Sunday, June 9, 2013

“The Greatest Funeral Ever!” (John 11:17-37)

This sermon was preached on the radio of our Synod and the web:

S-1366-2SAP/C 6/5/2013 Hymns: (O) #239; (S) #40; L.S. #246; #243; (C) #244

Texts: 1 Kings 8:22-24, 27, 41-43; Galatians 1:1-12; Luke 7:1-109

Theme: “The Greatest Funeral Ever!” (John 11:17-37)


Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia! The text for our meditation is from the Gospel of St. John the eleventh chapter: 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?” (John 11:17-37).


Precious children of the heavenly Father, the greatest funeral sermon I have ever heard in my 57 years of life has left a great impression upon my heart and head. This funeral sermon was not preached by me at my congregation or by a famous preacher ordained at the greatest seminaries during our time; rather it flowed from the lips of the Greatest Rabbi and Preacher who has ever walked the dusty roads of earth—Jesus Christ as He visited the little town of Bethany.

It is in the little village just near Jerusalem that this sermon was preached to bring comfort and consolation to those who lost a dear loved one. These words were spoken to the hopeless and helpless—two sisters Mary and Martha at the death of their brother Lazarus.

To these children of the heavenly Father, this Rabbi preaches words of hope and help and at the same time shows them heaven. Into the midst of sorrow He shares the joy of who He is and what He will do. He is the Resurrection and the Life. This Nazarene, Rabbi Jesus, doesn’t only speak these words to sooth their souls, but does something about it. He goes to the burial site and with a word states: “Lazarus come forth!” And Lazarus burst forth from the grave.

You can feel the pain and hurt that has been tugging at the heartstrings of these sisters. These sisters know that without their brother by their side to support and help them, life would be challenging to say the least. Lazarus, whose name means “God is my helper,” now needs help from someone stronger than they. And Jesus comes to the rescue and in the process fulfills the name of Lazarus by doing the impossible that only God can do—He raises him from the dead by the power of the Word. Jesus, with a word changes the life and history of these two needy sisters and Lazarus forever. By seeing their brother alive again, they have joy and peace once more in their hearts, because of what Jesus had done.

No wonder, these words “I Am the Resurrection and the Life” are etched on many tombstones around the world. Even the graves of my parents, in Israel, have these words engraved on them. These words have power. These words offer peace. And these words remind us of the presence of Christ in the midst of our sorrows, sadness and suffering. No wonder, many pastors, including me, use this portion of Scripture as a funeral text to bring comfort and joy to those who mourn. No wonder these verses are memorized by many people everywhere. PAUSE.

But this text is not spoken only to those who are near a freshly dug grave, or by a casket, but to us also who are dead in sins and trespasses; as we stand at the grave of gossip, the tomb of Temper and the sepulcher of selfishness; as we live to serve me, myself and I. To us, you and me, Jesus speaks these words to remind us again that in Baptism He has put to death our old life of sin and death and raised us from the hold and power of the grave. And one day He who is the Resurrection and the Life will raise our lowly bodies to be like His glorious bodies.

Today, the Holy Spirit uses these words of Jesus, “I Am the resurrection and the life” to let you know of His great love for you. That is, He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He has taken your sins away and overcame your chief enemies, the devil, death and the grave. And…and, the victory is yours now and forever.

Therefore we join Mary and Martha in thanking the Lord for giving us the certainty of our resurrection. Amen.

Now the peace of God…


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