Sunday, March 29, 2020
Grace and peace to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Let us welcome God’s word into our lives on this Sunday morning. The lectionary texts for this Sunday center around new life and the power of God to provide us sustenance for the days to come.
Our text for Sunday, March 29th , is from John chapter 11. I encourage you to find that in your Bible so you can follow along with my commentary/message.
Let’s take a look at today’s lesson:
Setting the stage for today’s text: Today’s miracle is the 7th and final sign in a series that began in chapter 2 of John when Jesus changed water to wine. This first miracle shows his power over nature. The next five signs in John’s gospel: three healings, walking across the lake to meet the disciples and feeding the 5000 with 5 loaves and two fish, reveal Jesus as a powerful Lord and worthy of our worship.
The last miracle and the most extraordinary, the raising of Lazarus, clearly demonstrates Jesus is one with God, for who else but God can restore life AND the transforming power of an encounter with the Son of God.
John, chapter 11, is referred to as “The Raising of Lazarus” is a bit of a misnomer for if you peruse the chapter, you will see Lazarus is the one character in the story who has no lines and is barely seen. The focal point is Jesus and not Lazarus.
Vs. 5 tells us “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,” yet when he learned that Lazarus was ill, he remained where he was for two days before journeying to them. Jesus did hasten to be by his friend’s bedside. Why?
The hint comes in vs. 4, when Jesus says the illness will not lead to death. Jesus knew this was not to be another healing like the others, this miracle would point to something greater.
The healing of the blind man had been in Jerusalem. Chapter 10:40, tells us Jesus left that area and went across the Jordan. The end of chapter 8 says the people threw stones at him. Thus, the disciples are understandably nervous about going back in that direction (vs.8).
As we have seen, throughout John, reference is made to blindness/darkness as unbelief and seeing/light as belief (vs. 9-10).
When Jesus says Lazarus has fallen asleep, the disciples try to discourage Jesus from going, by saying “He’ll be okay.”
As often the case, the disciples do not understand so Jesus is quite direct with them: He is dead. Jesus knows the path before him and how each sign/miracle has lead him and them to God’s ultimate victory. Each miracle has been done to bring people to believe He is the Son of God.
Vs. 16 is often overlooked. Here the disciple, who has become known as “Doubting Thomas” because of the resurrection appearance story in John 20:24, is the most willing disciple to say he will accompany Jesus.
Vs. 17 through 32, describe Jesus’ arrival in Bethany. Martha comes running out while Mary remains in the house. Both sisters say the same thing: “Lord, if you had been here . . .” If you had been here we wouldn’t be in this situation, it’s all your fault. Clearly there is a confident affirmation of Jesus as the Messiah but there is still a degree of blindness. In vs. 25, Jesus speaks his most direct, self-identifying statement yet: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” The body may die, but those who believe in Him will never die. (You may want to refer to the words Paul writes in Romans 6:4-5.)
Jesus sees everyone weeping and is moved to do what he came to do. Meanwhile, the crowd that had gathered to provide support and comfort, show their skepticism saying, “If he could heal a blind man, he could have healed his friend!”
The people were clueless about what was to happen. Their fear and disbelief held them back. Meanwhile, Jesus prays to God out loud, knowing his Father always hears him, but does so for the sake of others.
Lazarus comes from the grave/tomb and vs.45 tells us many believed. This final sign before Jesus enters Jerusalem in chapter 12, is the ultimate revelation that Jesus had been given all authority, including authority over death itself. Only the one who was One with God could have such authority.
If you are someone who sometimes likes to peek at the last chapter in a book because you can’t wait to see how it ends, John has done that for you here. Even before the resurrection, John has written about signs that lead a clear path to Jesus overcoming the insurmountable obstacle in life. Death would not be the final answer for all who trust and believe – John 3:16.
We are endeavoring to update the email list. If you know of someone who is not receiving email updates, please forward this message to them. Please continue to check email, the church website or call the church office where you can get information on the answering machine regarding plans for the coming weeks.
In compliance with the current stay at home order, I will be working from home this week but will continue to be in touch via Zoom, emails or calls. I continue to urge those of you who, due to age or compromised health, stay home and do what you need to do to remain healthy and safe.
I hope you can find time to share these words as a family and that you may strengthen your faith and trust that God will ultimately see us through these difficult times. On Ash Wednesday, I had shared with you a Lenten Disciplines that included: Fast from worry; feast in faith. Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that sustains.
In conclusion, please join me in praying :
God, in you and through your Son, we live, move and have our being. Keep our hearts and minds centered upon you.
Forgive us when we are skeptical and doubt you as Mary and Martha’s neighbors did.
Help us to be patient with one another in this time of waiting. Help us to look for signs of your hand at work. Help us to realize our greatest needs are fulfilled in the love of family and friends, through our faith and the health and wellness to enjoy a new day.
Remind us once more of your care for the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and that you know our needs and will provide for us just as you do for them.
And fervently, we give thanks for ALL the people who are on the front line caring for others, putting themselves and even their families at risk to care for the health, safety and welfare of others.
Daily, grant us the peace which passes all understanding, guard our hearts and minds from all fears, and watch over us, for it is in the Name of Your Son, our Lord, we pray. Amen.
May the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent from one another, Pastor Cathy