When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him.  Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him.  When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.  And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.”  Jesus wept.  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 also have kept this man from dying?”
To all those gathered today, for you Dick, Carol, Pam, Patty, Caroline, and Nancy, as we just heard from John’s Gospel, we see great emotion from our Lord when He hears of the death of Lazarus, who is considered to be one of the best friends of Jesus. It is recorded here the shortest verse of the Bible: “Jesus wept.” Such tragedy strikes even our Lord, for He is just as human as we are. He forges relationships just the same that we do. He cares for people just as we do. He loves people just as we do. And so it is no surprise that Jesus mourns at the death of a friend.
So are we gathered here today as we mourn the death of a mother, sister, grandmother, church member and friend. It is natural for us to mourn as well. Someone who has meant so much to us is no longer here, for Dorothy has passed through this veil of tears to the loving arms of her Savior. She now rests from her labors, free from all sin, sickness and disease that she experienced in her earthly life.
As much as we don’t want to talk about it or admit, Dorothy was a sinner because she died. St. Paul says, “For the wages of sin is death….” Sin is that great enemy that we all face. And it would appear that last Wednesday, sin won as it claimed another of God’s beloved children. That is what Satan would have you think, that he has the upper hand and final say over God. And you just might be tricked into thinking that’s the case. But there is one thing that Satan forgets about and that is a promise made a long time ago, a promise that would trump all that Satan can muster. That promise is Jesus Christ, a promise from God to man and to Satan that He will prove to be the ultimate victor over Satan.
That victory occurred many years ago for Dorothy as she was brought to the waters of Holy Baptism. There, in what seemed so ordinary, the extraordinary took place, for she was forgiven all of her sins. There she received a new name, a name that could never be taken away from her – that name was “child of God,” for that is what she became.
That same gift that Dorothy was given is a gift that is meant for you as well. But it’s not just a gift for you; it is a gift that God desires to give to all of creation. God is the Creator of all of creation and because He is the Creator, He sincerely desires all of creation to be connected to Him in the heavenly realm where sin, death, and Satan have been defeated and cannot prevail. God, through His infinite love, sent His Son Jesus Christ from heaven to take on mortal flesh and blood in order to do what Dorothy could not, to do what you and I cannot do; live a sinless life. It was made clear early on in creation that due to man’s sin, we would be forever separated from God. But that wasn’t good enough for God. He saw fit to send a Savior.
That same Savior God sent was the same Savior that was confronted by Mary: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” But you see, Mary didn’t have the full picture in front of her. She was only concerned about the earthly life her brother had. Though we see Mary sitting intently at the feet of Jesus one moment, here she almost blames Jesus that Lazarus has died. But Jesus did not let Lazarus die. What caused Lazarus to die was sin. Instead of letting Lazarus die, Jesus had a date to keep on a hill called Golgotha, for there He would die so that Lazarus would liver eternally. In fact, Jesus’ death is what gives Dorothy eternal life and it is what gives you eternal life as well.
Dorothy didn’t do anything in her life to deserve what Jesus did for her, and she would be the first to tell you that. There was nothing special about her that would earn her favor with God, and she would be the first to tell you that as well. But all of this happens in spite of her. Regardless of who she was or what she did, God loved her. In fact, He loved her so much that He sent His only Son to die for her.
That is good news for Dorothy and it is good news for you as well, because what Christ did for Dorothy, He does for you also. Many of you mourn right now, and that is normal; it’s expected. But let me tell you something: there truly is nothing to mourn over because Dorothy has received the crown of life. Christ has died and Christ is risen from the dead. He is the Conqueror of death. He is not the Resurrection and the Life only in the past, as if He retired from that after raising Lazarus from the dead. He is not the Resurrection and the Life only in the future, on the Last Day. He is the Resurrection and the Life now. Now, and forevermore. Where Jesus is, life is. That’s what Jesus is about: and whenever He is present forgiving sins, He is also present giving life. By His forgiveness, He already declares that eternal life is yours, for He has done all to accomplish it by His death and resurrection.
This is true for you. It is also true for those you mourn who died in the faith, not just Dorothy, but all who have gone before us in the faith. Those who died in the faith are not dead, because the Lord is not the Lord of the dead but of the living. Their bodies rest in the grave for now, but they live even now with Christ in heaven. You have His promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” It is true for the saints who have gone before us, and it is true for you.
In these days filled with sadness and mourning, let us weep just as our Lord wept at the death of Lazarus, but let us also turn our mourning into gladness, for God has prevailed over sin and death, not just for Dorothy, but for all who believe and call upon His name. Amen.