NOTE: We look forward to Debbie Bell Sharing her own message at the 11am worship service this week. Keep her in your prayers as well. jTB
11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.
Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.
For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
11:29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
11:35 Jesus began to weep.
11:36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
As one of the most amazing of all the miracle stories of Jesus, the restoring of life to his friend Lazarus is the most moving for Jesus himself.
The famous, “Jesus wept” – the shortest verse of scripture, contains a powerful witness of the compassion and heart of Jesus.
There is a possibility that we as the reader of this story mis-read the reasoning of Jesus with “Himself” for the sake of the witness as too calculated. Meaning: He cried on-purpose so the faithless would have faith. When this is likely a later revision to the text in the first place, it is ultimately for faith that Jesus has raised not only his friend, but that Jesus himself is raised for us, and us with him through…faith.
We see both the humanity and the divinity of Jesus in this passage. The two fused together.. knowing with certainty and tears of grief and loss at the same time. This is where many of our friends and neighbors are living. They have the assurance of the resurrection and the promise of heaven’s welcome, but miss those who have gone before.
Hear the command that Jesus gives to the family and bystanders; “unbind him, and let him go.”
This is the heart of the observance of our worshipful practice of this Lenten season. Finding what bind us, letting it go, that we might grow closer to God.
The tradition of giving up food, drink or some activity for Lent is a practicing of letting God of the truly weighty, heavy stuff that bind us in our everyday life.
Imagine a five pound bag of sugar.. how heavy is that? Imagine ten of them. Still further imaging carrying ten, five pound bags of sugar with you where ever you go.. ( I have lost 50 pounds since charge conference this fall, not to brag as I have hit a plateau and it is taking a greater commitment to go further.)
But loosing weight is not the end, in itself. Loosing weight, for me, is increasing health, decreasing blood pressure and risk of stroke, which is increasing time and energy with family, friends and you good people. The weightier issue is being faithful to my relationships rather than to my stressful eating in the name of self preservation. That is eating to live rather than living to eat.
But the body is more than food.. it is also breathe. Jesus breathe inwardly in prayer, outwardly in command and invitation and the spirit of all life fills a body that we dead four days. Laz is revived, restored, and living again.
A side note, one that is not in the text is what is missing in this story. Had Lazarus been tormented in fire and brimstone it seems the text would have contained Lazarus’ appreciation for his return. Had Lazarus been welcomed into the arms of God and he was getting settled in his mansion, not made with hands, he would have been a bit grumpy to come back. In either case the text does to inform us. (Though it is a curiosity of mine.)
The exercise for us today is to identify what Binds our living. For it is proper for one who is not living to be bound or entombed. Is it fear? pride? greed? gluttony? lust? vanity? anger? some combinations?
Anger Management: Jack Nicolson names Adam Sandler’s trouble with anger:
Dr. Buddy Rydell: Dave, there are two kinds of angry people in this world: explosive and implosive. Explosive, which is the most common, is the type of individual you see screaming at a grocery store cashier for not taking his coupon. Implosive, the least common, is the cashier at the store who remains quiet at his job day after day until he then finally loses it and goes after everyone in the store. You’re the cashier.
Dave Buznik: No, no, no. I’m the guy in the frozen food section dialling 911.
Anger about what some one did or what some one didn’t do or didn’t say: How do you deal with anger. It troubles me when couples say, we never fight… someone is not being honest and open with their anger. (That was the movie’s message)
But it is clear that improperly expressed or avoided anger binds relationships. Jesus comes to unbind us.
Back to the real question: what binds you. Are you the only person in the world or even this room who deals with being bound? Are the things in your life more binding than the things the bind me? I think not.
SO WHAT are we to do? Here is where the passage comes together. Everyone in the story is bound up in some fashion: Grief, Doubt, Fear, Anger, etc. Jesus is moved
(1) Hears our prayers.. come help us now.
(2) meets us where WE are… Jesus shows up at their points of need.
(3) model following God’s timing rather than our own timing… not always on our schedule, but always on Gods.
(4) Jesus turns to God’s strength and shares the power of the Spirit… breath on each other blessing, not curse.
What is the best way to address anger? blame? sarcasm? or personal attack? None of the above… that ties the knots tighter.
Speak words the loosen the grip, the roll back the stone, that make room for life.
Let him go. Let him live. Let us Go.. Let us Live.