Reading: John 11:1-45
Welcome, Friends! This is the Fifth Sunday in Lent. As you may know, in our area, Gwinnett County, Georgia, things are closed down right now. Unfortunately, this includes our church, so we can’t meet – but I want to be online with you today and to tell you about God’s word that’s reflected in our Scripture readings for today, and also to wish you all the best.
Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty. People are afraid of what’s going on. Justifiably so, because we’re anxious when we don’t know what’s going to happen next. Oftentimes, when we’re struggling and when we suffer this way, with fear and anxiety, or suffering of other kinds, we ask ourselves, why does God allow such things to happen? Why doesn’t God just create a perfect world for us to live in? Where bad things don’t happen? We often hear people say things like that. When I hear that, I’m reminded of the Creation narrative about the Garden of Eden in Genesis. God tells us there through His word that we’re not in the Garden of Eden anymore and there is no perfect paradise for us to live in. We live in a world in which we have the will to choose things for ourselves, what we’re going to do next, and how we’re going to live. Everybody has that, and some people choose well, some people less so. We also live in a world in which natural processes like diseases, for example, work themselves out. It’s not the Garden of Eden. God’s already told us that’s not where we are. There’s no point in asking why doesn’t God put us there. We can read the story in Genesis and reflect on its meaning for us.
Also, God’s already told us that in many cases it’s simply not for us to know why something bad has happened. In this context, I’m reminded of the story in Job. Terrible things had happened to Job and his family. After he becomes frustrated enough, he asks God, why do you allow these things to happen? Why do these terrible things happen? I’m a good person. I’ve done what I’m supposed to do. Why do you allow this? God in essence tells him, it’s really just not for you to know. There are times when we have to trust in God and allow our Faith to guide us, because there are some things that we simply cannot understand.
With that background in mind, I want to talk about the account of the raising of Lazarus by Jesus, in John, chapter 11. That’s today’s Gospel, for the Fifth Sunday in Lent. The story is a familiar one. Jesus is away with His disciples and they get word that Lazarus is very ill. He knows Lazarus, and He knows Martha and her sister Mary. Mary was the woman who anointed Him with oil and wanted to touch His robes. She was a woman of great faith. Not His mother, a different Mary. He knew them and He cared about them very much. They were all in the town together, Bethany. He says, we’re going to wait a while. We’re going to wait a couple of days, and then we’re going to go. His disciples tell Him, look, people are out to get you. Are you really sure you want travel right now? He says, well, yes, but we’re going to wait a couple of days. So they do that, and when they get there, Lazarus has died. There are a couple of really important parts to this story. One is, the familiar part, we know that Lazarus is risen from the dead. He’s already in tomb when Jesus gets there, and Jesus says, Lazarus was just sleeping and he’s now come back, and they find him alive. That’s an incredible story of the power of God. There are a couple of things in it that I want to relate to you today. Important things that Jesus says and does. One of them is something that Jesus says. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He tells this to Mary and her sister to describe who He is. He says, “who ever so believes in me, shall not die but live. Even if we die,” He says, even if we physically die, “we shall live.” Death is not forever for the faithful. That’s what He tells them.
Jesus knows that we suffer. Jesus knows that everybody is sad at what happened to Lazarus. In another part of this passage is the shortest sentence that you find in the Bible, and yet in some ways it’s one of the most powerful. It says, “Jesus wept.” That’s all it says, “Jesus wept.” This is Jesus’ reaction when He comes and finds that Lazarus has died. He sees everyone sad about Lazarus’ death. He shares their sorrow. He knows what’s going to happen. He is Jesus. He knows that Lazarus is going to come back from the dead. But He shares their suffering. He shares their sorrow and He weeps. He cries with them. God knows when we suffer. God knows when we’re anxious. God knows when we’re fearful. He knows when were sad, and He shares that with us. Remember, He became a man in the form of Jesus Christ and died on the cross for our sins. He suffered a terribly painful death for us. He shares our suffering. He weeps for us. We see this in the story of Lazarus.
So in the midst of all this uncertainty, in times of anxiety and fear, have Faith. Let your Faith guide you, let it comfort you, and be wise. God did give us a will. He did give us reason. He enables us to do our best to take care of ourselves, and I want all of you to do that.
Be healthy. Stay safe. Stay home. Practice good hygiene with your hand washing and so forth. Practice your social distancing. Do all those things that we’re being advised to do. Be wise. Have Faith. Know that God is watching over us. God loves us. And as Jesus tells us, He is the resurrection and the life.