Summary: God came to us in human form; He felt our pain and sorrows, and all is not lost, for God so loves us.
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer,
Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Our nation is at war and young Americans and Iraqis are being killed every day.
A judge, a bailiff and a court reporter have been shot and killed in a courtroom in Atlanta.
There are gangs and gunfights in our community.
Children are buying, selling and using illegal drugs—which will invariably rob them of their childhoods, and possibly ruin their entire lives.
There are many, many human beings who are living on the streets, without homes or family or friends…
…quite a number of these people suffer from some kind of mental illness.
Within our own families, our own congregation there is illness, mourning and death.
Often, we try not to notice…
…but sometimes we can’t help but notice…
…when the tragedy is as big as the New York skyline or as close as the passing of a loved one.
And then there is that awkward “I don’t know what to say” feeling that often causes us to send flowers instead of placing a phone call or stopping by to visit.
But, as awkward as it is, our Gospel Lesson for this morning forces us to take notice—as we are taken to yet another funeral.
Lazarus was dead and entombed.
Mary and Martha—sisters of Lazarus—were devastated.
Their family circle was broken and they were broken as well.
Their dearly beloved friend—Jesus—whom they knew and loved so much was far away from them and didn’t appear to be in a big hurry to come to their rescue.
The whole town of Bethany seems to have been in mourning as Jesus is finally seen coming down the road…
…a little too late to do any good.
Everything seems so mournful and sad.
We are sure that Jesus often came this way and stopped at the homes of Mary, Martha and Lazarus for refreshment and genuine friendship.
Had all that now ended…
…with Lazarus’ death?
It seemed like it.
But we know that there is more to this story and that this Scripture is called Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead…
…because it has to do with Jesus going to the tomb and calling Lazarus to come out.
The stone is removed and, sure enough, Lazarus comes out “his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.”
And now there is rejoicing instead of weeping!
Look what Jesus has done in the face of death itself!!!
Now Jesus didn’t come right away when He was told about Lazarus’ illness.
Why was this?
Why did Jesus allow all this sorrow to take place?
Could it be that Jesus wanted to show us that God is somehow bigger than the worst tragedy that can happen in human life?
Could it be that Jesus’ thinking was, let it happen and we’ll see what God can do?
Do we have faith as big as that?
Can we wrap our faith around our own human tragedies and believe that God can do something with them and through them? (some of these words and ideas are taken from “A Matter of Life and Death,” a sermon by Rev. John T. LeGault, Jr.)
We are told in verse 33 that when Jesus saw Martha weeping, “he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled…”
In verse 35 we are told: “Jesus wept.”
And in verse 38 we are told, as Jesus came to the tomb He was “once more deeply moved.”
Could it be that one of the reasons that Jesus waited so long to come to Bethany is because as the Son of Man…Jesus had to experience human sorrow…
…He had to be able to empathize with the pain we struggle with when something horrible happens in our lives.
In Hebrews Chapter 2 we are told: “In bringing many sons [and daughters] to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering…
…Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity…
…Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
How much more proof do we need to understand that our Lord is one with us?
Throughout the Gospels we can feel that Christ’s glorious message of hope is not spoken by someone on the outside looking in….but by One Who was Himself touched by what life brings upon the rest of us.
The world around us is suffering…
…it’s crying…grieving…it’s falling apart in emotional turmoil…the pain is everywhere we look…
…so we look to the Word of God—into the Gospel of John—and ask: “Lord, how can I help the hurting that is all around me?…
…Where can I turn when I’m hurting…?”