Come and See

A Homily for All Saints (Transferred)

Texts: Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9; Isaiah 25:6-9; Revelation 21:1-6; St. John 11:32-44


Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who unites us with all the saints in the glory of the Resurrection. Amen.

Three days after Lazarus died, Jesus arrived and asked where they had buried him. “Come and see,” they told the Lord.

Those words should sound familiar – it’s the invitation extended to the disciples throughout the Gospel according to Saint John.

In the first chapter, John the Baptist greets Christ, “Behold the Lamb of God!” and his followers ask Jesus, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” In verse 39, he bids them “Come and see.” The two men follow Christ before one of them, Andrew, goes out to find his brother Simon, exclaiming, “We have found the Messiah!” Andrew brings Simon before Jesus, who says “You are to be called [Peter.]”

The next day, Jesus comes upon Philip and says, “Follow me.” Philip does, and then he goes out to find Nathanael, saying “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” Nathanael scoffs, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip replies in verse 46, “Come and see.”

And later still, in chapter 4, a Samaritan woman gathering water at the well is amazed that Christ could know so much about her. She runs back into the city and tells the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?”

Come and see – the Lamb of God! Come and see – the Messiah! Come and see – the one about whom Moses and the Law and prophets wrote! Come and see – the one who knows everything we have ever done! Come and see – Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth!

Now “Come and see” becomes the crowd’s invitation for Christ to follow them. “Come and see” the one whom you loved who is no more. “Come and see” and join us in weeping. “Come and see” this body decaying in the grave. “Come and see” – but don’t ask us to roll away the stone because “he has been dead four days” and “already there is a stench….”

The crowd echoes the invitation – but do they know what is about to unfold? Do they see that this will be yet another, more powerful call to discipleship? Do they know that as they bid Christ come and see the dead man, that Christ bids us come and see life return to those in the grave? Can they imagine that they are being called to come and see the one who has the power to forgive sin, to heal the sick, and even to raise the dead? Do they know that Christ is calling us out of our tombs to come and see newness of life? Can they imagine that when they told Christ to come and see, that they would witness one of his mightiest miracles?

The call to discipleship is the call to follow the God who gives life, even in the midst of death. This is the God who will, as the prophet Isaiah says, “swallow up death forever” and “will wipe away the tears from all faces….” It is the Lord God who will bring a new heavens and a new earth even as the first things pass away, according to Revelation. And when that still more glorious day arrives, the Lord “will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more….” The one who called Lazarus from the tomb will make all things new on that day, oh that blessed day.

This is the promise of our faith: that death and grief will be undone. That those who die in Christ will rise again. That those who weep and mourn are blessed, for they will be comforted. On this day, as we remember all the saints who have gone before us, especially those who have died in the past year, we should take comfort in the promises of Scripture.

The lectionary offers an alternate reading for today from the Wisdom of Solomon, one of those difficult-to-categorize books that we sometimes call the Apocrypha but which was part of the Scriptures as Jesus knew them. In the appointed lection, we read:

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction. But they are at peace. For though in the sight of men they were punished, their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself….they will shine forth….They will govern nations and rule over peoples and the Lord will reign over them. Those who trust in him will understand truth, and the faithful will abide with him in love, because grace and mercy are upon his elect, and he watches over his holy ones.

Beloved, our hope is in the Lord, the one who called Lazarus from the dead, the one who will wipe away every tear, the one who watches over the faithful and holy ones.

And yet we still weep. Oh after this past year and a half how we weep. For loved ones. For Pastor Jack. For Chris. For Jackie. For those we never knew. For persecuted Christians across the world. For people in places ravaged by war. For five million people around the world who died from covid. And how we still weep for those who died in years past! For Bo, for Anne. For grandparents, parents, for beloved aunts and favorite uncles. For spouses, siblings, friends. For those parents who had to bury children, for grandparents who survived grandchildren. For those we respected but never met. For those we hated with whom we never reconciled.

These hopeful promises can feel so terribly far away – dismissive, even. As if to suggest that we should simply “get over” our grief because death isn’t permanent. (And indeed, there are Christians who approach mourning and grief in this way, denying the reality of pain and anguish.)

But this is not the way of our Lord! Come and see how he responds to the death of his beloved friend. When Mary and Martha greet Christ and say, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died,” he does not dismiss their anguish.

Rather, he weeps.

Let me say that again: God weeps.

Our God is one who knows the fullness of humanity – the pain we feel, the tears we have shed, the heartache we have endured. The God who will save us from death has cried for the dead and been stricken down by death himself. The promise of the resurrection, then, is not to deny our tears but to wipe them away as a loving friend sitting with us by the grave side.

Come and see, you saints of the Lord, the God who weeps is the one who will wipe away all tears.

Come and see the God who endured death is the one who will vanquish death.

Come and see the God who descended even into the grave is the one who will call us out of our graves on the last day.

Come to the Altar and see your Lord and your God.

Come and see the God who has given his body, broken for us.

Come and see the very presence of the Risen Christ.

Come and see the God who joins us with all the saints into one glorious communion through his Body and Blood.

Amen.

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