WHEN JESUS SHOWS UP
Lent 5 Ezekiel 37:1-14
March 29, 2020 Romans 8:6-11
Let us pray: Gracious and loving God, we stand today like the people outside the tomb of Lazarus long ago. We are curious, wondering what you can do. Prepare us to be surprised. Help us to see that as you brought life to him through the Word of Jesus, you will also touch us with your Spirit. Call us to come forth and go forth into your world. We pray in the name of the One who is the Resurrection and the Life. Amen.
A man left church complaining under his breath, "Fine, all this talk about green pastures and still waters. But what about the droughts? What about the storms? All the illness and disease? What about the crushing pressure and defeats? What then?"
It would be interesting to take a poll and ask -- what do you think is the hardest problem in the Christian life for us to handle?
Your answer might be different than mine.
For me, the hardest problem I have to handle as a Christian is what to do when God does not do what I expect of him; when God does not act the way I think he ought.
We have an occasion like that in the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Mary was upset that Jesus didn’t show up when she thought he should. She said, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died.”
Our Gospel reminds us Jesus still shows up and Jesus makes a difference. Our story is one when Jesus intrudes into death and brings life. He will not be put off or disheartened by death. His strong voice brings life. Jesus brings a new strength by his very presence whenever we experience death in our defeats, our surrenders, our fears...
But Jesus has a way of showing up at what we would call the wrong time, but perhaps the right time, for it is His time.
Upon hearing that Lazarus was dead, John says, "Jesus wept." And then Jesus said something strange: "I am the resurrection and the life." He didn't say that he had come to tell grieving Martha about the resurrection. He didn't say, "Martha, take heart, one day, someday, your brother will be resurrected, and then you'll get to see him again in heaven." Rather, Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life." Wherever I am, even here at this time and place of death, there is resurrection, and there is life, here, now. With that, Jesus acts out his compassion; he goes out to the cemetery and, in a voice loud enough to wake the dead, shouts, "Lazarus, come out!" And then Jesus proceeded to raise Lazarus with a shout loud enough to wake the dead. Our translation says, “Lazarus come out!” However, I like the King James translation better. “Lazarus come forth!” For me it holds more power and meaning. Forth means to come or go forward or onward. “Lazarus come forth!”
Lazarus comes forth like a mummy. Next thing you know, there's Jesus with Lazarus and his sisters, having a party in Bethany; and Jesus' critics (ever the guardians of the status quo) were planning now to kill him.
Lazarus' being called from the grave and coming out is a bold reminder of God's power to transform our lives today. When in our very lives, we are over-burdened, pressed down, pulled down, pulled apart, can we live again? Can we see beyond what is in our control? Can we get over the anger we feel toward God for seeming to be absent?
This story from John boldly reminds us Jesus was in control of an uncontrollable situation. (Just as He is today). Those gathered beside the grave saw no hope. Jesus shattered the barriers between Lazarus and a new day. We are challenged to set our sights on what God can do through us, the difference in what we are and what we might be.
I read somewhere that those who keep heaven in view remain serene and cheerful even in the darkest day. If the glories of heaven were more real to us, if we lived less for material things and more for things eternal and spiritual, we would be less easily disturbed by this present life. We are all feeling a sense of loss, intense suffering, grief, and anger, and joy does not come easily or quickly. But eventually the peace of God does come, and with it His joy.
In these days of darkness and confusion and uncertainty, if we are trusting and forward looking Christians, we must remain optimistic and joyful, yes even joyful, knowing that Christ someday shall rule, and “if we endure we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). Someone has said of patience, which Paul spoke of in our second reading, patience “is that quality of endurance that can reach the breaking point and not break.”
The challenge of the story of Lazarus' and his sisters' encounter with Jesus is to stop depending on just yourself or what the world has to offer but rather trust in Jesus in times it seems to be going right and those that are terribly wrong.
We're challenged to believe it is never too late to allow our hope to live again and respond as Lazarus and to come forth to live. Listen to the ancient words of the Psalmist, "I wait for the Lord. My soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning. O, Israel, hope in the Lord, for with the Lord there is steadfast love and with him is great power to save."
Let us pray: