Pastor John Kerr
Theme: “When Is the Resurrection?”
Text: John 11:1-45 Date: Sunday, March 29, 2020
Lazarus was dead. I don’t have to tell you what earthquake changes occurred in that family. There was paper work. Lazarus always did that. We don’t know one bill from the next. There are legal papers and all the other work he did. We’ll miss something. Here come the lawyers and bill collectors. Why did he die and leave us with all of this? Why didn’t he tell us he was going to die and we’d have prepared for this?
And, of course, there’s all the company. Sometimes you want to scream and say, “Leave! Get out! We need some time alone!” But then there are times when you want to say, “Don’t ever leave. We need a cushion against reality.”
And there are the children. What do you do with the children? If they stay in the house, they’re underfoot and don’t understand. They try to walk slowly and talk in low voices, but they don’t know.
Shall we change the house now? Should we clean out his closet now, change the furniture, get rid of his favorite chair and just get on with life? Or shall we leave everything like it is and hang on to the coattail of his memory? It’s tough to have a death in the family.
And all of that food! Mary and I will never be able to eat all of this. Would it be ungrateful if we sent some home with the neighbors and friends? It’s tough.
The toughest part for Mary and Martha, however, was the absence of Jesus. They sent a note to Jesus—“The one you love is sick,” and they heard nothing. They went ahead and had the funeral. Lazarus had been in the grave four days. Martha was at the sink trying to clean up and remember who brought what dish, so that they could be returned.
Somebody rushes up to her and says, “Jesus is here!” She dries her handS on her apron, rushes out into the yard and yells, “Where in the world have you been? We sent you a note. Didn’t you get it? If you had been here our brother would be alive now.” It kind of makes me flinch to have someone yell at Jesus. But it’s all right. It’s all right to shake a fist at heaven. It’s okay to yell at God.
Moses did. “Yah, God, you brought us out of Egypt. Big deal! You got us out here in the desert. Now where are you? We’re drinking water and eating this stuff called manna. We’ve had it!”
Jonah yelled at God. Preached his sermon. “Nineveh is coming down!” But Nineveh didn’t come down, because God changed his mind and spared the city. So, Jonah went out on a hillside and said, “God, just what I thought! You gave me a good sermon to preach and then you chickened out! Your always full of love and mercy even for these Assyrians, and you spared them. I’ve had it with this ministry!”
Grief has at its center a huge knot of anger at the deceased, at God, at life. Why did you leave us here? You can yell. You can even yell Martha’s yell—“If you had been here, he wouldn’t have died!”
After she gets through yelling, Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” She said, “Oh, I know he will in the resurrection on the last day. We know he will.” She believes that. A lot of people believe that—the resurrection on the last day. But she also knows that if that’s all the faith you have, that’s a pretty thin blanket to pull up on a cold night of grief—at the resurrection on the last day.
I don’t want to be impatient with Martha, because she doesn’t know what’s happening. We, the reader of the gospel, understand what Mary and Martha don’t understand, because the narrator John give us clues as to what’s going on. Normally, when Jesus heard about Lazarus’ death, he would have gone running instead of delaying. Something else is happening. Jesus tells his disciples that what’s about to happen is not about Lazarus’ death, but about the life of the world and it will glorify the Son. What will happen will bring about
the death of Jesus. The raising of Lazarus in John’s gospel results in the death of Jesus. Such running about, such disobedience of laws resulted in the authorities saying, “This Jesus must die.” The raising of Lazarus meant the death of Jesus.
The point of this story is not about giving life to a friend or brother, it’s about giving life to the world. It’s about Jesus. But Martha doesn’t know that. So, when she says to Jesus, “I know our brother will rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.” She doesn’t know what that means; and many persons in our churches don’t either. This passage is often read at funerals as though we still have Martha’s faith. One day in the great resurrection our brother, father, mother, sister, friend will live again.
What did Jesus say? “I AM the resurrection.” This is a radical change, because what Jesus did was he moved the day of the resurrection from sometime in the future to TODAY. Today is the resurrection. I am the resurrection and life. Peace, joy, love, freedom from fear, pain and all that doesn’t begin in the funeral home. It begins with Jesus Christ. Eternal life begins for you and me here and not in the hereafter. Why do so many people who believe in Jesus, push all the great promises of the Scriptures out into the future—one of these days, in the great bye and bye, beyond the sunset? Do I believe in a resurrection at the last day? Yes. But if that’s all I believe, we just have to make do and get along on this earth of tears and one of these days—resurrection. Jesus said, “Oh, your brother will rise.” Martha said, “I know, at the resurrection.” Jesus said, “Martha, I am the resurrection.”
John says that whoever believes Jesus Christ revealsGod’s love and care, God’s forgiveness and grace;whoever believes that, has passed from judgment to life, from death to life, has entered eternal life. Why don’t we believe that eternal life begins with Jesus and not at the cemetery or memorial gardens? There are good, sincere people who go through life without claiming this promise. Why postpone eternal life?
A lot of people don’t claim this promise and drift through life. They save money to buy a little house. Save more money and get a bigger house. Save more money to take trips, vacations, cruises, eat out a lot and watch movies on big screen TVs. They can do that week in and week out their entire life, and people come to their funeral and say, “In the great hereafter they are enjoying peace and happiness and rest.” But Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and life.” Joy and peace are released in you when you trust that you reveal God. What is God like? God is forgiving, loving, caring, and generous. Why would anyone go through life only accumulating stuff? Because they haven’t claimed this promise, and they’re clutching at something that means life to them. That’s living by the principle that the one who dies with the most toys wins.
She said, “Yes, we believe in the resurrection at the last day in the great hereafter.” He said, “No, no, that’s not it. It’s today, today, now. Resurrection and life begins with me now” Eternal life doesn’t begin at the funeral, it begins in Jesus Christ. The critical question is do you or do you not embrace Jesus as the source of life and good for you today?
If it’s a dreary day, we trust God. If it’s a spring day full of light and color, the world is beautiful and everything is in blossom, we trust in God. If it’s the chill and dead of winter, we trust in God. If you have all the people you love, family and friends, circling about you laughing and happy, you trust in God. If you see that circle being broken—one goes, another goes—you still trust in God.
We aren’t living in Alice and Wonderland. There will be things happen to us we don’t understand and we don’t like, and we’ll say, “If you had been here, Lord, this wouldn’t have happened.” And Jesus turns to Martha, and looks at you and me and he says, “You will live again.” And we say, “Oh, we know that will be in the resurrection at the last day.” And Jesus says, “Look, heaven, yes, but all of this now and heaven too. I am the resurrection and life. If you believe in me and live in me, eternal life is yours here and now with its joy, its peace, its life, its freedom and even on a dark day its joy. Do you believe that?