1.Ezekiel 37:12-14
Gospel: John11:1-45

" Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live."

It is said that there are many kinds of fears of human beings, thousands and even millions of them. In the book entitled, ' Words to Live By,  fear of speaking in public is the first greatest fear. Do you know what the second is? Death is the second greatest fear among human beings. It is interesting to note the people deeply fear death but seem to do very little to change their lives in light of it.

Embarking on our gospel today, Jesus went to the house of his close friends, Martha, Mary and Lazarus. In the road, He knew already that Lazarus got sick. When He arrived, He was dead already for four days. He cried when he saw Martha and Mary crying. This gives an implication that Jesus is also a human being, he is not only God. It is because we tend to forget that Jesus got hungry in the desert. We tend to forget that Jesus got thirsty on the cross. We tend to forget that Jesus got weary on the way to Samaria. We tend to forget that Jesus grew depressed at Gethsemane. Most especially he cried when Martha said to Him: " Lord, if you have been here, my brother would not have been died." ( v.21). It is because this shows Martha's failing confidence and trust in the Lord.

We can ask ourselves this question that why death is so frightening? in fact death is the way towards eternal life. Why do we fear death?? we fear it because we think that all beautiful things  in our lives will come to an end. For example, we will be separated from our loved ones and they forget us completely after death. Plan, ambitions and dreams will not be fulfilled. We are afraid because we do not know what will happen to us in the other life. No one who went there came back home! But they preferred the peace and bliss they experienced in the next life. Although there are variations in the accounts, the responses are always similar.

Of all the miracles Jesus did, the raising of Lazarus ranks as the most astonishing to the people of his time. Traditionally Jewish belief had it that the soul of a dead person somehow remains with the body for three days. After three days the soul departs finally from the body and never return, and that is the moment when corruption sets in. When Martha objects the opening of the tomb and says, "Lord already there is a stench because he has been dead four days"( John11:39), she is expressing the common view that this is now a hopeless situation. Is that why Jesus delayed coming  to the funeral, to let the situation become " impossible" before acting on it?  one writer known as G.K. Chesterton once said, " Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all." In traditional Jewish mentality bringing back life to a person who is already four days dead and decaying  is as unthinkable as the prophet Ezekiel's vision  in which the grey, dry bones of the dead are miraculously restored to life.

Indeed for the early Christians the story of Lazarus was more than a pointer  to the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus rose on the third day; his body new saw corruption. For them this miracle is a challenge to never give up hope even  in the hopeless situations in which they found themselves as individuals, as a church or as a nation. It is never too late for God to revive and revitalize a person, a church or a nation. However, in the first place we must learn to cooperate with God.

How can we cooperate with God so as to experience God's resurrection power in our lives and in our world? Well everyone knows the answer already: Faith. Nevertheless, that is not the point that John makes in this story. In fact there is no one in the story not even Mary or Martha, who believed that Jesus could bring Lazarus back to life after four days dead. No one expected him to do it, so expectant faith is not the emphasis here. Rather the emphasis in the story on how we cooperate with a miracle-working  God is placed on practical obedience and doing God's will.

To effect the miracle, Jesus issues three commands and all of them are obeyed to the letter. That is how the miracle happens. First, " Jesus said,  ' Roll away the stone'..... so they rolled away the stone" ( verses 39-41). Did people understand why they should  do this heavy work of rolling away the tombstone to expose a stinking corpse?  I think they didn't. But it was their faith in Jesus expressing  itself not through intellectual agreement with Jesus but through practical agreement with him, through obedience. We can ask ourselves this question that why didn't Jesus command the stone to roll away all by itself, without bothering people? We don't quite know. All we know is that divine power seems always to be activated by human cooperation and stifled by non-cooperation.  As C.S. Lews said, "God seems to do nothing of Himself which He can possibly delegate to His creatures." God will not do by a miracle what we can do by obedience.

The second command Jesus gives is directed to the dead man: " Lazarus, come out! and the dead man came out ( verses43-44). We do not the details of what transpired in the tomb. All we know is that Jesus' word of command is followed by immediate obedience. Lazarus gropes his way out of the dark tom even with his hands and feet tied up in bandages, and his face all wrapped up. Even  a man rotting away in the tomb can still do something to help himself.

The third command again is addressed to the people, " Unbind him, and let him go"( verses44). Even though Lazarus could stumble himself out of the tomb, there was no way he could unbind himself. He needs the community to do that for him. By unbinding Lazarus and setting him free from the death implies that the community is accepting Lazarus back as one of them.

Today, many Christian individuals and communities have fallen  victim to the death sin. Many are already in the tomb of hopelessness and decay, in the bondage of sinful habits and attitudes. Nothing  short of a miracle can bring us back to life in Christ. Jesus is ready for the miracle. He himself said, " I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly"( John 10:10). Dear brothers and sisters, are we ready  to roll away the stone that stands between us and the light of Christ's face? Are we ready to take the first step to come out of the place of death? Are we ready to unbind ( forgive) one another and let them go free? These are various ways we cooperate with God in the miracle of bringing, renewing and reviving  us as individuals, as a church and a nation.

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Chapisha Maoni