A Sermon by Rev. John Michael Bote
Parish Pastor, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Malabon City
South Luzon District
March 29, 2020 | 5th Sunday in Lent
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
COVID-19 has caused tons of deaths all over the world. Bodies are burned immediately that their family members would not even have a chance to see the body of their deceased loved ones. Where’s comfort in all of that? Where’s comfort during these times?
Our Gospel for the 5th Sunday in Lent (John 11:1-45) tells us of a very familiar story of one of the iconic miracles that Jesus did. We have Lazarus, Martha, and Mary who were from Bethany. They have been known to be Jesus’ close friends. Lazarus was sick and his sisters had approached Jesus and asked for help. Jesus responded in a very unusual way. However, in this narrative, Lazarus did die. When Jesus went to Bethany, Lazarus was dead for four days already. Martha and Mary said that if Jesus was there earlier, Lazarus would not have died. But this was an opportunity for Jesus to show who he is and His purpose. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.
There are some twists and important elements in this story that would help us appreciate what Jesus has done. First is Jesus’ answer to Mary and Martha when Lazarus was still sick. Jesus said on verse 4, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” This is the same answer that Jesus gave to His disciples in the Gospel reading last 4th Sunday in Lent. When the disciples asked Jesus, who sinned that the man was born blind, Jesus answered that this is for the glory of God. The answer of Jesus is true. Jesus has been doing miracles to show that He is the Son of God and that all glory and honor would be for God alone. When Jesus said that the illness will not lead to death, Jesus was giving comfort and assurance that Lazarus will not stay dead.
Another thing is that, even though Jesus knew what would happen all along, he stayed for two days before travelling to Bethany. He could’ve gone earlier and prevent Lazarus’ death. But Jesus did not. This is for the purpose of fulfilling what the Father wants in that appointed time – that Jesus would be glorified by the people by witnessing his power.
This is now in connection with how Martha and Mary approached Jesus. They have said that if Jesus was present, things could be better. But their words still showed a glimpse of their faith. With Jesus telling them that He is the resurrection and the life, Martha confessed that Jesus is the Son of God. Also, when Jesus did the miracle, it seems impossible, especially when Lazarus was dead for already four days. But, still, Jesus raised him up from the dead. Many people, who have witnessed this miracle, believed in Jesus.
In those kind of times, doubt could’ve risen from the situation. Worries could be something that would reign in the hearts of the people. Fear could also be one. Sadness would cover the people, especially those who were close to Lazarus. Jesus even wept. However, Jesus was there to spread comfort to everyone. He was there to spread life and hope to everyone. By bringing Lazarus back to life, he has proven that he indeed is the resurrection and the life. Yes, my dear friends, Jesus has defeated death. He has victory over sin and the devil. Through his suffering, death on the cross, and resurrection, Jesus has conquered all our enemies.
In these times, when we are just at home, and we always hear news about deaths caused by COVID-19, and we tend to panic, and even other news like earthquakes on some parts of the world; having this sinful and weak flesh in us, we could have doubts on so many things – particularly on God. This is how sin, death, and the devil attack us. They would try to plant doubt in our hearts. However, these things are nothing compared to Jesus. These things may try to destroy us and the relationship that God established in us.
But, my dear friends, they will never defeat us. Yes, we will be sick, yes, we will suffer, yes, we will die; but it is just a light and momentary affliction as how Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 4:17. Jesus himself just called death a sleep. Jesus’ words show us that He is greater than sicknesses, these viruses, these diseases. Jesus’ words show us that He is greater than the disturbances in this life. Jesus’ words tell us that He is greater than death. He is greater than these things for He has given us forgiveness, life, and salvation. Jesus’ words proclaim victory and the assurance that we will all rise on the last day. All these we received through faith. All these, plants faith, not doubt, faith that looks forward to the day that we will be with our Father in heaven, living happily, perfectly, and gloriously.
Brothers and sisters, this is the comfort Jesus Christ gives us. He is the resurrection and the life. He even assures us that we will never perish. Yes, this is true. Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, was given to us. Through Him, through His death and resurrection, we have the comfort and proof that He will never leave us. His death and resurrection are enough to be the reasons for us to hold on to His Word.
So, at this time, we have someone whom we can hold on to. We have Jesus Christ who raised Lazarus from the dead. We have Jesus Christ, who has given us life. We have Jesus Christ the God who has protected us and cared for us even from the beginning of time, and until the day that He will return. Yes, Jesus is with us and will always be with us and who would bring us to the day of our glorious resurrection. I would like to end by quoting Psalm 30:5,
“For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
In Jesus’ name, Amen.