Summary: When we do wrong, we plant the seeds of death within ourselves, but Jesus, in his death and resurrection can plant the seeds of life!
John 20 Easter 2003
The Seeds of Life
If you really enter into the experience of the weekend, you experience many different emotions: extreme love, betrayal, fear, denial, great grief in death, and great joy in resurrection.
For some of us the Friday experience of death is too close – we may have recently experienced the death of a loved one.
On Monday I witnessed the death of a relationship as I helped a friend move out after the breakup of his marriage. I found myself experiencing many of the same emotions that I do preparing for a funeral, as you come across artifacts that bring back memories that this relationship once had vibrant life.
Some of you may have experienced the death of a dream – you had visions of a life very different than the one you are experiencing. You had great plans, but somewhere along the way, life to a vastly different turn, and the dream has died. Maybe even dreaming for the future has died.
For others we experience spiritual death – there was a time when we felt like we were side by side with God. We knew he was so near, but as life has gone on and on and other things have got in the way of our relationship. Now we feel so far from him that there feels like a death has occurred.
In John 11, John tells a story of the death of one of Jesus’ close friends. You might not think of Jesus having close friends, but Lazarus, Mary and Martha are never talked about as disciples, they were always referred to as friends. Jesus is off in the wilderness and Mary and Martha send word that their brother, Jesus’ god friend is sick. For some reason Jesus stays put for two days before he comes to the three. But as he is leaving, Jesus tells his disciples that Lazarus has died and he is going to raise him up.
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
"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. Those who believe in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Mary comes out and greets Jesus the same way – “If you’d only been here Lazarus would still be alive!”
Jesus asks where the tomb is and they take him there. When he gets there he sees the mourners and he breaks down and cries.
This is a strange sight – Jesus knew Lazarus was dead, and he knew that in a moment he was going to raise him from the dead, but he still cries, he is still moved deeply. I think its because when we mourn, Jesus loves us so much that he mourns too, but I also think that when we experience death there is something deep within us that says “No! This is not the way that it is supposed to be!” Good friends are not supposed to die, relationships are not supposed to fall apart dreams are not suppose to get worn down to nothing, we are not supposed to drift away from our God! “No! this is not how it is to be!”
In the midst of his tears, Jesus asks for the stone to be rolled from the tomb – the people think he is crazy with grief – Lazarus has been dead four days in a hot climate – there would be a terrible smell. But he is Jesus, and they do it anyway. Jesus leans down into the cave and calls: “Lazarus come out!” and to the amazement of the crowd of mourners, he comes out. Jesus tells them to unwrap the grave clothes, and set him free.
Weeks later, it is not Lazarus in the tomb, It is Jesus himself. The religious leaders of the day had had enough of him – they arrested him on Thursday evening, convicted him in secret court that went on through the night, and then stirred up the crowds to demand his crucifixion from the Roman rulers.
Some of the same people who witnessed Lazarus’ sickness, death and resurrection were now watching as the one who raised him from the dead died himself. Can you imagine the despair for Mary and Martha –Martha who had placed so much hope in Jesus, so much confidence in him, that she would say, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."