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Alfreda Sender Memorial

June 15, 2011

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Wednesday after Pentecost      

15 June 2011

Immanuel Lutheran Church, Louisville, NE


John 11:21-45

Memorial Service:  Alfreda Sender


The Lord Jesus stands at His friend’s grave.  With Mary and Martha.  Both of the sisters are upset.  And you would be too!  After all, they put out the pastoral 911 emergency call and Jesus didn’t come.  In fact, He stayed away on purpose.  Then He has the gall to show up after the funeral and burial are over.


“Lord, if you would have been here [like we asked] our brother would not have died.  When we need you the most you weren’t here!  Lazarus died four days ago!  His body is already decaying!  And now you dare to show up?” 


Would you put up with such a Jesus?  Mary and Martha are struggling with that kind of Jesus.  Who in the very midst of death seems so nonchalant.  So apathetic.  So detached.  So uncaring.  And that’s when Jesus explodes with one of the most audacious statements of all times.  “I AM the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” 


“I AM.”  That’s the Old Testament sacred saving name of God revealed to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3.  Jesus is the incarnation of the great “I AM”!  We know who we’re dealing with here, don’t we?  God Himself in the flesh of the Nazarene.


With such words Jesus shifts all of Martha’s attention to Himself.   And you too today.  For when it comes to salvation – when it comes to certain and sure rescue from sin, death, and damnation – He’s the only game in town.  He is the Lord.  God Himself.  The Savior.  “I AM the resurrection and the life!”  That’s quite a sermon right there.  But He’s not finished.


He unpacks what it means for Mary, Martha, you, me and Freda.  “The person who believes in me,” Jesus promises, “even though he drops graveyard dead, will live!  And whoever now lives and believes in me will never die eternally.”  Death is just a temporary nuisance as far as Jesus is concerned.  Falling asleep.  Like when He woke up Jairus’ daughter the way you wake up your children in the morning.  “Talitha coum.  Get up little girl.”  That’s all death is to Jesus:  a sleep from which He will wake you.


And then comes a question.  You can never be asked a bigger question.  And it comes from the Lord Himself who is the resurrection and the life right now.  “Do you believe this?  Do you believe what I’ve just promised you?”    


The faith question.  It is the eternal life or death question.  Everything is at stake here. 


Does Martha believe that Jesus is the Christ and Son of God for her?  That He is the resurrection and the life for her brother who lies in the grave?  Do you trust – do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and life for you?  For Freda?  Can you trust Jesus even in your death?  Freda did.  In the sure and certain promise that Jesus is the resurrection and the life for her. 


Jesus then uses Lazarus as an object lesson.  To show that He truly is who He says He is.  He goes to His friend’s grave and barks out orders:  “Remove the stone!  Lazarus, come out!”  And the words of Jesus do what they say.  Lazarus walks out.  Still wrapped in his burial clothes.  And many “believed in Jesus” the text says.


John wrote his gospel so that we would believe in Jesus.  And that by believing in Jesus we have life in His name. 


After all, Jesus suffered and died.  As the only sacrifice that atones for sin.  All sin.  Yours, mine, Freda’s, the world’s.  “It is finished,” He declared at Calvary.  The salvation job done.  Accomplished.  For you.


And then He rises victoriously from the grave on the third day!  That’s huge!  For as St. Paul says, if Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, then you are still in your sins and your faith in Him is all in vain.  But He did.  And so all your sin is forgiven.  Death is defeated.  And eternal life is yours. 


Freda believed in Jesus’ promise:  “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever who believes in me even though he drops dead, will live!  And whoever lives and believes in me will never die eternally.”   


And so we tucked her body into her grave like we were tucking her in to her bed.  Jesus is the resurrection and the life!  And so Freda is where she’s always been:  IN AND WITH CHRIST who died and rose for her!  And on the last day Jesus will show up at her grave and bark out orders again:  “Freda, come out!”  And His words will do what they say.  Resurrection of the body and life everlasting!  The final benefits of His dying and rising for her.  And for you who believe in Him!


In the Name of Jesus.        


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