This is the fourth lectionary Gospel in a row that is a very long encounter with Christ from John. However writing a children’s sermon on John 11:1-45 is much easier than it was on Nicodemus, the woman at the well, or the healing of the man born blind. That’s because there is much more action in the story of the raising of Lazarus, as well as much more emotion.
However there is a lot of story; I can’t include every twist and turn. I’m going to focus on the part that I think kids can connect with most easily. The death of a family member is a great fear for many children, and it comes to pass far too often. Watching the way Jesus deals with his friends when they have suffered a deep loss is a lovely thing.
You are, of course, welcome to use this, either as a children’s sermon or as a bedtime story. They start out as bedtime stories for my own kids, so in this time when so many services are cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and we are all cooped up in our houses, I hope it gives you some good family moments, focused on Christ.
But however you use it (and I know some readers enjoy these as part of their own personal meditations), please be sure to include the wondering questions at the end. Hearing the stories of Jesus is not about getting clear and direct answers to everything. Rather it puts us in a position of holy wonder, where we can listen to God.
A Children’s Sermon on John 11:1-45
One time when Jesus was out in the desert with his friends, a messenger came. “Your friend Lazarus is very sick!” the messenger said. “Could you please come and help?”
It took several days for Jesus to get to Bethany, the town where Lazarus lived with his sisters Mary and Martha.
When Jesus got near their house, there were many people gathered around. Many of the people were crying.
Someone who was passing by said, “Lazarus is dead! I just can’t believe he’s gone!” He looked dazed and confused as he travelled on.
Then Lazarus’ sister Martha came out to meet Jesus on the road. She was really angry. She stomped her foot and said,
“Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died! Now he’s gone! This is all your fault!”
Jesus listened to her, and let her be angry. He didn’t say she was wrong. He didn’t defend himself for taking so long.
They talked for a long time about death and life. And Jesus told Martha a secret: “I am the resurrection and the life,” he said — but Martha didn’t really know what Jesus meant.
Soon Lazarus’ other sister Mary came out. She wasn’t angry. She was sad. She was so sad she couldn’t even stand up. She fell onto her knees and said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died! Now I have nothing to live for.” She cried and cried.
Jesus saw her sadness, and he felt sad too. He didn’t try to cheer her up. He stayed close, and listened. He was so sad for Mary that he cried too.
When he had listened, and cried with his friends, he said, “Mary, and Martha, let’s go to Lazarus’ tomb together.”
So they went there.
Now Jesus, and Martha, and Mary, all knew that usually when people die they are gone from us. But Jesus wanted to show his friends something very important: Jesus is so full of God’s life that being near him means we come alive too.
Jesus did a very surprising thing. He told them to open the tomb. Then he called into the tomb: “Lazarus! Come out!”
And Lazarus came out — alive!
The Bible doesn’t say what happened to Lazarus after Jesus ascended into heaven. But the Church remembers him as having traveled to the island of Cyprus, where he served for the rest of his life as a bishop.
And then Lazarus died — again.
Because, sad though it is, everybody dies eventually. God gives us life, and God heals us and helps us many times in many ways. But eventually we die.
We die — but Jesus really is the resurrection and the life, just like he told Martha. When we belong to Jesus, when we stay close to Jesus, we hear his promise that he will raise us up to live with God forever at the end of the age.
- I wonder what it was like for Martha when she got angry at Jesus and Jesus listened to her and talked with her.
- I wonder what it was like for Mary when she got so sad, and Jesus stayed close and cried with her.
- I wonder what Lazarus thought and felt when he woke up in the tomb and heard Jesus calling him!
- I wonder what Mary and Martha thought and felt when they saw him alive again!
- I wonder if someone you knew or loved has ever died.
- I wonder how you felt — confused, or angry, or sad, or something else.
- I wonder how Jesus might stay by you, no matter how you are feeling.
I’d love to send you all my children’s sermons, plus my other new articles and announcements. Scroll down to the black box with the orange button to subscribe, and they’ll arrive in your email most Fridays.