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What to do at the Grave

John 11 This past week I went to Missouri to celebrate the life of my grandmother. She was 98 when she went to be with the Lord. We celebrated a woman who loved God and loved people. While we knew she was now in the presence of the Lord, and we knew she had been so ready to go see Jesus, we still had our teary good byes. You get to the gravesite and the reality sets in. I was talking to my brother-in-law, who lost his mother last year, and we both said the reality of loss truly hits when you are at the grave. The finality of it all Its always a mixed bag of emotion at the grave. We dont handle grief very well as Americans, so we dont know quite what to do when the finality of that grave comes into full view. We have nervous conversation. We cry. We may sing a hymn or quote a Scripture. We just dont know what to do. Its over. Jesus was dealing with that finality in this passage. The real complication with this passage in the context of who he is dealing with is this: Mary and Martha knew Jesus could

have done something different.


The pain is so intense. They were burying a brother they KNEW they didnt need to bury. Jesus REALLY could have come and done something different! They knew healing. They knew miracles. They knew that as long as there was breath still in the body there was hope. But there is the grave. And Lazarus has been laid in it. Its over. We Have Our Gravesites If you dont know this story, its about Jesus and some very close friends: Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus has been sick so his sisters send for Jesus. They KNEW Jesus. They had watched the miracles. And they knew Jesus loved them. What do to at the grave 1

Jesus hears about Lazarus, BUT HE DOESNT GO RIGHT AWAY. Read v. 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, This illness isnt fatal. Its for the glory of God so that Gods Son can be glorified through it. Jesus didnt rush to him. Jesus didnt even speak a healing word. Things he did for complete strangers he didnt do for Lazarus. This passage is FULL of hurt and disappointment. Mary and Martha werent just HOPING Jesus would come. They EXPECTED Jesus to come. They KNEW he could heal their brother and DID NOT. Jesus could have easily come through and he didnt. Weve been to those literal and figurative gravesites. Those places where we had pleaded with God about healing. We had pleaded for a miracle. Weve stood in those places where it looks final. The miracle was needed and didnt come. The financial provision was so desperately needed and nothing. Weve stood at the grave of desperate unanswered prayers. And we have HURT. We thought we knew Jesus! We thought JESUS KNEW US! We were so sure Jesus HAD to come through! But there we are, standing at that place of finality that grave looking at something final that didnt end the way we wanted. The dreams has died. The miracle didnt come. It is a place of silence grief bitterness. It is dark. We are NOT happy with Jesus. We do NOT want to hear verses like, All things work together for good This is not a pleasant place and we need to FEEL this as we read the story. What do to at the grave 2
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We prayed for healing and healing didnt come. We were told to dream big dreams and we dared to dream and it didnt turn out. We put it all on the line and it all came crashing down. We needed that financial miracle and instead we lost it all. It is the missionary going over to a hard place full of faith. They knew God had called them to that hard place. It starts out so well. But in a few years the missionary has died of cancer and NO ONE has come to faith. It is the one praying for healing in a relationship, but instead of a miracle everything has come undone. The wheels have flown off there is nothing left and it is WORSE than starting over. This is where Mary and Martha live. In v. 20 Martha hears that Jesus has finally come and she goes out to meet him. It says Mary stayed in the house. I dont think we should read that too quickly. I dont think when Martha went out to meet Jesus it was one of those friendly times. I think she may have MARCHED out to Jesus. Mary staying back is also significant. She may be so hurt, so bitter, she doesnt want to see him in that moment for fear she just may speak her mind. This is raw emotion. Dont just read lightly v. 21 or v. 32 Lord, if you had been here I think they are weeping uncontrollably, and I get a picture of each one pounding his chest and yelling, IF YOU HAD JUST BEEN HERE! WHY WERENT YOU HERE??? We have all been at those gravesites. Literally. Figuratively. Weve felt that loss. That grief. That bitterness. 3

What do to at the grave

Through Lent we have been immersed in the life of Christ on our Sunday passages. So the question weve asked each Sunday is this: Where are we finding Jesus? So here WHERE DO WE FIND JESUS? This is such an important passage because it has raw honesty in Jesus closest friends. It also reveals a part of Jesus we too often miss. Out of this story, I think we get the feeling of silence. We get Mary and Martha. The hurt. The grief. The silence from God. Weve probably experienced that. We prayed God ignored us We also get the euphoria part not in this story but in other stories. We have those times when we prayed and Jesus came through. We worship. We tell others. Were happy. Its an incredible feeling. But we often miss one side of God fairly consistently in our walk with God.
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When Jesus saw her crying and the Jews who had come with her crying also, he was deeply disturbed and troubled.34 He asked, Where have you laid him? They replied, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus began to cry. 36 The Jews said, See how much he loved him! Jesus is deeply disturbed. He is MOVED. He feels their loss. He lets emotion overwhelm him at the tomb. He weeps. We forget one of the great names of God in our losses: EMMANUEL God with us. We get God with us in our victories. We get God IGNORING us when weve asked for something and he hasnt come through. But we may not often think of the SORROW Jesus carries with us. YES he could have prevented Lazarus death. But he didnt. He didnt this time because people feel loss. We dont get miracles most of the time. What do to at the grave 4

We get loss a LOT. And we hurt. And we need to know THIS Jesus. The Jesus at the tomb weeping hurting WITH US. We just dont get a God who is WITH us IN our suffering but there he is. There are the cynical remarks (v. 37). He healed others. Why not HIS FRIEND? Why is HE crying? But we need to understand Jesus AT the grave. God gets us. He is IN our suffering. He is IN our pain. He is EMMANUEL. And NOTHING separates us from his love. I remember so vividly Dr. Lois Malcolm from Luther Seminary being with us a few years back and sharing about her mother. Her mother had been a young child living in China with her missionary parents when WWII broke out. Her mothers family was put into a Japanese concentration camp and it was there, as a young girl, that Dr. Malcolms mother realized that God was WITH HER in that camp. As long as God was with her in that camp and not necessarily delivering her from those atrocities she knew she was okay. NOTHING would separate her from the love of God. And then Dr. Malcolm shared about her mothers suffering at the end of life. She was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Even knowing she would fade into this fog her mother knew that her wasting body was not who she was in Christ. Even in that place of suffering, she knew NOTHING could separate her from the love of Christ. She knew the presence of Christ IN her dark moments. We may be standing at a grave today, but we can be immersed in the presence of Jesus! NOTHING can separate us from his love because he is GOD WITH US. One last thing: BELIEVE IN RESURRECTION

What do to at the grave

Dont just believe in the ACTION of resurrection. Believe in the One who IS the resurrection. Lazarus is in the grave and Jesus is trying to tell Martha something GREAT is possible. Martha tries to put it off. Yes, Lord, I believe my brother will rise on the last day. No, Martha I AM the resurrection and the life! We can tend to think, Okay, Ive suffered the loss, but this teaches me a greater thing is going to happen. Dont look at the greater thing. Dont even try to GUESS about a greater thing. Look at THE ONE who is resurrection and life! HE may speak something NEW. Something COMPLETELY NEW. He is able to take the shattered pieces of your life your situation and do something RADICALLY different. Believe in Resurrection. Not the action. The PERSON. To know that something far more powerful can come out of the tragedy. To know that something ahead can be to the glory of Jesus. Think of this. If Jesus had come to Lazarus and healed him right away it would have actually been EXPECTED. Its just what Jesus did. It would NOT have necessarily resulted in people believing. Jesus needed to turn them from ho-hum to OH WOW. And then realize they needed to BELIEVE. There is a long perspective Jesus has believe it or not! We are looking for the fix in our own lives, but Jesus is looking to the change that can happen in resurrection power.

What do to at the grave

I referred earlier to a missionary that was full of faith and had led his family to a hard place. Then he died of cancer. The Muslims around him had loved him. They had also seen miracles along the way. Miracles are usually so crucial in showing Muslims the power of Jesus, but here miracles were happening and NO ONE was coming to faith. The Lord spoke to the missionary and his family that out of his suffering and death would come a lesson for Muslims NOT on how to live but how to DIE. He was to show the power of Christ in death because there was such a fear of death in that culture. Out of loss can come RESURRECTION. Not for ourselves but for the Kingdom. We need the longer perspective. I do not have any huge results that have come out of that story. Only eternity gets to reveal that final result. But here is what that missionary taught me: Believe in the ONE who IS resurrection. What to do at the grave: We weep. We yell at God. We see him WEEPING. He is God WITH us. We let HIM be the resurrection. It may not be something for YOU but the Kingdom will be furthered. TRUST. My Jesus I Love Thee My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine; For Thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou; If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, tis now. I love Thee because Thou has first loved me, And purchased my pardon on Calvarys tree. 7

What do to at the grave

I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow; If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, tis now. Ill love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow, If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, tis now. In mansions of glory and endless delight, Ill ever adore Thee in heaven so bright; Ill sing with the glittering crown on my brow; If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, tis now.

What do to at the grave