Summary: What keeps you bound in a tomb of death?
"What Keeps You from Really Living?"
John 11:1-7, 17-44
Several years ago there was a headline in a Toronto Newspaper which read: "Dead Man Walks into His Own Funeral."
Apparently, Dan Squires had walked off his job as a welder without telling anyone where he was going.
He had been missing for several days when his brother had mistakenly identified a badly mangled corpse, which had been hit by a train, as Mr. Squires.
The story reads: "Mr. Squires, age 49 had shocked his sister out of her skin Thursday morning when he came shuffling up her street in east end Toronto, while the rest of the family were paying their respects to the man they thought was Mr. Squires laid out in a nearby funeral home.
His sister had been too upset to attend.
'I sat there on the steps screaming,' said his sister.
He asked, 'Why are you so upset?'
His sister replied, 'Everyone's at your funeral.'"
When Squires showed up at his funeral, the first thing he did was go into the reception area which was filled with food and drink...
...he popped open a beer and then walked into the chapel where the memorial service was taking place.
A man from the funeral home asked, "Who are you?"
Mr. Squires replied: "I'm the guy you got laid out there."
The story ends with: "Mr. Squires said that he now faces the task of re-applying for a disability pension that had been cut off after he was pronounced dead."
Have you ever known anyone who after having been basically written off as dead--through a miracle of God, and the help of others--was able to walk out of their tomb just as alive as anyone else?
How about persons, who, have been in a terrible car accident?
The family gathers at the hospital.
The doctor comes out and informs the person's loved ones that "it doesn't look like he will survive."
At that moment the mourning begins.
But prayers of hope go up as well.
Still, people call on Jesus to perform a miracle.
The doctors and nurses work hard to save the life of the badly injured person.
After a long operation, the person stays in ICU for several weeks...
...and eventually is transported from the hospital to a rehabilitation facility, where, with the help of physical and occupational therapists the man who had once been written off as dead, is brought back to full health and life.
Eventually he rejoins the community, and is so thankful for his new lease on life that he truly feels more alive than he ever did before.
Or how about folks who go to the doctor and hear the dreaded "C" word?
We have a number of you who have been through this, yourselves, here today.
Your name is written on the prayer list.
Your church family, your friends and others take to praying for you daily.
Medical professionals do their best to get rid of the dreaded disease.
Loved ones visit you, encourage you, help you.
And one day, you are able to walk out of the doctor's office having been declared--"cancer free."
Or what about the man or woman who has struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol?
One day he or she cries out to Jesus: "Lord set me free from this dreaded disease!!!"
And so the person finally is given the strength to enter a drug rehab facility.
He or she becomes "clean" for the first time in many years.
When they "get out" they are able to stay sober with the help of continued prayer, a new church family, regular participation in Alcoholics Anonymous or Celebrate Recovery.
In our Gospel Lesson for this morning, Jesus has been called to the side of a dear friend who is sick.
By the time he arrives on the scene, the man--Lazarus--has already died.
And the first thing that Martha, one of Lazarus' sisters says to Jesus is: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died."
And then she adds a note of faith and hope: "Even now I know that whatever you ask, God will give you."
"Jesus told her, 'Your brother will rise again.'"
When Martha's sister Mary finally speaks to Jesus, she says the same thing as her sister: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn't have died.'"
When Jesus arrives at Lazarus' tomb He sees that a stone is covering the entrance.
And then He says some astonishing words: "Remove the stone."
Martha is repulsed: "Lord the smell will be awful!
He's been dead four days."
I mean, what is going on here?
Does Jesus want to exhume the body or perform an autopsy like a coroner?
What good can come from that?
You know, in a lot of ways, Lazarus represents all of us, does he not?