Summary: Christ prepares His disciples for his death and resurection in concert with the story of Lazurus.
The sermon today is from John 11, the first 45 verses. If you really want, I will read it, but I think it best if I paraphrase it a little.
Jesus is with his disciples a couple of weeks, maybe a month before Passover when he gets word from his friends Mary and Martha that their brother Lazurus is sick and needs Jesus’ help to be healed. However, Jesus did not go right away to Bethany, a city just outside of Jerusalem. He waited two days until he left. He uses this time to teach his disciples that “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” He means, in this case, that the glory of God is not in the “majesty”, but in the humble service to others that will become evident shortly.
Once he reached Bethany, he is informed that Lazurus had died many days prior to Christ arrival.
Mary came to Christ first as we find in the 21st through 27th verses.
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."
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"
"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
Now it was Martha’s turn to come to Jesus. Her words moved Christ very deeply and he asked where they had laid Lazurus to rest.
Christ ordered the stone to the cave entrance removed, to the protestation of Mary. His reply and the rest of the story are found in verse 40-45:
Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?"
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, "Take off the grave clothes and let him go."
Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
This time frame marked the beginning of the end for Christ. The raising of Lazurus from the dead sparked the Pharisees to begin seriously plotting Christ demise. Christ was using the whole episode of Lazurus to prepare his followers for his impending death, and shortly there after, his resurrection. Jesus was demonstrating that even in death, God’s presence is there, bringing with it the promise of a new life, and a new beginning.
We see this several times in the story. The first time is when Mary and Jesus are talking together. Mary has the hope that Jesus can do something, anything to ease her pain and her suffering. Christ answers her that indeed her brother will rise again. Mary, in this instance, is thinking just like most of us would. Of course, her brother will rise again. He has gone to heaven and will rise in the resurrection at the end of time. Why wouldn’t he? Yet, Christ, again using the situation as a preparatory moment for his death, means that Lazurus will rise again yet today.
Most of us have experienced the loss of a parent, or sibling or close friend. Some of those passings have been unexpected and some are a blessing. However, as the time grows greater since the loss and we are able to have some perspective, I think you will see that we were being prepared for life after the death of our loved one. Much as Christ was preparing his followers for life after his death, God prepares us.
I was speaking on the phone with my mother last week. I am not even sure how the topic switched to the passing of my dad, but she made a profound, and, to this sermon, a relevant statement. She mentioned that she was grateful for the several years that my father had worked as a salesman. She went on that, because he had to travel and was frequently away for several days to a week at a time, it prepared her for life after his passing. Granted, it took some time for her to grieve and to mourn, however, as she began to emerge from that phase, she realized she had to go on with life. Not only did she have to go on, but also she began to realize she could and already knew how.