Lazarus Saturday

The Resurrection applies to us NOW.


In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Today we look toward the resurrection, and we look also set our eyes on the  resurrection we will celebrate with great fervor and zeal and festivity in only another week.  But today we look at our resurrection, very explicitly because Lazarus was a man like us and was dead and already decomposing, and our Lord raised him from the dead. 


Imagine what he felt.  He was in Hades, and he heard the voice of God, all the way in Hades, and He brought him back in an instant, in a flash.  He knew the power of God, and those around saw that power, as Jesus, with a loud voice said, "Lazarus, come forth."  And the same voice calls us -- the same voice calls us to come forth.  The same voice says, "I am the resurrection.  If you believe in Me you will have eternal life."  We must believe.  We must understand.  We must also live according to the way Christ is, and then you will understand what it means to be a Christian. 


Did you see the two ways that the sisters dealt with the death of their brother?  One stayed still in the house, and one ran out to Jesus.  They both believed,  but their faith was weak, and they'd never heard of a man who was four days dead being raised from the dead. 


They'd heard of a person who had died that day being raised from the dead.  Christ had done it twice.[1]  They knew of Saint Elias who had raised someone from the dead[2], and of the prophet Elisha[3], but in both of those cases the man was dead one day. 


Now a man had been dead four days, and it was beyond their understanding how he could be raised from the dead.  They thought of a far-off time when there would be the resurrection of all things.  They didn't think really of how it applied to then and now. 


The resurrection applies to us now brothers and sisters.  Not later -- now.  It changes us now, makes us able to live now.  It comforts us now.  It burns away our passions and our sins now.  "The kingdom of God is within you,"[4] Christ said.  The Resurrection and the Life lives within us now


We must understand this.  We must live this. 


And we must approach Christ in these two ways that his beloved friends approached him.  Mary sat still in the house: we must pray, we must develop within ourselves great love, great fervor, and unshakable belief.  We must also be active in our faith.  We must go to Christ.  We must beg Him for the things we need. And we must live according to the way He has told us to live.  He has told us, live within the ark of the church, to fast, to pray, to partake of all the things that the church has given us. This is the activity that Martha points to. 


Both are necessary.  Neither one is enough to save a soul.  We must have fervent belief, and we must live within that belief. 


Slightly more than seven days from now -- no, actually it will be Friday evening -- I will read a sermon of Saint Epiphanius[5] in which he speaks of when Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life, when down into Hades.  We have a taste of that today.  We should meditate very carefully, and think what it would be like to be in the depths of Hades, to be in the depths of hopelessness, to see our flesh and see how weak it is, and for God to say, "Come forth", and break everything that is holding us fast.  A Christian must really understand this.  This is what the resurrection means for us.  It is how we reach our perfection. 


It is very painful.  It is painful for me, and I tell you, it might sound strange, but I hope and I pray that it is painful for you.  I hope that you see the uselessness of so much in what we call this life, that you see the depravity, both in yourself and outside of yourself, and that you long to be made whole, to be made complete.  A Christian must be like that.  He must be like a stranger in a strange land, like Moses.  He must consider himself to only be passing through on the way to the heavenly city, to Zion, to Jerusalem, to perfection. 


This is what we are going after, you know.  And we see that God can perfect.  He didn’t just raise Himself from the dead; He raised us from the dead.  This must be understood.  And it's not just something you read in a book and understand.  It's not just a point of doctrine or a question to be answered.  It's in the heart.  If you know that God raised you from the dead, you won't want to do anything but to become like Him, and you will know that you can become like Him.  You have been promised that you can become like Him.  This is the meaning of the resurrection. 


This is why God raised Lazarus from the dead.  To show us the power of the resurrection in us, because we're weak.  He knows.  We might say, "He did it, but he is God. So how does that apply to me?"  Just like Mary and Martha, I know that some day we'll be raised from the dead in the resurrection, but they didn't apply it to their life now. 


This is why Lazarus was raised from the dead.  And it's also why Jesus waited.  Not only so Lazarus would die. He certainly, as God, could have arranged that He was near the town, but He was far away from the town and after He was told about Lazarus, He went slowly to Bethany and took four days. He waited so that He could teach us something that is very important: that we must wait, we must be patient, we must have faith even when it appears that things are not as we would wish them to be, and when they don’t change. Jesus Christ can take a man, stinking, from the grave, after four days, and raise him from the dead, He can raise us. 


But don't believe in the resurrection later; believe in the resurrection nowLive in that belief.  Try to change because of that belief.  Believe that you can be changed. 


I don't care what it is that assails you.  God can heal you.  Not later, but now.  Don't believe in the resurrection -- later.  Believe in the resurrection and the life, Who is with us, now. 


We're about to partake of His holy body and blood for our sustenance, that medicine of immortality.  Our immortality, you know, begins with our baptism.  And we are just increasingly fulfilling it every day that we live. 


Live in the light of the resurrection. Believe it.  Believe that you will change.  And when you hear God's voice saying, "Come forth" at the resurrection, you will be filled with joy.  May God help you.



The Gospel for the Raising of Lazarus

John 11:1-45


Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. {2} (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) {3} Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. {4} When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. {5} Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. {6} When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. {7} Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. {8} His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? {9} Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. {10} But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. {11} These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. {12} Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. {13} Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. {14} Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. {15} And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. {16} Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. {17} Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. {18} Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: {19} And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. {20} Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. {21} Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. {22} But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. {23} Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. {24} Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. {25} Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: {26} And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? {27} She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. {28} And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. {29} As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. {30} Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. {31} The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. {32} Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. {33} When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, {34} And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. {35} Jesus wept. {36} Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! {37} And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? {38} Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. {39} 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. {40} Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? {41} 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. {42} And 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. {43} And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. {44} And 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. {45} Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.



Priest Seraphim Holland 2009.    


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[1] See Luke 7:11-15 (the raising of the son of the widow of Nain), and the raising of the daughter of the ruler of the Synagogue, Jairus (Mark 5:22-43 and Luke 8:41-56)

[2] Elias raised the son of the widow of Sarephta,  (3 Kings 17:17-24 Septuagint., 1 Kings 17:17-24 Hebrew version)

[3] Elisha raised the son of the Shunammite women (who he had prophesied the barren woman would bear, and who is held to be Jonah the prophet) (4 Kings 4:17-37 Sept, AKA 2 Kings 4:18-37 Heb.)

[4] Luke 17:21

[5] A sermon is often given before the tomb after the Lamentations of Good Friday. It is our custom to speak extemporaneously, and then for a smaller group to gather before the tomb to hear the half hour sermon of St Epiphanius read.