Summary: You have a friend in the resurrection business – and he is the key to life.
When we lived in Texas and all of our children reached school age, Cheryl decided that she would go back to working outside the home – at least part-time.
She easily got a job in an office and I remember that out of her first pay check she bought a Ninetendo game unit for the children.
It was rather primitive by today’s standards but it was the latest and the best back then.
Now, I’m not very coordinated with these games but I remember the kids playing it – and in particular that you would have to get to different levels and that you would need to find a key to get to the next level.
Once you had grabbed the key you could unlock the door and move up. That, more or less, was how the game worked.
At the risk of sounding like God has us all in a big video game – a Matrix – I would like to suggest from our text this morning that Jesus is the key that opens the door to the next level. I know that sounds a little bit crass but some people might find it helpful to think of Jesus’ message here in John 11 in such terms.
Look at vs. 25 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die...’”
We were introduced to this story last week.
Word came to Jesus that his good friend Lazarus was sick.
Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus thinking that he would come and do one of his healing signs and things would be all better. And really Jesus was but a couple of miles away from the town of Bethany.
But the thing that doesn’t make sense in the story as you are reading it is that Jesus procrastinates. Vs. 6 says that he stayed put for two days. Then he abruptly announces Lazarus has died and that it is time to go to Judea – that is, to the region where Bethany is located.
This leads to a discussion about death – which the disciples don’t quite understand. But as we saw last week, one of the disciples figured that Jesus was on the way to his own death and that they should all follow him.
“Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with him.’”
So they go to Bethany and vs. 17 says that “On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been dead for four days.”
Now, I don’t think I’m spoiling anything for you in telling you that Jesus is going to raise Lazarus from the dead. We’ll get to that next week. But here John is setting up the story.
And it is significant that Lazarus had been dead for four days.
In first century Jewish practice when someone died they were on that very day placed in the tomb. And folklore had it that the person’s soul continued to hover in the area around the body for three days – just in case somehow he could be resuscitated.
But once you were into the third day it was assumed that the soul would leave because the person was really dead at that point and decay and decomposition had begun.
This is why when Jesus died it was of significance that he was in the grave for three days. It was their way of saying that he was really dead.
So, Lazarus had been in the grave for four days when Jesus showed up.
He was really dead. And the mourning, which lasted a week from the point of death, was well underway.
Martha went out to meet Jesus on the way into town.
Vs. 21 – “‘Lord,’” Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’”
This is not a rebuke of Jesus for lagging along but rather a statement of her ongoing faith in him. She is saying “I know that you have the power to heal and that if you had been here Lazarus wouldn’t be dead – but my faith in you remains unphased. I know that you can still heal.”
Note that she is not asking Jesus to heal her brother at this point. Based on where the conversation goes we realize that she has absolutely no idea as to what he is going to do.
In her mind Jesus is a healer. But she hasn’t processed him enough to understand that his healing power extends beyond death itself.
So in vs. 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” But then in vs. 24 Martha answers in such a way that shows she isn’t connecting the dots, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”