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Healing Community -- John 11, the story of the raising of Lazarus (Fifth Sunday in Lent)

I almost decided NOT to preach on this Scripture. This Scripture is the story of Lazarus. Lazarus is gravely ill, and his sisters Mary and Martha send for their friend Jesus, because they know that Jesus has healing power in his hands. But help doesn’t come in time. And their brother dies.

Sometimes Scripture can seem distant and far off. These stories come to us across a span of thousands of years, from a land far, far away. And sometimes,the preacher’s task is to bring these ancient stories close. But that’s not the case with this story. I almost decided NOT to preach on this Scripture because this story feels almost too close, with the air there and the air here full of apprehension, and illness, and even death.

So here’s why I AM preaching on this scripture, on this text:

I’m preaching on this text because this story of Lazarus gives us a glimpse of Resurrection before we head into Holy Week.

I’m preaching on this text because this story shows us life stronger even than death.

I’m preaching on this text because this story overflows with love more powerful than anything and everything that can do us harm.

I’m preaching on this Scripture because maybe these words of Resurrection and life and love, maybe they are the words that we need to hear most in these days.

Maybe all those things that Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus, and their community, and Jesus felt – maybe the things they felt are the things we are feeling right now.

And, this is a healing story. The Bible is full of healing stories. Not just the Gospels, but the rest of the New Testament, and the Hebrew Scriptures. The Bible is chock full of healing stories. Someone is suffering, they cry out, and they are healed, somehow, someway. These stories aren’t unique to Christian or Jewish traditions – they appear across cultures. They express a basic human need – the need for healing – the need to be made whole.

One of my Gospel teachers, Professor Ann Wire, says that all healing stories have the same basic structure: