Sermon preached at service of Compline, 7pm Sunday 14th March 2010 in St. Columba's, Knock.
Text: John 11: 17-44
Let us pray,
Heavenly father, help us to unpack what your word means for us as we consider what it means to know you as the resurrection and the life, here and now.
We pray this in Jesus name
The old adage – there are two things which we will not be able to avoid – tax & funerals.
Each one of us here this evening will have their own experiences of funeral services, of the run up to them, perhaps planning them and also helping friends and family get through a most difficult time.
There are two sides to the funeral – the very practical side, of making arrangements with the undertakers, of hospitality, of arranging transport for family to come home.
And then there is the grief itself, the realisation that a loved one has died.
Throughout the centuries what Jesus did here in this story and then ultimately at his own resurrection has eternal consequences and significance when it comes to our own day and how we mourn. Mary and Martha in this passage are the chief mourners, they are the ones who are busy doing all the necessary family things in the midst of coping with their own grief. It is into these circumstances which Jesus steps.
He is moved to tears at the Grave of Lazarus, he knows what it is like to loose a friend. This man was dead, he was well dead … four days he had been in this grave. With the heat and the humdity of the climate once the grave is sealed it is well sealed … King James version the body stinketh!
Jesus uses this incident to teach more about his power, and what he has come to do. Throughout Johns gospel, continually Jesus is showing who he is to his disciples, The I am sayings as they are commonly referred to portray something of what he is doing
I am the way, the truth and the life, Bread of heaven, water of life, the good shepherd...
Here we have another one, a common portion of scripture which we use in this church as we process up the aisle at each funeral service … “I am the resurrection and the life says the Lord, those who believe in me, even though they die yet shall they live and everyone who lives in me shall never die” after saying this Jesus goes on a bit further and says to the sisters do you believe that?
I think that must have been a very hard question, they had, no doubt like us been to lots of funerals, they had seen many people buried in tombs and while they may have seen jesus doing lots of things there is something about death, the great unknown which we do want to know about. OK jesus you are the resurrection and the life but there is no hope for our brother is there? He has been dead 4 days now so he aint coming back.
Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died … They knew that Jesus could heal … he was a healer but there is more to Jesus than simply healing. Jesus was moved to tears. In this moment … Jesus told martha that see would see the glory of God. Lazarus, come out and he did.
Jesus did it … he turned death into life, he turned mourning into celebration.
This is indeed an amazing scene … no one had ever seen this done before!
One of the things we always do try to do is ask week after week in our sermons here in St. Columba's is what does this text mean for me in my walk with God.
Well this text cuts to the core of human life and questions about death, mourning and our relationship with Jesus.
Firstly, mourning, grieving and tears is entirely natural and needs to be gone through after a death of a loved one – Jesus wept, he was gratefully disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
Then we remember that we are in a relationship with God, with Jesus, the one who has the power over death – it is that hope of the Christian, not in a airy fairy I hope that I will win the lottery type of hope but rather in a sure and certain hope of the resurrection.
Jesus throughout his ministry we remember that he raised
Jarius' Daughter, The son of the widow at Nain and here Lazarus from the dead and then ultimately he himself was raised from the dead.
As we are here this evening … are we able to rest in the assurance in those familiar words I am the resurrection and the life says the Lord, those who believe in me even though they die Yet shall they live
The thing about this is if we know this then we can get on with living, with priorities of life sorted then we can live lives prioritised with the important things
I love the hope that is in the Easter Hymn – Thine be the Glory … the second verse says it all
Lo! Jesus meets us, risen from the tomb;
Lovingly he greets us, scatters fear and gloom;
let the Church with gladness, hymns of triumph sing;
for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.
Yes, funerals are extremely sad times, yes we miss our loved ones when they die of course we do. But our Christian hope, our christian faith tells us that what happened at the graveside of lazarus is a foretaste of what will be. And ultimately we are Easter people, we do as we are doing during lent- journey to the cross and the grave but we know the story does not end there, we are people who can rest assured in our relationship with Christ and in his resurrection.
Let us pray.