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What does new life mean?

What does new life mean?

John 11: 1-44.


‘A man named Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was ill.’

That’s how it always starts.

There is a person, who lives somewhere, who is ill.

A woman named Agnes, who lived in Alva, was ill.

A child named Emily, who lived in Menstrie was ill.

This is our story.

We are called....whatever we are called, we live...wherever we live...and we are ill.

The illness will be physical; we have the flu, we have cancer, we fall and break a hip joint.

The illness will be mental; we are prone to depression, we have some obsessive compulsive trait, we have Alzheimer's, or dementia, or are grieving.

The illness will be spiritual; we are greedy, or indifferent, or envious, or jealous, or angry, impatient or frustrated.

Lazarus’ story is our story.

We are Lazarus, and we are ill.

There is nothing in the story to tell us what Lazarus is like. We presume that he is a good man just like we presume that we are basically good people. But in the big scheme of things the story doesn't tell us.

Maybe he caused his own illness, maybe he was working too hard on building a barn because he was greedy and wanted to horde more crops for himself and that caused a heart attack.

Maybe he just took some water that was contaminated and became ill that way.

We don't know, it doesn't tell us.

And that is fair enough because we, if truth be told, don't know in the grand scheme of things whether we will be regarded as basically good or bad, whether we cause our own illness or not.

What we know is that we are ill.

And we know that Lazarus dies of his illness.

And we know that’s definitely our story.

We are...insert name here, who lives in...insert name here, and we are ill, and we will die.

So what else do we know?

We know that God is indifferent.

A plea was rushed to Jesus, ‘Lazarus is ill, come as quickly as you can.’

And that’s fair because we have a hope. We hope that even though we are ill, even though we are flawed, that if we go to God, if we plead with God, then God will do something about it.

But our fear, our fear is that God does what Jesus does...nothing.

Jesus could have stopped everything he was doing and rushed to Bethany.

If Jesus cared he could have rushed to Bethany and done something.

It wasn’t lack of faith on the part of the family that stopped Jesus from healing. The first thing that both sisters say when they meet Jesus was, ‘If you had been here, you could have done something.’

Our problem is not our faith.

We believe that God could do something. We want God to do something. But God seems to be busy elsewhere.

He could help; he could do something, anything.

When Jesus heard what was happening to Lazarus he stayed where he was for another two days.

What was so important that it was worth staying for another two days?

What was more important than his friendship with Lazarus?

The Bible never says, and in a sense it doesn't matter. As far as Mary and Martha are concerned nothing should have been more important than their brother Lazarus.

‘A man named Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was ill.’

And Jesus didn’t come to him, and he was left to die.

Because some things are more important than Lazarus, we don't know what they are, we might never know what they are, and in a sense it doesn't matter, what matters is that in the end we die because of that indifference.

That is why this passage is so hard, because John writes this passage from the human point of view.

These are the legitimate feelings of Marty and Martha.

This is what they feel about their brother.

And by extension this is what they feel about themselves.

They are flawed and ill and fragile and one day they will die.

And if we have the courage to face our life, that is what we too can feel.

We are starting the season of Lent, the run up to Easter. A time when we think about all that God has done for us.

Our passages throughout this year have been passages of Jesus bringing hope, showing hope. Showing how God’s Kingdom of Hope lives and breathes and works.

And that is all well and good.

That is all fine.

Except that when we get down to the very basics of it we don't believe it.

We WANT to believe in that hope, we so want to believe in it.

We may even believe that hope is possible for other people.

We think that we might have seen hope working in other people.

But deep down, deep down we know.

I am Lazarus, I live in Alva, and I am ill, and one day that illness will destroy me...and God is either unable to do anything about it, or unwilling to do anything about it.

That is what we truly believe.

You know what the really sad part of this story is?

Is that we are completely wrong.

If only we could open our eyes and see.

And in seeing have hope, and in hope live a different life.

Look at the story again.

This God who is supposedly indifferent, he knows.

All along the line Jesus is telling the disciples what will happen next.

The disciples are coming up with all kinds of scenarios of what may or may not happen, of what should or should not happen.

But Jesus knows exactly what is happening.

People who are indifferent, don’t know what is happening, and they don't know because they don't care.

Jesus knows, and he knows because he wants to know, because he cares.

This God who is indifferent, he comes.

Even when people have said it doesn't matter.

Even when people have said that he can't do anything now.

Even when people have said that there is no point.

He still comes.

And when people are angry at him

and frustrated at him

and accusing of him, he still comes.

This God who is indifferent, he weeps.

Maybe there are some pains that we have to face.

When children have a fever they just have to work through the fever, but the children don’t understand that and they are restless and troubled. And there is nothing that a parent can do except be with them and comfort them as they go through the healing process.

I think that we all go through pain that we just have to go through, it is part of the healing process, but we don't need to go through it alone, God weeps with us, he cares.

This God who is indifferent, he heals.

Our life doesn't need to be the way it is.

The things that bind us, the things that tie us down, Jesus comes to free us from them.

The temptations we face when we are at our weakest.

The fears we face in the darkest shadows of the night.

The hurts we hold on to that wound our heart.

The mistakes we make that darken our soul.

They do not need to ultimately destroy us. Even like Lazarus, when we think they have completely destroyed us, that we are long past any help, God can still help.

And if these things don't ultimately destroy us then they can be the source of light instead of darkness.

Our temptations can teach us to be reliant on God’s strength.

Our fears can teach us that we can be courageous, no matter what we face.

Our hurts can teach us about forgiveness.

Our mistakes can help us to grow and learn and mature.

‘A man named Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was ill.’

And everyone knew that one day he would die and that would be the end of it. And everyone knew that the illness would kill Lazarus. They hoped the illness wouldn't kill him, but they knew it would.

But everyone was wrong.

For God had a different plan for the life of Lazarus.

Where there was darkness there would be light.

Where there was despair there would be hope.

Where there was death there would be life.

There is a person here, and you know their name, for it is YOU, and you know the place that you live, and you know that you are sick.

Your body may not be sick now, but it will be one know that.

Your heart may not be sick now, but it will be one know that.

Your soul may not be sick now, but it will one know that.

And you know that one day you will die of this sickness and that will be the end of it.

You know this illness will kill you one day, you hope it doesn't, but you know it will.

And what you know, what you are sure of, is wrong.

For God has a different plan for your life.

Where there is darkness there will be light.

Where there is despair there will be hope.

Where there is death there will be life.

And the reason that is true is because that is what a caring God would do.

We know he cares because he knows.

We know he cares because he comes.

We know he cares because he weeps.

‘A man named Lazarus, who lived in Bethany, was ill.’

But that was not the end of his story.

And it is never the end of our story.

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