Readings for the day (5th Sunday in Lent – Sunday, April 2, 2017):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
Throughout Lent this year, the majority of the Gospel readings have been from John’s Gospel. The story of Nicodemus, a Pharisee who sneaks around in the middle of the night all because he is curious to find out who Jesus is and what He’s all about. The story of the Samaritan woman at the well, a foreigner, an outcast who has been married multiple times and yet despite her social status is given the promise of new life and life giving water through Christ. The story of the man born blind, an outcast whom Jesus heals on the Sabbath which upsets the Pharisees and Jewish leaders. But until today’s story, Jesus has only been upsetting the Pharisees and pushing their buttons. The raising of Lazarus though crosses the line, a line that they had been waiting for Jesus to cross for three years. They wanted Him to go too far and He finally did it.
So it becomes no surprise that John places this story in the center of his Gospel account, with 10 chapters before and 10 chapters after. This story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus is the climax of John’s Gospel because it is not only tips the scales for the Pharisees to arrest Jesus but this story also points directly to Christ’s own death and resurrection to come. And nestled in the center of this story, which is also at the center of the whole Gospel, is Martha’s confession to Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” This is the main, central point of John’s whole Gospel. If you get to the end of his Gospel account and you only take one thing away after reading it, he wants you to remember that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. Nothing more. Nothing less. Plain and simple. Jesus is God. Jesus is the Messiah, God’s chosen, anointed One.
Now Martha makes that beautiful, wonderful confession, and just 12 verses later Jesus commands for the stone of Lazarus’ tomb to be rolled away. Martha, remember the one who confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, says, “Lord, there is a stench; he’s been dead for 4 days already.” Oh how quickly Martha forgets about her confession. Oh how quickly we can forget about who has given us life, who has forgiven our sins, and who has promised us eternal life. Especially when things are going well in our lives, it is so easy to forget that we even need God around. And we end up trying to do everything ourselves without the help of our God who says, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” Jesus wants us to trust Him, He knows what He is doing. Martha thought He was crazy for wanting to roll back the stone of Lazarus’s tomb, especially four days after he is dead. There would be a stench. And yet, trusting Jesus, the crowd rolls away the stone.
And then Jesus cries out with a loud voice, certainly needs to be loud enough for a dead man to hear Him, and says, “Lazarus, come out!” And to the amazement of the crowd, the dead man walks out under his own power, still bound by the burial clothes. So Jesus, for a second time, commands the crowd to do something. This time He calls to them to “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Notice here that Jesus is not the one that rolls away the stone. Nor is He the one who unbinds Lazarus, but Jesus is the one who raises him from the dead. Could the things you are worrying about in your life be equivalent to raising people from the dead? Are they rather serious concerns? If so, give those to God. Notice again what the crowd does as compared to what Jesus does. Jesus commands the crowd to roll away the stone and He commands them to unbind Lazarus and let him go. The crowd is not the one who raises Lazarus from the dead, that’s God’s job. And many times, the things that we concern ourselves with and worry about, fall under God’s job description, not ours.
So what is God calling you to roll away in order to make room for Him to breathe new life? What is our congregation being called to unbind and let go of in order for new life to take hold? Maybe you’re waiting for new life and Lazarus to come out of the tomb; except Lazarus can’t come out of the tomb until Jesus’ disciples answer the call and roll the stone away first. And likewise, new life cannot flourish until we unbind some things.
For the Pharisees, Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead was the last straw. It is after this miracle that crossed the line that the chief priests and Pharisees held a meeting where they asked the question, “What are we to do? This man is performing many sings. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” Now Caiaphas, the high priest said to them, “Don’t you understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” Caiaphas thought that by killing Jesus (one man), the whole nation would be saved. He was right, just not is a physical sense. Instead by killing Jesus, the whole world was saved through Him. Because Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, God’s chosen One, who is the Savior of the world; which is at the center and heart of not just John’s Gospel, but it is at the center and heart of everything that we say and do as a congregation and in our daily lives. Jesus is the Son of God, the One who we believe in and confess to be our Lord and Savior. Amen.
© 2017 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.