Hebrews 12:28-13:8; John 11:1-45

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

The services of Lazarus Saturday mark the beginning of Holy Week. All of Great Lent has led us to these days, when we’ll re-member the final days in earthly life of our Lord, culminating in the most significant day in all of human history, Great and Holy Pascha. Today, with Christ’s raising Lazarus from the dead, He definitively shows the people who He is, He reveals Himself fully and plainly, and we begin the great movement toward Golgotha.

After Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick, He responds—“This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Obviously, as God, Christ knows all things. He already knows that Lazarus will be dead by the time they arrive in Bethany, and He knows that He will then raise Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus’ sickness will cause death, but that death will be temporary, because Christ will raise him. And that action, bringing forth a man from the dead, will be for the glory of God, and the Son of Man, Christ, will be glorified as well.

This is the only action of the Messiah that Christ had not done publicly. He had preached the word of God, He’d healed multitudes of people, all of which the Messiah was supposed to do when He came. But He was also supposed to raise people from the dead. Christ had raised people from the dead before—Jarius’ daughter, for instance. But these were private events, very few people were there, and Christ even told those present not to tell anyone else about it. The raising of Lazarus would be the final fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies, done for everyone who was present to see. And after this final revelation of His Nature, the people would have to finally choose — to believe in Him, or to reject Him.

Christ says to the Apostles as they set out for Bethany, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.” All the miracles in the world won’t convince a hardened heart, as we’ll see later this week. But for the Apostles and those who struggled to believe in Christ, this miracle would bolster their faith in a way that all the other miracles could not.

Before He calls Lazarus forth from the tomb, Christ says to his sisters, ”I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” This statement is the Christian faith. For us, Christ is everything. And as we approach His death and Resurrection, His final defeat of death, we’re reminded that in Christ, death has hold over us. If we believe in Him, He is our resurrection and our life. Everything centers on Christ, everything that we are is in Christ. So death can’t touch anything that to us is real life. And with these words of Christ, the Apostles and the disciples are being consoled, they’re being prepared for the death of their Messiah, and reminded that life is in Him.

As Christ nears the tomb of His friend, we have the shortest verse in the Scriptures, “Jesus wept.” He wept for His friend Lazarus who had died. He wept for those mourning the death of Lazarus. He wept for the human condition, for the fact that we all must suffer death. Christ wept for all of mankind, and what He came to offer us (life), He bestowed again on Lazarus when He called him forth from the tomb. Lazarus would later die again, he wasn’t given everlasting life by this resurrection. He was raised to continue with life in the fallen world. But the raising of Lazarus showed that words of Christ were true. He has power over life and death. He is the resurrection and the life, and in Him we live forever.

Christ then calls forth Lazarus with a loud voice, “because of the people who are standing by … that they may believe that you [the Father] sent Me.” This is Christ’s final preparation, His final revelation. It could be no more clear who He is. He is the Son and Word of God, the Messiah, the Author of Life and Death. Those who witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead knew that they had seen a miracle that could only be done by God.

As a parish community, we’ve come into contact with death several times this Lent. Friends, loved ones, associates. As Christians, we view all death through Christ. We weep with Him because death is evil—we’re not created to die a physical death; we’re created to share in the life of God for all of eternity. So we weep at the evil and the pain of death, but we never despair. We hear the words of Christ—“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…Lazarus come forth.” As we begin the journey through Holy Week toward Pascha, we will struggle to sacrifice ourselves, to give ourselves to the one who gave Himself for us, He Who is our life and our only hope for the Resurrection.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!