April 2, 2017 Sermon "Miracle of Lazarus" based on John 11: 1-45

With today’s mass communication, when anything happens in the world many of us can learn about it almost immediately.
Years ago there was only CBS, NBC and ABC on TV and UPS and AP news outlets.
What was considered ‘news’ was more limited and traveled a little slower.
If we go back a bit further,…say around the time of the Civil War,…major news would generally take a few days to travel around the country.
Less significant events stayed local and, if not in printed in papers, got lost over time.

Back in Jesus’ day, most events never went further than the local community unless it involved a person o prestige, like a king or a general.
Today, what’s considered ‘news’ is loosely defined and can travel the world in minutes.
Last year ‘Jesper the cat’ went cross-country skiing in Norway and that same day we all not only could learn about it, but also see it on YouTube.

As Jesus was going around the little villages of the middle east, he knew that he and his mission needed to gain attention and be considered “news”.
There were plenty of miracle workers in those days who may or may not have been magicians, con-men, or actually gifted sages of some sort.

So the key for him was to not just perform miracles but have them witnessed by others, especially his disciples, and be credible so that the news (slow as it was) would spread.
In a sense, his ministry was like a political campaign where the candidate tries to ensure that they will be on the 6:00 news that evening and be remembered thereafter.
If the Son of God comes and nobody notices or talks about it,…if the “good news” doesn’t get spread,...then the whole endeavor could get lost in history.

So Jesus performed lots of miracles all along the way of his ministry.
He turned water in wine,….he healed the sick and lame,…gave sight to the blind.
But the really big deal;…really impressive miracle,..was raising someone from the dead.
He did this three times according to the New Testament books we have.
He raised the leader of the synagogue, Jairus’ daughter and a widow’s son in Naim.
And now we hear about the third and most impressive resurrection miracle - Lazarus.

In the first case it seemed pretty smart to perform this miracle for a community leader.
Credibility would be higher with someone of that rank or prestige within the community.
In the second case, a huge crowd within the town was present to see the miracle.
Thus, the larger the number of witnesses, the greater the chance that news would carry.

This is not to say that Jesus was just a hard nosed politician and not compassionate.
He was caring, and the first two stories say as much.
When Jesus saw the widow mourning her son’s death, it says “he had compassion”.
Likewise, with the leader’s daughter, Jesus saw people weeping he said ‘don’t weep’.
Even in with Lazarus, we hear that when Jesus saw the family and friends wailing in grief, that in empathy he too “wept”.
There is no doubt that he felt their pain and wanted to overcome it with his miracle.

But in the third story, more than the first two, we hear the main reason Jesus acted.
In this case it sounds like Jesus’ plan to begin with was to let Lazarus go ahead and die.
The sisters of Lazarus lament and almost accuse Jesus of dragging his feet on this.
And after Jesus heard of Lazarus’ illness, he did wait an extra two days to go to him.

The fact of the matter is, that Jesus used this incident to bring attention to himself and to get others (especially his disciples) to believe in him.
Believe in who he was and what he was doing….AND….in what would happen next.
We heard that Jesus said as much when speaking of Lazarus’ death he says;  “it is for God’s glory so that the Son of God may be glorified through it”.
He also comments to his disciples about Lazarus’s death….“For your sake I am glad I was not there (to save him), so that you may believe”.
Finally, right before he performs the miracle, Jesus says to those present… “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?

So while there was plenty of compassion on Jesus’ part for those who were grieving,…
this miracle was also a calculated move on his part to garner attention and belief.
And not just attention to, and faith in, his ministry at that point.
More importantly, attention and faith to the meaning of what would happen next.
Because, immediately after this would begin the humiliation and suffering of the cross.

And Jesus needed to make sure of two things as that event unfolded over 3 days.
One was that his followers and others understood it’s meaning,…
and secondly, that it did not become lost news.
As we said before, ‘news’ then remained local and most things disappeared into history.
The Romans were said to crucify up to 500 people day ~a day!~  in the 1st century.
One more self-described prophet’s death could easily have gotten lost over time.

So while his traveling around, like on a campaign trail, doing the acts of mercy and sharing wisdom that brought attention and faith to Jesus,…
and even more impressive news worthy miracles of compassion and healing were done,…most of all,…it was these miracles of resurrection,…that Jesus wanted to show.
Not just show that he cared for the mourners or to have a few persons live a bit longer.
But to show that he was from God, acted as only God could, and would himself end up being the story of the miracle of resurrection

In Jerusalem he further built up faith in who he was by his own entrance into death.
To show that he is truly the way to a life that is good for us now… as well as the way to life after death
As sacrilegious as it may sound - Did you even see the magician who gets in the box himself before it is sawed in half, just to prove the validity of his magic?
So does Jesus, enter in the box of death himself to prove the validity of God’s miracle.

As he raises Lazarus, Jesus raises the attention of others to go with him to Jerusalem.
To witness the crucifixion and to eventually learn that it was done to prove God’s glory.
Resurrection to prove that what was done for him,…would be done for all believers.

And while many missed the story and the news was not spread officially by either the Roman or the Jewish authorities,….
enough saw and believed that the story stuck and was remembered and carried forth.
Across nations and continents and across centuries all the way to people like us today.
It has lasted 2000 years and traveled all the way here to Holmdel for you and me. 

Hopefully you’ll forget about Jesper the cat soon.
But this story about Jesus;….the story where God showed his love for all humanity,.. will never be forgotten or die.

Amen.