Jesus breathes life into us
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: John 11:1-44
I think it’s fitting that as we enter the Lenten season we focus on Jesus’ raising of his friend Lazarus back to life. As we begin with God’s authority over death, we will also end the Lenten season with God’s authority over death in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We’ve been looking at the power of God these past few weeks, as he has shown throughout scripture that he is the one who holds authority over the natural laws of both the heavens and earth.
From Old Testament examples in 1 and 2 Kings, to New Testament examples of calming a stormy sea and walking on water, to the raising of the dead back to life, we now come to the death and raising of Lazarus.
This scripture is found only in the gospel of John, specifically in chapter 11:1-44.
Jesus was friends with sister Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus and was regularly welcomed into their home. It was both a place of rest for Jesus and his disciples, as well as a place where Jesus could teach the coming of the kingdom of God.
It was where Martha learned the most important thing was to be near Jesus and his teachings, as she complained about Mary sitting at his feet rather than helping her prepare food (Luke 10:38-42). It was the place where Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with the expensive fragrance of spikenard (John 12:3).
When their brother was sick and close to death, it should be no surprise to us that they would call to Jesus for help. We find in John 11:3 that “the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick’.”
His response, upon hearing this news, was “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” And then he remained in the same area where he had been preaching around the Jordan for two more days before continuing on to Bethany, the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
There are a number of differing responses to why Jesus did not go to see his friend Lazarus immediately. His words to his disciples would lead us to believe he did not expect Lazarus to die. Yet, when they finally arrived in Bethany, they found Lazarus had died and had already been laid in the tomb for four days! Indeed, Lazarus was already dead when Jesus received the message that he was sick.
Jesus knew he did not have to hurry to see Lazarus. He knew his friend had already died. He also knew that bringing glory to God by raising Lazarus from the dead was the importance of his coming to Bethany. It would also be the final catalyst leading to his own death on the cross.
Let’s think about this for a minute. How many times have we gone to God asking for help and find that we must wait? We hear the phrases “God’s timing is not our timing” and “God sees the big picture that we do not see.” That is all fine and good, but what about our dire needs when we need Jesus now?
This must have been the thoughts of Martha and Mary at the death of their brother. As Jesus came to Bethany, both Martha (John 11:21) and Mary (John 11:32) spoke these words to Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.”
Although both sisters believed in Jesus as the Messiah, and, therefore, his power and authority to heal, and even return their brother to life, their grief and crying over the loss of their brother continued.
Let’s remember the raising of Jairus’ daughter, who had just died and was raised by Jesus; and the widow Nain’s son, whose body was being carried to burial, whom Jesus raised to life. In both instances, the bodies of the dead had not yet been laid in their tombs. While Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, his body had been prepared for burial and had been wrapped in his death coverings. In normal circumstances, his body would begin to decompose.
Mary and Martha said to their friend, Jesus, “if you had been here.”
The truth is that Jesus is always with us. In those times when we feel he is not with us, or has left us, it is in those times that we need to be patient in trusting that God knows what is best for us. God will bring to pass those things we most need just at the right time. It is in the time of our most dire need that we need to most believe.
It is in John 11:25-26, that we learn the basis of our faith, as Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Continuing with verses 41-44, Jesus goes to the tomb of Lazarus and calls for him to come out, and Lazarus walks out of his burial place wrapped in his grave clothes. Jesus says, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Jesus reminded the sisters that the raising of Lazarus would bring glory to God. Their brother, back to mortal life, was so much more than a healing. It was the manifestation of the power of God of life over death, and Jesus performed this miracle before the sisters and all those who had come to mourn the death of Lazarus. And he did it just before he would enter Jerusalem for what we know as Holy Week.
The truth are in the words of Jesus: “I am the resurrection and the life.” The truth is that Jesus breathes life into all our circumstances.
As we cry for help, as we think all is lost, Jesus is with us. Jesus sees us through the good and the bad in our lives. He is with us to bring good out of bad, to bring happiness out of sadness and to do all for the glory of God.