Lazarus, Come out

April 2, 2017


I talk a lot about life up here in this pulpit. This morning is not going to be any different, except, that, I hope I can do it in a slightly different way, so as to give us, you AND me a different look at life.

Do you remember how I have shared with you that the miracles in the gospel of John are called ‘signs’ because their truest purpose is to point to God’s power and what God wants to do in our lives spiritually?

Do you remember how I shared that Jesus, opening the eyes of the man born blind was a sign pointing to how he wanted to open all of our eyes spiritually to him? Well, in today’s gospel Jesus’ sign is the greatest miracle he ever performed bar one, that one we’ll celebrate on Easter. Today’s miracle though, today’s sign comes close, when Jesus calls his friend from death to life with the words, “Lazarus, come out!”

Raising his friend from the dead, was a sign of power that could not be missed by anyone! In this act of divine, Godly power Jesus broadcast his intent for the world.

What was his intent, you ask?

Simply and wonderfully, to give us all life, new life!

Jesus gave Lazarus new life, so that we might get it through our thick heads that he wants to give us new life too. I mean really, isn’t that what Jesus was doing all along in different ways, to different people?

Jesus was all about new ways of looking at what our lives are, and what they can be.

Last week he made the blind man’s life new, by not only giving him sight, but the knowledge that he was worthwhile because Jesus loved him enough to reach out and give him sight. Everyone else did not see him as a person at all, but simply an object, a beggar to throw their alms at when they passed. Jesus gave him life.

The Samaritan woman at the well, of whom we read two weeks ago in John, was given new life; in her community, in her sense of self, in her faith because Jesus was willing to strike up a conversation with her, and let her know that she was worth it, when no one else would even look at her because of her sins, he showed her that he cared and so she knew life, true life for the first time.

Jesus was, Jesus is, all about life. Life for you and for me, here and now, and forever!

But now, for glimpsing life in a new way let me ask you this question. Other than Lazarus, didn’t each of these people whose lives Jesus changed already have life?

I mean, they were breathing, talking, eating, they had routines to their days they had some sort of relationship with other people. They were alive. So, how is it that we talk about Jesus giving them life?

Are we simply talking about Jesus giving them access to heaven? Are we only talking about eternal life? Or is there more in all of this? Does Jesus give us something right now too? Or do we only believe in Jesus so that when we die, we don’t go to hell, but rather to heaven?

For too many people I think that last statement is what Christianity is all about. We believe in Jesus so that when we die, we don’t go to hell, but rather to heaven.

I have had people share with me how upset they get when they hear or read of how some person lived, often a wild and reckless life for all of their years and then on their deathbed, the person confessed their faith in Jesus immediately before they died.           The person sharing the story with me, who is upset, often says something like, “How can they get away with it? Living however they want, sinning, and then at the last minute getting into heaven?”

It is as if they thought that the deceased person had really lived life and then got into heaven under the wire. Each time it is almost as if the person sharing with me their disgust, thinks that the Christian life on earth isn’t living, that that doesn’t happen until they get to heaven.

What’s up? We don’t live here? The life of a Christian isn’t really life?

That’s what the world wants you to believe, of course, but don’t believe it. That’s simply the lying ways of the devil.   Just like the world tries to convince itself and the church that Christianity is simply about living a strait-laced life by obeying some pretty strict rules. Another lie!

No! Come on people, we need to wake up and share the truth. Living as a follower of Jesus is living life to the fullest. If anything, when we’re really listening and following Jesus, life can become a bit too exciting.

We all know in our hearts that sitting in a bar everyday isn’t life, nor is trying to find fulfillment by buying new thing after new thing, nor is holding power over others, nor is being so scared that you fear the next day.

In wanting to give us life, it is as if Jesus is standing in front of us and looking at us and saying, “Roll away the stone, from your heart, from your life.”

And we reply, “Oh Jesus, I am not sure if I want to do that, it kind of stinks in there. I have some rotten things happening in my life. But, okay, if you say so. Here goes.”

And when we remove that stone, or stones, be them embarrassment, disbelief, selfishness, greed, anger, hate, bigotry, or whatever else, all of the sudden Jesus commands, in a loud voice.

“Joel, come out and live.”

Now of course you’ll want to hear your own name, in Jesus’ command.

And it is as if I take my first steps into the light of day. No, matter how often it is that I hear Jesus’ voice in my heart, calling me to new life in his love, it is like he is speaking to me for the first time.

But Jesus doesn’t stop there, no then he says, “Unbind yourself. Let yourself go.”

You see, Jesus calls me, he calls you, to life, but you’ve got to help take off the grave clothes. It is hard to live life, when we are going about existence in the same old way.

If its addiction that has bound you in death, you’ve got to name it and get into a recovery program, and pray for Jesus’ love to be alive in your heart, and start looking to life as you struggle toward sobriety. And know that Jesus walks with you.

If its selfishness that has bound you in death, name it and start praying for Jesus to open your eyes to what life looks like when others are at the center.

If its fear that has bound you in death, name it and call to the giver of hope, our Christ for the life giving courage that is Jesus.

You see, Jesus doesn’t tell you to hold on until heaven, and then you’ll have life. And our Lord, surely doesn’t say, follow these rules that make existence boring so that you might know excitement in the great beyond. No, Jesus calls us into life right here, right now and right away…he is our Savior, the giver of life!

Life is, knowing that you have a purpose upon this earth. Life is, knowing you are forgiven when you mess up. Life is, knowing that you are worth something, worth everything to God. That’s life…so start living it.


Bible References

  • Romans 8:6 - 11
  • John 11:1 - 44



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