Bible Study · Church of England · Growing in God · Sermon

Giving Water for the Dead – A Sermon

Giving Water for the Dead

Sermon at St John the Baptist, Felixstowe

Sunday 26 March 2023 – Fifth Sunday of Lent

Text:  Jesus Wept  (John 11v35 KJV – full lection John 11v1-45)

God give you peace my Sisters and Brothers.

In the Dune Universe created by Science Fiction writer Frank Herbert we meet Paul Atreides.  His family betrayed, he, with his mother and sister, find themselves fleeing into the desert wilderness of the planet Arrakis where mammoth like Spiceworms roam and death lurks everywhere.  Paul and his family fall in with the Fremen people, natives of Arrakis, who have learnt to live with the desert sands instead of against them as did off-world families.  To earn his place in the Fremen community Paul is challenged to single combat by Jamis.  Paul wins the knife fight and kills Jamis, the first time he has killed anyone, and at the funeral of Jamis he weeps.  In the water poor desert community of the Fremen crying tears, ‘Giving water for the Dead’, is a profound act and seals Paul’s acceptance and eventual position as leader of the Fremen.

Jesus wept.  Jesus ‘Gave water for the Dead’. At the grave of Lazarus, and like the Fremen around Paul Atreides, the crowd marvel at it;

…the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ 37 But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ (John 11v36-37)

Jesus wept.  Famously the shortest verse in the King James Translation of the Bible it is an act that still causes wonder but also puzzlement.

Jesus wept.  Here we see Jesus, not some far away deity come to put us right, but Emmanuel living amongst us; wrapped up in our dirt and our disease, our death and our distress.

Jesus wept.  Here we see Jesus who allows himself to be touched by the lives and tragedies of others.  Deeply involved in our lives we are truly blessed to be able to sing ‘What a Friend we Have in Jesus’.

Jesus wept.  Here we see hope for healing for our own dis-ease, the promise that death will be conquered and the offer of hope for the life after life.

Jesus wept.  But did he have to?  Surely if he had arrived earlier there would have been no need for tears?  On hearing the news of his friend’s illness he loitered for two days instead of rushing to be at the side of Lazarus and restoring him to health from his sickbed.

Jesus wept. But was his tardiness the reason for his own tears? As Martha, remember her, the one whose devotion history likes to belittle, said ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’. Why take so long? Did Jesus need to put this little family through this?

Jesus wept.  But isn’t this the person who proclaimed ‘I am the resurrection and the life’ in the face of Martha and Mary’s grief.  Is he not being a little uncaring?  Making banal statements about the future whilst those around him are having their hearts ripped from their bodies.

Jesus wept.  But he knew that Lazarus would come back to life when he commanded him to ‘come out’ from the tomb.  Surely, if he knew that everything would work out alright – and if anyone should know that it is the messiah – are these not crocodile tears?

Knowing that Lazarus would die, Jesus wept.

Knowing that Martha and Mary would cry, Jesus wept.

Knowing that Lazarus would be restored to life, Jesus still wept.

He didn’t have to weep.

He didn’t have to cry out to the Father for help.

He didn’t even have to visit Bethany to work this miracle

But, knowing all of this, Jesus still wept.

Jesus ‘Gave water for the Dead’.

Jesus wept. These two short words hold the whole of the Gospel of God’s love for you, for me, for every part of this sin sick world that seems determined to bring about its own destruction.

Jesus weeps.  When he looks on the world and all that was created by the might Word of God.

Jesus weeps.  When he sees how, as he prophesied, we have turned;

‘father against son
and son against father,
mother against daughter
and daughter against mother…’ (Luke12v53)

Jesus weeps.  Whenever any of us contemplates, conspires, and commits any sin, knowing that this sends us on a downward spiral towards a death as certain as that of Lazarus.

Jesus weeps.  Knowing that we are going to sin.

Jesus weeps. Knowing that, by divine fiat, he could act and stay our hand yet leaves us with the freedom to choose which way to follow.

Jesus weeps. Knowing that it is in our devious hearts, the very ones He wants to woo and win, that death is born and not only in our deeds.

Jesus weeps.  Alongside us in our own tears as we realise the death and destruction harvested by our selfish wilfulness.

Jesus weeps.  As we, like a Prodigal child, run homeward into the hands of a loving Father begging forgiveness.

Jesus weeps.   Joyfully wrapping us in his ever-loving embrace and whispering into our ears ‘You are mine!’

What are we to do when faced with such love?

What are we to do when His tears are mixed with ours as we embrace?

What are we to do to repay His devotion to us?

All we can do is give our lives away afresh to the only One who can ever save us from ourselves and with tears of joy say day by day words first spoken by Richard of Chichester.

Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,

for all the benefits thou hast given me,

for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.

O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,

may I know thee more clearly,

love thee more dearly,

and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

This blog ‘Giving Water for the Dead’ is copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023.  It may be reproduced free of charge on condition that the source is acknowledged.

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