The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead
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Worship at Home      29th March 2020
The Raising of Lazarus
Handley Stevens

John 11. 1 - 45

On Passion Sunday, as we approach the climax of the Christian year, the readings for the day offer us a glimpse of resurrection light in the gathering gloom, to see us through the dark days ahead. We have printed only verses 17-27, the first of Jesus’ two conversations with Lazarus’ sister Martha, but do read the whole of this moving story in your own Bible.  
Jesus knows what he is going to do.  Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him (v 11).   Martha and Mary love Jesus and trust him, but why didn’t he come sooner, to heal his sick friend?   Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.   And even now … Martha clutches hesitantly at a straw of hope … even now, I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.
Your brother will rise again.  Martha knows that, but it’s not much comfort.  We sense her lips quivering, her eyes brimming with tears, as she confirms her belief in the resurrection, perhaps a little bleakly.  Having seen Martha’s distress and drawn out her faith, Jesus now responds gently with the most amazing promise: I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?  Martha responds with a full confession of faith: Yes, Lord, I do believe, you are the Messiah, the Son of God.  Some of us might need to add the honest plea from another story:  Help Thou mine unbelief.  Help me where faith falls short.  
Jesus wept (verse 35).  The shortest verse in the whole Bible is a deeply poignant reminder of Jesus’ humanity.  Why did he weep, when he knew that his Father would hear his prayer and act to resuscitate the dead man?  He wept because he was deeply moved by Mary and Martha’s distress.   
And now at last he acts, he acts to give us more than we dared to hope for:  “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”   Lazarus, come out.  Unbind him and let him go.  If by the power of his Spirit we dwell in Him, and He in us – Paul’s message to the Romans - then resurrection is not an uncertain future hope, but a present reality, a source of true, vibrant life, setting Lazarus free from his tomb, setting us free - for now and for ever – to realise our full potential as God’s beloved children.

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