Break Free - and Believe! (a Sermon for Lent)
Breaking Free! There are a number of things we may wish to break free from. And with good reason. Some things are simply a downer. Ever experience physical difficulties? How about emotional, financial, familial, psychological, relational, or mental difficulties?
Most of us experience difficulties from more than one of these categories. It is important to mention that God cares about them all. He cares because he cares about all of us. It would be a lie to say that we will not worry about these things. Yet, it must be said clearly, these are not the chief things.
The season of Lent reminds us, these are not the primary concerns for any of us. These are not, have never been, and can never become the primary concerns. In the NT, Jesus does help some break free from some of these difficulties. But, every time, these instances of breaking free are only intended as windows through which we can see who Jesus is.
During the season of Lent, we may work to break free from other things. But this only has value if we see Jesus more clearly. In other words, we can give up chocolate, stop watching television, or quit biting our nails; but diet, activities, and bad habits are only problems if they discourage belief in Jesus.
The Gospel of John reports that Jesus salvaged a wedding celebration and fed thousands with minimal amounts of bread and fish. John reports that Jesus made the lame walk and the blind see. Someone more entrepreneurial could have launched a catering business, a cooking show, or at least sold some cookbooks in the marketplace. Yet, when Jesus turns water into wine, John settles for “and his disciples believed in Him.” One with more business sense could have bottled that spit made salve and that water from Siloam to sell as a remedy for blindness. Yet, John is content with the man once blind stating “I believe.”
John 11.3 says that Jesus loved Lazarus. John wants to make sure we know this so it is repeated in v.5. Just in case we didn’t get it, he says it again in v.36.
This story is about “the one whom Jesus loved.” It is intended “that you may believe” (11.15).
Lazarus is raised from the dead, but he will die again. This may be why he comes forth from the tomb still bound by burial cloths, he will need them again. (Contrast the burial cloths left behind when Jesus rises again, he will never again need them). This reminds us that the purpose of this passage is not to break free from death. It is more important to note that Lazarus does not break free from death without Jesus. In fact, in John, no one breaks free from anything without Jesus. And as all signs in John, the story of Lazarus is “that you may believe.”
So then, it may not surprise us that after Lazarus was raised from the dead “many… believed in Him.” The flip side of all this is that the authorities are discussing the political implications of what Jesus is about. They think that killing Lazarus will stop others from believing. (Perhaps John desires that we break free from politics as usual).
The story of Lazarus is a call for us to break free from thinking that this life is all there is. Free from thinking that this life must be preserved at all costs. We would do well to break free from our denial about death and dying. Break free and acknowledge that there is a greater power than death. Break free – and Believe!
John is not playing around with verbs and somehow settles on “believe” by random selection. John is written “that you may believe.” He clearly states his purpose. His conclusion states that Jesus performed “many other signs… but these have been written that you may believe.”
During Lent, you may break free from an ailment. You may break free from worry. You may break free from debt. But, John wants you to know, it is much more important that you break free from your unbelief. John is not recording events in the hope to be a book about “remembering the good times we had with Jesus.” This is a book with definite purpose; he writes “that you may believe.”