Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, 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.”
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
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.” Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
John 11 (NIV)
We've all been there. Standing with friends and family as we say goodbye to our loved ones. No one likes funerals - it's painful. The sense of loss crushes you and breaks you. Now as difficult and painful as it is I want us to go to the funeral of a man called Lazarus. This funeral however, is unlike any other, because the dead man is raised to life! But the problem is all the sadness could have been avoided.
Jesus had promised that 'this sickness will not end in death', but it did end in death! By the time Jesus got there, Lazarus 'had been in the tomb for days.' Jesus had healed many people before and cured many illnesses, so why did he not heal Lazarus? Was Jesus telling lies? It seems Jesus had a greater purpose that was more loving than an immediate healing. Through the resurrection of Lazarus we see two things:
First, Jesus gives eternal life to come. Jesus, seeking to comfort a grieving Martha says: 'Your brother will rise again.' It sounds almost condescending. It's the kind of insensitive thing we would say at a funeral because we don't know how else to respond to people’s loss - Don’t worry – he’s in heaven now! But these aren't empty words, Jesus is inviting trust in Himself: 'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.' Jesus is not only claiming to raise the dead; He is not only saying he has power to give eternal life; He is saying that without me there is no resurrection and there is no life. If we take Jesus out of this funeral all we are left with is an eternal emptiness.
Second, Jesus gives new life today. Jesus' words are not just about eternal life to come, but new life today: 'The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.' The reality of this is seen in the resurrection of Lazarus: 'Jesus called out in a loud voice, Lazarus come out!' Death and Life obeyed Jesus and 'the dead man came out.' Of course Lazarus will have to die again, as we all will one day, but for now he has been given a new life. It's like he has been born again. He has been given a new beginning and a fresh start. That's what Jesus gives to all who trust his words - a new life with all our sins forgiven and a new way to live. Everyday with Jesus is a new day.
No-one is too dead to be made alive and no-one is too sinful to be given new life in Jesus. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it to the full. All other offers of life will leave us empty and unfulfilled.
Thank you Lord Jesus that you have power over life and death, and that you give life today and for all eternity. Help me to see the emptiness in all other offers of life and help me to experience the new life you give.