Every generation struggles with the finality of the grave and the incomprehensibility of death. In recent years, we do our best to deny death. People rarely die at home surrounded by their loved ones. Their bodies are no longer dressed and prepared for burial by the family. Today this process has been taken over by professional hospitals, hospices, and morticians. All this springs from the heartfelt wish to make death pleasant. But it masks a profound anxiety that even the prettiest funeral service cannot disguise.
Here the raw vulnerability of our lives stands naked and we are confronted by a personal fate we would rather not look at directly. The story of Lazarus draws us directly into the pathos so deeply rooted in our hearts. Lazarus died from an illness that should never have been terminal. His grave is a reminder of every grave we have visited and a parable of the grave we must all visit—our own. John 11:43-44 says:
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Jesus had retreated to a place to teach His disciples about His impending death and to avoid the dangers of Jerusalem, where several attempts on His life had been made. However, Jesus was close to a family living in Bethany, near Jerusalem. When His friend Lazarus became sick, Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha sent an urgent message to Jesus (11:1-3). Inexplicably, Jesus deliberately delayed his return for two days (vv. 4-16). The disciples were aware of the danger in returning to the environs of Jerusalem and encouraged Jesus not to take the risk. Because of His love for this family, Jesus returned. However, when He arrived Lazarus was dead. Jesus spoke to the sisters and referred to Himself as "the Resurrection and the Life," a reality they acknowledged. But even these firm believers limited Jesus' power to "the last day" (vv. 17-27). Jesus kindly and gently corrected Martha by claiming that He now is ‘the resurrection and the life’ (v. 25). Martha accepted this and goes on to make a strong confession of faith (v. 27). The issue is - can she sustain this faith? The resuscitation of her brother strained her faith and that of her sister, who both believed that, if Jesus had been there, He could have prevented Lazarus’s death. But, now they are not so sure about His ability to revive him after four days. Jesus, deeply moved at the pain of the two sisters, called for Lazarus' tomb to be opened (vv. 28-40).
Martha complained that there would be a smell. There can be no doubt that Lazarus was dead. So, Jesus prayed. The purpose of the prayer was to create faith in the hearts of those standing around the tomb of Lazarus wondering what would happen next. The prayer presupposes that Jesus knew the Father’s will concerning Lazarus, and what He was about to do would not be merely for the sake of Lazarus but for those who would witness the incredible act that was to follow. The prayer was aimed at bringing the observers into the group of believers.
After praying, Jesus called Lazarus by name and told him to come out. At this, Lazarus came out and was reunited with his family. However, Jesus’ act of love for Lazarus and the power He demonstrated over death hastened His death. But, it shows the magnitude of Jesus’ love for us. He loves us so much that He was willing to come to earth and die for us so that we could live eternally with Him. There is no greater love than that.
Who Am I?
When called to care for God's children, you:
- Spend "3" years with the Sheriff's Department;
- "4" years with the High Point Police Department;
- Become an ordained elder and minister to God's children for "21" years;
- Serve as a District Superintendednt for 7 years;
- And spend 2 years in the Conference office!
I am the retired, Rev. Dr. James Graves,
a religious jazz enthusiast playing my saxophone at my church: SGUMC! Isn't retirement great!
The United Methodist Women of Simpson-Gillespie United Methodist Church invite you to join them for “Bible Study,” using the theme: “Living by God’s Character,” Saturday, April 7, 2018, 9:30am to 2pm.
The bible study includes awesome fellowship and is being co-led by ministers Rev. Dr. Marcia Conston and Re. Jennifer Johnson.
Prepare yourself for a treat and freshen up on the “Beatitudes: Matthew 5: 1-11.
Simpson-Gillespie United Methodist Church is located at 3545 Beatties Ford Road, Charlotte, NC 28216, where Rev. Miller Carter is pastor.
Please RSVP to UMW President, Earonita F. Strong at: 704.534.4387, to assure ample food is provided.