John 11:41-45 (King James Version) Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.
44And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. 45Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.
People who are visiting our church today may be wondering why I am dressed this way. I do not normally dress this way. In a moment, I will be delivering a sermon the way I think Lazarus might deliver a sermon if he were alive and able to speak to us today. The goal is to help bring the Bible alive and to help make the Word more relevant to our lives.
Shabbat shalom. The heart peace of the Sabbath to you. My name is Lazaus, meaning God is my help.1 My testimony shows that God is more than my help. The Eternal Creator, Redeemer, and Comforter is our help.
The story of what God did for me is found in chapter 11 of the Gospel of St. John. You are welcome to open your Bible to John 11:1 and follow along as I tell my story.
I was very ill. Mary and Martha believed Jesus would heal me. Their faith reminds me of a story you may have heard. During World War 1 a man was injured. He lie in no-manís land. His friend risked his life to crawl out into no-manís land. The injured man saw his dear friend and said, ďI knew you would come.Ē2 He knew his friend would risk his life, because he knew his friend.
Mary and Martha knew Jesus so well they knew He would heal me. The message to Jesus was very simple. He whom thou lovest is sick. They did not tell Jesus what to do. Mary and Martha knew Jesus well enough to know He would do exactly what was needed.3
After hearing the news, Jesus stayed where He was for two days. By waiting, Jesus did me no harm. You see, I died the same day the messenger left to get Jesus.4 It took a day to get to Bethany. Why rush to help a dead man? Right! Jesus loved me, yet He did not rush to help me.
Does it feel like Jesus is taking His sweet old time helping you? That does not mean He does not love you. We cannot judge Godís love for us by how fast the Eternal answers our prayers or helps us.5
Jesus came to Bethany, knowing it would be dangerous. And He did that to give me life. Because Jesus brought me to life, the religious leaders plotted to kill him. The disciples warned Jesus it would be dangerous to come and heal me. A part of that discussion is recorded in the Gospel of St. John.
Thomas has gotten a bad rap. He does not deserve that. At times, Thomas did not have much faith, but he was a dedicated and courageous follower of Jesus.6 Thomas was willing to go with Jesus, even if it meant losing his life. Many pastors would love to have people that dedicated to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in their churches today.
Mary and Martha greeted Jesus in the same way. Both of them said, ď . . . If You had been here, my brother would not have diedĒ (Amplified Bible). This is the heart-felt prayer goes to God whenever there is pain. Godís people are not immune from suffering and pain. Questioning God is natural when we are in difficult situations.
Jesus asked them to remove the stone from my tomb. Martha reminded Jesus that I had been dead for four days. My body was decaying, so it was going to smell pretty bad.
Looking back on what happened, I think Jesus delayed His coming to help bolster the faith of Mary, Martha, and the disciples. Many people believed the soul stayed close to the body for three days, wanting to return to the body. After four days, all hope for me coming to life again was gone.7 My death was considered to be truly final on the fourth day.8
Jesus wept. That is one of the shortest and most powerful verses in the Bible. Jesus is fully God, fully human. This shows how God feels when we lose a family member, a loved one, or a friend. When we grieve, Jesusí tears mingle with our tears. Godís tears mingle with ours.9
Jesus shouted, ďLazarus come out!Ē Boy itís a good thing He said my name! If Jesus had not named me, the entire cemetery would have been emptied!10 Can you imagine that? Every grave opens! Nobody left in the cemetery! I realize that might be more than you can imagine, but I can picture it.
Wow! What a feeling! Waking up to find yourself dead! Waking up to find yourself in a tomb, all wrapped in grave clothes. Talk about scary!
I stepped out of the tomb. Walking was difficult, because my legs and feet were bound. I could not work, because my hands and arms were bound. Witnessing was difficult, because my face was covered, my mouth bound. Out of the tomb I came, alive in Messiah, but bound.11
Some of you may be bound too. You have given your life to God, but you are not active for God. Do not despair. Jesus ordered the grave clothes, the bindings removed. What Jesus did for me Jesus can do for you. Jesus can order the things that hold you back removed. And you will be free to move, to run, to walk, to serve, to talk for God.
Take it from somebody who knows. When you are sick, you want a doctor, not a medical dictionary. If you have to go to court, you want a lawyer, not a copy of the criminal code. When you face death, you want a Savior, not a book of doctrine.12 Jesus is doctrine given life, doctrine made alive. That is why the Gospel, the news that Jesus is the Messiah is more important than other doctrine.
What Jesus did for me is just a small dress rehearsal for the future.13 And it is just a dress rehearsal for all of Godís gay, lesbian, bisxual, and trans-identified children.
Christians have eternal life. John 3:16 (King James Version) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. According to Scriptures, Believers will be resurrected when the Messiah returns. 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17 (King James Version) For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Can you picture the future resurrection? Believers by the thousands, by the tens of thousands, by the millions resurrected. All those Believers being raised at once. Thousands of graves opening at once. People popping out of the earth like pop-corn. The waters where the ashes of the heroes of the faith who were burned at the stake for their faith giving up all of the dead in Christ. And you know what? The resurrection is going to be a reunion like you can never imagine for the queer community. Thousands and thousands of Godís gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans-identified, drag queens, and drag kings. You, my queer Christian friend, are going to be the diamonds, the jewels in Godís crown. And that crown is going to have every color of the rainbow, because you are going to be in the heavenly! The rainbow colors of Godís queer children will brighten up the Kingdom.
What kind of God is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob? The kind of God who olds the keys of life and death. The Eternal Creator is exactly the kind of God you want at your funeral.14