Dying for a New Life

            The candles are lit.  We remember those who have passed before us; some old and some young.  Causes of death varied like their ages.  Today we remember their lives as we continue in our own journeys, acknowledging that it is a matter of time before we too are remembered as Saints.

            I want you to imagine the following event.  Close your eyes if it helps you imagine…but please stay focused as to not start snoring. 

            He walked along the roadside with them.  They were talking amongst one another as he thought about the approaching experience with a heavy heart.   How will they react to his delayed arrival?  Will they blame him?  In their anger and grief, will they hurl insults at him as if He didn’t care?

            He felt so alone.  The others in his group were walking and talking about the previous miracles and the reactions of the crowd.  They were giving no thought to what lay ahead.  Yet he cared so deeply for them and wished they could grasp the bigger picture.

            As the group came near, Mary ran up to him.  He could see the pain in her face, the grief in her movements.  She fell at his feet and stopped him in his tracks.  Heaving with sobs she looked up into his eyes and submitted, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

            The rest of the group suddenly went quiet as they realized what was going on.  They stared at him and Mary, struck by the deep sense of loss, humbled in the moment, and didn’t utter a sound as they wondered what he would do.

            He couldn’t stop the despair from affecting him.  Lazarus had been a close friend and his death left a void in his heart too.  He closed his eyes and kneeled over Mary as his own tears and sobs began to flood out from heart-felt emotion.  Deep sobbing between he and Mary, two friends sharing the loss of a loved one.

            Everyone around looked with compassion.  Yes even this man that they proclaimed as the Son of God was grieving the loss of Lazarus.  Wow!  How much he loved him.  But if this Jesus could give sight to the blind, couldn’t he have prevented Lazarus from dying?  Is he REALLY the Son of God?

            After a few minutes, Jesus asked her, ‘Where is he buried?’ Mary stood up, composed herself, and led him to the cave entrance that was blocked by a large rock.  Jesus looked around at the people.  They grieved and yet watched in curiosity.  He knew that they wondered what he would do.  But they had no idea what impossible things were possible through him.

            He turned toward the group of men and motioned to them.  “Remove the stone.”  The crowd gasped and Martha protectively tried to stop him.  “Jesus, he has been dead in there for 4 days.  Don’t go in there now, the cave will stink.”  But Jesus looked at her with compassion, “Let me show you the glory of God.”

            The men began moving the heavy stone.  They grunted and pushed as an opening appeared.  Quickly, the smell of death spread over the crowd.  Jesus looked up toward heaven and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  Then Jesus looked into the cave and yelled out, “Lazarus, come out!”

            The men and women looked at each other like he was a madman.  What was he doing?  Has he lost his mind?  Then suddenly they heard noises.  It couldn’t be!  How is this possible?  LAZARUS walked out of the cave!?

            “Remove his burial clothes.  Let him go.”  The crowd was in shock, disbelief, and amazement.  Lazarus was alive.  There was no rational explanation.  Jesus had resurrected the dead.  The impossible, possible.

            You can open your eyes now.  Poor Mary and Martha.  They were going to have to experience Lazarus’s death a second time in the future.  But in the moment, Jesus had done the unthinkable.  What was hopeless, dead, and stinking…was not too much for Jesus.

            We are all going to die one day.  It’s part of our human experience.  But through our belief in who Jesus says he is, he promises to bring us back to life forever.  And not only life after our physical deaths, but his promise provides us new life in the here and now, since we have nothing to fear in death and hope beyond hope for what comes after it.

            Today we live in the hope of Jesus’ promise that those who have gone before us live in the glorious presence of God; and one day we will join them in perfect unity.  What an awesome promise we have.  Amen.