Thursday's Thought for Sunday's Service 

March 30, 2017

I think of how this story might be reported by placing it in contemporary times and painting an image of a breathless television reporter rushing to the scene, clambering out of a satellite truck with cameraman in tow.  She begins to ask questions of the people she encounters there, hoping to find Lazarus, and invite him aside. Communicating a likely scoop to her broadcast team in the home studio back in the city, everyone prepares to push all other news aside so when the lights turn on, the camera is focused, and the microphone is lifted, she can begin her report not only with a description of what happened, but also, hopefully, question Lazarus directly regarding the highly unusual occurrence of his resurrection …

“We interrupt our programming to bring you some breaking news … Let’s now go to our reporter on the scene …”

“… I’m standing out front of the residence at 217 Cedar Avenue in the eastern suburb of Bethany near Jerusalem in response to reports regarding a man who has been raised from death … yes, you heard that right!  One of the long-time residents of Bethany has been brought back to life after being dead and buried for four days!”  “We are trying to get a glimpse of him.  Wait!  I think I see him.  There he is! … Lazarus! … Lazarus! … would you mind giving us a few minutes of your time?  I’m a reporter from WCUR in Jerusalem and I’d like to ask you a few questions about what happened…”

Compared to the actual broadcasts we listen to today; the sensational aspect of this bit of news and reporting would certainly capture our attention… but for how long?  Would it fade from our consciousness over one or two news cycles, being replaced by other, more current events?  Evidently not.  This story, which began a long time ago, continues to have feet.  It has taken on a life of its own.  As my imaginary reporter continues to explain and explore this scriptural passage as a newsworthy story, there is another person whose presence lies within and beyond her intrepid questioning.  Of all the people milling about that ancient scene, especially as we hear her describe the perspectives of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha and some of the other witnesses, we can understand why she keeps chasing leads.  A miracle created a stir, fuss -- -with a man carrying the story, forward. Jesus, a friend of Mary and Martha, healed Lazarus.  Her reporting would certainly want to keep pursuing and questioning – examining every aspect to Jesus’ life.  Who is he?  Where did he come from?  What is he doing now?  How did he do this? Why does he bother? Can he also be interviewed?

We remain transfixed as reports of his life continue to be broadcast as important parts of every generation, slowly unfolding throughout time… and it is good news.


Pastor Rich Wagner

Dear Friends,

This week’s Thursday’s Thought for Sunday’s Service is based upon John 11:1–45:

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 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.” 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 said to her, “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?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then 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?” 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?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.” (John 11:1–45, NIV)