Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Friday, April 25, 2014

“Back then I ran with a reckless abandon in a Pontiac…”

One of our members just bought a new (to her) 1981 Pontiac Bonneville.  It’s in beautiful condition.  She’s only the second owner.  When I saw it this morning, the memories came flooding back.  I drove my parents’ 77 Bonneville Brougham in high school.  I took it with me to college.  My friends called it “The Pimp Mobile,” but they didn't seem to mind when they needed a ride, even when I made them listen to my Peter Cetera cassette tape.  Because it’s my car, dang it, and we’ll listen to whatever I want.  Good memories.

And some not so good ones.

Like the time I was stranded on I-84 and had to hike it into Cascade Locks to find a payphone.  My brother and sister-in-law just happened to drive by and hunted me down.  Apparently the fire department came while I was away to make sure my smoking engine wasn't on fire (I did cringe a little when I heard the sirens, wondering if they were for me).

Or the time we were stranded along the banks of the Klickitat River when Tim Winterstein and I went fishing.  Not only did we not catch anything, I believe it was a corroded battery cable that prevented us from moving along to another fishing hole.  Pastor Bundschuh and his daughters just happened to drive by as we were hiking into Lyle.

Or the time I had to drive with the windows down for two or three months in the winter because the heater core was shot and was exuding a nasty, sticky smoke through the vents.

Or the time I drove from Portland to White Salmon at midnight with no brakes (if my kids are ever as stupid as I was…).

The Lord is good. 

So I wish my parishioner luck with her beautiful new old car.  I hope she lets me drive it sometime.   I hope I can find my Peter Cetera cassette tape if she does.  I love cars.  I don’t know a darn thing about ‘em, but there’s just something about a man and his car… I have an inexplicable sentimental attachment to every car or truck I've owned.  I loved that Bonneville.  I hated it.  But I loved it.

And someday, when Matthew is stranded on 131 with my old Ranger, he’ll understand.     

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunrise

The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Sunrise (A)

April 20, 2014
Text: 1 Cor. 15:1-11; John 20:1-18

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!

            “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared” to many eyewitnesses (1 Cor. 15:3-5; ESV).  First importance, Paul says.  Jesus died for you.  He was buried for you.  He was raised for you.  And if you don’t believe it, I’m telling you there were eyewitnesses, he says.  Many of them were still alive when Paul penned our Epistle.  Go talk to them, if you like, Paul says to the Corinthians.  Not to mention, Paul was one of the eyewitnesses, for “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (v. 8), Paul writes of his encounter with the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus (Cf. Acts 9:1-19).  First importance, for as Paul goes on to write a few verses later in this same chapter, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins… But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Cor. 15:17, 20).
            The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead changes everything for you.  Because no matter what you’ve done, no matter what you’ve experienced, no matter who you are or what guilt you bear, no matter the suffering, no matter the heartache, this is now the end of the story for you: Jesus Christ, who is risen from the dead, will raise you, too.  He will do it on the Last Day.  And you will live forever with Him.  Well, knowing that, there is nothing you can’t endure.  For you who are hopeless, now there is hope.  For you who are riddled with guilt, Jesus has taken that guilt away in His death on the cross and buried it forever in His tomb.  The Father has accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on your behalf.  The proof is that He raised Jesus Christ from the dead.  For you who suffer great physical, mental, or emotional afflictions, the Lord Jesus will give you relief and healing when He raises your mortal body.  For you who have been wearied by the changes and chances of this life, there is rest and refreshment in the new life that the risen Christ gives to you.  For you whose heart has been weighed down with grief, depression, or despair, there is eternal consolation in the risen Lord Jesus who has conquered sin and death and cast out fear.
            Now, understand, the reason this changes everything is that it is a bodily resurrection.  There was a dead Body that is no longer dead.  He lives.  The wounds are still there.  We’ll hear Him next week inviting Thomas to poke and prod them with his fingers.  This is a real, flesh and blood resurrection from the dead.  It is not simply that Jesus lives on in our hearts.  The resurrection of Jesus was not only spiritual.  When we speak of the risen Jesus, we don’t mean the legacy He left behind in His disciples and the Christian religion.  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead, bodily.  And that means that the Son of God who reigns in heaven is a flesh and blood man.  Ever since His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary, there is no Jesus who doesn’t have a Body.  He is not an apparition.  He is not a ghost.  He’s a man.  And wherever He is, He’s there as a man, with a Body that is risen and living.  That means that when you confess Jesus is with you here at Church, in your home, in your car, and wherever you go, you are confessing the real presence of an unseen flesh and blood human being, the man, Christ Jesus.  That means also that we really mean it when we confess the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ under the bread and wine in the Supper.  We’re talking about a real Body, the Body of Christ.  We’re talking about real Blood, the Blood of Christ.  Unseen and undetectable by human observation, but really here.  The bread is His Body.  The wine is His Blood.  Because He says so.  And how can that be?  How can His Body be present in heaven and on our altar and on all the altars where His Supper is received according to His institution, and everywhere else all at the same time?  This man is God!  So His very real human Body can do things that our very real, but fallen and very much not God bodies cannot do.  You cannot see this to be the reality, but you believe it, because He says so.  And you believe Him, because He is bodily risen from the dead.  That means everything He says and everything He claims to be is true, because He rose, just as He said.  That’s the big one.  No one else in all the world’s history has claimed this and been able to do it: to really die, lay dead in the grave, and then come out of it, body intact and even better than before.  But Jesus did. 
            And there is eyewitness testimony that would stand up in any court.  He appeared to Mary Magdalene (John 20:14), then to Peter, then to the Twelve (1 Cor. 15:5), then to more than five hundred brothers at one time, again, many of whom were still alive when Paul wrote the First letter to the Corinthians (v. 6), then to James, the Lord’s brother, and to all the apostles (v. 7), and finally, as we said, to St. Paul Himself (v. 8).  That’s pretty good testimony.  Especially considering biblically you only need two or three witnesses to establish a matter (Deut. 17:6; 2 Cor. 13:1).  These people saw Jesus Christ alive in His Body.  They heard Him speak.  Many saw Him eat.  Some even touched Him.  And He continued to appear among them for forty days after His Resurrection, until His Ascension into heaven.
            And this is a matter of first importance for you.  Because what Jesus has done in His bodily resurrection from the dead, He will do for you.  He will raise you bodily.  You will live again, and I don’t just mean in our hearts, or spiritually, or in the legacy you leave behind.  I don’t even mean just in heaven, although certainly when you die, your soul will be in heaven with Jesus as you await the Resurrection.  But I mean this.  You will live again in your body, made perfect, in the image of Jesus’ Resurrection Body.  He will raise you from your grave.  And you will never die again.  You will live, flesh and blood, just like you are now, only better.  And when we say, as Christians, that we will see our loved ones again, we don’t just mean in heaven.  We mean in their bodies.  With our eyes.  In the Resurrection.  And then you will be eyewitnesses, along with those Paul lists in our Epistle.  You’ll see it for yourself.  You will. 

            After all, you are baptized into Christ.  You have died with Christ.  You have been buried with Him by Baptism into death (Rom. 6:4).  And if that is true, and it is, you will also be raised with Christ.  You have already risen with Him to new life spiritually.  That is why you believe in Him, and that is why you will go to heaven.  On that Day, you will be raised with Him to new life bodily, when He comes to you on the Last Day, as you sleep in your grave, and He says to you, “Time to wake up.”  And you’ll open your eyes to the New and Eternal Day as you see for yourself the radiant face of your living Lord Jesus.  He will do it.  For He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.         

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday Tre Ore

Good Friday Tre Ore

Our Savior Lutheran Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan
April 18, 2014

Text: John 19:23-27 (ESV): When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

            “God sets the solitary in families” (Ps. 68:6; NKJV).  The LORD “upholds the widow and the fatherless” (Ps. 146:9; ESV).  And so, from the cross, where He bears the load of this world’s sin, including yours and mine, as He drinks the bitter cup of the Father’s wrath for our transgressions, still He beholds with compassion His dear mother and the disciple whom He loved.  Mary, whose name means “bitter,” now tastes the bitterness of her dear Son’s shame and misery, as the sword prophesied by Simeon pierces her own soul also (Luke 2:35).  John, that son of thunder who would call down fire from heaven to defend his Teacher’s honor (Luke 9:54), now looks on as that same Teacher languishes, a despised object of torture.  The Lord provides, even in His death.  The Lord provides precisely in His death.  Mary will need a son, someone to take her into his home, provide for her, love her.  John will need a mother, someone to console him, speak words of wisdom to him, nurture him in the way that mothers do, especially in the midst of tragedy and grief.  And so our Lord speaks. 
            “Woman, behold, your son!”  He calls her “woman,” not “Mom,” and we’ve heard this before, when He accomplished His first sign at the wedding in Cana, making water into wine (John 2:1-11).  “Woman, what does this have to do with me?  My hour has not yet come,” He said to Mary on that occasion (v. 4).  Now His hour has come, and once again He calls her “woman.”  This may seem rather cold to us, but He is speaking to her now not in His vocation as her Son, but in His Office as her Savior and her providing Lord.  He is speaking to her now not in her Office as His mother, but in her vocation as Christian, object of His saving work and receiver of His gifts.  Just as He gave her fine wine those three years past, now He gives her John, which means “Gift of the LORD.”  And the beautiful thing here is that in receiving John, Mary receives the very Son she thinks she is losing on the cross, for what did Jesus promise His disciples?  “Whoever receives you receives me” (Matt. 10:40).  And more than that, she receives God as her Father, for “whoever receives me receives him who sent me.”
            John also receives a gift, a mother to honor, that it may be well with him and that he may live long in the land (Cf. Eph. 6:2-3), and tradition says that John lived to a ripe old age and was the only apostle to die a peaceful death.  “Behold, your mother!” Jesus says to him.  Love her.  Cherish her as you would your own mother.  For in loving her, you love me.
            Do you see what the Lord is doing here?  He is bringing together a family.  He is calling together the Church around His blood and cross.  He sets the solitary in families by His suffering and death.  He upholds the widow and the orphan with His arms outstretched and nailed to the wood.  And what He does for John and for Mary, He does for you.  For you, who have been separated from God and from one another by your sins.  For you, who have erected a dividing wall of hostility between yourself and those who have sinned against you.  For you, who have held grudges, burnt bridges, failed to forgive as you have been forgiven.  For you, who have suffered broken hearts, broken relationships.  For you, who are separated from loved ones by distance or time.  For you, who have had loved ones ripped away from you by death or divorce or tragic circumstances whatever they may be.  All of that has been nailed to the cross.  Jesus has broken down the dividing wall of hostility in His flesh (Eph. 2:14).  And now Jesus makes you whole and gives you a gift.  He gives you your brothers and sisters in Christ.  He gives you your mother, the Church.  He gives you the fellow members of His Body as family.  And He gives you to them.  “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother,” says the Lord (Matt. 12:50).  “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29).  Christians are the family of Christ.  He gives us one to another, to love each other, to take care of each other, to counsel one another and build one another up in the most holy faith of Christ,   He gives us one to another, gathered around the blood and water poured forth from His side into chalice and font, gathered around His Body and Blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, in one Holy Communion.  And in this way the crucified and risen Christ provides for us so that we are not alone in this time between His comings when He is hidden from our eyes.  Present with us, but hidden where He has promised to be, in His Word and Sacraments, to unite us as one in the mutual conversation and consolation of the brethren, the Church.
            And so, beloved, you are never alone.  Not even in grief and sadness.  Not even in suffering and death.  God sets the solitary in this family.  The Lord has built you a house in His Body (Ps. 127).  He has given you God as your Father, the Church as your mother, brothers and sisters and children here in this place, gathered around the fruits of His cross, gathered around the Christian family Table.  Around this Table are not only those you see with your eyes, but angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, the saints of all times and all places.  And here the Lord has made a place for you.  Behold, your brothers and sisters and mother.  Behold, your Savior, Jesus Christ, who by His cross has made this your reality.  Welcome home.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion

Palm Sunday/ Sunday of the Passion (A)

April 13, 2014
Text: Matt. 26:1-27:66

            Today marks the beginning of Holy Week, a sacred time for Christians to ponder deeply the sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ for us poor sinners.  We call it His Passion, a word that literally means suffering.  And this is the day when we hear the whole account in one sitting, or standing as the case may be.  It could be you felt your first twinge of impatience when you opened the bulletin and saw the nearly 6 pages of Gospel lesson awaiting you.  Yes, the service will go a little long this morning, so be prepared.  You may spend ten extra minutes in the pew today.  Gasp!  You don’t have anything better to do.  There is nothing more important than this.  God has given you the gift of time for this very purpose.  Repent.  And listen.  The Lord is speaking.  To you.  And His Word to you is unimaginably good.  Because here He tells you how He took your place under God’s wrath and the curse of sin.  Everything you hear Him endure in the Passion narrative rightly should have been endured by youYou should have been accused, arrested, and tried for capital crimes.  You should have been mocked, beaten, scourged.  You should have shouldered your own cross to the place of a skull, been nailed to it, and lifted up for hours upon hours in the darkness of God’s forsakenness.  You should have suffered hell.  You should have died.  But you won’t.  Not you.  No, you’ll live.  You live now, and you possess the very Kingdom of heaven, because He did all of this in your place.  Not because anybody forced Him.  It was the Father’s will, but the Father didn’t force Him.  Pilate, the Jewish authorities, and the Roman soldiers had no authority to do it, and could not have done it against His will.  No, no.  He did this willingly.  Because He loves you.  He loves you with amazing, self-giving love, love that only comes from God.  It is unknown among mere men.  That’s what St. Paul writes, “one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:7-8; ESV; emphasis added).  While we were still sinners.  While there was nothing good in us.  When we didn’t even want it.  While we were the perpetrators of it, nailing Him to the cross by our sin, marching happily into hell, He did this for us, for you and for me, to make us His own and give us eternal salvation.  Frankly, I don’t know how, after hearing this Holy Gospel, we can contain our alleluias.  At the very least we ought to be able to stifle our yawns, still our shifting feet, and sing a hearty Hosanna in the Highest.  For this Holy Gospel makes all the difference between eternal life and eternal death.
            I know, it’s a war within us, though, a war between the Old Man, the sinful flesh, and the New Creation in Christ Jesus.  “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41).  The Old Man can’t stand to hear this stuff.  The Old Man will sit for hours in front of the television for March Madness, but before a Word of the Gospel is read, he’s ready to bail.  But beloved, that’s not who you are anymore.  The Old Man in you has been drowned in Holy Baptism, and you crucify him daily in repentance.  Christ Jesus, who was crucified for you and is now risen from the dead, raises you to new life, as a New Creation in Himself.  And as a New Creation in Christ Jesus, you love to hear again the Passion of our Lord.  You rejoice to hear of your forgiveness and salvation in Christ, and to receive it fresh and new and ever more abundantly in the hearing of Christ’s Word and the Supper of His Body and Blood.  So let me let you in on a little secret.  That impatience you may have felt when you realized this is the Sunday with the two exceptionally long chapters of Gospel reading is a dead giveaway that this war between the Old Man and the New Creation is being waged full-throttle within your heart, mind, body, and soul.  The issue isn’t your impatience with a long Scripture reading at all.  That’s just a symptom.  The issue is the struggle between faith and doubt, the daily death of the Old Man and the daily emerging and arising of the New in Christ.  Holy Week, with its longer readings and extra services, has this way of bringing the struggle into focus.  Because the Old Man chafes every time he has to hear, yet again, about Christ crucified for your sins.  He hates it.  Well… Kill him.  Crucify him.  Repent.  Return to your Baptism.  Take this bulletin home and treasure it all week long.  Read the readings again.  And again.  And again.  And when you start getting tired of them, read them again.  Because that means it’s working.  Old Adam is dying.  And Jesus is breathing the Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, into you. 
            Let me tell you something, guys.  I know a thing or two about this struggle, only I know about it from the other side of the pulpit.  All the services.  All the sermons.  All about the exact same thing.  And what good does it do?  Does anybody really listen?  Does it really help anybody?  Does it change anyone?  Or is it all for not?  Notice, though, that in every single one of those questions, I’m looking at me, I’m looking at you, and in so doing, I’m not looking at Christ crucified.  These are lies of the devil designed to take my eyes off of Jesus.  My eyes are not on the Good Shepherd with His pierced hands and feet and side, who speaks and we hear His voice and we know Him and we follow Him.  And if my eyes aren’t on Him, your eyes won’t be pointed toward Him in the preaching of the cross. 
            This is why we need Passion Sunday.  This is why we need Holy Week.  To set our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2).  We need to hear the Passion narrative like we need oxygen and water to live.  We heard it from St. Matthew’s perspective this morning.  We’ll hear it from St. John on Friday.  And we’ll hear a lot of Scripture in between, and in the Easter Feast, all of which will focus us on Christ crucified for our sins, Christ raised for our justification.  Pope Francis recently handed out pocket sized copies of the Gospels to a crowd of thousands in St. Peter’s square.  He said that Christians should keep the Gospel with them at all times, and read it daily.  Though I vehemently disagree with the Pontiff about many things, I’m totally with him on this one.  Because the Gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16).  So, in answer to my questions of struggle and despair, that’s the good it does.  It saves you from hell.  It delivers to you the death and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins and eternal life.  And that’s a pretty big change, if you ask me, from death to life, from Old Man to New Creation, from sinner to blessed saint and child of God.  Does anybody listen?  I guess that’s not really up to me.  It’s up to God.  But there is something you can rejoice in, beloved.  The Spirit didn’t bring you here today for nothing.  You may resist it.  You may wish you hadn’t set your alarm clock this morning, conveniently missing the extra-long Sunday.  Perhaps you allowed your mind to wander during the Holy Gospel.  Maybe it’s wandering right now.  But the Spirit is knocking this living Word of Jesus into your ears and mind and heart and soul in spite of you.  Because He promised His Word never returns to Him empty, without accomplishing what He desires (Is. 55:11).  That’s not an excuse to not pay attention, by the way.  That’s the Old Man, after all, who must be crucified.  It’s simply a testimony to the grace of God that He pours out on you in His Word, which you cannot achieve by your own reason or strength.  The Holy Spirit does it in the Word.  He brings you to faith in your crucified Savior.  And He keeps you in that faith through the precious means of grace here in the Church.
            And what a beautiful thing the Lord speaks to you here today.  His body is anointed for burial before the fact by a grateful and devoted woman.  He is sold-out by one of His closest disciples.  He gives His Church the Sacrament of His Body and Blood for our forgiveness.  He promises that when His disciples fall away, even if they deny Him, He will raise them up.  He is sorrowful unto death in the garden, and His disciples cannot stay awake to watch with Him even one hour.  Apparently even seeing the Gospel take place firsthand is enough to make you sleepy.  Our Lord prays that the cup of suffering may be taken from Him, but if it is the only way to save us, He’ll do it.  Not as I will, but as you will, dear Father.  And so it must be.  Judas arrives with an armed crowd and betrays Jesus with a kiss.  Still, Jesus calls him “Friend” (Matt. 26:50).  He is arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin.  Peter denies Him three times and weeps bitter tears.  The Jews hand our Savior over to Pilate and the Romans.  The crowd, whipped up by the chief priests, demands blood.  “Let him be crucified… His blood be on us and on our children!” (27:22, 25).  Unwittingly, they proclaim this very Gospel.  That is precisely what will happen.  The murderer, Barabbas, and you and I, go free.  Jesus is scourged and handed over to be crucified.  He is nailed to the wood and lifted up that His blood be on us and on our children, to cleanse us from our sins.  He is reviled by pious and criminal alike, enshrouded in heavenly darkness, forsaken by God, for you and for me.  An eternity of hell packed into 6 miserable hours.  For you.  And having accomplished all, He cried out with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.  The consequences were literally earthshaking.  The curtain of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom, the rocks split, the graves flew open and the bodies of many saints popped out, risen and alive.  And you… you were restored to the Father.  I guess that’s worth a few extra minutes of your time, right?  Rejoice, dear Christian.  Christ has made you His own.  And listen.  In the Holy Gospel, the Lord is bespeaking you righteous.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              


Sunday, April 06, 2014

Fifth Sunday in Lent

Fifth Sunday in Lent (A)

April 6, 2014
Text: John 11:1-53

            If not even a sparrow falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge (Matt. 10:29), if even the hairs of your head are all numbered (v. 30), then certainly it is true what our Lord proclaims in the Introit from Psalm 116 (v. 15): “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (ESV).  That means that you are never alone, not even in death.  That means that your every breath, every beat of your heart, every impulse of every nerve in your body is a gift from the Lord, regulated by Him and intimately known by Him.  He knows every moment of your life, and He knows the moment of your death.  And not only does He know it, He is intimately present in it, directing all things, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, for your good, and ultimately for your salvation.  He does this because you are precious to Him, so precious that He gave the holy, precious blood of the Son of God to purchase you for Himself, to atone for your sin, to conquer death so that whoever believes in Jesus Christ, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Jesus Christ shall never die (John 11:25-26).  That’s what our Lord Himself says.  We know it by faith, not by sight.  We believe it because Jesus proved it beyond the shadow of a doubt.  He died on the cross.  He was buried in a tomb.  And He rose from the dead on the third day, just as He said He would.  And since that is true we can believe what He says about giving us eternal life.  We can believe that He is who He says He is, God in the flesh, who has the authority over life and death, the authority to raise the dead: “I am the resurrection and the life,” says Jesus.  “Whoever believes in me,” that’s you, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me,” again, you, “shall never die” (vv. 25-26).
            “I am the resurrection and the life.”  It’s another one of Jesus’ “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel.  Jesus is stating in no uncertain terms that He is God, YHWH, who alone gives life and who alone can raise the dead.  So He’s the One to trust in the face of death, your own or that of a loved one, because in Him is life, and in Him, though you die, yet you live.  I’ll warn you, though, trusting Him in this is not easy.  Because all the eyes see is death.  All the eyes see is sickness and suffering and pain and finally, the expiration of life.  Martha and Mary had a hard time with this.  Sure, they believed in Jesus.   They believed that if He had just been here their brother, Lazarus, would not have died.  They both say so (vv. 21, 32).  Now it’s too late.  It’s too late for Jesus to do anything, for death has had the final word.  They know, as Martha confesses (v. 24), that their brother will rise again on the Last Day.  But they are frustrated and hurt, because what they really wanted from Jesus when they sent word all those days ago was for Him to come and heal their brother, save him from death altogether.  They could not imagine that this, in any way, could turn out for their good or for the good of Lazarus. 
            And what did Jesus do when He heard Lazarus was ill?  St. John curiously states: “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (vv. 5-6).  What a strange thing to say.  Since Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, He purposely delayed His coming long enough for Lazarus to die?  Even we poor sinners, we who do not have the ability to heal the sick, when we hear that someone we love is on their deathbed, we immediately run to that person’s bedside to offer comfort and assistance.  I mean, that’s just what you do when you love someone.  But apparently not Jesus.  He loves, so He stays away.  What in the world is going on here?  The disciples are as puzzled as we are.  “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep,” He tells them, “but I go to awaken him” (v. 11).  The disciples are confused.  Isn’t sleep good for a sick man?  And anyway, Jesus, why would you want to go to Judea where they are seeking to kill you?  “Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe’” (vv. 14-15).  And here Jesus clues us in as to why He delays His coming.  He delays because He knows that He will work Lazarus’ suffering and Lazarus’ death for the good of not only Lazarus, but also for Martha and for Mary and for His disciples and for you.  For in doing what He is about to do, in raising Lazarus from the dead, He will raise many from spiritual death to living faith in Himself.  And He will strengthen and confirm the faith of those who believe in Him, that they, too may pass from death to life (John 5:24).
            You have been there where Martha and Mary and Lazarus are, haven’t you?  Waiting for Jesus, praying for Him to come and relieve and heal and deliver?  And He delays.  He says it is because He loves you, but it seems awful much as though He does not care.  Why does Jesus hide Himself when we need Him most?  He does it so that you may believe.  It is not that He doesn’t care.  He loves you.  Behold how He loves Lazarus.  When He comes to the tomb, He weeps for His friend.  Knowing full well what He is about to do, that He is about to raise Lazarus from the dead, still He weeps.  He weeps because His friend has suffered.  He weeps because death is a tragedy brought into the world by sin.  It breaks asunder what God meant to be joined for all eternity, the body and the soul.  He weeps because death is an enemy, a punishment, a curse.  And He weeps because no one sees that the antidote to death, the undoing of the curse, has come in Jesus.  He weeps over our unbelief.  We weep for the same reasons, by the way.  We weep at funerals, even we Christians who know what Jesus will do for our loved one and for us on the Last Day.  We weep because death is a tragedy, and we miss our loved ones, even though we’ll see them again.  Jesus’ weeping sanctifies our grief. 
            But don’t be fooled.  Jesus is not despairing.  And He hasn’t forsaken you.  He hasn’t arrived too late.  “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints,” and Jesus was right there with Lazarus in his death, and He’s right there with you and your loved ones in yours.  That He is hidden necessarily means He is still present, present right there with you, intimately so, directing all things for your good and ultimately for your salvation.  He’s right there bringing you through death to eternal life.  Now, all of that would be true even if the story had ended there with Jesus weeping at the tomb.  Because Lazarus still would have been in heaven, and Jesus still would have raised him from the dead eternally on the Last Day.  But so that you may know that Jesus has authority to raise the dead and give you life, He commands them to take away the stone in front of the tomb (John 11:39).  And He says to the stinking, rotting corpse there in that tomb, “Lazarus, come out” (v. 43).  And “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.  Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (v. 44). 
            And that’s what Jesus will do for you on the Last Day.  He will open up your grave and the graves of all people, and He will say to your stinking, rotting corpse, “Come out!”  And you will.  No longer stinking.  No longer rotting.  No longer dust to dust and ashes to ashes.  You’ll come out good as new, better than new, your very body made like Jesus’ resurrection body.  And unlike Lazarus, who lived for who knows how long and then died again, you’ll never have to die again.  You’ll never have to hurt or suffer or weep again.  For Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, has given you to live with Him forever. 
            Well, that being the case, you can go to your death as though going to your bed for the night.  After you fall asleep, Jesus will wake you.  He has promised.  He does not lie.  Your death is precious in His sight.  You are precious in His sight.  And He is hidden in your suffering, hidden in your death, working all things for your good and for your salvation (cf. Rom. 8:28).  That you may know this, He has told you ahead of time that He is hidden in another place, where you can always find Him.  He is hidden in His Word, where He speaks the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life into you.  He is hidden in your Baptism, where you already died and have already received eternal life in Christ.  He is hidden in the Supper where the risen and living Lord Jesus gives you His crucified and risen Body and Blood for your forgiveness, life, and salvation.  These precious means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments, are conduits from whence flow our Lord’s gift of life.  They mark you as one who will not die, but live.  For living in these means of grace, you live in Jesus.  And it is true, what He says: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.