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“The Miracles of Lent: The Resurrection of Lazarus”
John 11:46-53


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lenten Vespers II—February 29, 2012

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The sermon series this year for our Lenten Vespers services is “The Miracles of Lent,” focusing on miracles that are part of the Lenten story of our Savior’s suffering and death.  We began last week on Ash Wednesday with the miraculous darkness that enshrouded the earth for three hours while Christ hung upon the cross.  This evening we go back to just before Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week, to the miracle of the resurrection Lazarus, as reported in the Gospel of John:

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. . .  So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.” . . .  On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. . .  ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” . . . Jesus said to her, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in me shall live, even if he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’  ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ . . . ‘Where have you laid him?’ Jesus asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. . . Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha . . . ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’  Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. . .  Then Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’  And the dead man came out.”

Have you ever set up dominos in a row and then started the first one and watched as each continued knocking the next one down?  The resurrection of Lazarus is one of the “Miracles of Lent” because this mighty miracle was the event that started it all, the beginning of the domino effect that eventually led to Calvary and Christ’s crucifixion and death upon the cross.  For, right after this miracle John’s Gospel continues: “Therefore many of the Jews who . . . had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. . .  Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him.’ . . . So from that day on they plotted to take his life.”

The next chapter of John says that on the Saturday which was the day before Holy Week began on Palm Sunday, Jesus attended a dinner at the house of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus: “A large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.  So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.”

And the next day on Palm Sunday, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, “Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word.  Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him.  So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!’”

So, the resurrection of Lazarus was the beginning of the domino effect that eventually led to Calvary.  Because this mighty miracle led so many to believe in Jesus as the Messiah that out of jealously and fear of losing their own status the leaders of the Hebrew people plotted to kill him.

The resurrection of Lazarus also has for us a deep symbolic significance.  Paul says in Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins.”  Like Lazarus, all of us were by nature spiritually dead.  Just as Lazarus’ body was rotting away for four days in the tomb, because of our trespasses and sins we all deserve to rot away for eternity in hell.

But, Paul continues in Ephesians with the Good News: “Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ.”  Just as Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead, he has spiritually given you new life, by forgiving all your sins, and even though you die yet you shall live, for just as he raised Lazarus he will raise you up from the dead to eternal life. 

Martin Luther puts it this way in his explanation of the Apostles’ Creed in the Small Catechism: “[He] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death . . .  On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. . . that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true.”

“I am the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in me shall live, even if he dies.”  The raising of Lazarus from the dead was Jesus’ last, greatest miracle before his own suffering, death, and resurrection.  In fact, this mighty miracle was the event that started it all, the beginning of the domino effect that eventually led to Calvary and Christ’s crucifixion and death upon the cross.

This miracle means Jesus is more than just a great teacher, he is more than just an amazing miracle worker, he is more than just a remarkable man.  As Martha testifies, this miracle means that he is “the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world,” the promised Messiah, your Savior.

Amen.

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