Summary: In the raising of Lazarus, Jesus proclaims and demonstrates the promise of new life.
John 11:17-44 “Victory Over Death”
Human beings are a diverse group. We have very few things universally in common. Someone once observed that the only two things we have in common are death and taxes. Since there are a few people who are very adept at avoiding taxes, I can only assume that the one thing that is universal among people is death.
Because of its common interest, many people have made various observations concerning death.
· ”Death is a very dull, dreary affair, and my advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.”
· “To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure” – Albus Doubledore.
· “I don’t believe in dying. It’s been done. I’m working on a new exit. Besides, I can’t die now—I’m booked” – George Burns
· “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens” – Woody Allen.
Many people are willing to wax eloquent on the subject of death, but it is all from ignorance. The passage of Scripture that is the basis of our worship service today gives us a clearer understanding of death and life, because it comes from a divine perspective.
THE TEST OF FAITH
Death is the greatest challenge to our faith. The early Christians struggled with death, because they thought that Jesus would return before death would overtake them. John has recorded this incident (he is the only gospel writer who does) in part to quiet the fears of the early Christians and help them deal with death.
Martha is an example of all those Christians who believe all the right things and have all of the right answers. Martha and the Christians like her are stopped dead in their tracks when they face the reality of death. It is one thing to know that one should believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and another thing to rest and place one’s faith in that truth.
Mary represents the feel good Christians; those who get an emotional high by loving Jesus. It is a positive experience being a Christian until they experience the reality of death. Suddenly, they do not feel good any more and wonder what happened to their faith. It is one thing to love Jesus and another thing to rest and to place one’s faith in the truth that he is the resurrection and the life.
Jesus invites both Mary and Martha to put away their right answers and good feelings and to trust him—believe that he breath the breathe of life into the situation.
MANY WAYS TO DIE
When we talk about death, we often focus on physical death. We die, though, in many different ways.
· We die when we receive a pink slip and are asked to look for another job. Sometimes we not only die to the job, but also to the dreams and the hopes that it held for us.
· We die when we move to another town, state, or country. We die to old habits, old comforts, and long relationships.
· We die as we age to youth’s energy and dreams, to muscles that don’t ache, and a heart that is strong and healthy.
· As Christian disciples we die to our old life and we turn to the new, abundant life that God invites us to live.
Death is never easy, because we have to trust that there is new life on the other side of death. We place our faith in the hope that Jesus truly is the resurrection and the life and that he will bring new life into our situation. -- It is interesting to note that Jesus never prevents someone from dying. The only way to experience new life is to experience death.
FREEDOM FROM DEATH
Often we are so afraid to die that we allow our fear to control our lives. One person has observed, “Some people are so afraid to die that they never begin to live.” Along this them another person stated, “Death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.
Lazarus is called from the dead and out of the tomb by Jesus. He hops out bound by grave clothes. Jesus commands that he be unbound and freed. Lazarus represents Christians who are bound up in their fear of death and change.
Placing our trust in Jesus—no matter what happens—frees us for life and victory over death. This is exemplified at the end of the movie, “The Truman Story,” when the main character dies to his scripted life and enters the new life of reality.
Jesus said that he is the resurrection and the life. Every day we live in the reality of this truth. When we confront death in its many shapes and forms, we will be victorious and we will experience new life because of what Jesus has done on the cross.