John 11: 1-45.
Welcome to our time of reflection for Sunday 29th of March.
Today's reflection is on the death of Lazarus, not one that I chose but maybe one worthy of looking at, at this time.
I know many of you have been struggling so let’s start with a time of prayer for all of those who feel life is overwhelming them just now.
It is hard to remember a time when we have lived in such difficult circumstances.
the constant changes in regulations,
the rapidity of the spread of Co-vid 19 virus throughout our land, throughout the world.
And in the midst of this pandemic is our own individual stories.
Stories of sorrow and fear.
Stories of illness and sometimes death.
We pray for all who have been so greatly affected by what is going on.
For the children leaving primary and secondary school for the last time and doing so without preparation or celebration.
For all of those who thought they would be sitting exams and are uncertain how they will progress into the next educational session.
May they be given the hope that they seek.
For all of those who have lost their jobs or those who are uncertain about their jobs. Those that are frightened of the financial challenges that they now face.
May they be given the support that they need.
For those having to face the ripples of this illness head on, the emergency workers, the health workers, the mental health workers. The huge stresses they are under just now, and the heart wrenching decisions that they will have to make.
May they be given the strength that they need.
For those suffering directly the consequences of the illness, especially those that are suffering a severe reaction to the virus, and all others who are coping with any illness that is made worse by our health system being so stretched to the limits just now.
May they be given the healing that they need.
For those families that mourn just now. Not only suffering grief, but unable to be supported by the community they way they normally would be.
May they be given the comfort that they need.
Take these prayers, and any others we have in our hearts, and assure us that they are answered in love.
Our reading today is John 11: 1-16.
The passage carries on and I would suggest that when you have time that you read all of it, John 11: 1-45.
This is a complex passage but one which I feel has a message for us all today.
It starts off with a situation that is huge, just like we face today.
Things are happening in the world and it feels like we are like twigs caught in a storm.
You get glimpses of this in the words the disciples come out with.
Let me give you the background.
The Jews have been waiting for the Messiah to come.
They have been under occupation by the Assyrians, the Persians, the Greeks, and now the Roman Empire. To the Jews there is nowhere in their known world that you can go and the Roman Empire doesn’t rule.
There is no way they could ever find their freedom...unless God sent a Messiah to free them.
And Jesus might be that Messiah.
The other thing we forget, and this is really important, is that the Roman Empire was a military Empire, so for most people the only way to defeat that empire would be through another military empire.
So if the Messiah was to come then the expectation would be that he would come as a military leader.
And military leaders need huge armies to win their cause.,
The rumours start when Jesus speaks of God’s kingdom, of God’s empire, where God’s rule is dominant and no one can conquer it.
Then Jesus feeds 5,000 men with five loaves and a couple of fish. And when he does that he puts them in groups of 100 and 50 those are military size groups. And one of the important requisites of a conquering army is that you can feed them easily.
Jesus heals people all the time.
Imagine an army where you don't need to worry of infection and injury. The men could be reckless as they know Jesus would patch them up at the end of the day.
All this is going on and views are mixed.
There are people trying to kill Jesus because they are scared that if he isn't the Messiah and he starts an uprising then there will be a bloodbath.
There are people trying to exaggerate the claims of Jesus because they want that uprising, this is the moment they have waited all their life for,
and if this Jesus is the leader they have been waiting for, then the sooner he starts the revolution then the better.
And throughout this Jesus is trying to get his message through.
Jesus knows that if he goes to Lazarus, if he raises him from the dead then that will feed all those who see Jesus as a military Messiah.
Imagine an army where you don’t need to fear death.
Imagine an army that knows that if they die in battle, they will rise up that night ready to fight the next day.
Imagine how fearful the enemies of that army would be, an army they could destroy one day, and then have to face again and again and again.
Imagine that you are fighting a war where your enemies live forever, you only get to die once.
Would you face an army like that, would the army of the Roman Empire have the guts to face that enemy?
With all that uncertainty going round how would the ordinary man in the street feel?
That’s what we face today.
We have huge uncertainty all around us.
The situation seems to change from day to day, sometimes from hour to hour.
The good news is that there is a message of hope in this passage.
And it is in the shortest verse, ‘Jesus wept.’
You see the problem that our government faces, in fact all our leaders face just now, is that they are coping with huge problems.
They are all ‘big picture’ people with ‘big picture problems’ to deal with.
And it is right that they deal with these problems.
But for ordinary people like you and me, we can hardly be seen in the big picture.
Our problems are little, or seem little, in the big picture.
Our child doesn’t get the grades they need,
our job is lost,
our gran doesn’t get the operation to ease the pain in her hip,
our brother dies because the nurses are overstretched.
I’m not condoning the panic buyers, but I can understand why they panic.
In this world of big problems who can we trust to look after us?
If we don't look after us and ours then who will?
Unfortunately there is no hope in those thoughts, only fear.
But we can have hope.
With all these big problems out there, Jesus knew Mary and Martha and Lazarus by name.
Not only did he know their names, he cared.
It is so simple, yet in whose words we find hope.
God knows our names, God knows your name.
And not only does God know your name, he cares for you.
No matter how dark it may be, no matter how uncertain life becomes,
there is no time when God forgets about you,
no time when God gives up on you,
no time when he stops caring for you.
God has put people in your life to help you,
don't ever forget that, and don’t ever forget to ask for that help.
Jesus went to Bethany because he cared.
No matter how desperate the situation, no matter how hopeless the situation, he cared.
You couldn’t get more desperate than lying in a grave.
Yet he never stopped caring.
Know this truth.
No matter what you are facing, he cares.
Jesus knows you by name, he cares.
Know the truth, and try to have the courage to live the truth.
Remind us of your love, remind us of your care.
Remind us of your promise that you would never leave us, nor forsake us.
May we have the courage to live believing in that love.
May we have the courage to live sharing that love with others.
This we ask in Jesus name.