Summary: This is a sermon for Easter 2015. It is about death and references the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus gives us victory over death.
When Jesus was on the earth, he had many people who wanted to be around him. He also had people who hated him and wanted him dead. On the last day of his life, it was hard to tell which group was which.
But Jesus had friends. He had people that believed in him and what he was doing. He had a group of disciples that went with him when he traveled and stayed with him while he taught. As far as we can tell, only Judas actually betrayed Jesus and it was only Judas that left the 12 primary disciples.
Jesus had friends that helped him in his ministry. There was a family consisting of two sisters and a brother that lived in the town of Bethany not far from the city of Jerusalem. They were apparently financially comfortable and were able to help Jesus’ ministry in that way. He apparently stayed with them from time to time.
So, when the brother, Lazarus, falls sick, Jesus delayed going to see him. Remember that Jesus was healing people everywhere he went. He was even healing people at a distance. Yet, he did neither in the case of Lazarus. It seems inconceivable that Jesus would let his friend die and help others he did not even know. Yet, there it was. Lazarus died. He was dead and buried before Jesus even decided to show up.
I have stood before the graveside of dozens of people, both as a pastor and as a friend or relative of the dead. I have heard the words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” I have said those words. Yet, what Jesus said after that is the point of the message today…what Jesus said and then what he did.
Jesus said to his friend, Martha, “Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Do you believe this?”
Martha’s answer was something like many of us would say. She said, “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Then she went away.
You have to realize that when Martha was speaking to Jesus, she was not simply upset, she was wailing. She was screaming these words. They were words of frustration, pain, and loss. She was deeply hurt and she was expressing it to someone she loved dearly.
Soon, Mary comes to him and basically says the same thing that Martha said. Jesus has a reaction that is a little unexpected. Most of the translations do not do justice the language. Jesus wasn't just troubled, he was angry. The New Living Translation does a good job of expressing that. Most of the others simply say he was ‘moved’ or something like that and does express the deep emotion that Jesus was feeling as he walked toward the tomb of his friend.
Why was Jesus angry? Was he angry because of disbelief or because of the unfairness of the death of his friend? I don’t really know the answer to that, but I lean toward his feelings in the loss of his friend and the grief that the death imposed on those who loved him.
Death represents a loss. The severing of a connection with someone that is loved. I understand this very well. My grandparents, my parents, four brothers and two sisters, 14 aunts and uncles, a number of cousins, and one nephew and a niece have been taken by death. I am well-acquainted with the darkness of death.
On top of that, I have stood in the home of people whose loved ones have died. Both young and old. I have held the head of a 22 year old woman who put a bullet in her brain as she slipped from this life.. I have performed the funeral of a young man whose wife was pregnant with their first child. I have performed the funeral of another young man whose sister committed suicide. He was killed in a drunken car accident exactly one year later. Some of these were joyous, but most were very sad. But all were dead and the connection was broken. Over and over, I have said to them, “I understand your grief. Jesus understands too.”
I know that when someone tells me that someday I will see my loved one again it is received on two levels. First, I understand that I will see them again after the resurrection, but secondly, I cannot see them now. I can’t talk to them. I can’t have a conversation. I know that they are gone and I will not see them in this life. Mostly, knowing that I will see someone again decades from now is not that comforting.