Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lent 5

Prayer of the Day
Almighty God, our redeemer, in our weakness we have failed to be your messengers of forgiveness and hope in the world. Renew us by your Holy Spirit, that we may follow Your commands and proclaim Your reign of love.”

Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. The raising of Lazarus sets the stage for Jesus’ entering Jerusalem for His passion and marks the conclusion of His public ministry. The cross is right in front of us! The raising of Lazarus was the last straw that caused the religious authorities to act. They had to do something quickly to rid society of the menace of Jesus who, through the raising of Lazarus, earned tremendous popularity and notoriety.

There is nothing new about Jesus’ power to raise the dead, for He had already raised several people. In this story, we see the reaction of Mary, Martha, and the people; the humanity expressed in Jesus’ weeping; the power of Jesus’ word; and the teaching of his being the resurrection and the life to all who believe.

Why disturb the dead? Why not let them rest in peace? Lazarus was dead four days. Because of his friendship with Christ, was he not already in Paradise? Why then bring him back? If Lazarus is brought back, will he not only die again in a few years? What good did it to do bring him back to life on earth? The miracle caused Jesus only trouble. The occasion started the works that led to the cross. Jesus must have thought of all of this and yet He still raised Lazarus. Why?

Why Jesus raised Lazarus —
1. To glorify the Father — v. 4. Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” We convince ourselves when we are facing difficult days “All things work together for good to those who have been called according to His purposes.” (Romans 8:28) Why do we say these things? Do we say it because we believe them to be true? On the other hand, do we recite them because we need to believe it? Do we quote such passages to reminds us of God’s promises or do we need to be prompted into trusting God at lonely and challenging times? Like the anxious father, we need to confess, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) As soon as Jesus received the word that His friend Lazarus was sick He stays put. When He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days. (v.7)

This request, is very similar to His mother's at the wedding of Cana. They have no more wine! (2:4). It presents a need but does not dictate to the Lord how He should respond. In these requests, we have a model of intercession that makes a need known to the Lord with humility and a recognition that it is His will that should be done.

Such humility and submission are key characteristics of true disciples. He knows your needs. He knew them before you even gave it a thought. And the needs you will have tomorrow, He knows them even as we speak. Your situation is not a surprise to Him. He is neither shocked, astonished, or annoyed. Your situation, which is taking all of your time and attention - take it to the Lord in prayer. Your anxiety, which is troubling you – take it to the Lord in prayer. Your helplessness indicates how much you need Him. Take it to the Lord in Prayer.

Transition: Jesus raised Lazarus to glorify the Father. He raised Lazarus to comfort the bereaved.

2. To comfort the bereaved. — Vv. 32-36. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

This phrase, does not indicate a tear or two fell down Jesus’ face. Jesus literally broke down and sobbed. He was human just like you. He knew how it felt to have lost his best friend in death. You are never alone even in something as private and painful as your grief. He was a man of sorrows. He knows and understands your heartache. Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:1-6)

He knew how it felt to have loved and lost. Jesus knew what it meant to have his actions scrutinized and his words analyzed. Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. How do you react when God appears to be silent? When you cry to Him day and night and your prayers go unanswered - how do you feel? Has God given up on you? Does He still care? Remember He will never leave His own. He knows your needs burdens joys and sorrows as you carry them to the throne room of grace. Remain thankful as the Savior answers each petition in His own perfect time.

This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.

Transition: Jesus raised Lazarus to glorify the Father, to comfort us in our grief and to teach us the truth about eternal life.

3. To teach the truth about eternal life — vv. 23-27. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
We each must ponder this question…

A. Is Jesus the resurrection and the life? Testimony of Scripture is undeniable! – The early disciples would simply say, “We are witnesses of these things!” Acts 5:32; 10:39

B. Do you believe – that whoever believes in Jesus, even though they die will live and not die? Mary and Martha believed this – they knew that they were sinners. But they also knew that Christ is compassionate who has promised to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Jesus' love for Lazarus and his sisters teaches us that our faith in God's love, even in the midst of adversity, is well grounded. This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it. In every situation, in every circumstance the Lord your God will shape and mold and use everything to His glory and your good. He did this in the lives of Lazarus, Mary and Martha and He will continue to do in your life.

Schnorr von Carolsfeld woodcuts © WELS permission granted for personal and congregational use

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