Amazon Prime now has a video feature called X-ray. X-ray allows you to pause a film and find out more information. When you press pause, the forward motion of the film stops, and a different kind of motion begins. You start to move deeper into what is happening. X-ray helps you find out about the actors, identify the soundtrack, or get background information on the scene. It is a way of entering more deeply into a movie.
I would like to do that with our reading from John this morning. Pause it for a moment and enter more deeply into what is happening.
Our text is the account of the raising of Lazarus. That is what we call it: The raising of Lazarus. Indeed, this is the climax of the story. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead. But if you pause the story… let us say at the moment when Martha first speaks with Jesus… then it is not just about Jesus raising Lazarus.
Instead, the story is about Jesus comforting Martha. If you were to title this scene, it would be, “Jesus comforts Martha on the long road to resurrection.” For me, that is important. We spend most of our lives on the long road to resurrection and so what Jesus does for Martha, how He comforts her, can be encouraging for us today.
When her brother Lazarus became ill, Martha sent word to Jesus. She asked for Jesus to come. Unfortunately, it took a while for Him to appear. Now, when Jesus finally does arrive, her brother is dead, and her life is filled with sorrow.
If you were to freeze this scene, you would see Martha standing there on the road with Jesus, looking to the past and looking to the future, wanting to be anywhere but here.
Martha knows what could have been: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” And Martha knows what will be: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” But what could have been and what will be do not change what is right now. Her brother is dead. Her Lord is late. And her life is filled with sorrow.
This moment for Martha is familiar to us. It is where we spend most of our lives… on the road to resurrection. When we look at the past, we know what could have been. When we look to the future, we know what will be for us in Jesus. But right now, we stand in the middle of suffering. What could have been and what will be do not change the present moment in our lives.
Then Jesus speaks. He says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Notice the use of the present tense. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus does not point to the past – I was the resurrection and the life – nor to the future – I will be the resurrection and the life. No, Jesus speaks about the present. I am the resurrection and the life.
Jesus takes the power of resurrection and the promise of life and buries it in His own flesh. This Jesus, the one who is speaking to you right now, He is the resurrection and the life for you.
What this means is that before Lazarus walks out of the tomb, before Jesus is raised from the dead, right now, as Martha stands there in the middle of that long road to resurrection, Jesus is the resurrection and the life for her. He has come to be the resurrection and the life for her even in sorrow.
In this moment, before Lazarus is raised from the dead, what does it mean for Jesus to be the resurrection and the life? It means the resurrection is a hand that can be touched, a voice that can be heard, a tear that is shed, and a holy conversation that happens with Jesus in the middle of sorrow.
What Jesus teaches us is we do not have to wait until the body comes out of the tomb to participate in the resurrection. Jesus is the resurrection and the life even now. We do not need to silence the suffering, to mask the mourning, to placate the pain. Instead, we can receive them as holy. Jesus is the resurrection and the life even in the midst of sorrow. And, that is what He gives us: Moments of holy conversation on a life-long road to resurrection. He chooses to bring the wonder of His life to us now, as we walk the long road to resurrection.
So, today, let us pause for a moment in the story. Let us enter more deeply into what is happening. Wherever you are on that long journey to resurrection, Jesus has come to be with you. He is the resurrection and the life, even now, in the midst of your sorrow, filling your present days with His love.
Concordia Theology-Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching John 11:1-45 (46-53).
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach John 11:1-45 (46-53).
Lectionary Podcast-Dr. Arthur Just of Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN walks us through John 11:1-53.