(HT Sober Peasant and Thinking Out Loud, for many of the thoughts contained herein)
Christ’s encounter with death that day in Bethany leads directly His fight with death on His cross. Raising Lazarus makes Jesus more popular than ever, so the enemies of Jesus begin making plans to kill him. However, dear brothers and sisters, you know that Christ’s victory over death with the raising of Lazarus was a preview of Christ’s own victorious Easter – when God once and for all bursts the chains of death, strips Satan of his power over us, and overcomes our sin.
Christ’s day in Bethany also gives a preview of the work He does in and among us today. In Baptism, where by water and His Word Jesus calls us out of the death of unbelief to the new life of faith. In His work of Absolution, where Jesus bursts us free from the chains of guilt that drag us down. Today, as that day in Bethany, Jesus is here and is the resurrection and the life for us – that we may have a new life now and forever.
Right now that can be tough for you and me to see. You might feel like Mary and Martha, mired in the disappointments and death, the trials and troubles that test and tempt you. You look around like Ezekiel in today’s first reading, and you see only dried out piles of bones – like you live in a cemetery of dead relationships and dreams. All you can focus on are the tombstones of the past, mocking you and claiming victory over your sorry life.
In the midst of this valley of the shadow of death, your Lord comes to prepare a table before you in the presence of your enemies. He most certainly promises to deliver you from all this evil, though our Father does not promise how soon He will do it. So that you might bear your cross and die with Jesus, He delivers to you His life-giving body and blood. Take, eat and drink to receive His forgiveness, resurrection, and life. Even though your enemies mock you, though your past haunts you, they cannot defeat you. That victory has already been won – for you are in Christ and Christ is in you. Therefore, “there is… now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And so the same Spirit of Him who raised Christ from the dead will raise your body to the glorious freedom of His resurrection.