5th Sunday in Lent - What perturbs God?

5th Sunday in Lent - What perturbs God?

The raising of Lazarus deals with the juxtaposition of two items:

  1. The Jewish understanding of when a person was truly dead, and …
  2. The Jewish belief of the proof of the arrival of the Messiah by the witness of “messianic miracles.”


Concerning 1: After 4 Days, in Jewish tradition, a person’s spirit is totally gone. The person is really dead.

Concerning 2: Prior to the coming of Messiah, the Rabbis had divided miracles into two separate categories:

  1. Miracles that could be performed by anyone God empowered to do so, and


2.Miracles reserved only for the coming Messiah of which there were 4 of these:

  1. Healing of the leper.
  2. Healing and casting out of demon that is mute.
  3. Making a blind man see.
  4. Raising a man from the dead after 4 days.



In the Scriptures, the number “7” is considered a symbolic and “perfect” number. When you see the number 7 in the Bible, it means that when something is done, it is now complete. It is perfect, it cannot be improved upon. For example, God “completed” the world in 7 days - the “perfect” amount of time in which to create the world. God “recreates” the world perfectly through 7 sacraments.

So, back to the story. In the Gospel, we see critics of Jesus “asking for signs.” The reason is that these are tests to see if Jesus really is whom he claims to be - the Messiah.

  • Whenever there was a possible candidate that appeared, the Pharisees would send spies to check him out.
  • For example, these spies went out to check John the Baptist because the people were saying he was the prophet that Moses said Yahveh would send.
  • Other well know messiah contestants were Simon Martus, (the magician) Tiberious of Rome, (who was also called the “Son Of God”), Simon Barcockvah (a decendent of King David), Apalonius of Tiana, and Mithra.

And so … we see Jesus performing the following “signs” for all to see:

  • Healing of the leper in Mark 1:40-45.
  • Healing and casting out of demon that is mute in Luke 11:14.
  • Making a blind man see in John 9:1-32.
  • Raising a man from the dead after 4 days in John 11:1-44.

The raising if Lazarus is the 7th Miracle in John’s Gospel. In the raising of Lazarus, Jesus completes the last of the “messianic miracles” and thus “perfectly” offers proof - through “signs” - of who he is.

And yet they STILL don’t believe!

He wants to POUR His blessings upon them, in great abundance, but he can’t! Extraordinary blessings get poured only on those who believe, on those who have faith.

So we come to our original question: Can you perturb God? The answer is “yes” if we believe the Scriptures. What perturbs God?She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” He became perturbed and deeply troubled. Some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?” So Jesus (became) perturbed again….

Parents don’t enjoy disciplining children. It greatly perturbs them to have to correct, and maybe, punish their children. But good parents do it anyway - for the good of the child, for the good of the family, for the good of the school, for the good of the sports team and for the good of society.

Could it be what “perturbed” Jesus was that he had to put his very closest friends, Mary and Martha, through such a rough time - just to try and provide incontrovertible proof - in order to try and “untie” the hearts of an unbelieving lot? (“Confer the Scripture passage: “So then Jesus said to them clearly, “Lazarus has died. And I am glad for you that I was not there, that you may believe.” thus Jesus knew that Lazarus would die but allowed this to happen for a greater purpose).

Could it be that even his closest, most cherished friends still didn’t get it?

Eleonore Stump at Saint Louis University writes:

Mary was right in thinking that it was her heart’s desire to have her brother and to be loved by Jesus. But she was mistaken about what the fulfillment of those desires would be. She thought that she could have the desires of her heart only in case Jesus came to her to heal her brother before he died.

Consequently, when Lazarus still died, Mary thought that Jesus had let her down. Lazarus’ body was wrapped in a burial cloth. But Mary’s and Martha’s hearts, and their faith, were perhaps also wrapped in their own burial shrouds. they didn’t yet see the bigger picture.


Here is the hard saying:

What the story makes clear is that the Lord can know better than a human person does what she most wants - not just what is good for her, but what she herself really wants and might not even know what it is.

Is it possible that Christ is perturbed and weeps for us because our hearts and minds are trapped in burial cloths?

Is it possible that Christ is perturbed and weeps for us because our hearts and minds are focused on second best, on wanting less than the best which the Lord wants to provide for us? WE have something that we really desire. Could it be something else that might make us truly content and be at peace?


Next week is Holy Week. Is it possible that during this time The Lord, through His passion, says to us, “Untie them! Let them go free.” “Father, forgive them. Breathe your Spirit into their dry bones.”


  • Audio version of homily here:



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