first place. On the other hand, a metaphorical interpretation could leave us detached from this world where bearing witness to the light encounters such fierce and constant opposition. Brook restates the question:“‘[W]ill death separate the disciples from the community and from God?’ And the corollary: ‘Will the fear of death prevent discipleship from taking root in the first place?’”23

Ultimately, answers will need to await the impending sign and the faithfulness of the response by Jesus’ followers. For now, however, the spotlight on “the sisters” has narrowed to focus solely on Martha. Will death (either a fear of death or death itself) separate Martha from her friend who is the resurrection and the life? Jesus brings all these questions to Martha by way of the most simple and most

radical question: “Do you believe this?” (v. 26). It would appear that Martha’s

response will be clear cut, either remaining with the old knowledge of the Pharisees or coming to the new knowledge of this “egō eimi.” Her answer, however, is anything but clear cut. Martha exclaims, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (v. 27). But while this confession would align with some success with belief in Christ in the Gospel of Mark (see Mark 1:1), it may be wanting with regard to the Johannine understanding of faith. Paul Minear explains this dramatic point of decision for Martha: If [Martha] believes, such belief should produce greater change in her attitude toward death than is thus far apparent. Of course, it is possible to accept

her answer as being fully satisfactory: “Yes, Lord, I believe you are the Christ

[11:27].” Rather, I think that the narrator intended to fault that answer. She is unable to say, “Lord, I believe that whoever lives and believes in you shall never die.”24

As it stands, Martha leaves the spotlight with more questions for the viewers

than answers. To be sure, she has confessed more true belief in Jesus than has any

of the Twelve. Jesus is “Lord [kyrie],” “Messiah [Christos],” and “Son of God [huios

tou theou].” Certainly, in these confessions, she has ventured far beyond the belief

of the Pharisees. Yet, does she know now that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? We will need to await any further words and actions. At this point, just outside Bethany, we are left with more questions than answers. And to be sure, for the community of the Beloved Disciple and for our communities of faith,perhaps at this point all have great solidarity with Martha. 25

The spotlight now begins its shift to the other sister, to Mary. Martha goes

back and secretly calls Mary, telling her, “The Teacher [didaskalos] is here and is

calling for you” (v. 28). We laud Martha’s wisdom in speaking “secretly” to Mary,

remembering the threats to Jesus’ life so recently encountered during Tabernacles. But what dismays or confuses us a bit is Martha’s “downsizing” of her Christology. After all, many, even Jesus’ most vociferous opponents, have called Jesus “rabbi” (teacher). On the other hand, perhaps this is the term of endearment for Jesus with this family in Bethany. Having heard this secret word, Mary “got up quickly and went to him” (v. 29). Oddly, Jesus has not moved from the place where Martha met him; he remains outside the town. But if this lack of movement is for safety’s sake, it is soon rendered irrelevant. The mourners in the house see Mary quickly get up (anestē ) and leave the house. Believing she was going to the tomb, they follow her, planning to weep there with her. However, Mary quickly walks outside Bethany to where Jesus is standing.

This occasion has just become exactly the public event the disciples had feared. Even though this attempted secrecy has been thwarted, Mary propels the story ahead by bringing the mourners along. Her words, though, do not advance things all that much; they are identical to those of her sister. “Lord, if only . . . ,” she begins. But upon seeing both Mary and “the Jews” weeping, Jesus was “greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (v. 33). These terms describe more than meets the eye. The Greek word translated “greatly disturbed,” embrimasthai, most typically denotes a state of anger or indignation. Bodily turmoil is involved in this state—the verb is onomatopoetic, meant to imitate a horse snorting. The other Greek term, translating “deeply moved,” etaraxen, also refers to deep bodily emotions and can be translated “shuddered” or “stirred.” It can also mean “fearful.” Raymond Brown translates the phrase, “shuddered, moved with the deepest emotions.”26

Some interesting theories have been proposed for this reaction of Jesus to the sight of Mary and the mourners all weeping. Two interpretations contend for preeminence. First, it is proposed that Jesus’ disturbance is not in response to the

grief that abounded, but to “the unbelief that accompanies it.”27 Second, along with John Chrysostom, it is suggested that, as in the Synoptics’ Garden of Gethsemane incident, Jesus experiences “emotional distress prompted by the imminence of death and the struggle with Satan.28 In either case, Jesus asks, “Where have you laid him?” (v. 34a).

The spotlight is now beginning to shift to “the Jews,” as Paul Minear has

noted. Their answer is “Lord, come and see.” Once again, faith is revealed as faltering and inadequate. The response affirms Jesus as “Lord,” but the “come and see” affirms death’s last word. Jesus now weeps at this tragic situation. The mourners misunderstand that Jesus weeps in large part for them and they blurt out piously, “See how he loved him!” (v. 36). However, some cynics in the crowd were heard to comment, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (v. 37).

Again, “greatly disturbed” (v. 38), Jesus comes to the tomb with its stone placed against the opening. He orders, “Take away the stone” (v. 39). Now Martha reappears with the obvious information about the stench that will come, it being four days. Her Lord’s response is to remind her of the glory of God that he said would be revealed. The action now becomes tense and terse. The stone is rolled away. Jesus, looking upward, gives thanks (eucharistō ) to the Father for always hearing him. But this prayer is said for the crowd’s sake, “so that they may believe that you sent (apesteilas) me” (v. 43). Then, in a loud voice, Jesus calls, “Lazarus, come out!” Wes Howard Brook comments, “The shepherd has called his sheep by name; will the one in the tomb hear his voice?”29 Yes. Lazarus who was dead comes out of the tomb, “his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face covered with a cloth” (v. 44).30 Jesus then orders the crowd, “Unbind him, and let him go” (v. 44b). One of the sheep has indeed heard the voice of his shepherd who is resurrection and life.

Homiletical Strategies

Once again, preachers are dealing with a Johannine pericope of considerable

length. The preacher likely will be tempted to extract some “nugget” from

the lengthy text and develop a sermon based on some distilled topic. Given the

remarkable richness of the narrative, however, one may well decide upon a strategy for preaching “The Raising of Lazarus” that encompasses much more of its plot, characters, and intention.

One approach that meets this criterion is that of David Buttrick’s “moves and structures.”33 For Buttrick, each move is designed to form in the consciousness of the listeners while simultaneously becoming one element within the sermon’s plot. The moves will follow upon each other in an easily traceable sequence and may—in this plotting derived from John 11—derive from the biblical text’s actual sequence or may be assembled in a kind of reflection off the text. However, I will also heed Buttrick’s admonition that each move will need not only some conceptual development, but will also require some imaging out of the lived experience of the people. (A move that depends solely on discursive “talk-about” discourse, Buttrick maintains, will simply not form as thought in the congregational mind.34)

One possible homiletical plot for John 11, then, may be shaped as follows:

Move 1. “Jesus, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” “Jesus,” we cry with Martha, “if only you had been here . . .” The opportunity now is to develop an opening move that speaks of our losses and our longings. We admit that Jesus has been our strength and shield once we are buffeted by such losses. But with Martha and Mary, our question is straightforward: “Jesus, if only you had been here . . .” And we dream of all those things that would not have happened if Jesus had been here.

Imagery: How shall one image this conceptual out of the lived experience of

the hearers? Of all the moves in the sermon, perhaps only this one can be allowed

to focus primarily on an individual sense of loss. So, the preacher may image a

client pouring out his or her soul to the counselor in grief. (Note to preachers:

Please decide upon the gender of the client rather than creating vagueness in the

name of inclusivity.) According to the pastoral situations within the parish, some

specific example of loss may be indicated. Also, in order to begin the movement

toward the profoundly communal aspects of the pericope, the preacher could

provide one example of individual loss spoken to a counselor and then have one

example of loss from the congregation’s story cited to a judicatory leader (bishop,

synod president, and so forth). Each of the examples could end with the same

lament: “Jesus, if only you had been here . . .”

Move 2. The Lord’s response is surprising. He announces, “I am the resurrection

and the life.” Imagine—this friend of ours is resurrection and life. Believe in him and we will live. Believe in him and we will never die!

Imagery: After further developing this center of our faith, preachers are challenged to provide some point of view by which listeners may hear and believe it as well. Since the perceptual modality is auditory—Jesus speaks this “I am” and we hear it—one may do best by remaining with oral/aural imagery. One possibility is to recall for the congregation how moved they were when the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s The Messiah was sung at the Christmas Eve service. However, another musical and liturgical hearing of this witness to Christ would also function here. The song or anthem, however, would need to have as its focus this testimony to Jesus and resurrection and life. At issue is our perspective on whichever image is developed. “And we hear the triumphant song somewhat muted, from behind our thick stone tomb door.”

Move 3. And now, our Lord looks straight at us and asks, “Do you believe this?

Believe? “Well, yes,” we stammer. But look. For John’s Gospel, belief is not just an

intellectual exercise. It involves a self-giving in response to our Lord’s self-giving

for us. So, if we answer in the affirmative, it means all of us (that old, “our souls

and bodies” business). Nothing left behind. Anything less means, “No, Lord, I don’t

believe it.”

Imagery: Perhaps an effective way to develop this Johannine sense of “belief ”

is to image the self-giving of a man and a woman in the Christian covenant of

marriage. They are not asked just if they believe in one another. Rather, their vows

spell out how this covenant will be lived out for them. Maybe a better way of putting the question is, “Are we wed to the Lamb?”

Move 4. So what if the world has it all wrong? What if new life is given right

now in the midst of this world with its death and its darkness? And what if some

of those the world lifts up as examples of “real living” are already among the dead? Maybe some of those who according to the world don’t count for much are the ones who are really alive.

Imagery: There are revelations at times concerning this life and death business.

A firefighter who continues to rescue survivors from a building until the tower collapses on him. The “odd” little woman who drives parishioners nuts but is there every time the church hosts their homeless guests. The retired man or woman (please choose which) who instead of now taking it easy is sweating through “Introduction to the Old Testament” and all the other first-year seminary

courses because (he/she) finally said “yes” to Christ’s call to become a pastor. (The

example list can be expanded and modified.)

Move 5. Then comes the Lord’s command: “Take away the stone!” Here is the

necessary first step toward new life. This stone—the old sign of death and isolation—now being rolled away at Jesus’ word. “Take away the stone,” Jesus commands, wherever old death bottles up new life. The move is both deeply personal and yet communal. This stone has served as a sign of human captivity to the power of death. But by way of a command from the One who is resurrection and life, it is being rolled away. That which was so static and impervious is now mobile and responsive. It is becoming a symbol of liberation. 35

Imagery: Other signs of the power of death can also become transformed into

symbols of liberation. Precisely which signs of death will be imaged will depend

upon the congregation’s theological and social location. However, one that comes

powerfully to mind is the old stone tomb door of apartheid in South Africa. Jesus

Christ’s word of liberation went out and that stone was rolled away. Of course,

much remained in the way of truth and reconciliation. But the rolled-away stone

of apartheid had become liberation’s symbol.

Conclusion: Now we hear our Lord’s voice, calling our name. “_______, come out!” (The preacher might do a short roll call of some in the assembly at this point including some who have “fallen asleep.”) It is the Lord! The sheep of the fold do hear the voice of their Good Shepherd. Our name is called and Jesus commands us, “Come out!” Suddenly, there is a bright light as they roll away the stone from the tomb. We are carried, rushed out into the light. “Unbind her,” “Unbind him,” we hear. And now they are unwrapping those old grave clothes from around us like a nurse removes the bandage from a newly healed wound. What, we wonder, will we do now with our new life? Resurrection and life. Thanks be to God.

Questions for the Preacher’s Reflection

Since I am shaping the homiletical plot according to Buttrick’s moves and

structures, the questions that present themselves deal with the clarity and “followability” of the sequences of the moves as well as the effectiveness of the concrete imagery developed within each move. Since the plot follows quite closely upon the pericope’s movement, one is not as pressed to shape the plotted order of the moves; they follow the narrative in some immediacy. Our questions, then, fall mainly within the latter arena of concern (the challenge of imaging each move).

Move 1. “Jesus, if only you had been here . . .” I suggest a personal as well as a

communal example of this moving expression of loss and grief. If you do adopt

the personal reference to the counselor/client example, this must be from some

imagined context and not identifiable in the present or any past pastoral setting.

(This is crucial for your ministry as a pastoral counselor and as a preacher!) But if

you decide against such an example (and I understand any preacher’s caution at

this point), how would you shape a personal example that is analogous to Martha’s lament?

Move 2. “I am the resurrection and the life.” If we go with some grand communal

worship with triumphant choral music celebrating the risen Christ, what particular musical event or congregational song would function best in your pastoral setting?

Move 3. “Do you believe this?” The example related to the Christian covenant

of marriage may work or it may not. I did want to shift the issue of belief away

from solely doctrinal assent. But in some congregations, single persons would feel

excluded from this image of belief. However, we will need to image the question

and the way in which we would answer. What example can we deploy at this point in the homily related to Jesus’ question?

Move 4.”What if the world has it all wrong?” I like this reflective move introjected

at this point. I build an example system that can be expanded or revised. What would your example system look like for this move?

Move 5. “Take away the stone.” Forming a separate move for this dominical

Command was provided in a sermon at the 2006 annual meeting of the

Academy of Homiletics by Dr. John W. Kinney. The command calls us to assist in

Christ’s work of liberation. For your congregation, what would be a clear call to this

work of liberation when the listeners hear Jesus tell them, “Take away the stone!”?

Conclusion/celebration. I shifted the point of view in the sermon and had the

listeners hearing Jesus’ words, “Come out.” Clearly, the concluding celebration can

be expanded as pastorally appropriate. How shall this celebration be shaped for

this Fifth Sunday in Lent?


1. Walther Eichrodt, Ezekiel: A Commentary (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1970), 506.

2. Ibid., 507.

3. Joseph Blenkinsopp, Ezekiel, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching

and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1990), 171.

4. Eichrodt, Ezekiel, 509.

5. From “Prayer over the Elect,” Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, Study Edition

(Chicago: Liturgy Training Publications, 1988), 107.

6. Ibid., 284.

7. Daniel T. Benedict, prayer for candidates at an “Examination of Conscience,”

in Come to the Waters: Baptism and Our Ministry of Welcoming Seekers and Making Disciples (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1996), 119.

8. See Ernst Käsemann, Commentary on Romans, trans. and ed. Geoffrey Bromily

(Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1980), 172–79, for an extensive analysis

of the baptismal implications of Romans 6.

9. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, Romans, The Anchor Bible (New York: Doubleday, 1993),


10. Ibid.

11. Ibid., 452.

12. Wes Howard Brook notes that the Greek, prosloptō, is best translated as

“bumping.” Wes Howard Brook, Becoming Children of God: John’s Gospel and Radical Discipleship (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 1994), 253.

13. Paul Minear comments regarding the confusion all this evokes in the disciples,

“When Jesus says asleep they assume he means not dead, but when he says

dead they assume he means not asleep.” Paul S. Minear, John: The Martyr’s Gospel

(New York: The Pilgrim Press, 1984), 114.

14. Brook notes that here is the only place in the gospel “that the narrator directly explains the different interpretations of the conversation partners involved in misunderstanding.” Brook, Becoming Children of God, 253–54.

15. Minear, John, 114.

16. Ibid.

17. Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 1, The Anchor Bible

(New York: Doubleday, 1966), 424.

18. Brook notes that Mary “was sitting” (ekathezeto). He adds that “The only

previous ‘sitting’ in the fourth gospel was when Jesus was sitting on the well in

Samaria (4:6).” Brook, John, 256.

19. Ibid.

20. Brown notes that John employs the words anastasis and anistanai in this particular discourse, terms that will be used again in the resurrection narrative in 20:9. He adds that “egeirein in the passive is the more common term for the resurrection of Jesus in the Gospels.” Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 1, 424.

21. Minear, John, 114.

22. See Brook, Becoming Children of God, 257–59.

23. Ibid., 259.

24. Minear, John, 119.

25. Brook agrees on the ambiguities in Martha’s confession at this point. Nevertheless, “even if Martha’s answer may be seen as ‘imperfect,’ the fact that it is she who gives it rather than Peter is a strong affirmation of the right of women to participate in the community and of the importance of their opinions and commitment.”

Brook, Becoming Children of God, 259.

26. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 1, 425. Also see Brook, Becoming

Children of God, 261.

27. Brook, Becoming Children of God, 262.

28. Brown, The Gospel According to John, vol. 1, 435.

29. Brook, Becoming Children of God, 263.

30. This head cloth will come to mind when Simon Peter enters the tomb on the

First Day and discovers Jesus’ face cloth “rolled up in a place by itself” (20:7b).

31. Jeffrey L. Staley, Reading with a Passion: Rhetoric, Autobiography, and the American West in the Gospel of John (New York: Continuum, 1995), 65.

32. Minear, John, 122.

33. See David Buttrick, Homiletic: Moves and Structures (Philadelphia: Fortress

Press, 1987). Also see my The Web of Preaching: New Options for Homiletic Method (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002), chap. 4.

34. Buttrick, Homiletic, 193–98.

35. I am indebted for this insight to Dr. John W. Kinney, Dean of The Samuel

DeWitt Proctor School of Theology, Richmond, Virginia.

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