John tells seven stories in his Gospel that are intended to show that Jesus is God. The last one, raising Lazarus from the dead, was the story for Sunday morning. I read the whole thing, as most of my brief chapel sermon.
The event is a striking story. The way the story is told is also impressive.
It’s the longest of the seven stories. It has the most conversation with Jesus by more individuals than the other stories. All the important groups are here. The disciples are here. His friends (who had become like his family) Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. The religious leaders. And the crowds.
The story is told with drama, as the death happens early and the miracle part of the story doesn’t happen until the end. So, as Jesus moves from person to person, we see what each thinks about what he’s capable of, what he’s likely to do, what they think he should have done. And each of these pictures is left a bit unresolved. There is no “happily ever after.” In fact, and this may be ruining the story, the non-speaking character Lazarus, isn’t going to stay alive after he’s raised.
And each of these pictures is left a bit unresolved. There is no “happily ever after.” In fact, and this may be ruining the story, the non-speaking character Lazarus, isn’t going to stay alive after he’s raised. So somehow, this story is about more than just physical life.
The main part of the story takes place in Bethany, which is just a couple miles outside of Jerusalem. It starts, however, as far as 50 miles away, two days walk. That’s where Jesus gets the news.
Because the last time he was in Jerusalem, the religious leaders had tried to arrest him, had attempted to stone him. They couldn’t because it wasn’t his time. But he’s been spending time away from Jerusalem, where he can teach without interruption.
If you read the text, John 11, you can find out what happened to bring Jesus back near Jerusalem. But before you go, here’s my short sermon on the text:
Truly big tragedies happen in our lives.
We can argue.
We can doubt.
We can trust as far as we are able.
We can be devastated.
Jesus is aware of how things are,
He is sensitive to how we are,
And he will act to bring God glory,
Even if we don’t understand the story.