JOHN 11:1-53
JESUS LOVED…JESUS STAYED WHERE HE WAS
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are loved by God and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

(AS SEEN FROM ONE SIDE) Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 

Does that sound like love to you?  Jesus loved.  Jesus stayed put.  Considering the initial outcome for Lazarus – the first impression would be “no.”  Think of your grown child living elsewhere in the area.  They are vomiting.  They have a high fever.  They are too weak to get out of bed or drive to the doctor.  They phone you for help.  You love them.  After hanging up you take no action but simply stay where you are. 

Or think of a close college friend who has received heartbreaking news.  They are hurting very deeply.  They aren’t sure what to do.  They need an ear to listen and a caring presence to lean on.  They send word through a friend telling of their need and asking you to come.  Because you love them…you ignore their request and stay away???  These scenarios don’t seem to add up! 

JOHN 11:1-53
JESUS LOVED…JESUS STAYED WHERE HE WAS
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are loved by God and called as saints, grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ.

(AS SEEN FROM ONE SIDE) Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 

Does that sound like love to you?  Jesus loved.  Jesus stayed put.  Considering the initial outcome for Lazarus – the first impression would be “no.”  Think of your grown child living elsewhere in the area.  They are vomiting.  They have a high fever.  They are too weak to get out of bed or drive to the doctor.  They phone you for help.  You love them.  After hanging up you take no action but simply stay where you are. 

Or think of a close college friend who has received heartbreaking news.  They are hurting very deeply.  They aren’t sure what to do.  They need an ear to listen and a caring presence to lean on.  They send word through a friend telling of their need and asking you to come.  Because you love them…you ignore their request and stay away???  These scenarios don’t seem to add up! 

Still, the text is clear.  The sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.  Then, after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”… Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. (OUR TEXT AS SEEN FROM THE OTHER SIDE)  Their brother is quite sick.  They send to Jesus for help.  Despite their loving care his illness worsens.  Jesus does not come.  Death for their brother does!  The climate is hot.  Burial is the same day or early the next.  The sisters had hoped for more – prayed for more – were sure of more.  They had petitioned Jesus!  They knew His healing power.  Yet Jesus does not come!  Death for their brother does!

In sorrow they set about washing his body and wrapping his body in grave clothes.  No undertakers here!  They anoint the body of their loved one with spices.  They watch as his limp corpse is positioned in one of the niches of their burying cave.  Friends and acquaintances come to offer sympathy.  After the service for burial it was customary that they prepare a small meal for the mourners.  They would sit silently on the ground.  In the normal process expressions of sympathy were repeated at least seven times.  “May the Lord of consolation comfort you.”  “The memory of the righteous is blessed.”  Often visitors would continue their comforting efforts for several days. 

In the case of this burial, the first day passed and then a second and then a third.  Finally on the fourth day Jesus arrived.  As the sisters went out to meet him one at a time – they spoke these identical words – syllable for syllable.  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 

There are lots of “if only-s” spoken when death throws its knockout punch!  “If only” the cancer had been found earlier!  “If only” he had taken better care of himself!  “If only” the roads hadn’t been icy!  “If only” the medications and treatment had worked.  “If only” the earthquake hadn’t been so strong and the tsunami hadn’t moved so fast.  “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  

When Jesus wept, even some of the visitors said, “See how he loved him!”…”Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” 

(OUR TEXT AS SEEN FROM ALL SIDES) Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb.  It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.  Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”  Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”  The KJV translates, “he stinketh.”  Death does stink!  It is revolting that bodies created for activity and warmth and life - lie still and cold and disintegrate into dust.  It is so ugly that these amazing bodies God gives us decay in death.  Martha didn’t want the stench of his decomposing body let loose!  Lord … “he stinketh.”

Nonetheless they took the stone away.  Jesus thanked the Father that He heard Him.  Then, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  In that foul smelling place, in that stinking house of death, in that house of stone or house of silence as graves were then called, flesh and bones and skin that had been decaying were instantly restored.  What was described pictorially by Ezekiel in that valley of dry bones took place in actuality in one of the niches of this tomb in Bethany.

The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound…and his face wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Fellow-Redeemed – This is what happened immediately before the meeting between the chief priests and the Council recorded in our text.  The problem the religious leaders had with Jesus had just been multiplied by a walking-talking-breathing Lazarus.  He had been dead.  But He wasn’t anymore.  Some of the Jews who were eyewitnesses reported this miracle to the Pharisees.  They had seen the corpse, even smelled it in death.  Now Lazarus was alive again - as alive as they were.  The next chapter of John reveals that he became somewhat of a sideshow (John 12:9).  Multitudes of Jews came to see him.  Finally the chief priests determined not only to kill Jesus, but Lazarus as well (John 12:10).  The worldly-wise politician Caiaphas was deadly serious in saying …”it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”  He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God scattered abroad.  So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

Death itself yields to the power of Christ easier than unbelief does!  Their one aim was to snuff out faith in Jesus Christ!  They thought to do so by snuffing out His life.  They were now plotting to take what Jesus planned to give!  They schemed to pursue the one action which has called all believers to faith in Christ - His sacrificial death as our substitute.

The sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer where he was.  Does that sound like love to you?  It was!  It was the purest form of love, death-defeating love!  It led to the bodily resurrection of Lazarus and, humanly speaking, that helped lead to Jesus’ sacrificial death.

There again, Jesus stayed where He was.  He had the power to do otherwise, but He stayed put.  The very ones who used Lazarus’ resurrection as a catalyst for their plans, the chief priests and scribes and elders then mocked him, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself.  He is the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him.”  Jesus didn’t come down!  Because He loved this whole world of sick and dying sinners – He stayed put.  Lord, this whole world whom you love is sick. 

Even if He had come down that wouldn’t have caused those present to believe in the promised Messiah!  True faith, you see, does not grow in response to what our hearts demand.  True saving faith is given birth and sustained by receiving what God gives.  What God gives is Jesus!  “I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.”

A cemetery is an easy place to weep and not such an easy place to confess the faith.  It can seem like the enemy’s trophy case.  As seen by the naked eye, the coffin, the corpse, the tomb seems final.  That’s how it had seemed to Mary and Martha.  The Lord let death suck their hearts dry so that He might fill them with faith in Him.  But His Word, His voice, makes incredibly clear that there is so much more to graveyards then meets the naked eye.  “Lazarus, come out!”  The man who had died came out!

So did the man who called Him out!  His corpse was wrapped up in grave clothes too just like Lazarus’ corpse - only hurriedly.  His body was laid in a tomb and sealed with a stone – just like with Lazarus’ body.  But He didn’t stay put!  In Satan’s domain He announced the blood-cleansing victory of His death on the cross!  The accusers lying head is crushed!  Then, leaving His grave clothes behind – He stepped forth in resurrection light – breathing Easter air!   Now, through His absolution He unbinds us and lets us go - as He commanded be done for Lazarus. 

It was impossible for death to keep it hold on Him!  He is the resurrection and the life!  We sinners tend to separate Christ from His gifts – to think of salvation and forgiveness and resurrection as things God gives us!  But they are God Himself!  The man Christ Jesus is your forgiveness, your salvation, your life.  That’s how He could rip the dead man Lazarus from the arms of death!  That’s also how He ripped you from the death of unbelief in Baptism.  That’s why, on Judgment Day, your tomb will be as empty as His.

When it seems like Jesus isn’t close at hand, isn’t responding as He should it’s just because our vision is so limited.  He is the answer to all of our “If only-s.”  If only the workload weren’t so heavy – If only the salary matched the needs – If only the effects of aging weren’t progressive – If only the pain and hurt weren’t so constant - If only the sickness weren’t unto death!  But you are the one whom Jesus loves!  That’s the key!  The Bridegroom is here for you – His Bride – to give you Himself – to unbind you – to stay put with you – forever and ever.  In His Name, Amen.   

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a