Mary said, Lazarus…come out. Her heart was broken the day of his funeral. Wealthy, they could afford to pay professional mourners to wail and carry on at her younger brother’s cave like tomb. Yet, even the best and most experienced mourner was not crying as hard as Mary. Her brother drove her crazy. Younger, but always bossy like he was in charge. When he was a child she couldn’t keep him out of her stuff. As an adult, she couldn’t keep his nose out of her business. Lazarus had opinions about her marriage, her husband, how often she visited their mother, how much she fed her children and even which of her three tunics she should wear to their sister’s wedding. But, oh how she treasured the concern and care beneath his bossiness and opinions. Maybe more than anyone else in the world, Lazarus loved her. She knew this. Now, he was dead. Gone. Lazarus…come out.
Our list is long this year. Family and friends for nearly each has come to worship today and grieve with us. Our grief is always in the shape of the person that has been lost to us. We don’t miss them generally. We miss not being able to call them when we don’t know what to do at next. We miss the way they would make us laugh when they would say something wildly inappropriate that we were thinking but wouldn’t have dared say ourselves. We miss the way they loved and accepted us and more importantly forgave us when we were not very lovable or acceptable. For Debbie, there will never be another mother like Mary Lou. For Ruth Ann there will never be another man to share her life with like Darrell. Like Mary, all of us who grieve long for just one more chance to see them, hold them, hear them, love them, and be loved by them. Lazarus…come out.
Martha said, Lazarus, come out? Yes, yes, she believed that one day she would see her older brother again. No one could challenge her faith. She didn’t just attend synagogue, sacrifice what God asked, sing the psalms, celebrate the festivals and prayer the prayers. She believed this stuff. She served Jesus when he came to her brother’s home. From the other room, she heard his teaching to Lazarus and the other men. It was her, not Lazarus that first knew Jesus was the Messiah, the one promised to be sent by God. She knew Jairus and his beautiful daughter that Jesus had brought back from the dead. Her cousin Veronica simply touched Jesus’ cloak and her menstrual flow stopped. And who hadn’t given money to the beggar Blind Bartimaeus who now can see even better than Martha. She can attest to the miracles of Jesus. She believes that he is not just sent from God, but that God lives in him in a way she doesn’t understand. Yet, with the stench of her dead brother already noticeable, should we open the cave? Can there be life from death? She wants to believe, but death seems victorious. Lazarus, come out?
There is not a person among us that has not questioned whether any of this is true. At times I really, really, believe. At other times, I really, really want to believe. And then there are times the brokenness of this world makes me question the existence of God, let alone the salvation of Jesus. The world is so screwed up, people are so mean, and there is no making sense of the senseless violence. If there is a God why would God even hang around us, let alone save us. I believe in the goodness of Jesus. I want to love and be loving like Jesus. I want to trust Jesus’ power over death. But…death is so scary. Death is so final. Death is so…quiet and it is so hard to imagine anything beyond it. Maybe we should let sleeping dogs lie. I love you Jesus, telling everyone to love more is right on, but should we really be messing with tombs and rotting bodies. Death stinks. Lazarus, come out?
Jesus said, Lazarus, come out! Jesus wept that day, but not only because his friend Lazarus had passed. Jesus wept that day but not only because Mary’s tears were contagious. Jesus wept that day because Mary, Martha and the entire household who knew Jesus , loved Jesus , believed in Jesus, still thought that death had the last word. Jesus wept that day because the enemy death had so much power in this world. Jesus wept because if hard core believers like Mary and Martha grieved like this at a grave, then the depths of the brokenness of this world were even greater than he imagined. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and the power of death over those he loved made him angry. Standing at the tomb of his friend. Surrounded by family weeping, Jesus said enough. Death will not win today. Death will not have the last word. Lazarus, come out!
Lazarus was just resuscitated, he was not resurrected. He would die again. Yet, even that more final death would not be the last word. Lazarus lies now in the bosom of God. Just as Mary Lou, Kathleen, Doris, Janet, Hallee and others do. There is no grave that God will not open up and command us to come out in the resurrection. The stench of death will not dissuade or discourage God from bringing us life. God loves us and the power of death over those God loves disturbs God so God sent his son to conquer death.
Lazarus was resuscitated not resurrected. He was brought from death to life so he could serve a meal to Jesus. No one here has breathed their last. Yet, everyone here has experienced death in their own life. Whether that be the death of a friend whose loss has been devastating. The death of a job whose security was comforting. The death of a relationship that even though it had been badly broken, the loneliness on a long Saturday afternoon is so hard. To all in the midst of whatever death they are experiencing, Jesus says come out. Don’t let the stench of death make you believe in the power of death to have the last word. Come out! Live out your baptismal promise of service to the lord. Come out! Death has been conquered. Abundant life waits for you now. Come out!