This week we have the third (and final) long passage from John. This time it is John 11:1-44 which tells the story of the death and not-so death of Lazarus.
The Sermon title this week is His Friend Died...Can You Guess What Happened Next?
Early Thoughts: Sorrow turns to amazement, despair to wonderment, weeping into shouts of praise.
I suspect this is a story that we are too familiar with. Like many
stories of faith it is hard to read the beginning without knowing the
ending. But does knowing the ending before we get there rob the story of
What would it be like to read it for the first time? What would it be like to live it?
Mary and Martha are heartbroken. Their brother has died. They are sure that had Jesus been there he could have kept Lazarus from dying. But Jesus was not there and Lazarus has died (depending how far away Jesus was it is possible Lazarus was dead by the time Jesus got the message that he was ill).
Has Jesus come back for a funeral for the friend he loved? Or is there something else in play?
Jesus weeps in this story. Jesus feels the grief of a friend's death. But he is not willing to accept the finality. In this story death is real. Early in the Jesus tries to slide over its reality by using the euphemism of sleep but his disciples miss the point so he has to be blunt (personal note, we need to be more blunt about the reality of death in the world, euphemism's only bring the appearance of comfort). Death is real. Lazarus is really truly dead. In fact we are told he has been dead for four days. In a hot climate sealed in a tomb imagine what an un-embalmed body would smell like (think of the chicken you forgot to put in the fridge for a day or two...). Death is real.
But death is not final in this story, or in the larger story of faith. Death does not have the last word. Life speaks last. The word of Life, the invitation to abundant life unbinds us and sets us free.
In John's Gospel this is the last of 7 signs that reveal who Jesus is. Here we hear that he is the Resurrection and the Life, and then we see it in action. Here we see that maybe the "last days" are closer than we think -- and also less of a sudden turning that a growing edge. It is notable that in John's account this is the last straw for the rulers. This is where the decision is made that this Jesus must die.
What part of this story speaks to you the most? What signs of hope do you draw from it? And have you ever wondered what Lazarus thinks of the whole deal?????