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Sermon--John 11:17-27; 38-45

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When Jesus walks into a cemetery, amazing things happen!

When a situation is bad, people want to change it. Sometimes they succeed; sometimes they fail. In 1997 Steve Jobs returned to Apple and turned it from a failing company to the most valuable in the world. In 2014 LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers with the goal of giving the city its first professional championship in more than 50 years, and he did in 2016. Every presidential candidate says that they will change the culture of Washington and actually get something done, present president included! Are they ever able to say that they have succeeded? It seems not! There are some places that seem to defy change, at least change for the better. One of those places is the cemetery. Cemeteries never get smaller; only larger every year. Residents never move to another location, but new residents are always moving in, but they are all dead. Nothing seems to ever change except the flower arrangements left by relatives at the graves of their loved ones. Even if the most powerful person on earth walks into a cemetery, nothing changes! But when Jesus walks into a cemetery, amazing things happen.

He comforts you when your loved ones are taken there.

Martha, Mary and Lazarus, were very close to Jesus. Most of us are familiar with the story of when Jesus was invited to their home to eat, recorded in Luke. The relationship between these three people was more than a friendship. He was their teacher and they considered themselves his disciples. When it became clear that Lazarus was not getting any better, they sent a messenger to Jesus asking him to come
There was a well-known Jewish belief (not based in the Bible) that the soul of a dead person remained in the vicinity of the body “hoping to reenter it” for three days, but once decomposition set in, the soul departed. So when John mentions the fact that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, he is telling us that Martha, Mary and the family and friends were resigned to the fact that Lazarus was not coming back.
John 11:20–22 NIV
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Outside the village, where his presence would not cause a commotion, Jesus sends for Martha to show his concern, but she is the first to speak. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” What do you see in Martha’s statement? Heartbreak? Emotion? Faith? I see all of those, and they all spilled out of her heart with her words. She doesn’t ask or tell Jesus to do anything, but what do you think she is implying with her words, “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask”? She knew that Jesus could raise the dead. He had done so already on two occasions. Yet Jesus wanted to lead her to a deeper knowledge of him and a deeper faith.
“Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus’ words are ambiguous; he doesn’t say what “rising” he is referring to, but Martha responds with the faith of a true OT believer: “the Scriptures teach that there will be a resurrection of the body, and I know Lazarus will rise from his grave at that time.” Then Jesus makes a startling statement:
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus is telling Martha, “Look to me alone! I don’t need to ask the Father to raise anyone from the dead. I am life. I am resurrection. I, like the Father, am the one who has the power to banish death and give eternal life even to sinful mortals who have separated themselves from me by their sin. All that power resides in me. I’m the only one Lazarus needs. I’m the only one you need. Everyone who believes in me lives forever, even though their body may be dead for a time.”
In chapter 12, John tells us how Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with extremely expensive perfume, and Jesus told the disciples, “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial” (). Mary knew where Jesus was going: to Jerusalem, to the altar of sacrifice for her sins, the sins of Martha and Lazarus, and of all people. In order for sin’s power to separate human beings from God forever to be broken, Jesus had to break it by suffering its punishment for all human beings. By his suffering and death Jesus would satisfy God’s justice against the world’s sins, and earn forgiveness and eternal life for all people. Martha and Mary are a great example of what all believers need to do when a believing loved one dies: Walk to the cemetery with Jesus, because when Jesus walks into a cemetery, amazing things happen. Tears are dried, sadness is turned into joy, hope arises from hopelessness. When someone who believes in Jesus dies, it is not a sign of eternal defeat. Yes, death has won the battle for the moment, but through their faith association with Jesus, they have life. Their soul lives on with him in paradise, and more amazing things are coming...
* * * He comforts you when your loved ones are taken there

He convinces you that through faith in him you will never truly die

“Death makes me very angry,” admits Larry Ellison, CEO of Oracle Corporation and the fifth-richest person in the world (his net worth is $43 billion, according to Forbes). “It doesn't make any sense to me. Death has never made any sense to me. How can a person be there and then just vanish, just not be there?” Death may not make any sense, but perhaps it can be defeated?" (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/08/20/the-immortality-financiers-the-billionaires-who-want-to-live-forever.html) Ellison is one of five billionaires are using their money to try to find a way to live forever and bypass death.
Death makes Jesus angry too! “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” The NIV says that he was “deeply moved,” but the Greek word has the connotation of anger and indignation. When do we find Jesus angry and indignant? When something or someone is keeping people away from God: Children being shooed away from him, goods being bought and sold in the temple courtyards, demons possessing people. Those things make him angry because he wants nothing to stand between human beings and perfect communion with their Creator. So he gives the order to remove the stone, then three words and the dead man comes out. Victory. Death loses. Jesus walks into the cemetery and the dead man walks out alive.
Death seems so final. Cemeteries never get emptier. As we get older we bury more and more of our friends and family members until only we are left. There seems no way out of it. Billionaires may continue to search for a way around death, but they are missing the only true answer: Jesus. Death, or separation from God, is the result of our sin, and for us there is no way to escape it, but Jesus convinces us that through our association with him we will never truly die. That’s why it is so important for us to walk with him in faith in this life. Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha from the gospel of Luke. They knew how important it was for Jesus to walk into their home, into their lives and hearts. When their brother died, they had the greatest comfort because Jesus was walking with them into the cemetery. They also had the greatest comfort in knowing that they too would rise from the dead someday because Jesus would rise from the dead on Easter Sunday. Death may seem a long way away, and the resurrection of the dead may seem like it is not something you need to spend much time thinking about, but it is. Jesus wants to be the center and focus of your life now, so that your faith in him endures until your breathe your last.
My parents ordered their tombstone with a cross and a flower engraved in it. It is a testimony that Jesus left his mark on their hearts. They wanted everyone who walked by their grave to know that death will not have the final say about their destiny; Jesus will. I will revisit that grave in about two weeks for the first time since my father died in September, and seeing that cross will be the greatest comfort to me. I know that Jesus will be there with me and my family reminding us that they will rise, and so will we.
Death seems so final. Cemeteries never get emptier. As we get older we bury more and more of our friends and family members until only we are left. There seems no way out of it, but Jesus does something amazing. He convinces us that through our association with him we will never truly die. Billionaires may continue to search for a way around death, but they are missing the only true answer: Jesus.
My parents ordered their tombstone with a cross and a flower engraved in it. It is a testimony that Jesus left his mark on their hearts. They wanted everyone who walked by their grave to know that death will not have the final say about their destiny; Jesus will. I will revisit that grave in about two weeks for the first time since my father died in September, and seeing that cross will be the greatest comfort to me. I know that Jesus will be there with me and my family reminding us that they will rise.
Did you know that the word "cemetery" actually means "sleeping chamber" (“dormitorio”)?  Jesus often referred to death as "sleep."  He woke Jarius's daughter, the widow's son in Nain, and Lazarus from their "sleep."  He will also wake us from our sleep when he comes again in all of his glory.  In the meantime, our loved ones simply sleep in their sleeping chamber (cemetery).  The mention of the word should remind us of the certainty of their resurrection from the dead. The raising of Lazarus was a preview of Jesus’ resurrection and of ours. Someday Jesus will walk into the cemetery where you are buried and say the word, and that word, which is the power of God, will make your body live and be reunited with your soul, because when Jesus walks into a cemetery, amazing things happen!
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