Can’t see the wood for the trees

Sermon John 11:1-45


In the Gospel we see Jesus in a way that covers all bases. Jesus against the advice of his disciples has his eyes toward Jerusalem, and walks to the cross in the Will of his Father. We see his compassion and love, his humanness in going to Lazarus and weeping with those mourning. We see his wisdom; the miracle he would perform, the last miracle of his public ministry in raising Lazarus would Glorify God and bring many who witnessed it, to faith.

But the high point in the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. Here, before his own resurrection we can clearly see Jesus as the Messiah as he raises a body that is already decomposing-the Messiah who brings life-to Lazarus that day, and life eternal to those who witnessed it. Just as he has brought us life eternal in his own death and resurrection.
That’s the big picture, we can see that and we know that in faith. We can see it clearly, and even though in the human mind, without faith it seems foolishness but we do not doubt it, and nor should we because it’s the truth. We know that one day; we will pass from earth to heaven, because Jesus has told us this. It’s an unshakable truth-to be given forgiveness, to have faith that when the saints go marching in, that we will be in that number is nothing short of a miracle.

Eternal life, we can see it, feel it. It is clearly evident and we know Jesus won’t let us down. Yet on our way there, sometimes it can get hard to see the trees from the forest. We can still see that picture, that miracle in the distance, but in the here and now, the events our daily lives sometimes blur our vision. Not of our last day, but of what’s going on now. The day to day picture, the daily miracles, the beauty of life, the love of God sometimes can become a bit hazy, or at the very least-take a bit for granted.
Coming from a financially humble background, when I was young I used to think how blessed some of my friends were. Although they were in the workforce and undertaking occupations like me they were from wealthy families who owned businesses. I used to think, how freeing that would be that they could do their job with that safety net that if things turned out badly they could just return to the family business. But I came to see, I was actually free myself-I didn’t have that financial safety net, but having come to faith, knowing the big picture-eternal life, it brought freedom here on earth. With that truth of the future, in the light of Christ daily struggles look different.
Like Martha knew and gave testimony to at the death of Lazarus, we can say of ourselves “I know that we will rise again in the resurrection on the last day”. As Christians we know this to be true and rejoice in it and give thanks to the Lord. We hear the Words of God from 1st Thessalonians “Rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances.” The thought of being re-united with those that have gone before, talking with and worshiping Jesus: Yes, at the thought, how could we not rejoice?

Yet there was a time when I considered those Words and thought that if you are rejoicing and giving thanks amid suffering and hurt, well then you can’t be suffering and hurting enough. A friend of mine once urged to me to go see a movie, he didn’t tell me anything about it-just its title. So I went along to see it. I got there a little late and missed the opening credits, but I could still work out what was going on. So I was watching this movie, and the longer it went the worse it seemed to get-but I persevered, and at the end I thought what was my friend thinking, that was garbage. Anyway, when I walked out I saw that the movie he had recommended to me had actually been showing on the screen in the next room. I had walked into the wrong movie.

Sometimes our lives can seem like that-where we start to wonder what is actually going on, where the script of our lives is different to how we imagined it. Where the “rejoicing always” doesn’t seem to fit the situation, Until we take a step back,   and sometimes the ability to take that step back can only come with the healing of time. Now I can look back at those times when I found it hard to rejoice and give thanks, and it’s like reflecting on a Wilbur Smith novel where this lead to this and eventually you see how things have fallen into place. And it can be funny how things can turn out.

Test Cricketers have remarked, that at the height of his powers that when Shane Warne released the cricket ball, it would spin so furiously that they could hear it zinging past them. When Shane was asked of his freakish ability he remarked that he believed it was due to an accident he had as a child were he broke his hand, and having not gone to the doctor-the bone’s set incorrectly, that later seemed to give him an un natural ability to spin the ball. But our lives are not a game of cricket or from a fictional book or movie script with only our fleeting emotional attachment. Our lives are real as are the things that come our way. Things that come our way, where like Martha and Mary we too say “Lord, if only you were here”. My dear Christian friend who lost his teenage son to illness would go out into the paddock,Look to the heavens and shout “Why Lord, why my boy? I cannot imagine the pain of my friend-I could not even try.

We could look piously at people in these situations and say “Trust in the Lord”, or give some, “get some faith type of comment like Job’s mates gave him, until it’s us. Until our moment brings us to our knees-where the hurt is so absorbing we cannot rejoice. And only ask why? But far from being a faith issue, that question is a faith statement. Just like Marta and Mary saying to Jesus “If only you were here” is a statement of faith, in my friend asking “why”, he is saying “I know you have the power to do anything”-It’s a statement of faith, but a statement of faith while suffering what this world has to offer.

Lazarus, my friend’s son and in our own hurts. God did not send down the grim reaper upon these people to prove a point. Just as natural disasters are not God getting a little payback. Death was not brought into the world by God. Sin brought it into the world. God does not bring the death he brings the life. Even when Adam and Eve fell to sin, God responded by clothing them. Jesus met those mourning at the death of Lazarus to only be greeted with essentially “why weren’t you here” But he doesn’t lecture them, he weeps with them. Just as Jesus wept for those who persecuted him. On his way to the cross Jesus came to a man who had died a sinner. Lazarus, a good man but a sinner, and Jesus came to him and raised him up. And in this, the Gospel tells us many came to believe.

When Jesus hangs on a cross dying, a black cloud lay over a hill in Jerusalem, but above it shone the love of God. An innocent man’s death, that many more may come to believe. Like Lazarus will be raised on the last day, so too will we. Like Lazarus died in sin and was raised in Christ, so too are we. Daily we sin, daily we doubt and daily we follow our own way and not that of the Lord. Yet in our failure to walk with Christ, he walks with us.

He does not meet us in scorn, but meets us in love, and reveals himself to us. At the fall in the Garden, God clothed two sinners for their protection and warmth on their earthly journey. On the cross, God gave sinners his Son, gave us His son for our protection and warmth on our earthly journey, and clothed us with the righteousness of His Son for salvation.

Like Paul, who described himself as the chief of sinners we too can say “For it pleased God in his kindness to choose me and call me. Then he revealed his Son to me, and now I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me”.  Daily Jesus meets us, washes us clean with his blood, and daily we die too our sins-to be restored us and strengthened in Christ.  To be given life and we rejoice and give thanks and go forward, knowing Christ is with us-come what may.Amen