Christ Lutheran Church
March 26, 2023
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Jesus said, "Take away the stone! But Martha the sister of the dead man said to him, "Lord! It is already four days since he was buried. There will be a stench."
Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone, and Jesus lifted his eyes up and said, "Father! I thank you that you hear me! I know that your always hear me! But I say this for the sake of the crowd gathered about, in order that they might believe that you sent me." These things said he called with a thundering cry, "Lazarus! Come out!" The dead man came out, his feet and hands bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him! And let him go!" And so many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had beheld what he had done, believed in him. (John 11:39-45)
Liturgically speaking the church is now deep into the Lenten season, the season of sorrow, self-denial and humble repentance. No Christian ever boasts before God, but during Lent we lower ourselves even more! We put our faces in the dust, cover ourselves with sack clothe and ashes, and cry out to God to unbind our hands and feet and to remove the death shroud from our faces, and bring us up out of our graves! To say to each of us: “Lazarus! Come out!”
When you were baptized that is exactly what happened to you! Jesus said to you by name, “Lazarus, come out.” Leave the precincts of death and exalt in never-ending life.
Nonetheless as Christians we are ever aware of the ongoing sins that pour forth from our flesh as St. Paul teaches us in today’s epistle! We confess our unworthiness to stand before him, and accept the fact that we are “poor miserable sinners,” who are worthy of “temporal and eternal punishment.” That means here and now, and for eternity as well.
But this is no a charade! Or religious exercise. And so where does a person find the courage to admit his sins to the Judge of all the Earth, knowing of his strict judgment against both sin and sinner? We get it from he who is, “The Resurrection and the Life,” Jesus our Savior and Lord who said to Martha and says to us all:
"Did I not say to you that if you believe
you will see the glory of God?
Yes, the church is deep into the season of Lent. Walking not only in the valley of the shadow of death, but in the valley of the valley of the shadow of death. Slithering through the slimy precincts of humanity’s evil; with all their ugly consequences. Recently a 14 year old boy was sentenced to life imprisonment because he sinned. He did not heed 2 of God’s laws. Thou shalt not covet, and thou shalt no kill. He stabbed 13 year old cheerleader 141 times. That is an ugly consequence of sin! But only one or many.
We said earlier that the church is liturgically deep into the season of Lent; and that means we are very close to the greatest event ever to take place on earth. We are nearing Calvary where the Son of God would be unjustly accused of all of our sins; painted with all of our wrongs, and suffer the full wrath of God’s Judgment against them, but in the process he raised us up from our graves and set us free.
Was it a tragedy? Yes. Because the just suffered for the unjust, the righteous for the unrighteous. He who knew no sin “became sin for us,” ( which is VERY strong language) so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
A tragedy because the pure Savior bore in his flesh, on the cross, not only the wrath due us for our sins, but also humanity’s perfect odium of God; and the devil’s age old animosity as well.
Now whenever Jesus performed a sign or miracle, whenever he forgave sins, he was pledging his own sacred life and peace to pay for it. When he restored Lazarus to life it was a case of: buy now, pay later. But when the bill came due it was a whopper; and it caused the Almighty Son of God to shudder. But only love would pay this bill.
We hear in v. 34 of today’s gospel: “Jesus was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” Then in v. 35: “Jesus wept.” And in Luke 22:44 we read, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
That was the price that Jesus paid to bring salvation to the world. To pay for all of our sins, and to raise up our dry bones and make us alive, truly alive.
And so as we now descend lower and lower, before the Great and Awesome Day of the Lord’s resurrection, Jesus comforts Mary and Martha and Lazarus, and he comforts us as well. For as we stated before we are all Lazarus. Mortal. Subject to the wages of sin, which is death. We are a valley of dry bones who, without the Spirit of God to give us life, will ever lie in a valley of dry bones.
Now we know what Jesus did for Lazarus. We know that he himself was raised by the glory of the Father. But St. Paul sends us on our way with joy this morning when he says the following:
“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” Romans 8:11
The take away? The Spirit of him who raised Christ Jesus from the dead, does dwell in us. He doesn’t just stop by once in a while, or come to us when perplexed. But the Holy Spirit of God resides in us and with us, in our flesh, in our bodies and our souls in out worship. We are shot through and through with God’s life-giving Spirit. And so God will give life to our mortal bodies, too! On that you can rely, O Lazarus! Lazarus! Come out!