5th Sunday in Lent
10 April 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
"I AM the resurrection and the life." Doesn't Jesus realize how those are "fightin' words?" Bethany was in the inner ring of suburbs for Jerusalem. There would have been people from the priestly cliques, reporting back to the Temple. Jesus says He alone is the Way not to die, AND calls Himself "I AM!"
Jesus! That is blasphemy! You are giving them the words and deeds that they need to bring charges at the high council. They want You dead as it is!
And then, He does it. Amidst His tears over Lazarus, Jesus calls out to the dead friend lying in his tomb, and Lazarus rises!
Just moments before, Jesus was told: "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Both sisters greeted Jesus with this statement of faith, yet still not comprehending how Jesus was about to help them and witness to His Divinity. Now, out of great compassion and love, He bears witness to the Father in resurrecting His once-dead friend.
In the 1987 film classic, The Princess Bride, the hero, Westley, is tortured and presumed dead. His friends take him to some crazy magician named Miracle Max, who pronounces Westley, "mostly dead," and then produces a pill to save him.
Max ends up helping them, partly because it is for "true love," but even more so, to get revenge on the evil prince. Our Lord Jesus raises Lazarus entirely out of love for him, and knowing it would bring glory to God the Father. Pure love for His friend and mercy. No vengeance. No selfish reasons. No nagging wife chasing Him about, reminding him of his need for revenge against His enemies by raising someone "mostly dead."
It is precisely this kind of humor or lie that Jesus was avoiding in waiting so long. He could have arrived earlier, before Lazarus died, but Jesus delayed their arrival. There would be no question after four days in the tomb, wrapped in his burial cloths, and even "stinking" that Lazarus was completely dead. Our dear Lord shows that He is far more than some Miracle Max--far more than some cute and delightful con artist, or even more than a talented doctor in resuscitating people--this is the Lord of heaven and earth, the Resurrection and the Life Himself!
But the world is not ready for the Lord God to be raising completely dead people. They prefer the rational explanations, and in the end, so do you and I. We hear of a near death experience, and we "ooh" and "ahh." But to spend time pondering the gift of Baptism, and then realizing that it is far more miraculous and infinitely more important to that person's life, is not natural. We want excitement and adventure. But the Lord works through the simple means and washes life into you!
And here you sit. You smile through baptisms and think the little ones are cute. You think it's great when an adult is baptized but end up focusing on the individual coming here, and not the amazing miracle that God destroys the Old Adam and raises a new creature out of that font.
Yes, that little basin is the location of resurrection. The Holy Spirit calls you and gathers you into that water, where He has attached the Word of God to cleanse you into new birth. You die to sin there, and He raises you to life! And no. It is not "inconceivable!"
Your sinful nature does not believe in miracles. It denies resurrection. It thinks that there is nothing that could really be done with a valley full of dry bones. It credits Jesus at most as being a kind of Miracle Max. My friends, if that is the impressions you have of Jesus, you are headed for the real pit of despair with Satan himself.
Jesus Christ is your true hero. He has entered this earthly life, that you may have life without end. He claims you as His own, that you can be rescued, freed, and be carried away by Him to the never-ending wedding feast of Christ the perfect Bridegroom, and His Princess Bride, the Church.
But our precious Savior has reached out to you. He has baptized you and now speaks to you, reaching the ears of your new creature. He nourishes and strengthens faith, enlivening you with His Gospel! Jesus does not abandon you to your phony ideas of Him and His divinity. He does not leave you thinking He is merely a con-man.
Our dear Lord calls you to faith in Himself. What amazing joy is yours! You are baptized into Christ. He has raised you to new life through Baptism, and uses this to foreshadow that He will raise you, body and soul, at the last day to live with Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness! Even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Yes, Jesus raised the completely-dead Lazarus to new life. He will raise you too, at the last day. And in the mean time, He prepares you for that resurrected life, as He feeds you His Body and Blood. Nourished by this heavenly food, He fills you with Himself, that you may live body and soul with Our Lord!
Thanks be to Jesus, who works true miracles and gives everlasting life, all out of His true love for you! Amen.