This has been an incredibly difficult week for our world. For our family this week, we have been kind of scrambling to find a place to live, calling every number, looking at apartments and houses for rent and for sale, trying to figure it out. It seems like every place we loved and considered purchasing has had some kind of issue beyond repair. We have been so distracted with our little problems that we hardly noticed what was going on in Baltimore… Or what is going on in Nepal. It’s just absolutely tragic… The images of Baltimore, and the struggle for justice and equality and to me it’s just all such a clear image of how badly people need Jesus.
And our prayers. They need our prayers. I saw this image online this morning, the Baltimore Orioles vs. Chicago White Sox… They had to play the game before an empty stadium. And I know that there are much more disturbing and even symbolic images that I could show you about the state of things there, but this one messed with me.
Being someone who grew up on baseball, this is honestly a bit of a chilling image to me because Baseball is a game that brings the city together. And with all that is happening right now they decided it would not be safe to play the game in front of a crowd. They are doing whatever they can to avoid getting people together there right now.
Thousands of people lost their lives in this earthquake. Many others are still missing, and it’s just tragic. They say millions of people were affected… Over 700,000 displaced from their homes.
We need to help those people. Send money. Send supplies, send people. Whatever it is, we need to do something. All of us.
We need to pray for those people.
We need to weep for those people. Romans 12:15 says that we need to mourn with those who mourn.
There is a story in John chapter 11 about a man named Lazarus. And he is very sick, so his sisters send word to Jesus “Come!” But Jesus kind of takes his time getting there. Which doesn’t seem to make sense because the bible says that Jesus loved this family... Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.
He says to his disciples, “Lazarus is already asleep, but I am going to go and wake him”
And of course the disciples don’t understand what he means, they think Lazarus is asleep and so they still think Jesus needs to hurry it up a bit… So Jesus then just tells them boldly and clearly “Lazarus is dead. And for your sake I am glad that I wasn’t there, so that you may believe.. Let us go to him.”
And by the time that Jesus gets there, the bible says that Lazarus has already been dead for four days, and Martha says to Jesus “if you had been here, he would not have died” but what does Jesus say?
“Your brother will rise again”
And she of course says to him, “yes, I know he will rise again on the last day.. In the resurrection”
But Jesus says… No no no. Martha…
“I am the resurrection.”
But then Mary comes up to Jesus, and she says the same thing as Martha… “Jesus, if you had been here… My brother would not have died.”
But when she said it, she was weeping. She fell at Jesus feet, and wept. And it moved Jesus.
Jesus already had told all his disciples, he was going to wake up Lazarus.
He already knew he was going to restore all things in a moments time. But he was so moved by Mary’s tears for her brother that he began to weep himself. The bible says “he was deeply moved in his spirit and deeply troubled.”
He weeped with his friends. Not even for their loss, but for their pain.
He wept knowing that he had complete control over the situation. He wept knowing that it was all going to be okay.
Isaiah 61 says that God will comfort those who mourn in Zion and that he will give them beauty for ashes. The oil of gladness instead of mourning. A garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.
Jesus can make all things new for the people in Nepal. He can make all this new for the people in Baltimore, and the people in Detroit. Verse 4 says that they shall repair the ruined cities… There is so much hope in the midst of all of this chaos… Hope in Jesus!
My family and I lived in a town called Rockaway Park right between the
Atlantic Ocean and the Jamaica Bay at the time of Hurricane Sandy… We were right there, front lines. I told that story in New York a couple of weeks ago and you can watch it online, I’ll probably share it at some point here with you… But I will spare you of it now because even though it felt so bad to us… So real to us… It doesn’t come close to what happened in Nepal, and I don’t want to even pretend for a second that it does. But what I do want to share with you is this.
A few weeks after the storm, our family got a package in the mail. The package came from Japan, and it was filled with these amazing cards and letters, and a check for 100 dollars… A whole bunch of families, poor families, pulled together to raise 100 dollars and send it to help our family. The letters, written in Japanese and rough broken English, all said thank you.
Because a couple years before that, they had all been displaced by the huge Tsunami that hit Japan. And when they lost everything, it was the American church who stepped in, and rescued them. Who found them places to stay, who rebuilt their homes. Who sent money and supplies and men. And so when we got displaced from our American, first world house… They wanted to return the favor, in some way.
The church is the hope of the world. It is Gods biggest idea… it’s his plan for redemption, restoration and reconciliation. It’s the hope of Nepal, it’s the hope of Baltimore. It’s the hope of Japan and New York City and Detroit. And people can rag on us all day for all the things we are not because sometimes we fall short of being like Jesus… But one thing we are, is a family. Even on the other side of the world. And families help each other, families pray for each other and families weep for each other.
Jesus wept with Mary. He wept for his friends that he loved, but then he acted… he rose Lazarus from the dead. And I’m sure that I will teach this in much more detail on a Sunday some time, but Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, it wasn’t just an act of pity that cost him nothing.
It was an act of compassion that cost him EVERYTHING.
Because if you read John, the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead, was essentially the last miracle recorded. It was the one that set the Pharisees over the top. It was to much. Suddenly, they saw Jesus and they realized, “this guy has power!” We have to bring him down! And so the witnesses to that incredible miracle went and reported what they saw, and they conspired to kill him.
And he knew they were watching him when he raised Lazarus. He knew what it would cost… And he did it anyway.
I once heard Tim Keller put it this way:
“The only way to interrupt Lazarus’ funeral, was to cause his own.”
And that’s our example of love. That is our example of how we should respond to Baltimore.
Of how we should respond to Nepal.
Of how we should respond to our own city. Being a follower of Jesus is costly.. Because being Jesus was costly.
1 john 3:16 “this is how you know love. That Christ laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers…” For our city. For our neighbors. For our family.