Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel lesson reveals a lot about Jesus, both as the Son of God, and also as the human being. His divine power is revealed in raising Lazarus from the dead, and His humanity in the sadness he shows at the death of His friend. Today’s Gospel lesson includes the shortest passage in the whole Bible - the 35th verse, where the Apostle John simply writes that “Jesus wept.” That is an emotion that we can all identify with, and we are comforted at knowing we can identify with Jesus during this sad time. In fact, we can identify with everyone who we encounter in the reading. We most readily see ourselves in Mary and Martha – the sisters who had to see their severely sick brother die.
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“Lord, if you had only been here...” How often have we thought this, not just at the loss of a loved one, but whenever we’ve faced a difficult situation? It’s natural for us to ask this question – to wonder what would have happened if God had only stepped in and changed the course of things. Whether this worldwide pandemic that is affecting billions of people from all corners of life, or a personal hardship that a single individual must face, people often turn to God and wonder whether He could have gotten involved earlier to steer the situation in a different direction. We’re all like Mary and Martha, thinking “if only…”
It’s important to note that this doesn’t come from a lack of faith. I don’t think anyone can question the faith that Mary and Martha had. They were rock solid in the faith they had in God, and in the faith they had in Jesus.
Martha says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” She was sure of it. The women didn’t lack the faith to understand why their brother died.
But this feeling of second guessing – of asking “if only” – comes from something else: it often comes from not understanding the plans that God has for our lives. “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Jesus teaches us. God will reveal His glory, even when we are having a difficult time seeing it right now.
And often it comes down to a matter of perspective. We can look at our current worldwide situation with the corona virus and think to ourselves: “how hopeless this is. More and more people are getting sick, and people are dying. And far too many people are suffering economically and losing their jobs…”
But we can also look at how God’s grace and love has become visible. It’s in the countless hours that healthcare workers are putting in to help those who are affected, working on the front lines and risking their own health just to be there for others. It’s in the numerous restaurants who, despite most likely losing business due to having to close their dining rooms, are happily donating meals to food-pantries and to health workers. It’s visible in the volunteers at churches around the world who continue to make sandwiches and meals for soup kitchens. The list of opportunities for us to carry on the ministry of Jesus is endless, even in this time of social distancing and seeming separation. And even if we can’t feel like we can head out into the world to help, we can show God’s love in our life by even simply picking up the phone and reaching out to someone and reminding them that God is with us. When we rise to action as a family of faith, even in our darkest hour, the Glory of God shines in this world!
And in that action, we are like His disciples, who followed Jesus no matter where He went. They were even ready to go back to a place where the people wanted to kill Jesus – where they had tried to stone Him. Yet the disciples put the work of the Gospel ahead of everything else and followed Him. When we live like them and put the Gospel of Christ first, we too can learn that there is nothing that we can’t do for the sake of the One who gave Himself for us.
Yet sometimes sadness still finds us, and we see find ourselves in Lazarus. We might be ill, whether physically, mentally or even spiritually. We may not feel like there is any hope. We feel like we are failing, and it doesn’t feel like Jesus is nearby. We don’t know where to turn. But we can take comfort in the words of St. Paul, who reminds us that even though we are here on earth, the Spirit of God lives in us if we only believe in Him. And if the Spirit of God lives in us, then He who raised Christ from the dead will also raise us up.
And Christ doesn’t just give us victory over death. He gives us victory over life! Even when we are troubled and are feeling overwhelmed, we take comfort in knowing that Jesus lived a life just like ours. He, too, faced the troubles and hardships of everyday life, the fear and sadness at the loss of a dear friend, and even more so He faced persecution and death at the hands of those who hated Him. Yet He overcame the hardships with a loving heart, he comforted the sad with his words of peace, and He even forgave those who nailed Him to the cross. Even in that hour, Jesus saw the Glory of God in action, as the Gift of Easter was given to us through His death and resurrection.
We, like Lazarus, Mary, Martha, and the disciples can put our faith in Him, knowing that whatever we face in this world, Jesus is nearby. He’s ready and willing to help, and is calling us by name to see His glory. Amen
Pastor Markus Vaga - March 29th, 2020
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