DFLC SERMON – March 6, 2022 – Deacon Sharon Brennen
God and Jesus are One – John 11:1-44
Grace and Peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!
Did you ever feel that no one was listening to your words? That you have answered a question time and time again, but no one heard your answer each time? That you are beginning to feel like your words are sounding just like the adults surrounding Charlie Brown (whaa, whaa, whaa?). I am thinking that is how Jesus was feeling right about now. He has, throughout the Gospels, proclaimed who he was and why he was here in the first place. Yet, again and again, he is questioned as to who he is.
Throughout John, he alone has answered this burning question. In fact, there are seven “I Am” statements of Jesus in John:
· I am the Bread of Life
· I am the Light of the World
· I am the Door
· I am the Good Shepherd
· I am the Resurrection and the Life
· I am the True Vine
Right before the story of Lazarus is the parable of the Good Shepherd, where Jesus is explaining his role as God’s Son. Right after this parable, Jesus meets up with a group of Jews who ask him straight out if he was the Messiah, the Promised One. Jesus answers “I told you, but you don’t believe.” And he almost got stoned for what was perceived as blasphemy claiming to actually BE the Messiah.
Now we come to the story of Lazarus. It is the first time in John we hear of Jesus’s friendship with this man, and with his two sisters, Martha and Mary. But the story we hear is not a warm and fuzzy one, with Jesus receiving a message that Lazarus was gravely ill and would probably die. The two sisters were asking him to come. Jesus recognizes this moment as a time he could reveal, in a very visible and graphic way, just who he was! So he takes his time in leaving to journey to Lazarus and his sisters. In fact, he waits four days. This is meaningful, when we consider that the Jews believed the soul left a body after three days. So this waiting was intentional and meaningful. Because Lazarus couldn’t be more dead by the time Jesus arrived.
When word came that Jesus was near, Martha went right out to greet him. Mary would come later. But both would make the same statement, “Lord, if you had been here, he would not have died.” And maybe even more than a statement. Maybe an accusation mixed with disappointment - and a dash of anger. (And this mirrors how we sometimes feel when tragedy strikes us or those we love. We too might cry out to God: “Where were you?” or “How could you let this happen?”)
To Martha, Jesus gives the words we know all too well, and one of the “I am” statements: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live; and everyone who lives in me will never die.” Here is his announcement, and our promise of eternal life—what was, and is, the hope of our present lives, and the peace for our future. But Martha doesn’t get it at first, and thinks he is speaking of end times, and NOT of the coming Resurrection of Jesus himself. So Jesus corrects her and says he IS talking about himself. He tells her, “You don’t need to wait for that time… I am right here in front of you.” And he asks her, “Do you believe this?” Martha answers immediately “Yes, I do. I’ve known who you are all along—the Messiah, the Son of God who came into the world.” Martha has heard him, and believes! This very touching conversation is the heart of this reading… for us and for those standing at Lazarus’s tomb.
When Mary approaches, with so many people with her, sobbing, Jesus is perturbed and saddened. He asks where Lazarus was buried. And then he himself wept. Clearly the whole scene goes to him in many ways. When Jesus gets to the tomb, he recognizes that this is the time for action, and the stage is set for him to reveal who he is in a most visible and vivid manner. “Take away the stone” he says. Martha, the sensible and somewhat bossy sister, reminds him of the stench of death already in the air. Jesus ignores her. It is his time. It is God’s time. He and God are one.
Jesus begins his moment with a conversation with his Father. This conversation is loud enough for all to hear. He thanks God for being with him and listening to him and repeats the reason he is there. Not for his own glory, but to show who it was who sent him. Then he shouts, “Lazarus, come out!” I can almost hear the intake of breaths. I am sure all stopped their weeping, shocked at what they are hearing and all eyes must have been on the now open tomb. To everyone’s astonishment, out walks Lazarus with his grave clothes around his body. Jesus’s next short statement is, “Unbind him and let him go.” I am sure everyone could not believe what they are seeing! (And maybe a little afraid of what they would see, when the grave clothes were taken away!) But this final sign of Jesus’s ministry became the “great reveal” that he wanted it to be. And word of what had happened spread. And the time for the Journey to the Cross was unleashed.
Jesus was not too late to help Lazarus, even after the fourth day of death. And Jesus will help us at all times in the same way. What we know from this story is that Jesus’s time is not our time, and Jesus does not work according to our clocks or calendars. His time and God’s time are the same—which is eternal and all encompassing. We know there is nothing that separates us from the Love of God. We are the sheep and he is our Shepherd.
It seems that this should be a most happy ending. But we find out, a bit later on in John, that this wondrous miracle, of Lazarus coming back to life, actually became Jesus’s death warrant. So many Jews heard of this event and knew now the truth of Jesus’s identity, and many became believers. A good thing. But it also got the attention of the Chief Priests and Pharisees. A prophetic and unfortunate thing. It made them nervous, angry, and made them begin to make plans to deal with this “self-proclaimed Son of God.” Jesus was becoming a threat to their power, and they knew he needed to be dealt with. In fact, they also wanted to get rid of Lazarus and the reminder he would become of Jesus and what Jesus could do. They thought Jesus’s hold on the people might bring about a rebellion, a fight with the Roman soldiers… maybe even loss of the temple and the Jewish nation! They had so much fear!!
So now we take a Lenten walk with Jesus toward the cross. And we relive his pain and suffering and death. But most thankfully, also his glorious Resurrection and the fulfillment of all his promises. In death, once more we will see life. Jesus will be there, showing us the way, the truth, and the light. Thanks be to God! Amen.