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  • Nov21Wed

    Zombie Lazarus?

    A sermon on John 11 for All Saints Sunday B November 21, 2018

    Sermon on John 11 



    Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


    There’s lots of grief in our Gospel text this morning, from John.

    Lots of tears, 

    much anger, and frustration.


    The story is normally titled the Resurrection of Lazarus,

    but really it should be called the Resuscitation of Lazarus,

    because that is what happens to Lazarus: 

    he is physically resuscitated by Jesus.




    Our Gospel reading today is only the last part of the story of Lazarus, 

    it focusses on the grief around his death,

    and then the astounding miracle.


    Jesus is told that Lazarus is dead,

    and a deep anger welled up in him,
    Jesus was greatly disturbed in spirit,

    and grief took over.

    And Jesus began to weep for his Friend Lazarus, 

    brother of Mary and Martha.

    (See how he loved him, the bystanders exclaimed)


    Could not Jesus have kept this man from dying?

    (The short answer is : no.)


    Jesus, greatly disturbed, commanded the bystanders: 

    “take away the stone…

    didn’t I tell you that if you believe you would see the glory of God?”

    And so they took away the stone covering the tomb, the cave.

    Jesus prayed: “Father I I know you hear me, 

    but I said this (and did this) that they might believe that you sent me…

    Lazarus come out!”

    And Lazarus came out.

    “Unbind him and let him go!” 


    And although there is much detail in the story,

    many questions remain.

    It is a puzzling, difficult, rich story,

    one that is hard to believe as 21st century Western, 

    enlightened Christians,

    esp. if we take it literally.



    If we take the story literally, perhaps at first glance we imagine

    something like a scary horror zombie movie

    in the spirit of Halloween,

    all Hallow-s eve, the Evening before All Saints,

    spooky stuff that happens in graveyards, 

    Lazarus as (Boris Karloff) in the Classic Horror movie “The Mummy”

    with hands and feet bound up in strips of linen, walking stiffly, 

    scaring the bystanders.

    When you start to get to deep into the literal details, 

    the story unwinds a bit.


    I think it’s important to remember that it is a resuscitation
    we’re talking about.

    Lazarus is brought back to life, but he would die eventually.

    Death is not forever defeated for Lazarus.

    it’s a temporary recovery from death,

    he would die a mortal death like any of us.

    It really is completely different (even if we take the story literally)

    than the resurrection of Jesus!!


    The resuscitation of Lazarus is a symbol 

    of the resurrection at the end of time,

    the story points to the resurrection of Jesus,

    it shows us in a jarring, stunning, puzzling way 

    that death is no match for the power of God.

    that the words of Jesus are more powerful than death itself!


    The sign of Lazarus’ resuscitation points to the resurrection

    to Easter,

    but it also points to the reality of death.




    Death is harsh

    -as we still try to process the news of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue last week.

    Many of us in the last months have had some friend or relative die,

    we have some people with us today whose loved ones we particularly remember.

    Perhaps we have repeated those words of Martha:

    “God, if you only loved us, you would not have let him die!”

    “God, why did she have to pass away?”

    esp. if the loved one who died, passed away too soon or too young.


    The story reminds us that

    Jesus was angry, (with Passion and pain), physically sickened 

    and disturbed at hearing that Lazarus had died.

    Jesus experienced grief just like we do.

    In our reading today we have the shortest verse in the bible: 

    two words:

    Jesus wept.


    Why did Jesus mourn and cry?


    Probably for the same reason we

    we cry at funerals?

    We miss the deceased

    we miss the potential for more memories, for more life lived together

    We cry because of the brokenness in any loss,

    and because we contemplate our own death…


    And frankly some deaths affect us more than others.

    based on how emotionally attached we were to them.



    Jesus wept.

    it’s remarkable to remind ourselves:

    We have a God who is so human (so incarnate)

    that death separates him from Lazarus

    that he feels the loss, the separation.


    And Lazarus, dead 4 days,

    is called to come out of his tomb.

    Jesus speaks words of grace, of invitation

    grace upon grace, abundant grace, amazing grace

    in the midst of unmitigated death.

    Jesus, the good shepherd, calls out,

    and a sheep of his flock, Lazarus, responds. (he knows Jesus’ voice)


    Lazarus believed and listened to Jesus.

    And a miracle happened.



    What happens when you believe in Jesus and listen to Jesus?!…..

    Amazing things, that’s for sure.

    Well, this is what the Gospels say:

    There’s a lame man. Jesus tells him to take up his mat and walk. 

    And he does. And he walks.

    There’s a blind man. Jesus tells him to wash his eyes in the pool of Siloam. 

    And he does. And he sees.

    There’s Lazarus. Dead. Jesus tells him to come out of his tomb.

    And he does. He walks out.


    Mary the mother of Jesus, had told people “Do what Jesus tells you!”

    When you listen to Jesus and do what he tells you, 

    you will have abundant life!

    You will have more than you ever imagined.

    When you listen to Jesus, and believe in him

    you will hear your name being called when you’re deader than dead.



    Jesus says: “I am the resurrection and the life, 

    those who believe in me, though they die, will live.”

    Listen to Jesus’ words,

    they are words of eternal life.


    listen, and live.


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