Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Bringing the Dead Back to Life

Okay, so I have been watching ABC's new program, "Resurrection" for the past four weeks of its run and so far I am hooked.  The little 8 year old boy who drowned in the river has returned.  The sinister Caleb whose ashes had been dumped in the river has returned.  The woman who was the fiance of the preacher who ran her car into the river and drowned has returned and there were hints last week that more dead people would soon come back to Arcadia, Missouri.  My only beef with the program is that there are as many minutes of commercials as there are of content leaving the viewer hung every five minutes by some new mystery but that has little to do with the program itself just the commercialization of television.  So, now we are left to wonder, "Is this program turning into a zombie program OR will there be more to it, such as why this mysterious return to life of persons who fell into the river or whose ashes were scattered in it?  Is there much more to the mystery or will it "jump the shark" (as they say about programs that wear out their welcome and need to disappear) and fade into oblivion?

You would think that everyone would rejoice when a dead person returns and resumes life where it left off many decades ago but there are people who distrust these recycled folk and wonder why they are back.  Some do not want them around.  Some shun them as they do the little boy--each time he shows up somewhere, everyone makes a mass exodus, hurting his feelings and making him feel unloved.  Even his father has to wrestle with his feelings about his son who died 32 years ago and is now back still at 8 years old while the dad has aged to be in his 60s.  The man dealt with his grief long ago and now has to question everything that has happened in the past and the order of the way the world should work.  After all, when someone has died, shouldn't they just stay dead?  Isn't that the way the world works?  People live, people die....end of sentence.

Maybe that is what is in the minds of those religious folk in John 11 that we will examine this next Sunday.  The well known and loved Lazarus, brother to Mary and Martha, has died and everyone from near and far has come to Bethany to mourn his passing.  They are yelling and crying and falling on the ground in grief, just the way that the order of things worked in the Middle East of their day.  Professional mourners have come to be sure that Lazarus has the biggest send off people of the area have ever seen.  Mary and Martha are beside themselves and have sent for Jesus, their dear friend and teacher, to come to be with them to comfort them.  Regardless of his busy schedule, they expected him to drop what he was doing and come to them immediately but instead he delayed, first one day and then another and then another and finally he showed up four days after Lazarus died.  The scene Jesus encountered was filled with such pathos that it made me begin to cry.  He felt the pain of these mourners and especially his good friends whom he loved.

All the religious people there to mourn knew the way the world worked.  Lazarus lived and then he died.  That was the end of the story.  People die....that is the hard, cold fact of life they knew existed.  Jesus, though, did not follow the rules.  He had to go stir things up and turn the order of life upside down.  When faced with what seemed to be the way things work, Jesus had to go about showing everyone that it was not necessarily so.

"Lazarus, come out!!!," Jesus shouted at the dead man inside the tomb, who by this time had begun to make the air smell with the stench of death that everyone could notice.  Everyone gathered there must have held their breath and wondered if the teacher had not gone a bit loony as he commanded a dead man to rise but their eyes were opened in amazement when the stirring began and they had to unbind Lazarus from the bands of cloth that held him tight like a mummy.  He breathed the fresh air again and came out to be reunited with his sisters, much to the joy of some and the terror of others.  Some immediately believed in Jesus as the healer and resurrection of the dead but other did not like this change in the order of things.  They were perfectly comfortable with the way life worked and did not want Jesus messing with things, even if it was to reunite sisters with their dead brother.

What do you do with Jesus when he interferes in the way the world works?  "So from that day on they planned to put him to death." (John 11:53)  Anyone who goes against the natural order of things should be silenced, killed, put out of commission so that they will not repeat their acts of treason again.  "It is better to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed," spoke the high priest Caiaphas.  Jesus had to die, plain and simple.

Bringing the dead back to life would seem to be something that everyone would welcome, even today, but when it goes against the natural order of things that are present in society some do not want it even if it pleases others.  What other things in life today threaten some because of their very existence?  What signs of new life do some want to stifle because it makes them feel so uncomfortable?  How do some cope with change when they really want things to be the way they have always been?

We will examine these and other questions this Sunday during our 9:30 a.m. service.  Come join us as we worship together.

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