TEXT: John 11: 1-45
Created: March 17, 2002
John 11:1-45 1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”4 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.”5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”9 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.10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
28 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.”29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.31 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.32 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.”33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”35 Jesus began to weep.36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.39 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.”40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.42 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.”43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”44 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.”
Prayer for Enlightenment
Move 1: Jesus’ Resurrection Unique
This story, this scene, is familiar to all of us. We think that it is a story about resurrection. It is often used as a funeral text and it is told just before Easter. We have been taught that it points to our own resurrection in Jesus. This story does tell us clearly that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. All who believe in him shall never die, but this is not a resurrection story. Jesus’ resurrection is unique in the Bible. It is unrepeated anywhere before, or after the gospel accounts. Even the story just read from Ezekiel is not a resurrection story.
The story of Lazarus is a story of revival and renewal and it is a good lesson for individual Christians, Congregations and denominations that are feeling bound and buried in their mission.
Move 2: Dead to New Possibilities
Our prayer of confession this morning was right on target when it said: “. . . we confess that sometimes we are more dead than alive to the possibilities you place before us.” God is constantly placing opportunities for ministry before us, new possibilities to reach out to others in the community and around the world. But for one reason or another we fail to see them. It is as if we were dead, or at least blind, and so we continue doing the same old things in the same old way.
Move 3: We Feel Bound
Sometimes we simply feel helpless, bound up, not knowing what to do. Again, our prayer of confession summarizes for us: “ . . . In the midst of pain, unfairness, and destructive forces on all sides we see little hope. We find it hard to discern a role for ourselves in working for a better world; we seem powerless to change, even that little part of the planet where we live.”
In fairness, it is hard to see through all the needs that surround us and know exactly what our mission should be. It is true that we can stretch ourselves too thinly and that is just as fatal as not doing anything. So what are we to do?
Move 4: We Need to Pray
We need to pray for ourselves, our church, and our denomination the way Jesus prayed for Lazarus. First we need to thank God that he hears all of our prayers, and then we need to pray to be rescued, placed back up on our feet, and unbound. We need to pray for renewal and revitalization.
Those of us who have been meeting on Wednesday evenings for prayer and communion have been praying in a focused way. We have been praying for the members of our church. We have been praying for a clearer vision of our mission in this community and the ministries of our church. We have been praying for healing of past mistakes and hurts, as well as our present life and our future together. You can join us.
We have one more Wednesday evening prayer and communion service, this Wednesday at 6:00pm. Come join us in prayer for renewal and revitalization. We are also sharing in a 24 hour prayer vigil from 6:00pm on March 27 to 6:00pm on March 28; 24 hours of prayer for our members, mission, ministry, past, present, and future just before our Maundy Thursday service on March 28.
Move 5: Gospel
Standing at the entrance of the tomb Jesus offered up a prayer of thanksgiving to God for hearing his prayer, and then he commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb. The people watched on in fear as the wrapped and shrouded body of Lazarus slowly emerged from the tome. When Lazarus was standing again, Jesus said, “Unbind him and let him go.” Jesus, the resurrection and the life, had restored his faithful disciple to new life.
There are times when we all feel lifeless, buried, and bound. Jesus, is the resurrection and the life, and all we need to stand upright again is to call on him. He will pray for us to God who always hears, and we will be renewed, restored, unbound. Praise God!