Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. “Whoever believes in me though He die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” John 11:25-26; Lent 5; March 29, 2020

Grace…

God’s richest blessings to you.  I pray that this message today, would bring you peace, joy, and encouragement as you rejoice in the blessings of faith in Jesus.

I am sure for all of you it has been quite a change for you in these past weeks.  Social distancing and isolation are not easy things to do for many of us. They are the right thing for us to do right now to try to slow down the spread of this coronavirus.  But, it’s not easy to do!   Just speaking for myself, I miss the face to face interaction.  I miss the laughter and the good natured kidding going back and forth.  One day we will have that again, but, God’s Word always has a great deal to say to us at all times in life, and I believe especially right now.

By now most of you may have been cooped up for a while.  Like the walls of your house are even closing in on you.  Sometimes sin closes in on us too.  It hems us in.  We need to be called out and released from our bad habits, our worries, our anxieties, our doubts, our fears and the sin that so easily slows us down.  That’s what faith in Jesus does for us.  Jesus breaks the bonds of sin.  He calls us out to a new and invigorated life in Him.

Just imagine Lazarus and his family in our text.  At the beginning of our text in John 11, it tells us that he is ill.  The inference of course is that this is not a mild illness, a common cold, or a sore throat, but whatever he has is major and deadly. His sisters, Mary and Martha send word out to Jesus, the One they know who can cure it, and they say, “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.” This was the way to say, “Lord, your close friend is very sick!” But Jesus response is first, “This illness does not lead to death.”

Now when we first hear this, it might sound a bit uncaring or cavalier from Jesus.  Like, well, he’ll get through this.  And some among them when they first heard this might say, well “He’s cured so many people, why doesn’t He just say the Word where He’s at and have Lazarus be cured.  He’s healed people like the Centurion’s servant, from a distance.  But, Jesus goes on to say, “It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of Man may be glorified through it.”

This may strike some as being kind of curious.  But, this section reminds us that sometimes the Lord permits His people to go through difficulty, so that God would be glorified through it.  This time of the coronavirus might also be one of those times in our lifetimes.  It has changed many of our lives in just a short amount of time.  But, I believe God is bringing us back to our homes and families to focus on what’s really important.  I am hoping and praying that your families are coming together in prayer, the reading of the Bible, and hopefully worship—even though that for this time, it’s on-line.  And I pray that the Son of Man, Jesus, is glorified through it

For those in Bethany, Jesus does something even more.  He waits with His disciples even two more days.  Mary and Martha were caring for their brother.  They were surely seeing him get weaker, and the breathing getting shallower.  Death was knocking at the door.  But, Jesus still was not coming.  Perhaps some of you have been in this situation before.  A loved one is going through a prolonged sickness, and there doesn’t seem to be an answer from God.  Then worry, doubt, fear, and anger set in.  The doctors may even say something like, “There is nothing more that we can do!” It’s a scary feeling. 

But we pray that we would always remember, that God always has the final answer.  We pray that God would forgive our fears and our worries, and help us trust the Lord with all of our heart. This, of course, takes great faith but it’s in these great teaching moments that we learn our life’s greatest lessons.   “Remember that during the test, the teacher is often silent.” The Teacher, Jesus, seemed silent during this time, but He was mighty at work.  Remember that Jesus said, “It is for the glory of God.” And it surely was!

After Jesus hears that Lazarus has died, then He begins the journey to Bethany to see Him.  Some may have wrongly  said it was kind of useless now.  Lazarus has died.  It’s over. In those days, the burial takes place the same day.  He’s wrapped up, put into the tomb, and the stone is rolled in front.    It’s over! Why go now?  But, Jesus demonstrates why.

First He comes, and the text tells us that Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days.  This is actually important to the text, because some of the ancient rabbis taught that the person’s soul hovered over the body for three days after death, and then decomposition sets in.  The point is, that Lazarus is fully dead.  And Jesus still comes.  Martha greets Him first outside of the village and says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”  It is really quite a beautiful statement.  She can’t quite understand why this has happened, but she knows that Jesus can change everything.  And that, He begins to do.  Jesus’ response is very straightforward and resolute, “Your brother will rise again.” 

Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  It’s a statement of faith, we share with Martha. We profess it in the Apostles’ Creed. We said it just before.  She believed it.  But, on that day Jesus would do something more for the glory of God. First He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though He dies, yet shall He live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  Do you believe this Martha?  Do you believe this Mary?  Do you believe this brothers and sisters in Christ?...

Our text then tells us Jesus starts to make His way to the village.  On the way He meets the other sister, Mary who is weeping and falls at His feet.   In grief she also says, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Very importantly, the Bible tells us that Jesus looked at her weeping, and was deeply moved.  Then it says, “Jesus wept.” It’s important for us to focus on this, to remember that the Lord knows our sorrows in life.  He also shares in them.  He also weeps for us.  Death is not the way this world is supposed to be.  We shouldn’t have sorrows, sickness, and death.  They were not part of God’s original plan for us. Satan and sin have brought death and destruction into this world.  But, Jesus will have the final word!

“Where have you laid him”, He asks.  So they take Him to the place.  “Take away the stone.” He says.  And although there is some objection to this, they do it.  Jesus prays to His heavenly Father, then calls out, “Lazarus, come out!” And out from the grave comes His friend Lazarus, bound in linen.  “Unbind Him, and let him go!”  Can you imagine the reaction of the people? (Many put their faith in Him) 

Dear people of God. Often in life we get hemmed in by our fears and sorrows.  They have a way of closing in on us.  They bind us up.  God’s Word comes to us today to call us out and unbind us from our sin.  We are reminded today that Jesus is “The Resurrection and the life.”  First, to be sure, He will raise  on the last day.  What a glorious and awesome day that will be for us and our loved ones to rise again! 

But there is something more for our life right now.  Jesus has come for us right now, to give us the Resurrected life, right now. He gives us victory over our worries, doubts, sorrows, and fears.  He calls us out and says “Come out!”  Perhaps there’s a particular worry, sorrow or fear over your family, your marriage, or a relationship, over your job, your business.  Sometimes we just resign ourselves and say, “It is what it is.” But, Jesus has come to bring life.  He says, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.” 

Let’s bring our sorrows, fears, doubts, and worries to Jesus!  He will bring us through!  This miracle of the raising of Lazarus, is one that shows us to not just resign ourselves to sorrow, but to rejoice in the glory of God.  Today He calls us out.  This too will be for God’s glory!  He unbinds us, and gives us victory and life, for He is the Resurrection and the Life. 

God grant this…