Friday, September 9, 2011

“Lost in Death BUT Found by the Life” (John 11:25-26)

S-1245 5SIL/3A 04/10/11, (O) #LSB 563; (S) #199; L.S. #159; #376; #395; (C) #391

Text: Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:1-11; John 11:17-27, 38-53

Theme: “Lost in Death BUT Found by the Life” (John 11:25-26)

Question: “Have you buried someone you love?” 5th in Sermon series Lost and Found


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! The text for our 5th Sunday in Lent is from the Gospel lesson: “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘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?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world’” (John 9:5-7).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

In the name of Him who is Life, Jesus Christ beloved of the Lord, it was a little over 6 years ago, while sitting in my office on Saturday afternoon preparing for a wedding that the office phone rang. I picked it up and my father was on the line. Dad didn’t spend much time with salutations; he came straight to the point and said: “Nabil, your mother had a major stroke! It doesn’t look good son! Please come home soon!” I was in shock. I preached the wedding sermon and the Sunday’s sermon and took off to Israel.

I arrived in the old country early in the morning. Having cleared customs I called dad that I was in, and he said, “So sorry son. Your mom just died!!! If you come home soon, we can keep the body and you can view her. For a moment I couldn’t think. Tears began to roll down my cheeks. My knees buckled beneath my weight as I thought of my last conversation only a week before when she said to me, “Son, I want to come to America to see you and your family!” In haste I got my rental car. Drove the 90 miles lost in the memories of my mother and sadness that has come upon me. I don’t know how I got home for the pain was real and I was hurting badly.

Today, you and I travel to Bethany a (little village outside Jerusalem) where Jesus made many stops at the house of his friend Lazarus. Come closer and eavesdrop on the conversation between Jesus and two lost sisters—lost in a daze; lost in death over their brother Lazarus. This home was once filled with laughter and merriment whenever Jesus along with His disciples spent the time in their home. But today, is different from all the others. Today’s stop is one of sadness and sorrow. His friend Lazarus was dead already for 4 days. While Jesus was still outside the village Martha runs to meet Him and she tells Him of her pain, her sorrow and her loss. With tears she tells Jesus, Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.’

You know the feeling too, don’t you. You know the pain. You know sorrow. You know the sadness that fills your heart. You have felt the tears running down your cheeks as you stood over the grave of the one you love and heard the Minister of the Gospel say these words: “We now commit his/her body to the ground earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust…” It seems so final as the casket is lowered to the grave and you’re lost for words. Lost in pain! PAUSE.

As we continue to stand in Bethany, we see the pain on their faces. These two ladies are lost in death—Lost without a brother, lost without a protector, lost without a provider. Indeed they were destitute as they grieve over their loss. These women had lots to loose with the death of their brother. A woman without a man at the time of Jesus was a sorry lot unless there was a family male member to protect them and provide for their needs. Their loss is great.

No wonder when Martha heard that Jesus came she left the house, her sister and all the others who came to console her, and ran as fast as she could to the One who truly can console, comfort and calm the broken spirit and heart of man. She knew that her family friend, the Rabbi from Nazareth can change all situations and outcome.

When she met Him, she poured her heart out to Him crying the words of the text: Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.’ He who is Life comforts, consoles and calms Martha by telling her “I Am the Resurrection and the Life!” Please notice Jesus didn’t try to wipe away her tears with I hope there is a resurrection and life. Instead, He affirms comfortably to her that He is the hope of glory and the power of the Resurrection. That He who stands before her is the Resurrection and the Life.

Outside the city of Bethany we see the heart of Jesus, that He too, was hurting at the loss of His friend Lazarus. He too, understood the pain and sorrow that comes upon mankind because of sin. He knows what Satan has done by causing our first parents to disobey God and pay the punishment with their lives. He knows why He was sent by the Father to this world. With tears in His eyes He shouts the great command, “Lazarus come forth!” And Lazarus rises from the grave. And those standing by are amazed at the life that return to this cold and dead body. PAUSE.

Right there and then, they of old, and we today, behold Him who is Life and Light, the Man who would conquer death once for all time very shortly, foreshadowing His greater gift in this raising of Lazarus.

Like the women in Bethany, we face impossible situations. The doctor says with sadness in his voice: “It is inoperable. Your loved one has months, even weeks to live.” The police officer comes to tell us that our beloved dear one has been injured or has died in a car crash. Death is everywhere among us and we know that it has our number, too. It even had Lazarus’ number, for he is not walking among us in the flesh to this day. God may seem so far away, our tears are like those of Mary on Easter Sunday morning, so filling our eyes that we cannot see Jesus before us. But even as He was with Ezekiel, calling the dry bones in the valley to life, even as He was with Mary and Martha, with Lazarus, and the disciples; so, He, who does not change remains to speak Life to dead hearts. He gives death its death and life its meaning: that is... being eternal.

He, who stood at the side of the tomb of Lazarus, stood silently before others who wanted Him dead. He stood as they beat Him, mocked Him, tore His clothes off, crowned Him with thorns and spit on Him. He carried His cross all the way up to Calvary to die there. They took His hands and feet and nailed them to the cross. There He died for Lazarus, Mary, Martha, you and me.

No matter how many times I read or hear the story of Lazarus {His name means, “the one whom God helps.”} I am cut to the heart by the sheer joy that Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and the disciples must have known! Death has been swallowed up in victory! Jesus’ very words, words which we recite at every Christian funeral speak of this victory: 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?” These are words that should make you and me stand up and shout for joy! Death, the greatest of enemies has been conquered. Death has been swallowed up in victory.

These women were lost in death, but have been found by Him who is Life and Light the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the true Lazarus. He is the One who turns their losses into gains. He is the One who will provide for them. He is the One who will protect them. He is the One who is Life itself. We certainly can utter the words of the Apostle Paul in that great and glorious resurrection chapter: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-57).

Today, you too, see Him who is Life and Light. He, too, provides you with His body and blood to strengthen you. He is the One who provides His Word to guide and guard your heart. He is the One who protects you from harm’s way—the devil and death. He is the One who will walk with you along life’s journey to bring you to the other shore. He is the One who consoles and comforts you by His presence. He is the One who has found you when you were lost and brought you to Him who is Life Eternal.

Know this certainty beloved in Lord. Jesus’ filled cross and empty tomb shouts the answer. He is Resurrection and Life because He paid for all sins and pulled all of death’s teeth. Because He rose from the grave to show it can’t hold us either. Because, as Paul affirms it; “[He] has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10).

What joy, what comfort, and what a blessing to be in the presence of Him who is Life and Light and who guarantees our resurrection—even Jesus Christ. Amen and Amen.

Now the peace of God…

Soli Deo Gloria

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