15–21 July 2018.
When we are suffering it’s easy to think that God is very far away from us, living far away in heaven and not really interested in all the troubles we are going through every day. But that’s really not true at all.
God does care about us, and about what we are going through. He cares about our health, about the challenges we face at work and school, he cares about our relationships, and our connections with our family and friends. We don’t worship a distant God, but one who is always with us, always loving us, supporting us, and caring for us. That’s the good news we see in today’s reading from John 11.
When Christ, God the Son, sees that Lazarus has died, when he sees how much Lazarus’s sisters are suffering, the Gospels tell us that Jesus’s heart is deeply troubled. Jesus suffers together with Lazarus’s sisters and even cries together with them over this death. It’s not true that God looks at our sufferings from far away and doesn’t care. Instead God suffers with us. God feels the pain we are going through. And he cries with us when we cry. Christ is the best and closest friend that we have, the one who never leaves us even in our worst times. But Christ is also much more than just that – because Christ isn’t just a friend who shares our pain, he is the friend who heals and overcomes that pain.
Earlier in John 5:25–29, Jesus announced that he is the Lord over life and death. Now in the story of Lazarus, Jesus proves that those words were true. Christ feels for Lazarus and his family, he suffers with them, and he acts. Through the power of his love, he does what seems impossible: he brings Lazarus back to life. We are so used to suffering and death being the end of everything, the end of our life story, and the final end of all our hope. But Jesus shows us that’s not true. The power of Jesus’s love reaches past death, overcomes it, and brings us back to hope and life.
This isn’t just good news for Lazarus – it’s good news for all of us! The story of Lazarus hints at the good news coming on Easter morning, when Jesus rises from the dead and destroys forever the power of death. In the story of Lazarus, and in the good news of Easter, Christ shows us that sadness and death are not the end; suffering and pain are never stronger than the power of Christ’s love. Because Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us”, we have the promise that he will always be with us in suffering. But because Christ is the Lord of life and death, we also have the promise that suffering and death are never the end of our story with him. Jesus’s incredible love for us never lets us go. Instead he defeats suffering, reaches past death, and promises us that we will be with him forever.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis