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    Apr 04, 2017

    Me Thinketh He Stinketh

    Me Thinketh He Stinketh

    Speaker: Father Will Lowry

    Series: All

    If the recently retired Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Mississippi, the Rev. Canon David Johnson, were here he would tell you that he loves when this Gospel lesson comes up in the Lectionary because of the way that the King James Version of it reads.

    Particularly in verse 39 which reads, “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.

    Or to hear David paraphrase it, “Lord, me thinketh he stinketh.” (Try getting that one out of your head for the rest of the day.)

    As humans, we often use humor to deal with things that are hard to reconcile or deal with. That may well be the case here. You see, for many people this story of Lazarus being raised from the dead presents a bit of a problem.

    In the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke there are also accounts of people being raised from the dead; Jarius’ daughter and the widow’s son at Nain to name a few. In both of these cases and others, the raising happens immediately or almost immediately after death. This has caused some to argue or at least question whether or not these folks had actually died or were just in some sort of coma.

    After all, there is much evidence that in this time, in Palestine there were a good number of people who were actually buried before they had really died. This was because of the great risks of disease associated with the bodies of the dead.

    At any rate, with the close timing of these resurrection stories to “death”, combined with the lack of medical knowledge, and the fear of disease some believe that these resurrection stories could have been just well-timed diagnoses from Jesus – saving these two young people from dreadful deaths.

    That is why Lazarus’ raising is, for some, such a problem. Or maybe not so much a problem as it is just hard to deal with. There is no medical or probable reasoning for a man who had been dead for four days and had begun to in fact stink to suddenly be alive.

    Couple all of this with the fact that Lazarus’ raising is only present in the Gospel of John, and you can see where people can get their skepticism.

    There are at least four historical arguments about this story in John. They include an accusation of a scheme made up by Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus; the coma or trance argument which I alluded to above; an allegorical understanding of the story which gives life to the saying of Jesus, “I am the Resurrection and the Life”; and finally a connection to the Parable of Dives (dee-vazs) and Lazarus in Luke 16 providing “proof” to the end of the Parable which says that “even if someone was raised from the dead, the Jews would still not believe.”

    Without going into much more detail, suffice it to say that in the end we cannot know 100% what happened at Bethany. But there is something that we can surely get from it.

    What is common to each of these interpretations/arguments is that each of them fails to admit the one thing that Jesus tells us. He is Resurrection – He is Life. (Pause)

    William Barclay tells the story of Robert McAfee Brown, an American professor who was also an Army Chaplain. During his service he was on a ship coming back from Japan to America with 1,500 marines returning for discharge.

    To his surprise he was approached by a group of marines asking for a bible study; he jumped at the chance. Near the end of the trip they were studying this passage from John. At the end of the study, a marine came to him. He said, “everything in that chapter is pointing to me.”

    He went on to explain that he had been in “hell” for the last 12 months. He had gone straight into the Marines from college and had been sent out to Japan. Before, he had been bored with life; and he had gotten into a lot of trouble – very bad trouble. Nobody knew about it – but God knew about it.

    The young Marine felt guilty; he felt that his life was ruined; he felt he could never face his family – even though they would never know about his actions; he felt he had signed his own death warrant and acted out the sentence; he felt he was a dead man.

    “But”, said the marine, “After reading this chapter I have come alive again.”

    “I know that this resurrection Jesus was talking about is real – here and now. HE has raised ME from death to life!” (Pause)

    For me, this is the end of the whole matter. One can never know what actually happened at the tomb of Lazarus – except for maybe Jesus and Lazarus.

    But more importantly, it doesn’t really matter whether or not Jesus literally raised a corpse to life in 30 A.D. What matters is that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life for every person who is dead; for every person that is dead to sin, dead to life – physically or spiritually.

    For each of us Jesus is Resurrection – Jesus is Life.

    This is not a future promise, but a present reality. Jesus – God – has overcome sin and death – here and now.

    We must choose to live as though we actually believe it – or better yet – come to believe in this reality and live as though the Eternal is here and now because God is – here and now.

    We must live as though death has no power over us; as though we belong, in life and death to God.

    There is a name for this sort of believing – I learned it in seminary – it is called Realized Eschatology. It describes those who in the midst of sorrow, grief, death – they live.

    They live realizing that before they die that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, can separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus. They are those who – because they realize this – may dare everything for the sake of the Eternal. Some of those who witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection surely realized this. And like the Marine in the story many others since have come to realize the new life that resurrection brings.

    Of course, as I said, this story is hard for many of us. Because, We are all dead and lifeless. We are all wrapped up corpses, bound in the grave clothes which the world lays on us. We are stiff and we have all begun to smell a little rank. We are the ones who stinketh. Because we are all Lazarus.

    That is, until Jesus calls us from the tomb.

    This miracle of resurrection isn’t just something that happened a long time ago. It is a present reality of today. Jesus still calls us out of the tomb today.

    And, I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that Jesus still calls us out, because I still need it. I still stinketh. And some days I stinketh more than others.

    But thats the point isn’t it? The promise of the story. Like Lazarus, Jesus loves us. He weeps for us. He is deeply moved by us. And He brings life to our death, freedom to our bondage, and a shining light to our every darkness and calls us from death to life. Amen.

    Prayer: Lord of Life and Resurrection, I pray that you continue to call me from the grave daily that I might be redeemed being sanctified a little more each day (and perhaps stink a little less). Turn our hearts and minds to your truth that we may be made whole and holy in your sight.