St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-02-2017

St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-02-2017


Ezekiel 37:1-14, Romans 8:6-11, John 11:1-45

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O God. Amen

I’ve mentioned before, and I know I’ve repeated it several times in Bible study, that each of the 4 Gospel writers have a different focus, and emphasize different parts of Jesus’ life and ministry! I was, somewhat humorously, reminded of this as I read today’s Gospel story once again.

You see, John presents a much more laid-back Jesus than do the other Gospels, especially more so than Mark’s account where Jesus is always in a hurry. In Mark, nearly every story is separated from the previous by a scene change: into the Synagogue; down to the sea; across the sea; back again; and on and on it goes…

But in today’s reading from John I found it striking that the opening scene takes place, as is read a few verses before, “…across the Jordan [in] the place where John had been baptizing earlier”. (10:40). Then, when he receives the news about Lazarus, a dear friend, he still remains 2 more days… [Filing finger nails; mirror to adjust hair; yawn] I found it to be a very odd response.

 Jesus finally decides it is time to go, but now the Disciples are dragging their feet trying to hold him back saying, “Rabbi, [are you crazy] the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” But, of course, there’s no changing his mind, Jesus is going to go. And the disciples decide, with Thomas’ prompting, to resign themselves to “go – and – die with him”.

Then, just as Jesus and the Disciples are about to arrive at their destination the pace of the story begins to pick up, and soon everything becomes hectic: Martha rushes out to meet them; after speaking with Jesus for a moment she rushes back to get Mary; Mary rushes out of the house and their fellow mourners rush to follow; with little dialog they go to the tomb; move the stone away; Jesus says a brief prayer; and calls out “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man regains his life and comes out still wrapped in all his burial garb.

It’s a long story; and a very complex story. Among the many things we can find in it: we see that things happen in God’s own time, not according to our schedule. We see Jesus willing to go into places and situations to do his work in spite of threats to his own life. We see the power of unwavering faith in God that can make the impossible possible. We see the most tender side of Jesus as he, too, begins to weep with the mourning family; and in that we see the ever-present Lord who stands beside us in our struggles and suffering.

And, of course, we see the parallels between Lazarus’ death and return to life and Jesus’ impending death and resurrection. The story even begins with identifying Mary as the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; an event that hasn’t happened yet in the Gospel story; that part comes as the events of Holy Week begin to unfold.

But in thinking about the parallels there is one very striking difference. When Jesus rose from his tomb, the burial cloths were left behind; Lazarus immerged from his tomb with “…his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth”.

Then Jesus said “Unbind him, and let him go.”


Martha earlier said “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” And that is how Christ rose; fully liberated from the restraints of this life; even being able to enter rooms without opening locked doors. But Lazarus returned to this life, complete with the restraints of this life.

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus was not bound to a human sense of urgency

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus was not restricted by the threats of others

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus was not dissuaded by the passing of too much lost time

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus was not too manly, to stoic to weep

“Unbind him, and let him go.”

Jesus did not allow fear to stop him from doing what he needed to do

“Unbind him, and let him go.”


With all the things we can draw from this one story, we must not neglect to ask ourselves what stops us from living fully in this life. And I’m not talking about simply staying alive; I’m talking about living life to its fullest without the restraints placed on us by social pressures.

And, on the other side of that coin, we must not bind others from living their life to its fullest; we must be calling to them “dead man, come out”! “Dead woman, come out”! and compelling others to “unbind them, let them go”!



John 11:1-45
11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
11:2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill.
11:3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”
11:4 But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
11:5 Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus,
11:6 after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
11:7 Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
11:8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?”
11:9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world.
11:10 But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”
11:11 After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.”
11:12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.”
11:13 Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.
11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.
11:15 For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
11:16 Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
11:17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
11:18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away,
11:19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother.
11:20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home.
11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
11:22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.”
11:23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
11:24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live,
11:26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
11:27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
11:28 When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
11:29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him.
11:30 Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him.
11:31 The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
11:32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
11:33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.
11:34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”
11:35 Jesus began to weep.
11:36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
11:38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
11:39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.”
11:40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
11:41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me.
11:42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”
11:43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
11:44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
11:45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.


Ezekiel 37:1-14
37:1 The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones.
37:2 He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.
37:3 He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord GOD, you know.”
37:4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.
37:5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live.
37:6 I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the LORD.”
37:7 So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone.
37:8 I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them.
37:9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.”
37:10 I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
37:11 Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’
37:12 Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel.
37:13 And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people.
37:14 I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken and will act,” says the LORD.

Psalm 130
130:1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
130:2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
130:3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
130:4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
130:5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
130:6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
130:7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
130:8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

Romans 8:6-11
8:6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
8:7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot,
8:8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
8:9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
8:10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
8:11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.