This Easter, I’ve been given the privilege of speaking at our church’s sunrise service. Here it is:
In John chapter 11 we read the story of a family in grief. Mary and Martha watched their brother Lazarus suffer with sickness. They called out to Jesus for help, saying, “The one you love is sick.” Jesus responded and kindled the hopes of the two sisters. He assured them: “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus promised life.
But by all appearances, Jesus did not keep his promise. While Mary and Martha sat at the bedside of their dying brother, Jesus did not arrive. He did not show up until four days after Lazarus was buried. Martha’s frustration was apparent. “If you had only come sooner, my brother would not have died.” Mary was frank as well. “If you had only come sooner, my brother would not have died.”
We live in a world of grief. Sickness, death, war, disease – they are all part of our world. Countries are embroiled in ethnic wars. Madmen dictators drive their nations into poverty. Sure, these things are all distant problems that we hear about on the news, but they are still real – no less real than the pain felt by people here in Gloucester. Abuse, alcoholism and drug addiction ruin lives and tare apart families. Our world, our town cries out to God, “If you had only come sooner, my child would not have died.” “If you had only come sooner, my family would still be together.” “If you had only come sooner, my life would not be in ruins.” “If you had only come sooner – God – we would not be in this mess.” If many of us were honest, we would sound a lot like Mary and Martha.
Jesus’ response in Bethany is the same response he has for us today. In response to Mary’s grief, “Jesus wept.” Jesus was not aloof. He shared their grief. This is the same response that God himself gave our world when he sent his son. Rather than standing aloof, he sent Jesus to live among us, to experience life, grief and disappointment, and ultimately to face the horrors of our world in death on the cross.
But we know from rest of the story that this is not God’s final response. Jesus assured Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even in death.” God’s final answer is life. His final answer is resurrection. Jesus promised Mary and Martha that the glory of God would be shown even in the death of their brother. He assured them at the grave, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” He called them to trust in him.
While Jesus came into this world to suffer along side us, he also came to embody life itself. He healed the sick and proclaimed liberty to the captives. His resurrection asserted God’s victory over the powers of darkness.
God does not simply answer a world of sin and death with empathy, he answers with life giving power.
Just as Jesus called Mary and Martha to believe, he calls us today to stake our lives in him – the one who embodies God’s resurrection power. As we believe in him, we are brought to see the glory of God. Jesus called Lazarus from the grave. He spoke life into death. Today he speaks life into our own dead situations. He speaks life into our own shattered dreams by replacing them with his own dreams for us. He speaks life into our families through reconciliation and healing. He speaks life into Gloucester as he asserts God’s rule over addiction and abuse.
This Easter he is resurrection. He is life. Believe in him, even in the midst of death, and you will live. Trust in him, and you will see the glory of God.