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Friend Lazarus - John 11

A service plan for Eastertide focused on the resurrection of Jesus' friend Lazarus in an Eastertide series focusing on Bible stories that occurred before Christ's resurrection but which shed light on how we should live after his resurrection.

Worship Service
Also in this Series

Resurrection Previews

This is a series of five services examines previews of Christ's resurrection

Theme of the Service

Our Eastertide series of worship services examines how the implications of Christ's resurrection are portrayed prior to Christ's resurrection. As part of these four Sunday services, we encourage you to use different settings of "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" each week. These anthems could be placed in the call to worship. You will find resources for these settings in the music notes following each service. The previous services in this series have focused on Enoch, Elijah, and Jairus' daughter; this service is built around the resurrection of Lazarus.

* * * * *

We Gather Before God 

Prelude: "Christ Is Risen" [see music notes]

Welcome and *Opening Profession [see liturgy notes]

Glory to you, O God:
On this day you won victory over death,
raising Jesus from the grave
and giving us eternal life.
Glory to you, O Christ:
For us and for our salvation you overcame death
and opened the gate to everlasting life.
Glory to you, O Holy Spirit:
You lead us into the truth.
Glory to you, O blessed Trinity,
now and forever. Amen. (TWS, N.1.4.2, p.630)

*Song of Praise: "Christ Is Risen" SNC 147, UMH 307

*Our Declaration of Trust and God's Greeting:

Congregation of Christ, who do you trust?
Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.
Grace, mercy and peace to you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

* Song of Response: "Praise the Savior Now and Ever" PsH 400, TH 243

We Are Renewed in God's Grace

The Call to Confession

Our Prayer of Confession

The Assurance of Pardon

Our Song of Dedication: "Christ, You Are the Fullness," PH 346, PsH 229, SFL 232

God's Guide for Grateful Living: Colossians 3:1-17 [see liturgy notes]

The Children's Moment

The Offering
The Offering of Music: "Praise the Savior Now and Ever" [see music notes]
or: "The Strife Is O'er"
We offer our gifts for..

God Speaks From His Word

*Song: "A Shout Rings Out, a Joyful Voice" PsH 392
or "To God Be the Glory" PH485, PsH473, RN258, TH55, TWC72, UMH99

The Prayer for Illumination

The Reading of Scripture: John 11:1-44 [see liturgy notes]

The Word of the Lord.
Thanks be to God!

Sermon: Resurrection Previews: Friend Lazarus

The Prayer of Application

We Respond to God's Word 

*Our Affirmation of Faith: [see liturgy notes]

Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." And then he asked, "Do you believe this?"

Yes, Lord, we believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.

And Jesus said, "No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth; he who believes has everlasting life."

Lord, we affirm that you have given us everlasting life.

Jesus said, "Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out. Those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned."

Lord, our hope is in you, for only in you can we find the hope of eternal life.

Brothers and sisters, what do you believe?

We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Thanks be to God!
(adapted from John 5, 6, 8 and 11, and the Apostles' Creed)

*Song of Faith: "I Am the Bread of Life" SNC 152

The Prayers of the People [see liturgy notes]

We Leave with God's Presence 

*The Benediction with Congregational Amen!

*Song: "Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing" PH 108, PsH 413, RN 300, TWC 243, UMH 318

Postlude: "Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing" [see music notes]

* You are invited to stand.

Liturgy Notes

1. We have continued to use strong Easter hymns for the opening of worship. Our intent is that the statement is clearly made that Easter continues! In this service, it will be helpful to express the welcome and ask the worshipers to rise and be ready to speak. This welcome could also include an opening introit/anthem.

2. Liturgy Note #4 of the first service in this series gives ideas about the method of using Colossians 3 throughout this season as "God's Guide for Grateful Living." Various readings of Colossians 3 can be combined with "Christ, You Are the Fullness" very effectively. We recommend that you speak to the children about this section of the service and explain to them that we live as different people because Jesus rose for us.

3. We realize that the length of the Scripture passage suggested for this service is substantial. Yet, it seems necessary to include the whole range of events in this narrative. If you feel it's too much for attentive listening, you will want to make selections that still retain the narrative and its main elements. Another possibility is to include multiple readers for different persons in the story, such as Mary, Martha, and Jesus. If you select this method, the passage will need to be scripted for them and rehearsal will be necessary (always a good idea anyway!).

4. The affirmation of faith is a combination of multiple statements that Jesus spoke in John's Gospel about the gift of everlasting life and our response to them. Taking these words of faith on our lips, particularly after hearing about the reality of the resurrection, can be very powerful.

5. The Prayers of the People in this service should be written very thoughtfully and sensitively. Since the focus of the service is on resurrection, it will evoke memories of those who have passed away, which may also evoke grief and a sense of loss. It is important, therefore, that this prayer is one in which we affirm our hope of resurrection and our confidence in Christ's finished work but also give thanks for the lives and the testimony of faith of those who have passed away. Intercessions for those who are grieving will be an important part of the sense of community at this service.

Sermon Notes

Once again we "back up" to examine an event that occurred prior to Christ's resurrection to gain more insight into our experiences of the resurrection. The news of Lazarus's sickness comes to Jesus when he is in Perea, and it draws him to Jerusalem. The timing is very near the last week of Jesus' life, and the raising of Lazarus seems to have cemented the determination of the Jewish leaders to kill Jesus (see John 11:45-57). They were also intent on killing the resurrected Lazarus (see John 12:9-11). In John's account, these events immediately precede the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.

Even though this is a familiar story, it includes much activity and material that is often overlooked so it's worthwhile to retell the story and point out some of its highlights.

  • Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus were very close friends and obviously spent a lot of time together.
  • Lazarus became very sick and soon died. (This illustrates that even the closest friends of Jesus are subject to death.)
  • Mary and Martha send urgently for Jesus, but he delays (see John 11:3-6) and doesn't arrive until Lazarus has been buried for four days. (This is a similar delay to that which we saw last week in the event of Jairus's daughter.)
  • When Jesus arrives, he is intent on doing three things: (1) teaching the truth about sickness, death, life, resurrection, etc. [11:4, 11, 14-15, 25-26], (2) grieving with his friends in their sorrow [see 11:33-35], and (3) providing the miracle which brings Lazarus back to life [see 11:38-44].
  • A fascinating aspect to this resurrection is found in verse 44. We find that the raising of Lazarus involves two stages. After he comes to life, he still needs to be "unwrapped" from the grave clothes so that he would be able to move and function as a fully alive individual. (Remember that our reading in the liturgy of Colossians 3 indicates that those raised with Christ still need a "dying and rising" process in their living.)

The core of this entire story is found in Jesus' provocative words in verses 25 and 26. First, he intends to tell us something about himself. He does not announce that he does resurrections, but he is the resurrection (v.25a). Second, he pictures a believer at the moment of physical death and announces that in spite of what is happening, this believer will continue to live (v.25b). Third, he pictures the believer as she lives here on this earth and announces that physical death will never interfere with her real life (v.26a). Finally, he turns to Martha and questions her about her commitment to embrace this truth and to embraceHim.

We encourage you to consider these key truths that are given for believers in this event

  • Death is not the last word for those who are believers in the resurrected Christ.
  • Tombs are temporary and will certainly be opened (see John 5:28, 29).
  • Glory, the full and real life with Christ, is ahead for Christians.
  • Christians don't really die. (See John 11:26 and 8:51.) It only seems that way.
  • Believers possess eternal life now, in present tense. (see John 6:47)

In these truths there is great opportunity for the proclamation of the gospel and the encouragement and comfort of believers.

Music Notes 

The opening hymn "Christ Is Risen" is often set to two different melodies - W ZLOEBIE LEZY and HYMN TO JOY. We are providing resources based on both these hymn tunes for your consideration for alternative harmonizations of the opening hymn. We are providing only suggestions on HYMN TO JOY for prelude music. Most service music settings of W ZLOEBIE LEVY carry the spirit of a lullaby, given the text usually associated with the tune "Infant Holy, Infant Lowly" and as such would not be appropriately paired with this strong text!


  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Burkhardt, Michael. Easy Hymn Settings Christmas. Morningstar MSM-10-115 [1992]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Sedio, Mark. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]

HYMN TO JOY/ODE TO JOY ["Christ Is Risen"]

  • Organ: 
    • Bish, Diane. Joyful, Joyful. Beckenhorst (M-D)
    • Burkhardt, Michael. Hymn to Joy. Morningstar MSM-10-729 [2000] (E-M)
    • Callahan, Charles. Partita on Hymn to Joy. Morningstar MSM-10-703 [1993] (E-M)
    • Callahan, Charles. Two Festive Organ Pieces. Morningstar MSM-10-761 [1999] (E-M)
    • Cherwien, David. Postludes on Well Known Hymns. Augsburg 11-10795 [1997] (E-M)
    • Ferguson, John. A Thanksgiving Triptych. Morningstar MSM-10-603 [2001] (E-M)
    • Honore, Jeffrey. Classic Embellishments. Augsburg 11-11005 [1999] (E-M, could also include a solo instrument)
    • Hopson, Hal. Processional of Joy. Fischer P3236 [1977] (E-M)
    • Krapf, Gerhard. Sing and Rejoice, vol. 2. SMP KK235 [1982] (E, adaptable for piano)
    • Manz, Paul. God of Grace. Morningstar MSM-10-599 [2004] (M)
    • Manz, Paul. Two Pieces for Festive Occasions. Morningstar MSM-10-840 [1990](M)
    • Miller, Aaron David. Improvisations for the Church Year, vol. 2. Augsburg Fortress ISBN 0-8006-7676-9 [2004] (D)
    • Wold, Wayne . L. (2003) Augsburg Organ Library - Autumn. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7579-7 [2003] (E-M)
    • Young, Gordon. Chorale Preludes on Seven Hymn Tunes. Flammer HF-5002 [1960] (E-M)
  • Piano:
    • Carter, John. Easy Hymns for 4 Hands. Hope 8146 [2002] (E-M)
    • Carter, John. Hymns for Piano II. Hope 8197 [2003] (E-M)
    • Innes, John. Majesty. Hope 269 [1985] (E-M)
  • Handbells:
    • Honoré, Jeffrey. Alleluia Passacaglia. Agape 1552 [1992] (3-5 octaves, E-M)
    • Sanders, Patricia A. The Twelve Bells of Christmas. Agape 1717 [1994] (2 octaves, E-M)
    • Sherman, Arnold B. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. Agape 1652 [1993] (2-3 octaves, E-M)
    • Wagner, Douglas. E. Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. Jenson 466-10019 [1983] (3 octaves, M)
  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Goode, Jack C. Thirty-four Changes on Hymn Tunes. H W Grey GB 644 [1978]
    • Ferguson, John. Hymn Harmonizations for Organ, bk. 2. Ludwig O-07 [1983]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Gervais, Pam. Let It Rip! At the Piano. Augsburg 11-11045 [2000]


The following are anthem suggestions on the text "I Know That My Redeemer Lives," one of which could be included as part of the call to worship each week of this Eastertide series. You may consider also reading the text from Job 19:23-27 in place of a choral setting or having solo rendition of the text from Handel's "Messiah." You could also repeat the same setting of the text from week to week.

  • Bach, Johann Michael. I Know That My Redeemer Lives. Schirmer 8418 [1940] (SATTB, a cappella; M) 
  • Bunjes, Paul. I Know That My Redeemer Lives. Concordia 98-1462 [1958] (SATB, congregation with organ; concertato; E-M)
  • Courtney, Craig. I Know That My Redeemer Lives. Beckenhorst BP1563 [1999] (SATB and keyboard; E-M)

The suggestions for the musical offertory can be found in:

UPP, MIN TUNGA ["Praise the Savior Now and Ever"]

  • Organ: 
    • Haan, Raymond H. Four Hymns of Rejoicing. Morningstar MSM-10-518 [1998] (E-M)


  • Organ: 
    • Held, Wilbur. Six Preludes on Easter Hymns. Concordia 97-4649 [1975] (E-M)
    • Helman, Michael. Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (E-M)
    • Johnson, David N. Easy Trios. Augsburg 11-9291 [1969] (E-M)
    • Linker, Janet. Suite for Holy Week. Beckenhorst OC5 [1989] (E-M)
    • Shoemaker-Lohmeyer, Lisa. The Strife is O'er. Morningstar MSM-10-418 [1997] (M)
    • Young, Gordon. Eight Voluntaries. Presser 413-41034-30 [1961]
  • Piano:
    • Hamilton, Gregory. As the Grains of Wheat. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7577-0 [2003] (M-D)
  • Handbells:
    • Sherman, Arnold B. The Strife Is O'er. Agape 1847 [1996] (3-5 octaves, level 3)
    • Zabel, Albert. The Strife Is O'er. Augsburg Fortress 11-10989 [1999] (3-5 octaves, level 3)


Alternative harmonizations and postlude suggestions based on the closing hymn can be found n the following resources:

TRURO ["Christ Is Alive! Let Christians Sing"]

  • Alternative Harmonization for Organ:
    • Busarow, Donald. All Praise to You, Eternal God. Augsburg 11-9076 [1980]
    • Johnson, David N. Free Harmonizations of Twelve Hymn Tunes. Augsburg 11-9190 [1964]
  • Alternative Harmonization for Piano:
    • Carlson, J. Bert. Let It Rip! At the Piano, vol. 2. Augsburg ISBN 0-8006-7580-0 [2003]
  • Organ: 
    • Albrecht, Timothy. Grace Notes VIII. Augsburg 11-10970 [1999] (E-M)
    • Bingham, Seth. Twelve Hymn Preludes, set 1. H. W. Grey. [1942] (E-M)
    • Burkhardt, Michael. Four Hymn Improvisations for Holy Week. Morningstar MSM-10-318 [1995] (E-M)
    • Cherwien, David. Seasonal Interpretations Lent-Easter. Summa SP-112 [1998] (E-M)
    • Kerr, J. Wayne. (1998) Augsburg Organ Library - Easter. Augsburg 11-11075 [2000] (E-M)

Glossary of Hymnal Abbreviations:
PH The Presbyterian Hymnal (Presbyterian Church USA; Westminster/John Knox Press)
PsH The Psalter Hymnal (Christian Reformed Church; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
RL Rejoice in the Lord (Reformed Church in America; W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company)
RN Renew! (Hope Publishing Company)
SFL Songs for LiFE (children's songbook; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
SNC Sing! A New Creation (Calvin Institute of Christian Worship, Christian Reformed Church,
Reformed Church in America; Faith Alive Christian Resources)
TH Trinity Hymnal (Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Presbyterian Church in America; Great
Commission Publications)
TWC The Worshiping Church (Hope Publishing Company)
UMH The United Methodist Hymnal (United Methodist Publishing House)
WOV With One Voice (Augsburg Fortress)