I want to begin by giving a review of the situations we have heard and seen on the way today:
First, we saw one of Judah’s great minds and leaders, Nicodemus, coming to Jesus in the still of the night, seeking to see if Jesus was not only a prophet, but the Messiah. Jesus confounds this wise man with silliness, telling him he must leave his old ways behind and allow God to birth him anew.
We have also seen a man born blind at birth, his culture condemning him as a sinner, saying “God must despise you.” And Jesus brushes it aside and says that out of this apparent weakness, God’s love and mercy will be displayed. Jesus heals the man. But the religious experts refuse to see the glory of God and instead they focus on Jesus’ lack of respect for their interpretation of God’s Law. In the end, we see that human wisdom is blind to the Light God brings into the world.
We have seen the friend of Jesus, Lazarus, become sick and die. In one sense, humanity has become accustomed to Death, but it is still a painful loss. Mary and Martha, also friends of Jesus, mourn their brother, awaiting the Day of the Lord, when they will see Lazarus again. Jesus weeps against Death and the pain it brings. He tells his friends, “I am the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this?” And in a human weak way, they answer yes. But Jesus isn’t interested in a half-hearted, verbal agreement…he awaits a whole-hearted, “all in” abandonment of belief…one in which their whole lives are radically rebirthed and one in which they radically receive sight of God’s Light in the world: Jesus, Messiah and God. Jesus awakens Lazarus and proclaims that he is not only the Lord over Death, but he is also the Lord of Life. God’s Life and Light is available now and always.
We have seen the crowds cheering Jesus as he enters Jerusalem, their perception and expectations clear. We have seen the response of the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law (the collection of human wisdom and leadership) become incensed because they believe Jesus is misleading God’s People. We have seen the disciples set their hopes in the Messiah. But we have also seen that none of their perspective were right. None of them saw, understood, or believed Jesus right: they saw, understood, and believed what they wanted. All of them needed to be birthed anew, to receive sight, and to abandon themselves whole-heartedly in their belief.
And that brings us to the Cross. An instrument of an empire desiring to rule through humiliation, violence, and fear—to compel its people by crushing them into submission. Oh, how did Judah burn to turn its cruelty back on Rome! Oh, how they yearned for God to crush the defilers, the pagans, the dogs, and pigs.
But Jesus took our human wisdom and leadership and, as he did throughout his ministry, demonstrated another way—the only way, God’s Way. He had all power, but went gently…he had all authority, but went meekly…he was the Life and Resurrection, but he went to Death. “It is finished,” he said at the last. In response to a hostile, arrogant, distorted world, he took on himself their brokenness and ignorance in Love. He finished his ministry.
Today. TODAY! In the depths of despair—in the loss of a friend, a teacher, and what…a prophet…but he said he was more—the followers of Jesus are trying to come to terms what has happened. What happened these last three years? What are we going to do now? We are forever changed. Do you remember Thomas’ words when he heard about Lazarus’ death, “I wish we could join him?” I’m guessing than many of the followers of Jesus were ready to join Jesus in death, no longer wanting to live in such a world.
“What’s this?! The women have seen him?! He spoke with them?! HE’S ALIVE?!” Can you imagine the mixture of emotions that they must have experienced? Could it be true? He’s done it before? How do we know for sure?
And Peter, John, and some others sprint to the tomb. Why…because they are abandoned…they see…they have been birthed anew. They want to see him…their Friend…their Teacher…their Lord and God. They run to join the Lord of Life.
What do you think the heart of Christianity is? Is it following rules? Is it being good and doing good? Is it being happy? The answer to all of these is an emphatic, “NO.” It is what you see here…friends and followers running to Jesus…to be near him, to see him, to hear his familiar voice. If you don’t know this Christianity or know Jesus in this way, you are invited to know it, to know the Lord of Life.
Too often the Church is seen as a people who build walls and lock the doors, themselves being on the inside and protecting Jesus and themselves from the world outside. Sometimes the Church (You and I, US) actually behave that way! But that isn’t Jesus.
Just as we were invited to be Jesus’ friend when we were broken and blind, he is still going out into this world to love the unlovable and loveless, bringing them life, sight, and eternity. Jesus is offering himself.
Glory to God in the Highest! Jesus is Lord! Lord of Life, here and now! Lord of the Resurrection, life forever and ever! Jesus…Jesus…Jesus…there’s just something about that name. Master. Savior. Jesus. Let all heaven and earth proclaim. Kings and Kingdoms will all pass away. But there’s something about that name. Amen.