Lent 5

March 17, 2002

Text:     John 11:1-45 (emphasis on verses 21-27)

Title:     “Replacement Value”



I.          Spring Cleaning

·        Last week was Brenda’s spring cleaning week

·        I didn’t want to clean

·        Found myself rummaging through papers, pretending to work

o       Found insurance papers

§         “replacement value”


·        What does that mean?

o       Read further – if something happens to your stuff, they pay to replace it

o       Occurred to me that all my worldly possessions would be worth more if I lost them

o       Surely it can’t be true – my precious possessions

§         My good old chair

§         Couch

§         Lamp

§         All that comfortable, beat up furniture in my study that my wife hates

·        Lose it – get a brand new one – no charge

o       That’s how my insurance works (supposedly)

·        Let’s talk briefly today about replacing those things that are most precious to us


II.         The text – John 11:1-45

·        Preparing us for next week

o       Palm and Passion Sunday


John 11 does just that, for the raising of Lazarus recorded in this chapter is the event that precipitates the plot against Jesus’ life.


·        Story seems to be about the death and resurrection of Lazarus

o       Beneath the surface, there’s a deeper subject

§         Death and resurrection of Jesus

·        Jesus returns to Bethany

o       Finds Lazarus just bones and rotting flesh

§         What can be done?

§         Who can do anything about it?

§         Jesus gets back to Bethany just in time to preach Lazarus’ funeral

§         Day one – make mortuary arrangements

§         Day two – family members arrive from out of town

§         Day three – conduct the service

§         Jesus has arrived in time to preach

o       The main problem

o       Martha didn’t want preaching

§         “If you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died”

o       Martha not interested in soothing words about the sweet by-and-by

§         She knows he will rise again in the resurrection of the last day

o       Martha wants her brother back

§         She wants Lazarus

§         There will be a resurrection of the dead, someday

·        But that doesn’t help Martha now

·        She wants life today, not someday


A family sits in the ICU waiting room at Huguley Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas.  The doctor walks in, and with as much compassion as he can muster, says to the daughter who has risen to meet him, “He’s gone.  We did everything we could to save him, but the damage from the arrest and the loss of blood to his brain was just too much.  He’s gone.”  And they cry. 


After a moment or two, a pastor speaks up and says, “Why all these tears?  Don’t you believe in the life everlasting?  The resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, like we say in that Apostle’s Creed every Sunday?”


The daughter replies, “Yes, we believe.  We believe all that.  But we want him back now.”


§         In our other lectionary lessons today, we hear Ezekiel prophesy to a valley of bones

o       Ezekiel wants Jerusalem, the whole house of Israel, back

§         The Psalmist calls out to the Lord from the depths of his hurt

o       The Psalmist wants his spirit back

§         Parents want their children back

§         Children want their parents back

§         Spouses want their spouses back

§         And in the midst of our wanting, Jesus says something remarkable

o       If you have me, you have back whatever you lost

§         How do we achieve restoration?

o       Breath into dry bones

o       Hope into waiting souls

§         The one who restored

o       Children of Israel

o       Jerusalem

§         Is the same one who restores Lazarus

o       The only one who can restore creation

§         That’s how we achieve real restoration

o       Not by trying to get our stuff back

o       Not by seeking the restoration of what we lost

o       But instead seeking out the restorer himself

§         It’s God through Christ who restores

§         Christ embodies the replacement of what we have lost

·        That’s true replacement value

·        Whatever we lose, we get back

·        No charge

o       Or is there?


III,       The costs

§         For Jesus, the beginning of the end

§         After raising Lazarus, powers that be get their act together

o       V. 53 “So from that day they planned to put him to death”

o       Too much Easter in play

§         Lazarus leaves the tomb, but the price is that Jesus must enter it

o       Grain of wheat must die to bear fruit (John 12:24)

o       To give life, must give up life

o       Jesus makes no exception for himself

§         Leads us up to this hour

·        Willingness to submit

·        When Jesus asks the disciples where Lazarus’ body has been laid, they say,  “come and see” (verse 34)

o       This phrase used in chapters 1 and 4 of John’s gospel as an invitation to discipleship

o       Now that same word, same invitation is turned upon Jesus himself

§         The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified

o       Does this realization give different meaning to the next verse?

§         “Jesus began to weep.”

§         That’s what we do

o       We weep

o       We cry

§         When we’re confronted with loss

·        Death

§         We weep

§         And there is a void

·        A big empty

·        A hole

§         Only God is big enough to fill that hole

o       Replace what we have lost

§         That’s why Jesus doesn’t talk to Martha about what she has lost

·        About Lazarus

§         Instead, he talks to her about the restorer

·        About Jesus

o       About himself

o       Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Those who believe in me, even thought they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

§         Do we?