Skip to main content

Unbind Them!

Here are some thoughts I shared with the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church on the gospel for All Saints Sunday.

John 11:32-44

32When 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.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus began to weep. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
 38Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39Jesus 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 four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42I 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.” 43When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The 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.”

There are two things that stand out for me in this passage from John’s gospel. I think of them as one of those big two-pronged forks we use in carving meat. In this case, they help us understand the meat of God’s word. The first is in verse 35, “Jesus began to weep.” Now there are all kinds of ideas as to why John included this and what it means. Some say it shows Jesus’ emotional side and his close relationship to Lazarus and his family. After all, the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But in John’s gospel, it is this group that opposes Jesus and so why would we look for an understanding of Jesus’ words from them?

Others note that the surrounding verses show Jesus’ anger, whether it was at the lack of faith of Mary or whether it was because of the Jews, who in this case were professional weepers, who were not necessarily invested in the life of the family. Was it this hypocrisy that made Jesus weep? Ultimately, we do not know, but what we do know is that Jesus loved and cared very much about Lazarus and his family. 

Jesus cares very deeply about us as well, even in the middle of division, hardship, ugly public discourse, illness—you name it. Our loving Lord cries with us. God was there in Pittsburgh as worshippers were shot, God is with those going to the Mexican border, longing for freedom, God is with the hungry. Jesus was not simply a miracle worker, but a real flesh and blood person who laid down his life for his friends. 

The second prong involves the final words of this gospel text. Jesus tells the people standing around who had observed the miracle of Lazarus being restored to life, “Unbind him, and let him go” (v. 44). God has worked in our lives, setting us free from “sin, death and the power of the devil” (Luther’s Small Catechism). That’s great. We’re all set, but what about our neighbors? What about those on the margins of our society? Jesus speaks to us as he did to the crowd, “Unbind [them], and let [them] go.” This Sunday we will do this through the Auction for the Honduras mission. We do this when we give to the 5 and 2 Ministry and in any other way that we share the love of Christ with all we meet. 


Popular posts from this blog

Come To The Light To Become The Light

This is the sermon I preached on Sunday, Jan. 6, Epiphany at St. Timothy Lutheran Church. The gospel text is Matthew 2:1-12
Now, this is a story we know. We’ve seen the scene of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus so many times in so many pageants. Epiphany is a time when we celebrate the in-breaking of God’s light in God’s way. The Magi are drawn from the east to come and pay homage to the Christ child. There are many theories as to who the magi were: from Zoroastrian priests to astrologers to magicians to kings, while some believe that the Magi were simply a literary device utilized by Matthew. They may have been any or all of the above, but the point is that they were foreigners and gentile outsiders and yet, God spoke to them through a star, through the light and they followed that light. 
Unusual astral phenomena were associated with the birth of a new ruler according to pagans of the time. There were Jewish traditions as well connecting the hoped-for Messiah to the “star out of…

Dancing with the Trinity

This is the sermon I preached at St. Timothy Lutheran Church on Trinity Sunday, 6/16/19. The text was John 16:12-15.
This is Holy Trinity Sunday. What comes to mind when you think of the Trinity—questions, confusion, a puzzle, a mystery? It seems to me that just when you think you have a bit of understanding, it all starts to unravel as you think of something else. This is a difficult concept to wrap our minds around. For centuries, the early church struggled with a right and proper interpretation and understanding as they formulated the doctrine of the Trinity.
The more I read, the more I see the wisdom of Dr. Jerry Christianson who taught The Early Church and its Creeds my first year of seminary. He explained the Trinity as a love relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Just as God is all about relationship, so too the Christian life is all about relationship: our relationship with God, our relationship with each other and our relationship with our community.
John’s gosp…

Go Big or Go Home

This is the homily I shared with the people of St. Timothy Lutheran Church for Ash Wednesday. The gospel text was Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
The first time I heard the expression, “Go big or go home,” was my senior year of seminary. A dear friend mentioned how during a children’s sermon at her internship site, when she was talking with the kids about how God wants all of us, this young man explained it as “Go big or go home!” It really struck all of us who heard my classmate relate this story.

Today’s gospel lesson is like two bookends with a bunch of information between them. The first verse is the first bookend. Then Jesus talks specifically about different faith practices and how they should and should not be practiced. Finally, the second bookend surround the words in between with the final verse regarding the treasure of our hearts.
Before Jesus gets into the nuts and bolts of various aspects of piety, in the first verse he spells out the gist of the entire teaching, “Beware of practici…