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You Live Because Jesus is Righteous

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station description A collection of thoughts, ideas, and interpretations of the Gospel
‎Simply Grace
Duration: 23:52
Wesley Menke



Sermon 7 November 2021



All Saints Sunday



Once I was visiting with a man who was dying. He told me a story about a pastor he had. This pastor was known to preach often about heaven and eternal life. Then this same pastor got sick with cancer and was dying. The pastor and his fam
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Wesley Menke



Sermon 7 November 2021



All Saints Sunday



Once I was visiting with a man who was dying. He told me a story about a pastor he had. This pastor was known to preach often about heaven and eternal life. Then this same pastor got sick with cancer and was dying. The pastor and his family went to great lengths to ask people to pray for him to be healed from the cancer. So the man asked me, “If the pastor believed in eternal life and heaven, why was he trying so hard not to die?” The truth was that though I didn’t know this pastor, I had wondered the same thing myself, so I appreciated being asked the question. I answered as honestly as I could. I said that pastors, and not ust pastors, but all of us became very enamored with this world and the work God sent us to do. It’s hard to face the reality of leaving it behind. Even people with great faith don’t know what our journey looks like after death.



That same question applies to the story of Lazarus from the gospel of John. It’s a bizarre story. Jesus is in a nearby town when they send word that Lazarus is dying. They say that Lazarus was someone who Jesus loved. So they were close. Jesus denies the request. He’s not quite aloof, it’s not that he doesn’t empathize, but it sort of seems that he doesn’t take the problem all that seriously, either. He says, “This sickness doesn’t lead to death.” So he lets two more days go by. Then he decides to go back. The disciples urge Jesus against it. There are people there who want to kill you, Jesus, they say. They have a funny exchange. Jesus says that Lazarus has fallen asleep and needs help. The disciples say, “Then let him have a nice long rest. He’ll be okay.” Then Jesus speaks more plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” The disciples get frustrated and say, “Well let us all go and die together with him.” So they get to Bethany and Lazarus’ family is angry with Jesus. Basically they say that if Jesus would have come when they asked him to, then Lazarus wouldn’t be dead.



We can all relate to that. If you’ve ever been sick or had a loved one who is sick and they actually didn’t get better, and were not healed, you can’t help but think, “If God had showed up, if Jesus was here, then my loved one would not have died.” When terrible untimely deaths happen, it is natural to ask, “Where was God?”



So then Jesus does bring Lazarus back to life. It’s a messy business. He’s been dead four days and so he stinks. No doubt he reeks. They open up his tomb and Jesus commands him to come out, and he does. What must it have been like for Lazarus and the family? Joyous, yes, but also just really really weird. What did Lazarus experience? The Bible never has him utter a single word. Think about all the books and movies they’ve made about near death experiences. A bright light at the end of a tunnel. A paradise far more wonderful than we can ever imagine. Nothing at all? Lazarus doesn’t tell us what it is like.



The strangest and most difficult thing of all, is that after Lazarus is raised from the dead, some people become infuriated with Jesus and with Lazarus. Those who set themself against Jesus and desire him to be dead, now also set themselves against Lazarus. They actually make plans to kill Lazarus. Can you believe that? Lazarus is inconvenient and stirring up too much hope and faith, and so they make a plan to kill him. So was Lazarus raised from the dead only to be killed by an angry mob? Was Lazarus raised from the dead just to prove a point that Jesus is powerful?



It really gets to the heart of what we believe about life and death. Is death always a bad thing? What about when someone has suffered and agonized for years, and actually welcomes death? Death and taxes. The only two constants we can be sure of. I had a philosophy professor who liked to say that the death rate has remained constant throughout the years: one per person. Even if death comes gently at the end of a long life, there is still a loss. There is a loss of life and light and wisdom in the world. There is an inevitability about death. Even though Lazarus was raised from the dead, he will die again. Even though Jesus resurrected, he left earth.



Could you imagine an end to death? What if Lazarus just kept on living? The prophet Isaiah says that eventually God will swallow up death forever. God will wipe away all tears, and God will remove the disgrace of his people. It also says in the Bible that the wages of sin is death. We think back to Adam and Eve in the garden where eternal life in paradise was given up because of sin. This gets to the core of our own sin. The sin of works righteousness. Our greatest theological mistake is to believe that we get what we deserve.



They key to understanding this miracle story of Lazarus, isn’t that Jesus can magically bring people back to life. The key is that Jesus h
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