Reading: John 11:17-31
I want us to try something different again this week. I want us to stop and reflect on our journey so far through those ‘I am’ sayings of Jesus. As I said last week there are times we tend to push on at a pace to get to the conclusion but never really stop along the journey’s path to reflect on what we already have before moving onto what comes next. Before the ‘I am’ reflections we read of Jesus meetings with Nicodemus and then the Samaritan woman. Jesus announced he was the living water and of him none would go thirsty again. In light of what is happening in Ukraine and may well spread across Europe I want us to take each of the sayings in turn and pause to reflect on them. As I introduce each of them we will pause in silence for our own thoughts. A moment of silence ‘I am the bread of life’. ’on him God the father has placed his seal of approval.’ To say God’s seal is upon Jesus is to state quite clearly he has come from God the Father. A moment of silence ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life’. ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also.’ A moment of silence ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep’. ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.’ A moment of silence We are midpoint through these services. The first three have Jesus speaking very much about things of this world and attaching a deeper spiritual meaning to them. This morning there is something new. There is the death of a friend and the end to human life. There is pain and hurt and that sense of loss. There is the raising of the body and the direct statement from Jesus that those who die believing in him will never die. ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’
Hang it on the cross By Lisa O. Engelhardt
If you have a secret sorrow,
a burden or a loss.
An aching need for healing,
hang it on the cross.
Every obstacle to faith or doubt you come across,
every prayer unanswered,
hang it on the cross.
If worry steels your sleep and makes you turn and toss,
if your heart is feeling heavy,
hang it on the cross.
For Christ has borne our brokenness and dearly paid the cost
to turn our trial to triumph,
hang it on the cross.
A moment of silence
A prayer for Ukraine
Lord Jesus Christ in this dark hour across our continent we reflect on those ‘I Am’ sayings of Jesus and we ask that you here our prayers for the people of Ukraine. Those in the country itself, those who have had to flee their land and those who already live in other nations. For the basic things of life such as bread and water deprived of families Lord we pray. For light to shine upon this darkness that a nation may once again be free Lord we pray. For the gateway that leads to safety and a shepherd that will lead the people Lord we pray. For those who have lost their lives, for those loved ones who are holding deep pain in their hearts Lord we pray for resurrection and new life. Amen
Reading: John 11:32-44
Last week Jesus had left Galilee and journeyed up to Jerusalem before moving across the Jordan. This morning he leaves that area once more following the news of his friend Lazarus and moves to Bethany just outside Jerusalem. His disciples tried to talk him out of returning because of the high risk of being arrested.
Jesus places this news of Lazarus above all care for himself and his safety. The household is that of his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. This was a place where it appears Jesus felt more at home than anywhere else during his earthly ministry. The action of restoring life to a dead man in the immediate vicinity of the city of Jerusalem was an absolute guarantee the backlash would be swift and heavy. Those religious authorities would want to silence Jesus once and for all. According to them Jesus would either be an agent of the devil or a charlatan who was leading their people on a merry dance of fancy. Whatever way they sliced it, Jesus knew they would be out to get him from that moment. We see in Mary and Martha so much of what we witness when bereavement comes into our lives. In the first reading it is Martha who asks the question, ‘What if?’ Then in the second one Mary asks the same, ‘What if?’ We know these sisters from elsewhere in the gospels. We know they have different characters. One is a lady who likes to be busy and organising things and making preparations. The other is more studious and likes to sit and listen and ponder over things. Just like you and I, just like the families we all come from, related by blood and one in kin but very much separate individuals who respond with pain and hurt and questions when a loved one dies. They both have faith in Jesus, Martha knows God will give Jesus whatever he asks for. She is not rebuking him nor is she having a go at him. She is displaying her faith in amongst her confusion that she knows Jesus could have healed him had he been there. But then when Jesus goes to raise her brother Martha did not think it would be possible. Martha believed Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. Confusion and doubt surrounded in grief and misunderstanding. Mary gets up immediately and goes to him with all those same emotions playing havoc within her too. Why was Jesus so moved? He was about to raise Lazarus so it was not for himself he felt sorrow. Some would say it was because of the unbelief of those meant to be comforting the sisters that caused him hurt. Then others would say he knew that once this action was carried out and Lazarus was raised this would be the time for the authorities to make moves to arrest him. I wonder if it was the shepherd, the pastor, within Jesus that caused verse 35, ‘Jesus wept.’ the shortest verse in the Bible. His sorrow came about because of the pain his friends were feeling and the sorrow that, for now, was part of their lives. This raising of Lazarus is more than Jesus raising a family friend. Jesus is making this pledge to the people. Those who enter into life in Jesus enter into life eternal. Jesus says, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God.’ Those without faith would simply see the miracle of a man being raised from the dead. Those who believed would recognise the significance of the glory of God within the miracle. Once more as we come to the closing of the reading Jesus and the Father are shown to be together as one. As he thanked God he did so that others might hear him. Jesus once more displaying the work of the Father done through the Son. It was in the power of God that Lazarus was raised. Jesus did not work on his own without his Father and unlike other so-called wonderworkers Jesus was not in the business of self-glorification but gives the God the glory.