Sermon by Simon Walker 31.10.2021

Sermon by Simon Walker

Sunday 31st October 2021

(John 11 vs 32 – 44)

 

Introduction

Our Gospel reading today – the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead – is – rightly – well-known + much loved

It’s a story that’s both – remarkable + relevant – to us – today

We’ll start by noting – 3 of the features – which make it remarkable    

And – then – we’ll consider – its relevance

 

But – before we begin – let’s pray

 

Prayer

Gracious Father God, please use your word + my words to comfort + encourage us by your Holy Spirit; help us give honour + glory to your Son in every area of our lives – each day.

Amen

 

3 remarkable features

So – what are those 3 remarkable features?

Well …

First – there’s what happens – Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead – – which is amazing – truly remarkable

The Gospels record many examples of miracles – but – so far as I recall – this is the only time when Jesus raises someone who is – both – dead + buried

And – this was after 4 days in the tomb!

 

Secondly – the story contains the shortest verse in the Bible – – just 2 words – but – speaking volumes

Jesus wept.

 

Thirdly – Jesus clearly intends what happens – this remarkable event – to demonstrate – who he is …

While – John – the eyewitness reporter – provides all the details – so we can understand + appreciate – what it means // signifies

So – between John + Jesus – from the Gospel record – we see + we know

That – Jesus is truly human – just look at the emotion in verses …

33    When Jesus saw her weeping … he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.

35 + 36    Jesus wept.  Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

38   Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.

Lazarus was a friend of Jesus – Mary + Martha were friends of Jesus – – this is real / raw / human emotion

And

That – at the same time – Jesus is fully divine – notice the clues in verses …

32   When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

37   Some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

40   Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Mary acknowledges his authority – the Jews recognise his power – however grudgingly – – but it’s Martha’s questions – which draw a clear response – an explanation

So – in verses 41 +42 – we read

Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”

Before – in verses 43 + 44 – Jesus demonstrates – for all to see – his divine authority – even over death

When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 

 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.

 

The reality + relevance of the Resurrection

As we move on – to ponder why this story remains relevant – – let’s remember – that – Jesus raising Lazarus – from his tomb – however remarkable – was but a curtain raiser – for the main event …

The greatest day in history – – when – on the first Easter morning – God the Father raised God the Son – from death + the tomb

 

Even in dark times – like when we’re mourning – our grief / our loss / our sadness / our tears – however deep + painful – can be transformed – by the truth in Scripture + the power of God

 

Jesus speaks words of hope + promise – to Martha

“Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”

Words of hope + promise – which apply – equally – to us

Words of hope + promise – which – also – point to a final resurrection – as we hear from Revelation 21

There will be no more death // mourning // crying // pain – for the old order of things has passed away.

 

We know – from other passages – across the Gospels – that – Jesus believes there will be a final resurrection – – for example – in Mark 12 – he says

When the dead rise … they will be like the angels in heaven … He is not the God of the dead – but of the living.

 

For us – living after Easter – resurrection means so much more – even – than Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead – remarkable though that is …

Because – in Jesus’ physical resurrection – the power of God is demonstrated + the truth in Scripture is underlined – in bold

 

The final resurrection – which Jesus promises – is sure + certain – guaranteed – because Jesus is alive – today …

Unlike Lazarus – Jesus ascended into heaven + sits at the right hand of God – the place of honour + authority – from whence he will return – – not only to judge “the living + the dead” – but – also – to usher in “a new heaven + a new earth”

 

When Jesus says

Take the grave clothes off and let him go.

Lazarus is set free to enjoy a new lease of life – however temporary

In much the same way – the lives we live – now – after being called out from spiritual death + set free – into new life – in Christ – – our new lives – are meant to be transformed – permanently …

So that we live – with sure + certain hope – trusting in God’s promises – knowing God’s resurrection power

Then – our whole life – – yes – even how we mourn – will be transformed …

Not by stopping our grief / our loss / our sadness / our tears – because they’re part of being human + show that we’ve loved + lost …

But – by suffusing – us – with hope

 

 

Conclusion

In conclusion …

I’ve only ever conducted one funeral – when we buried my mother – who died 2 years ago today

Just as her final years – in which she was always looking forward to being with Jesus – were transformed by that promise …

So too – for those of us who share her faith – was the day – when we – in the words of the burial service …

Entrusted her to God’s mercy + committed her body to the ground – in sure + certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life – through our Lord Jesus Christ – who died – was buried + rose again for us

 

May our lives be transformed by + suffused with – hope – – sure + certain – resurrection hope