Lent 5 – “Life For The Dead” – John 11:1-45 – 4/10/11

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Last Sunday, we began our investigation into the meaning of the healing of the man who was born blind by going all the back to the beginning ‘ Genesis, chapter 3. Good investigations always go back to the beginning.

We discovered that the serpent promised to open the eyes of Adam and Eve so that they could see. Adam and Eve ignored the Word of God and listened to the word of the serpent. And ‘their eyes were opened.’ And they were blind. The curse of sin made its mark upon the eyes of man and the woman who HAD SEEN perfectly, but who were now blind to the truth by the darkness of sin.

But in walks Jesus. And with a little spit and dirt properly mixed, along with His creative and re-creative Word – ‘I am the light of the world,’ the blind man received his sight. The ancient curse was lifted because in Christ, there is the forgiveness of sins. The eyes of the blind man were opened. The man declares, ‘I was blind but now I see.’ God is renewing Creation through Jesus Christ. The cause for our blindness to the truth, is our sin. But Jesus Christ takes away our sin and the sin of the whole world by bearing it in His own body on the cross.

Last week we met a man who was blind. Now this morning we meet a man who was dead. It doesn’t sound too terribly strange to say, I met a man today who was blind. That’s feasible. But to say, ‘I met a man today who was dead.’ That’s absurd. But as we know, God specializes in the absurd.

Would you take out your bible please and turn to Genesis, chapter 2:15-17. (Page 2 in your pew bible)

Once again, as we investigate the meaning of what took place at the tomb in Bethany, we’re going to go back to the beginning. It really is amazing to see how many of our present day problems have their origins in the beginning. Which means, that the only way to really fix our present day problems is to go back to the root cause and fix that. This is something that we simply don’t understand. And so we keep trying to fix the problems with our life and with the world by fixing the symptoms. Which is really all that we can do. We can’t fix the damage that one man and one woman did in the beginning. But there is One who can, and His name is Jesus Christ, because He alone was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.

We read Genesis 2:15-17. ‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Now, jump over to Genesis 3:4. ‘But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.’

For all of you who like things in ‘black and white,’ there it is. That’s about as black and white as the original sin gets. God says, ‘You will surely die.’ The serpent says, ‘You will not surely die.’ Which word will you believe? Which word will you put your trust and your faith in? Which word will you live by?

Sadly, Adam and Eve chose the word of the serpent and rejected the Word of God. Why do we insist on having free choice when this is what we do with it?
And once again, we learn the hard way, that the devil cannot be trusted. As Jesus says, ‘He is a liar and the father of lies.’ (John 8:44). Why then do we listen to him as we do? Why do we put our trust in the word of the serpent and reject the Word of God? We say, ‘I know God’s Word says I must not do this or that or the other thing. But I’m also listening to other voices and they tell me that it’s okay. I think I’ll listen to them.’

‘Death’ is the proof that God’s Word is true and that the serpent’s word is a lie. Don’t think that God will not be true to His own Word. Don’t think that ‘God is too merciful and kind to actually bring death to a sinner like He says.’ God will not be turned against His own Word. He will not contradict Himself. ‘Death’ is the proof that God’s Word is true.

But God’s Word also says that He will provide the ultimate remedy for death. ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.’ ‘Thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people.” (Ez.37:5,12)

And just as God’s Word of condemnation and death cannot fail, neither can His Word of resurrection and life. ‘Lazarus, come out! And the man who had died came out.’

Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead is the proof that God’s word is true. You believe that ‘death’ is true don’t you? We were painfully reminded once again this week that death is true, just as God’s Word says. Then, let us also believe that the resurrection of the dead is true, just as God’s Word says.

‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, even though he die, yet shall he live and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this’?

On Wednesday evening just before midweek Lenten worship, I visited George along with Julie in his room in the Critical Care Unit. He insisted that Julie bring him his laptop computer so that he could prepare lesson plans for his students while he continued to recover. He listened as I read the gospel reading that we just heard. I prayed, then we all prayed the Lord’s Prayer together. George was slow to open his eyes. When he did, he looked a little confused. Julie asked him if he was alright. He nodded and said, ‘I believe.’ Those were the last words I heard him speak. Listen, there are no better ‘last words’ to speak to me than these. ‘I believe.’

The resurrection of Lazarus and the resurrection of George is real and true, as real and true as the Word that says, ‘Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.’

But the resurrection of Lazarus and George are only the symptoms of a radical change that has taken place in the very structure of the universe. That death has no hold on them can only mean one thing. It can only mean that the root cause for all death has been atoned for. A cure that gets down to the deepest root of the problem has been administered, it has been poured out upon the disease. And the tree that once produced death, now bears a new fruit. What once bore death now bears life.

Jesus Christ has gotten down to the root cause of death as only He can. He has atoned for Adam and Eve’s original sin in the beginning and every sin that that original sin produces and that bears witness to our sinful nature. He has taken the curse of sin, which is death, upon Himself. And by His death, He has put death to death. And He Himself is the proof that it is real and true. ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’

This is what C.S. Lewis calls, ‘the deeper magic.’ In ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ book from the ‘Chronicles of Narnia,’ there is this incredible scene where the children are drawn into the forest by strange sounds. Coming to the source of the sound, they see Aslan the lion, who is the Christ figure. He is bound and tied to a huge stone table, obviously an altar meant for sacrifice. The ‘White Witch’ has shaved Aslan’s majestic mane and Aslan is bloody and defenseless. Then, to their horror, the White Witch kills Aslan.

Susan and Lucy are ‘walking aimlessly,’ unsure of how to proceed, when they heard from behind them a loud noise ‘ a great cracking noise of something crashing and breaking. Running to the scene, they see that the Stone Table is broken into two pieces and there is a great crack that runs down it from end to end; but Aslan was not there.

‘Who’s done this’? cried Susan. ‘What does it mean? Is it more magic’?

‘Yes!’ said a great voice from behind their backs. ‘It is more magic.’ They looked round. There, shining in the sunrise, larger than they had seen him before, shaking his mane (which had apparently grown again) stood Aslan himself.

‘Oh, Aslan!’ cried both the children, staring up at him, almost as much frightened as they were glad’.
‘But what does it all mean’?

‘It means,’ said Aslan, ‘that though the Witch knew the Deep Magic, there is a magic deeper still which she did not know. Her knowledge goes back only to the dawn of time. But if she could have looked a little further back, into the stillness and the darkness before Time dawned, she would have read there a different incantation. She would have known that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward.’
He who was overcome by death has overcome death. As by a tree, death came to all men, now by the tree of the cross, Christ has overcome death for all men. He has defeated the devil by His weakness. He has outwitted the evil one by the folly of a cross.

And by His victory over sin and death and the grave, He says to the devil, ‘I am the strong man here. And I now will bind you and take back from you all who are mine whom you stole from Me. You cannot hold those whom I love, my friends, whom I weep over. For ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will never die.’

Jesus called to Lazarus in his grave, and by the power of His Word to create faith in a dead man, Lazarus obeyed the Word of the Lord and came out as He was commanded. Likewise, from the darkness of the grave, the word of the Lord will be heard – ‘George Kohl, come out.’ And all who in this life said, ‘I believe,’ will come out and enter into eternal life.
And all because of Jesus. He has done it all. There is no other Savior. ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’

In the beginning, the Lord forbid the man to eat of the fruit of the tree saying, ‘For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’ But now, death is working backwards. So today, the same Lord offers you the fruit that comes from the tree of the cross, Christ’s body, saying, ‘Take and eat. For in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely live.’

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