John Chapter 10 is the one in which Jesus teaches: I am the Good Shepherd. The entirety of Luke 15 are the three parables of the lost being found: a sheep, a coin, a son. Matthew also has the lost sheep parable. There is a theme of the lost being found. Going back in time, the Lord found Adam and Eve hiding in the garden. He found Abram in Ur. He found Moses in Goshen. In John 9, last week we heard the narrative of the man born blind receiving his sight. Today’s Gospel, John 11, Jesus finds Lazarus dead. Each Gospel Reading in these Sundays in Lent are about the lost being found by Jesus: Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman at the well, the Man born blind, and today, a Lazarus. He finds a proud man, a heretic and probably adulterer, a blind man and a dead man. As there are three levels of sin and so death.
- When one sins in thought and is taken in lust for something or someone, pleasing to the eye to grasp, it is death in thought but it is a thought, in your heart, internal. It is like the dead girl in her room and Jesus raised her up. By God’s grace for what else but God’s grace can stop temptations hour, I realize, this is wrong, Lord have mercy and one is quickened in Christ’s death and resurrection. When you pray to your room and pray.
- When the son of the widow of Nain was carried out of the city, this can remind us of sin that goes from thought to action, into life itself. A brother in Christ says, what are you doing?! He sounds the alarm of the Law, this is not the way you were taught Christ and the Lord raises me up in repentance: Forgive me Lord, for I have sinned.
- And Lazarus can remind of us, being 4 days in the tomb, when the deadly deed of sin becomes a deadly habit. Now the sin, as the death, stinks. It stinks to high heaven. In these dark days, we call any deadly habit these days an “addiction”, and all of our cures are only partial. How many times must a man go into rehab? We can’t shake the habit and Jesus comes to the tomb. The Lord of life, in the flesh, our flesh, and His nostrils fill with the stench of death to raise Lazarus to breath His life-giving breath, the Holy Spirit into us.
In fact all the above stinks to high heaven. Death is death and sin is death and it stinks. Jesus comes to the tomb, the walking dead and gives life. “We’ve come today to celebrate the life of Lazarus.” Jesus didn’t come to the tomb to do that. We have heard these past Sundays in Lent Jesus extended conversations with all sorts of folks:
- Nicodemus at night was a proud man who cross all his t’s and dotted all his i’s in keeping the Law which he could never keep perfectly. Jesus did not come to celebrate Nicodemus’ life and his good work s which cannot save but to give him new birth and you as well. Things Jesus never said, Go in peace, your works have saved you. In blood He has said in effect: My work has saved you.
- The Samaritan woman was a heretic and an adulterer. He didn’t come to celebrate her life, her 5 marriages and her Samaritan townsmen but to save them from themselves and you as well. And they rejoiced that they heard for themselves and they confessed Jesus is the Savior of the worl.
- The blind man could who could not see Jesus and Jesus saw him and opened his eyes to his Savior and yours. He didn’t come to celebrate blindness but open the eyes of faith and yours as well.
- And today He came to a dead man and his grieving sisters at the tomb to give life trampling down death by death and upon those in the tombs bestowing life.
What do all these folks have in common? Sin and death…and the Lord, the Word made flesh. They and we also have this in common, that them and us the Lord said, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Christ came not to adjust us to sin and death but to conquer it and to make us wondrously maladjusted to the world, the flesh and the devil. This so-called maladjustment is walking in the Spirit.
The resurrection of the body is part of the third article of the Creed. Israel was dead in it’s exile. The Lord, preached Ezekiel, does not desire the death of the sinner but sinner turn and repent. Israel was valley of dry bones. Ezekiel could not put life and flesh into those bones, the Lord can and has and will. The flesh by itself is dead. The body is dead. You, however , are not in the flesh,but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. All plural yous. He dwells in us through the words of eternal life, God’s Word to you, for you and first against you and sin and death. The Law shows us our sin and death, but it is powerless to give life. . As Peter said to Jesus You have the words of eternal life. It is through the Word the Holy Spirit works and works everyday. If you know you have done wrong, rejoice that the Holy Spirit is working and wants to complete the work in true confession, Lord, have mercy on me a sinner. We belong to each other in His Church (Romans 7: 4). He dwells within His Church which confesses its sin, confesses the Savior and confesses the praise of God. As Peter said to Jesus: You have the words of eternal life. He spoke those words of eternal to Nicodemus, the Samaritan women and her fellow townsmen, to the man born blind and the Pharisees though they stopped up their ears by their presumptuousness, and to the Lazarus and his sisters. Luther preached: I want you to flee for refuge to Christ the Savior, who does not want the death of a sinner, just as He does not want a sinner either.”
In the raising of Lazarus, Jesus did three things:
- First, he raised the dead, by the power of his life-giving word. “Lazarus, come out.” He says to the folks, Unbind him and let him go. Unbind him of the grave clothes of sin and death. One day He will say to us in the last day, Laura, come out, Michael, come out. He has begun this already when we were baptized and our sin drowned in the waters of rebirth and is ours the same today. He will do it again in the resurrection to eternal life.
- Second, he aroused faith in those who witnessed this sign–in Martha, in the disciples, and in the others. In John’s Gospel Jesus did 7 signs and this is the 7th sign: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” Not only yesterday, but also tomorrow and ever today. As Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
- And the third thing Jesus did was to rouse the opposition, knowing he would so stir up the hatred against him that they would seek to kill him. In the ironic words of the high priest’s unintentional prophecy, “It is better for you that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation should perish.” And with that prophecy comes the Lord to all and each by name upon the Cross. The Cross became the sign bar none of God entering into our death, physical and spiritual and routing hell itself so today we can pray Thy Kingdom come.
He raised the dead, He arouses faith and He aroused opposition. So now take those three things Jesus did and apply them to what He is doing here today:
- First, Jesus is assuring you of the resurrection of the dead, for you and for your loved ones who have died in the Lord.
- Second, he is calling you to faith, to faith in him who is the resurrection and the life.
- And third, by facing such hostile opposition, Jesus is showing you the full extent of his love, that he would willingly go to the cross for your sake. Dear friends in the Lord, all that Jesus does, here in the raising of Lazarus, he does for you!