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Rooted Growing Branching

Sept 25, 2016

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THE TWO LAZARUSES

Doug Hatlem, preaching

There are two New Testament Lazaruses. One rich and the brother of two wealthy sisters who provide hospitality to Jesus and the earliest disciples, and one “who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs would come and lick his sores.” What we want to know is what it will take for that Lazarus to be overtaken by the acceptable year of the Lord, for the Lazarus so near death that the dogs are already tasting his blood to become a party to the Resurrection power of God almighty. Our passage in Luke 16 simply assumes that that Lazarus is included in the providential watch care of God. Not necessarily here on earth, but upon death he is simply carried away to be with Sarah and Abraham, Isaac, Leah, Rachel, Jacob and the great cloud of witnesses. But what about here on earth? God’s heavenly care for the excluded, poor, and sick does not excuse God’s people, indeed all people, from care here on earth. And this is the greatest lesson I learned, and I hope and feel that I really learned it deep in my bones, during my time as a street pastor. If you want to know where God’s reign here on earth is, it is where the church, the body of Christ, most regularly encounters real brokenness, grief, and poverty. If you want to experience the power of the risen Christ here on earth, you will spend gobs and gobs of time with those who have very little to show by worldly standards.

Now to the conclusion of the rich Lazarus story in John chapter 11, it was this consistent pattern of being with the sick and the poor, the violent and the demoniacs that rattled the establishment in Jerusalem. Jesus did not reject being with and even receiving from those with lots of money. But his preferential option for the poor here on earth caused great fear among the Chief Priests and their loyalists. Put starkly, when the shroudings of death are torn for Lazarus’s now no longer lifeless body, there are some who simply believe. Join the Jesus movement. But there are others who witness the miracle and join a plot to kill the miracle worker. What do you do when signs and wonders of the risen power of Jesus Christ threaten the stability of everything you’ve known? At this point, we are beyond mere charity and hospitality, though those things are very much related to the creation of this moment of decision. What will or would you do if the world that you have known is destabilized by the reign of Jesus?

 

Luke 16:19-31

‘There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table; even the dogs would come and lick his sores. The poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was being tormented, he looked up and saw Abraham far away with Lazarus by his side. He called out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Abraham said, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony. Besides all this, between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to you cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” He said, “Then, father, I beg you to send him to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.” He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” ’

John 11:32-48

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.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 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 for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 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.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ 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.’ Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’

(NRSV)