I’m sitting here tonight, after midnight, and I am, as they say, dog tired. We spent the evening helping Kristin as she is recovering from her surgery earlier in the week, and then I started thinking about the funeral service for Roger Johnson. I have been asked to participate, and after speaking with the other member of the clergy who will be conducting the service, I was trying to think of an appropriate closing for the memorial on Saturday.
It is to be a celebration service, and as much as I like those, I also believe there is a time to preach the Word, and really try to impact people for the kingdom. So I decided that after telling a funny anecdote or two, representative of Roger’s passion for life, I would try to give hope to those who attend and I have it down to one or two Bible stories for the ending. You know me by now – I can’t wait to tell a good Bible story.
So I am considering the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. In case you don’t know it, the complete story is in John 11, but to summarize, the Scripture tells us that Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, was sick, and ultimately dies. Jesus and the disciples were away in another city, and by the time they returned to the home of Mary and Martha, sisters of Lazarus, he has been in a tomb for 4 days. At various times in the next several verses, it is obvious that the sisters are deeply grieved and wish that Jesus had been there sooner to prevent the death of Lazarus. And then we read the shortest verse in the entire Bible, John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” Several verses later, Jesus commands, in John 11:43, “Lazarus, come out.” And the dead man rose to life and came out of the tomb, where his grave clothes were taken off; and Lazarus resumed his life among the living.
So why did Jesus weep? Some theologians believe it is because Jesus loved Lazarus, which He did, and that He missed His friend. Others believe that Jesus wept because He saw the grief on the faces of Mary and Martha, women who He also cared for. And he had compassion on them. But I think it is something very different. In fact, if Jesus knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead, it doesn’t stand to reason that He would miss His friend – because Jesus was about to raise Lazarus. And if he saw the grief on the faces of Mary and Martha, why didn’t Jesus just tell them that Lazarus would come back from death? That would have enabled Mary and Martha to rejoice.
I just don’t think either of those arguments hold water. But I do believe there was a valid reason for Jesus to weep. And here it is. Jesus knew that He was about to bring Lazarus back to life – and that meant that since Lazarus was dead, he was already in heaven. By raising Lazarus, Jesus would have to return him to his earthly life from heaven. And who, once having experienced the throne room of God, and meeting God in person, would want to leave and come back to earth? So I believe that Jesus wept for Lazarus – because he was about to leave the very presence of God in heaven . And this impacted Jesus beyond words – to tears.
Furthermore, we know that by bringing Lazarus back to life, Lazarus would have to suffer physical death a second time, and I am sure that troubled Jesus as well. After seeing the suffering Roger went through, why would I ever want him to go through that a second time? So there you have it – my take on the Lazarus story. One additional little tidbit – I often wondered why Jesus called Lazarus by name when He raised him from the dead. And as I was going through seminary, I think I finally figured it out. The miracles of Jesus were so awesome that if he had not called Lazarus by name, all the dead people in the hillside would have come back to life!
With that said, my encouragement tonight is to affirm that Jesus is capable of performing any miracle – not just back then, but now – because He is the living God. And that means He wants to have a relationship with each of us, and to perform miracles in our lives as well. So be ready – live with the expectation of miraculous things happening in your life. And my prayer is that God will answer those prayers that are consistent with His divine will for your life. That doesn’t mean that all prayers will be answered the way you want, but Jesus is capable of answering any prayer He desires. And remember, that when you don’t know what to pray for, the Holy Spirit is already at work, praying for you, directly to God! Enjoy the day, Grace and Peace…..