Mar 24, 2020
Focus reading: John 11:1-45
An oldy but a goody, a narrative sermon. I will play the part of Lazarus, the friend Jesus raises from the dead in the story of John 11. Along the way I will reflect on who Jesus is and what life itself means. I try to reflect the kind of ideas and culture that surrounded Lazarus but in the end Lazarus reflects my faith and thinking about Jesus. In the end it is of course me imagining the sort of thing that a man like Lazarus thought and did.
John has chosen to include this story of Lazarus to help us understand more clearly who he believes Jesus is. His hope was also that we would come to believe. The question of who Jesus is, is the central question in Christian faith. Lazarus in the story Andrew will tell concludes by saying that there’s more to Jesus and there’s more to God than we can ever imagine.
Questions for thought or discussion.
What do you think of Lazarus’ image of death? The Sadducees didn’t believe in life after death. How could they have made sense of this life without a life beyond? If you are a person of faith has your experience of faith been like that of Lazarus in Andrew’s message? Does life sometimes get so hard or busy that you take Jesus or God’s love for granted?
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Lazarus Monologue - Narrative Sermon
I was asleep. Well actually I was dead. I heard later that Jesus had said I had "fallen asleep" - that's not really a bad description. It was like being asleep.
You see I had been very sick, and then I died. It was a relief that the pain and fever was gone, but I was afraid. I was afraid of dying. I was afraid that as death approached the pain and sickness would be worse. I did not want to be cared for - I wanted to care for my self, but I couldn't. But I was afraid of more than the pain and indignity. I was afraid of death itself. I was afraid of slipping into endless darkness.
Now I am Jewish as you know. Some of the priests and scribes - they believe there is no life after death. These people are called the Sadducees. I understand that in your time there is are terrible joke about this. How did the Sadducees get their name? Well they don't believe in life after death so they are sad, you, see. I hope your rabbi doesn't tell jokes like that.
Anyway- where was I - Oh yes- I do believe in life after death - you see I follow the pharisees and Jesus - they believe in the resurrection. They believe that on the day God comes to earth to set all things right - that all the faithful will be raised from the dead.
You see we already believed that death was not the end - BUT I was still scared. Are you scared of death? It's OK if you are - even if only because we lose our family and friends - at least for a little while when we die. (I won't tell you what happened when I was dead - you'll find out about that one day for yourself.)
You know I have wonderful sisters. I was so proud of them when I heard what Martha said to Jesus when he arrived. When Jesus said to her - your brother will rise again. She said what any good faithful Jewish person would say. She said that she knew I would rise again on the last day. She's a real fuss pot - Martha - but she has a strong faith.
You know both of them knew that Jesus was powerful. They both said they knew he could have stopped me from dying. But Martha was amazing. She knew that Jesus could do more. She even said to Jesus that she knew he could do something even now - if they asked for it.
You see all three of us knew that Jesus was something special. We thought he might be like one of the great prophets - another Elijah or Elisha. A real hero and a miracle worker. We'd heard his teaching. You should have heard him. It didn't matter if he was talking to the crowds, chatting over a meal, when he spoke about God it was amazing. It was like his words were alive - they lived inside us and burned in our hearts. And you should have heard him, run rings around those Pharisees and Sadducees. He turned all their tricks against them. He was a great teacher like Moses - maybe even better than Moses.
You see there were some of us who thought he might be the Messiah. The Messiah was the special one chosen by God. Just like David we Jews believed that God would specially choose someone to be a new King. Some of us believed that the Messiah would be a great Military leader. That he'd drive those stinking Romans out of our holy land, and make Israel a great military power. We also believed that it was just going to be a Spiritual thing. We'd be changed inside, somehow - more faithful to God. That was what we saw in Jesus - The Spiritual thing, all of us, maybe even the whole world, maybe even the Romans could be changed from the inside. That was how God was going to win the victory.
And you know what - this is where Martha did us really proud. Because before I was raised from the dead - not after... It was before I was raised from the dead that Martha said "I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world". Imagine that - a woman - being the one of the first people to publically say that Jesus was the Messiah. I tell you, it puts all us fellas to shame.
But as amazing as all of that was, I don't think we really understood who Jesus was. Even Martha didn't really understand - O yes Jesus on the last day Lazarus will rise to life. You see in the end I think we thought that Jesus was just a man. A great man, a prophet, one especially chosen by God- the Messiah. Even when Martha said he was the Son of God - I'm not sure she really understood. Perhaps she saw the truth, but maybe she was just saying that he was a Son of God like David. There are places in the Scripture where Israel is called God's son. And anyway when Jesus told her to take the stone away she just says -" but he'll smell!!"
But then it happened. Jesus raised me from the dead. For four days I'd been rotting there in the cave. But Jesus just prays, calls and out I come. Why did he do it??? Well I'm not a hundred percent sure but I reckon Jesus' main reason was to show us that we had him wrong, that he was even greater than we can imagine. Jesus and I knew each other well you know, I'm sure he was upset by my death. Part of the reason is that for a while at least we would be separated from each other. He was alive on earth and I was dead. Death does that, it cuts us off for a while from those we love - and that's hard. But I think he was also upset because he felt for my sisters in their grief and pain. I think he might have been looking ahead to his own suffering and death too. But it was more than all the grief and pain that made him raise me from the dead - it was to show who he really was.
That's what he said to the disciples - it was "so you would believe" he said. And that's pretty much what he said in the prayer - this was to happen so that we would believe in him. You see for me, Jesus is so much more than a great Man. He's life itself. New life. He's God come to live among us - "full of grace and truth".
You know - even after what happened to me. I sometimes forget, or I get so busy that I take Jesus for granted. Then I stop, and remember what happened to me. And I remember what happened to Jesus- on the cross but also on the third day.
I bet you do the same. Things get busy, life gets hectic, something goes wrong and God gets forgotten or pushed into some corner. When that happens, stop and think of my story, and then if you're like me you'll see that there's more to Jesus than we could ever imagine.
See you in heaven.....