Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent based on John 11:1-45
Dear people who will rise from the dead: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Both Martha and Mary said these same words to Jesus. They both suggested that Jesus had failed to do what He was supposed to do. Jesus didn’t come quick enough to heal Lazarus, so Lazarus died.
Did you notice what Jesus did when He heard that Lazarus was sick? Luke writes, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.” Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, so He stayed longer where He was. Jesus loved them, so He did not go. Jesus loved them, so He allowed Lazarus to die. He even told His disciples that He is glad the He wasn’t there, for their sake.
When Jesus did go days later, we see that Jesus loved them. Lazarus’s sisters were weeping along with other mourners. When Jesus saw them weeping, He was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled. Jesus wept.
Jesus’ love and compassion are what moved Him to weep with those who were mourning. Death had taken His friend, and He stood among the friends and family who were heartbroken and mourning. Jesus feels compassion and mourns with those who mourn. Do not think that He is cold and heartless and does not share in the pain of His people. In fact, the Son of God came to earth to take our sorrow and pain on Himself and take it away from us forever.
While visiting a cemetery yesterday, I came across the graves of some of your loved ones; a grave of a dear member I buried; several little graves of those taken so young. I assure you, with each one of those deaths, Jesus shared in the pain of His people. Jesus shared and shares your pain. Jesus feels compassion and mourns when you mourn. Jesus weeps when you weep, because He feels your sorrow. Your loved ones who have passed away are the reason Jesus came to earth. You are the reason Jesus came to earth. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead so that you would know His glory and believe in Him.
As Jesus said, Lazarus’s illness did not lead to death. It led to the glory of God, and the Son of God being glorified through it. Jesus, through the power of His Word, raised Lazarus from the dead.
The same Word which said, “Let there be light” and it was so, is the same powerful Word which raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is thus glorified, as we see that He is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead and so many believed in Him. But Lazarus died again. Jesus raised Lazarus back to this life, so he was bound to die again. Raising Lazarus from the dead may have comforted Mary and Martha and those who mourned with them, but for Lazarus, it meant that he had to go through death again.
On the other hand, when Jesus raises Lazarus on the Last Day, he will never die again. When Jesus raises you on the last day, you will never die again.
The comfort that we have from Jesus raising Lazarus back to this life is that it shows us that death must obey Jesus. Death cannot keep its prey. Jesus tells death to give up Lazarus, and Lazarus comes back to life. So, we know that on the Day of Resurrection, when Jesus commands us to rise from the dead, we too will rise.
Jesus’ ultimate victory over death was, of course, His own death and resurrection. Death did its worst, but death could not hold Jesus. Jesus died with the sins of the whole world on Him. Death thus had a valid claim on Him. Scripture says, “The soul who sins shall die.” (Ezek. 18:20) With all the sins of the whole world on Jesus, death had billions upon billions of claims on Him. Jesus died, thus He paid all those claims and death has no claim on you. Jesus paid the price of your sins, and He thus redeemed you from death and the grave and He rose from the dead, proving Himself victorious over death.
This is why Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Him will never die.
We can therefore believe in Him who is the resurrection and the life. We can, along with Martha confess, “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God.” She confessed this in her mourning, before she knew what Jesus was going to do at that time. She confessed it because she knew that Jesus would raise Lazarus on the Last Day.
We also can confess this during our mourning, because we know that Jesus will raise us on the Last Day. The same powerful Word which raised Lazarus from the dead is the same powerful Word that claimed you as belonging to God in your Baptism. The same powerful Word which raised Lazarus from the dead is the same powerful Word that says, “This is my body… this is my blood… for the forgiveness of sins.” The same powerful Word which raised Lazarus from the dead is the same powerful Word that will raise you from the dead.
To keep you in Himself until the Last Day, He continues to keep you in your baptismal grace. He continues to absolve you of your sins. He continues to give you His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of your faith. He continues to keep you in the faith, that faith which confesses, “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is my resurrection and my life.” Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.