Jesus raises Lazarus and gives life to all.
This Sunday has a beautiful story, a powerful story; and always the focus is on Jesus. Let us see what it tells us about Jesus.
(For the words of the gospel reading today, click here. )
Jesus learned that his friend Lazarus was sick and Jesus decided to wait two days before he went to see his friend. Why did he wait? He was fully confident; he trusted that everything would work out well.
Then he goes to Bethany, near Jerusalem. His enemies were strong there, and he knows something awful could happen. But he trusts his Father that everything will work out well; everything will be fine. His human fears, he sets aside; he does what his Father wants him to do. He goes to his friend.
He loved that family, Martha, Mary, Lazarus, really loved them. Perhaps many times he visited them. He liked them, loved them very much; he ate with them. They were Jesus’s special friends. Jesus was human; he had good friends and he loved them. So Jesus was brave and went to Bethany.
First, Lazarus’s sister Martha meets him. Her heart is broken; she says to Jesus, “Why did you wait to come here? If you had come here before, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus says, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered and said, “I know he will rise on the last day, but that’s far in the future. I want my brother now alive.”
Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The person who believes in me will come to life.”
Jesus promises you and me new life. You believe Jesus, love Jesus clearly; you come to church regularly, receive Holy Communion. At home you’re praying; you do good; you help other people. Afraid of death? You don’t have to be afraid of death. Jesus has a special life waiting for you, a better life waiting for you.
Then Jesus says, “All who are alive now and believe in me will never die.”
This means what? Does it mean you will never die? We all die; yes. Jesus says his special gift, his Spirit, his breath, he breathes into us now. So we have heavenly life in the future? We have heavenly life now! This heavenly life is for you and for me now, why? Because we love Jesus, believe him; our hearts, our lives, our love we give him.
Jesus says “If you love me, it means I and my Father will come and make our home in you.”
Wow! You love Jesus now; it means Jesus and God his Father rest in you now. We come into church, kneel down or bow before the Tabernacle because Jesus is there. I could kneel or bow before you because Jesus is in you. Jesus-his special life-is in you now; it means that this life will continue forever and ever.
Jesus asks, “Where is Lazarus buried?” Jesus goes to the tomb. Jesus weeps; it shows he is fully human.
Someone you love dies, you cry. Jesus is like you; he cried. Jesus trusts his Father God will show that He’s here with Jesus, in Jesus now.
Jesus says, “Roll the stone back.” Martha says, “Lazarus has been dead for four days already; his body has begun to decay, smells bad.”
Jesus says, “Trust!” The stone is rolled back. Jesus shouts, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus comes out wrapped in cloth.
Jesus says, “Untie him, free him.” And the sisters hug Lazarus and Jesus hugs Lazarus.
This means what? Jesus wants to give life! Sometimes we think that Jesus gives us rules, commandments to limit us; we can’t do what we want. I want to do that, but it’s forbidden. I want to do this, but it is forbidden. We are limited! No! no! Jesus gives life. Life means full joy, full strength, full satisfaction, full forgiveness. This is what this glorious story means for us now.
Let me end with a story, a story about Jesus giving life now:
A priest was a chaplain in World War II, on a boat bringing soldiers back home from the war. Some of the soldiers asked him to study the Bible with them. One day they were studying this story about Jesus raising Lazarus from death. After the meeting a young soldier came to the priest and talked privately. He said, “God seemed to be talking to me today in the story of Lazarus.” He explained how he did something very bad. No one else knew about it, but he felt very, very guilty; he thought he might kill himself. The soldier said that he began to see that Jesus knew him and his human weakness and his guilt; Jesus was human too. More importantly the soldier began to see that Jesus is God. And God could help him in the most powerful way; God could raise him to new life as He raised Lazarus. God could forgive his great sin and take away his guilt.
The soldier found Jesus. And more importantly the soldier saw that Jesus gives resurrection and life not only in the future after death but now in this life.