Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Day Jesus Cried

In his opening welcome, Pastor Brad Shannon said, “I’m delighted you are here today to worship with us. We have a God who meets needs and who meets people where they are at.” This introduction set the tone for today’s message.

Announcements of importance this morning included notification that we will be celebrating a Good Friday Service at 7:00 p.m. on March 21, and that Easter morning we will be having a breakfast here are the church 9:00 a.m. instead of Sunday School.

Today’s Scripture readings were from Psalm 130 and Romans 8:6-11.

Today’s sermon was titled The Day Jesus Cried from the well known account of Lazarus in chapter eleven from the Gospel of John.

My favorite verse as a child, Pastor Brad said, was John 11:35. “Jesus wept.” The reason was not noble, he noted. It was the shortest verse in the Bible. “It only took me two days to memorize,” he said, tongue planted in cheek.

He recalled for us instances in Jesus’ life demonstrating our Lord’s strength and authority. It was a powerful man who challenged the moneychangers in the temple, turning over their tables, driving them out with a whip. He was a man not afraid to confront demons, casting them away wherever He encountered them. He essentially told the disciples to follow him, men who were rugged themselves and accustomed to hardship. He said, “Follow me,” and they followed.

So, why would the God of the universe cry? It is a question Brad asked at Bible Camp as a youth and the reply was not unlike what many people might have said. “Jesus is human, just like you, so when His friend died He was saddened by this.” Which sounds like a good enough answer, until you actually read what the Bible really says.

There are a number of clues that point to the real reason Jesus wept. But before we go there, Pastor Brad said, he asked us to close our eyes and think about the things that trouble us today, the burdens we are carrying. After this brief moment of reflection, we returned to the sermon.

Clue #1
The first clue can be found in verses 3 and 4. Jesus’ friend Lazarus, brother of Mary and Martha, was sick. The sister sent word to the Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death.”

Jesus planned from moment one to raise Lazarus from death. Death is a period, not a comma. Dead is dead. But Jesus knew He had come to change this all around.

One day there will be a funeral here (at New Life Covenant) and it will not be the end. Instead, we shall proclaim, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”

Clue #2
In verses five and six we read that even though He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, “when he heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.” A better translated shed light on verse five that it was because He loved them that He waited two more days. Jesus is excited about what He is going to do. There is no sadness in the text at this point.

And so, at verse seven He says they should go back to Judea. One of the disciples, speaking up on behalf of all, said, “But Rabbi,a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”

The Lord’s response is a curious one here. "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world's light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light." Essentially He is saying, “If you are with Me, it doesn’t matter.”

Clue #3
As if to sum up what is really going on, Jesus spells it out: “Lazarus has fallen asleep.” It’s a temporary state of affairs.

Clue #4
When the disciples fail to “get it” Jesus spells it out. “Lazarus is dead.”

How did the disciples respond to this news? Thomas showed his confidence (or lack thereof) by saying, “Let us also go that we may die with him.”

Was Jesus, who knew everything that was going on here, sad going into this? No. He had the gift of life and was about to deliver it.

Clue #5
Verse 23 is clue five. “Your brother will rise again,” He said. But Martha responds in a dismissive way. She still doesn’t get it.

This is the context for that wonderful affirmation of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Pastor Brad made several powerful statements here that our blog writer is inadequate to convey. First, that it is no good to sing songs and feel good unless we really believe what we’re doing. “And the only proof that we really believe what we’re singing is when we act on what we believe.”

Then the other sister came out and said, “If only you’d been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus saw her weeping and the other Jews who had come along weeping and He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. It does not say that when He saw the grave where Lazarus had been placed he wept, but rather when He saw His people suffering needlessly, carrying on their own shoulders a burden He didn’t want them to carry, oblivious to the promise and hope He had just offered, burdened and buried in the sin of disbelief...

It was here that Jesus wept.

When I got up the day before yesterday, God almighty Himself was standing beside my bed, like He stood by yours this morning and mine this morning. And He says to each of us, “You’re going to face some things today that you have no idea what’s coming.” Perhaps it will be a relational conflict that will break your heart. Or some other kind of pain or crisis. Jesus says, “I have what you need. Trust Me. I can feel the pain in your heart. Give it to me.” Jesus has promised to make your yoke lighter.

When we wallow in our sorrow, the Lord weeps. What gives the Lord great joy is when we put our trust in Him.

This is the Gospel of the Lord.


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