Summary: If we believe Jesus is the Resurrection and Life, we have hope God can take sidetracked lives, hopeless situations, and lost people and resurrect them and bring new life so we will see the glory of God manifested in our world today. We also have hope tha
Have you ever noticed life throws you curve balls? Things don’t seem to always go the way you had hoped or planned. Perhaps through no fault of your own, your life seems to be sidetracked, or perhaps you are not where you thought you would be right now at this stage of your life. Some of the big sidetrackers can be an illness, a relationship gone sour, marriage problems, unexpected death of a loved one, job loss, unforeseen bills, just to name a few. These can cause us to worry, be discouraged, lose hope. I hope these two stories we read this morning will change the way you look at life’s curveballs. Because no matter how much life gets off track for us (from our viewpoint), even if we’ve messed up our whole life, there is hope in the resurrection because nothing impossible for God.
In our first story this morning, Jesus’ friends Martha and Mary sent a messenger to let Jesus know their brother Lazarus was very sick. In fact, by the time Jesus received the message Lazarus was probably already dead. However, rather than rushing back to the town of Bethany to be with Martha and Mary, Jesus continued his ministry for two more days before going to see them. By the time he had arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead four days. When Jesus was at the edge of town, Martha heard of Jesus’ arrival and went to greet him. And the first words out of her mouth were, (v. 21) “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” On the one hand her statement indicates her faith in Jesus’ ability to heal. If you were here Jesus, surely you would have healed Lazarus. But also implied in her statement is the question, ‘why didn’t you come when we told you our brother was sick, where were you Jesus?’
Events did not happen the way Martha and her sister Mary anticipated they would. In her mind she must have thought, surely Jesus will show up and save the day. He will make everything better, he will heal my brother. But that isn’t what happened. Jesus didn’t make it to Bethany in time, in fact Jesus purposefully delayed his trip two extra days so he wouldn’t show up until four days after Lazarus’ death. Life was not going the way Martha had hoped. Her brother wasn’t supposed to die, after all he was Jesus’ good friend. How could Jesus allow something like this happen to a friend? Even her expectations of Jesus were shattered because Jesus did not do what Martha thought he would.
I don’t know about you, but there have been times in my life when I have wondered, “Jesus or God, why have you allowed this to happen to me.” I thought you were my friend and that you cared about me. Sometimes it feels as though God has let us down. Even if we may have deserved what we received, we still think God would help us out somehow. Yet God doesn’t always respond in the way we expect.
In the second reading we recount the events on the second day after Jesus’ own death. Instead of dying of sickness though, Jesus was intentionally killed. You know the story. Jesus was arrested by the religious leaders while praying in the Garden of Gethsemane at the Mount of Olives, betrayed by one of his own disciples. The religious leaders wanted Jesus dead because he called God his Father, he even made himself equal with God. In their ears this was blasphemy (it was like speaking profanities about God) and they believed he deserved death. After a shame of a trial, they brought Jesus to the Roman Governor Pilate who flogged Jesus thirty-nine times with a lead or ceramic tipped whip. As you can imagine, most people didn’t survive this. Yet it wasn’t enough for the crowd, they wanted Jesus to be sentenced to death, “crucify him, crucify him,” they cried. And so Jesus was sentenced to death. Carrying his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgatha he was nailed to it and crucified between two criminals. After six hours (9am - 3pm) of hanging on the cross, Jesus died. Two wealthy followers of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemas, took his body and placed it in a newly cut tomb, never used before, and a huge stone was rolled in place to seal the tomb.
Again a curve ball, only this time it was Jesus’ followers, his friends, who were sidetracked. They expected a king, and got a martyr. Events didn’t go as they planned, Jesus was supposed to become king, he was the Messiah, the Son of God even, but Jesus had died, and their lives were sidetracked. I am sure they were wondering, ‘what are we going to do now?’ In both situations, life was not going as they had planned. From their viewpoint at the time it seemed as through God’s plan had failed, or that it had been derailed?