Summary: Jesus raises dead things. Lazarus, jolted out of his reward, was just the first.
Sermon for CATM – February 28, 2010 – Journeying with Jesus: Lazarus (John 11:1-44)
Today we continue our Journey with Jesus to the cross. This is the second in a series on the events that lead up to Jesus’ own suffering and death on the cross.
Last week we looked at the Transfiguration. We tried to understand from the inside out what that experience would have been like for the disciples. Today we look at the story of Lazarus.
It is an intense story with a very broad range of occurrences and emotions. A number of readers will read sections of the story and we’ll look at the story a piece at a time and reflect on what is going on.
John 11:1Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. 3So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." 4When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it." 5Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
So first of all…who are these people? These are people who know Jesus. Luke records the famous incident in chapter 10 of his gospel. Martha had opened her home to Jesus on an earlier journey.
Her sister Mary was enthralled with Jesus and so just sat as His feet taking what He had to say in. Martha was upset that she wasn’t getting any help from Mary and appealed to Jesus to get Him to help her in her busyness.
Jesus acknowledged Martha’s anxiety said to her: “…Only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
That was an important lesson in itself. Busyness is not always the highest virtue. It may not be a virtue at all because it is easy to be very busy.
Although there are times when life requires non-stop action of us (if you’re a parent you know what I mean), if we’re still busy when we don’t need to be, that usually comes from just not saying “No, thank you!” enough.
And it may come from an inner anxiety, a lack of shalom or peace in us that can keep us from finding the deep rest that is in Jesus. That was the lesson from Jesus’ earlier encounter with Mary and Martha:
Make sure you rest, and make sure you rest in the presence of God so you can hear His loving voice and receive what you need from Him.
So we also learn here along with Jesus who is sent word from the sisters that Lazarus, someone who Jesus loves, and the brother of two others who Jesus loves, is sick. And Jesus says to those around Him including the disciples, when he hears the news, something surprising: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.
So somehow Lazarus is going to be ok. What is happening here is specifically, says Jesus, for God’s glory and so that God’s Son may be glorified through it. It is all a bit strange at this point.
Lazarus is sick. He’s not going to die. God will somehow be glorified. So will Jesus. Hmm. And Jesus stays where they are for two days.
7Then he said to his disciples, "Let us go back to Judea." 8"But Rabbi," they said, "a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?" 9Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. 10It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light."
Jesus then surprises His disciples by saying they should all go back to Judea, where Jesus had very recently escaped stoning. Why would He want to go back to that, they wonder? Jesus answers cryptically, apparently pragmatically, but does not address the fear of the disciples.
“We’ve got 12 hours to get to where we’ve got to go. As long as we travel during daylight we’ll be fine”. Jesus never brings us into danger unless He goes with us into it.
His presence and the knowledge of his love is always our guide and the source of our courage. Darkness for Jesus always hints at weak moral behaviour. Light always hints at good behaviour. But here Jesus speaks words of mystery.