As the story unfolds, after the Jewish audience make their comment about Jesus’ love for Lazarus and wonder, like Mary, why he could not have prevented Lazarus from dying; John tells us in verse 38 that for a third time Jesus expresses his emotion: “Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb.” Or as Dr Barclay translates it: “Again a groan was wrung from Jesus’s inner being.” Notice then what follows after this third expression of Jesus’ emotion. Jesus, going against the advice of Martha, and most likely surprising the whole audience, orders the tomb to be removed after Lazarus had been lying dead for four days, which according to Jewish tradition, the soul would have left the body. Over against the protests of the “stench” of a four-day-old, dead, decomposing body; Jesus orders the audience to “Take away the stone.” Then, after a prayer and with a loud cry, he says, “Lazarus, come out!” Lo and behold, that’s exactly what happens! The four-day-old dead man comes out, grave-clothes and all! Next, Jesus instructs his audience to: “Unbind him, and let him go.”

This last segment of the story is, I believe, very instructive for us on this All Saints Sunday. It reminds us all that the restoring to life of Lazarus is not only the work of Jesus, but also requires the cooperation of the faith community. It is the faith community who roll the stone of the tomb away. It is also the faith community who unwrapped Lazarus from his grave-clothes. So too, we are who we are as the Church today not because we have made it on our own. Rather, we are who we are today as a people of faith because of the legacy of faith that we have inherited from our ancestors in the faith. There is not a soul here today, I believe, who has not, somewhere along life’s journey been deeply influenced by the life of the saints who have gone before us. Whether it’s our parents, grandparents, our neighbours and friends, our Sunday School or other teachers, our pastors or other leaders in the Church—we’ve all benefited from the life and influence of saints. In fact, the saints who influenced us have been the very presence of Christ in our lives.

In our world today, we can all too easily smell the “stench” of death. Death in the fast-paced lives that we live. Death in our obsession with “making it” no matter what, even if that means selling our very souls. Death in the prevalent values of consumerism, materialism, and individualism, which exploit people and the world’s resources without any limits. Death in our hunger and thirst for entertainment, which promotes violence as the means to solving life’s problems. The list could go on almost endlessly. Thank God that through Jesus and with the help of the communion of saints we are able to live a new, death-free life! We are called by Jesus to unbind the death-clothes of this world and set people free to live a life of love and abundance in Christ. Amen.

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1 Cited from: Pulpit Resource,