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Jesus Lets Lazarus Die. He’ll Let You Die Too. But You Can Trust Him!

March 28, 2020

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Fifth Sunday in Lent                                       Trinity Lutheran Church

29 March 2020                                                Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


John 11:1-45


The Lord’s good friend Lazarus is very sick.  Death bed sick.  Jesus knows it.  Usually when the 911 pastoral emergency call is made the pastor sprints to the bedside.  You’d think Jesus would do the same.  Especially for a best friend.  After all, Jesus changed water into wine.  Healed the blind, the lame and many other sick people.  He fed 5,000 in the wilderness.  He healed the official’s son from a distance with just a word.  “Jesus!  Aren’t you going to Lazarus’ house?  Why aren’t you doing anything?”


Jesus sits tight for two days.  By then Lazarus is dead.  Can you trust a Jesus who acts like this?  Can you trust a Jesus with a stone, cold dead as a doornail Lazarus?  Or better yet, can you trust this Jesus with your death?  Hmm?


Well, you’d better.  Because if you don’t your end will be absolutely damned-ly and eternally hellacious.  So, in order for you to believe in Jesus for life and salvation, to trust Him with absolutely everything, including your death, He uses Lazarus as another object lesson just as He did last week with the man born blind.  “It is for the glory of God,” Jesus declares, “so that the Son of God may be glorified through it,” namely His friend’s death.


Did you hear that?  I’d better repeat what Jesus said.  “It is for the glory of God so that the Son of God [JESUS] may be glorified through it.”  I beg you.  Remember these words of the Lord.  Especially when it appears that Jesus is molasses slow or not even listening when you put out the 911 pastoral emergency call for His help.  Remember these words of Jesus when it seems like He doesn’t even care about COVID 19, the flu, cancer, or whatever suffering you’re going through!  Seriously, learn from this text today.  Jesus let His best friend die! But Jesus knew what He was doing.  He let Lazarus die and get buried so that He could go wake him from his sleep.  This is how Jesus treats His friends!  Listen to what He said to His disciples and what He says to you today after He’s read Lazarus’ obituary:  “For your sake I am glad that I was not there, SO THAT YOU MAY BELIEVE.”  Believe in Jesus!  No matter what.  Even when you see Him change water into the best of wine, even when you see Him heal a blind man, but then let Lazarus die.


Do you see the point?  It’s always Jesus’ point.  The FAITH POINT!  “The righteous shall live by faith!” (Rom. 1:17)  Mary, Martha, Lazarus, you and me must learn this.  It is what it means to be a Christian.


Well, it’s been four days.  You don’t get any more dead than that in the Jewish way of thinking.  After all, the Jews had this notion that the soul hung only around the body for three days and then it left for good.  So Lazarus’ corpse is already decaying.  Martha says:  “Lord, by this time there will be an odor.”  I like the KJV better.  I grew up with that.  “He stinketh!”


Now, back to this living by faith.  Faith, in order to be true faith, must be given something.  From the Lord!  Namely, a promise.  The Lord’s promises and faith always go together.  Can’t have one without the other.  It’s the essence of how God works with you.  So here too.  Watch how this works.  “Martha, you poor dear,” Jesus declares: “I know you’re extremely sad.  I know you’re hurting.  Listen to me, your brother Lazarus will rise again.”


Of course when Jesus makes that promise He means right now.  On that very day!  Martha, however, thinks He’s preaching about the Last Day.  “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  That tells us something about Martha.  You remember that on another occasion when Jesus came to visit she was too busy preparing for the noon meal to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn like her sister Mary.  That must have been an anomaly.  After all, here Martha knows the Scriptures.  She has learned her Bible very well.  However, the question is not what Mary KNOWS but what she BELIEVES!  Get it?


So, since I’m a keyboardist, I’ll put it this way — Jesus then plays the faith chord for Martha with this magnificent promise:  “I AM the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in Me, lives even though he dies.”  In other words he/she lives in spite of his/her death.  “And whoever lives and believes in Me never dies forever.”  In other words, he/she may die for a while but not forever!  “Do you BELIEVE this?” Jesus asks Martha.


See!  Faith and divine promise.  Divine promise and faith.  “Martha, my dear, do you believe what I’ve just promised you?”


How about you?  This is the question Jesus puts before you as well today.  Do you believe this promise as you face your own inevitable death?  Do you believe this promise of Jesus when the doctor tells you that you have stage 4 lung cancer and only have six months to live?  When hundreds of thousands all over the world are dying from the flu, COVID 19, bubonic plague?  When the world is filled to brim and overflowing with death and despair?


Well do you?  Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?  That by believing in Him you have life now and forever in the face of death and the grave?  You can know a ton of biblical stories and Bible trivia.  You can know that there will be a resurrection of the body on the Last Day.  But this is not the point.  The point is the FAITH POINT!  Faith in Jesus who is the antidote to death!  Who Good Friday-ly died and then Easter Sunday-ly rose to conquer death!  Yes, Jesus is who He says He is!  He is the resurrection and the life!  FOR MARTHA, MARY, LAZARUS AND YOU!


Martha’s answer is your answer.  The FAITH answer!  “Yes, Lord!  I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”   This is the confession of all who believe in Jesus.


So off to the grave.  The tomb of Lazarus.  Jesus can’t stay away now.  “Roll the stone away!”  Then Jesus yells into the open cave.  “Lazarus!  Come out!”  His words do what they say.  They give what they say.  Lazarus – the dead corpose – comes out – ALIVE!  Wrapped in his burial pajamas.  “Unwrap him!  Let him go,” Jesus orders.


After this, we hear nothing about Lazarus again.  I suppose it would have been cool to hear what Lazarus said and how his life was never the same again.  However, we do know what the religious big whigs thought about all this.  They plotted to murder Lazarus and Jesus.  Why?  Because many put their faith in Jesus after this sign.  You might want to remember this too.  When Jesus raises people from the dead, the world wants to kill you.


Well, bear with me.  A few more clincher points and I’ll call this sermon good.  Like these two sisters we’ve buried loved ones and friends even after tons of prayers, floods of tears, dozens of pastoral visits by Kuhlman, thousands if not tens of thousands in medical expenses and oodles of doctors, specialists and nurses.  They still died.  And perhaps you have been left wondering why.


“I am the resurrection and the life.”  You have heard me preach this text and promise of Jesus many times at funerals here at Trinity.  It is on the cover of our funeral bulletins.  I include Jesus’ promise when we pray for the families whose loved ones have died in the Prayer of the Church.  We believe that they will rise on Judgment Day.  There is comfort in that.  But Jesus’ words are more than just the future.  When Jesus promises, “I AM the resurrection and the life” it also includes the present.  He is the resurrection and the life NOW!  To believe in Jesus, to be baptized into His death and resurrection is to have resurrection and life NOW!  WHY?  So that live in spite of your death – living and believing in Jesus you never die forever.


Resurrection and the life are not some pious wish thinking.  They are here and now.  Delivered in the preaching of the gospel, the speaking of the absolution and in the Lord’s Supper.  Forgiveness, life and salvation in the here and now!


I don’t know when I will die.  I don’t know when you will die.  I don’t know how you or I will die.  But we all know we will all be a Lazarus one day.  Dead and buried.  Jesus won’t stop it.  He will say like He said in the text:  “Let him/her sleep.  I’ll go wake him/her up.”  You know, that is exactly how Jesus treats everyone in the NT who has died that He comes across.  Remember the little girl that died?  “She is only sleeping,” Jesus said.  This is precisely how Jesus considers your greatest enemy, death.  It is just a sleep from which He will wake you just as surely as He has risen from the dead!


Let me put it to you this way.  Nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus your Lord.  He has conquered death and the grave for you in His death and resurrection and He has baptized you into those same salvational events.  So, bottom line, you don’t need a miracle or miraculous healing of whatever ails you.  I’m here to tell you that in Jesus you already have healing, life and salvation because He is the resurrection and the life.  Not just in the future.  But even now.


Happy believing in Jesus and His resurrection and the life promise.


In the Name of Jesus.

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