Intro: Many thanks to Ken, Jim, and Henly for stepping in on short notice and fulfilling my duties last Sunday and Wednesday. A thank you to this congregation for being so understanding and considerate when I have to be away. It is good to be home.
- You fell back an hour this morning. Now I want you to fall back a whole week. Today’s lesson is the final lesson of our series in October on resurrection – Read John 11:1-26
- This introduces to us the setting on one of the most familiar miracles of Jesus. The resurrection of Lazarus is His final public miracle, and as such is viewed as a bridge between His public and private ministry.
- This miracle became a foundational event for the disciples’ later faith, as it evidenced that Jesus could overcome the power of the grave, thus previewing Jesus’ own resurrection. In connection with His enemies, it became the turning point of their animosity and murderous plans.
- John 11:53 – Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.
- John 12:9-11 – Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, 11 because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus
- This is a remarkable event with many implications and lessons for us. We will walk through this miracle together and point out some of these lessons as we go.
I. The Characters: Unlike some of Jesus’ miracles, this event involves those who were close personal friends.
A. Lazarus, and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus often stayed in their home in Bethany, about 2 miles from Jerusalem. Jesus’ love for them is mentioned several times in John’s narrative.Lazarus is a shortened form of the Hebrew name Eleazar, which means “God has helped,” or “helped by God”—a fitting name in light of this story.
- note: The unembellished introduction of Lazarus only as “a certain man” who was sick emphasizes that Lazarus is not the primary focus of the story. This is about Jesus. He is the true character in view.
II. The Message: So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” Jesus had left the region around Jerusalem because the Jewish leaders sought to kill Him. But surely He would return to heal His good friend, Lazarus.
A. There is a humility in the sisters’ message. They do not ask Jesus for anything specifically. They only voice their concern, and reference Jesus’ love for their brother (without even mentioning Lazarus’ name). They do not demand or instruct Jesus. They seem to trust in Jesus’ love for Lazarus.
B. Notice that they do not say, Lord, the one who loves you is sick. Lazarus did love Jesus, but the blessing Jesus would provide is not based on how much Lazarus loved Jesus, but on how much Jesus loved him. They did not attempt to bribe Jesus or motivate Him based on how much Lazarus had done for Him. They knew Jesus loved Lazarus – that was enough. Isn’t it thrilling to know that God’s blessings our not activated on the basis of my love for Him – that love fails often. But He never fails to love me.
C. Jesus’ response in v. 4 – This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”The Lord obviously did not mean that Lazarus was not going to die, but rather that death would not be the ultimate outcome. Lazarus’ illness and subsequent death would be overturned in a resurrection designed to create faith in Jesus, and thus it was “for the glory of God“
1. How would God be glorified in Lazarus’ sickness? Was it just that sickness and death would be overturned. That is certainly what God would desire. The added years of Lazarus’ life? The answered prayers of the sisters? – the text itself (words of Jesus) answer this question. Why was Jesus’ doing this?
- John 11:15 – And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe – The purpose Of Jesus’ delay (allowing Lazarus to die) was to create faith in some.
- John 11:25-26 – He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” – Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus will rise from the dead, and then points to the necessity of faith – will she believe so that God will be glorified?
- John 11:40 – Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?”
- John 11:41-42 – Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
- God would be glorified when others would believe on Jesus. That what Jesus was doing. That was the purpose of Lazarus’ suffering and death. God will allow us to suffer so that others might believe.
III. The Delay: John 11:5-6 – Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. John’s statement in v. 5 is not arbitrary. It is the preface to what he reveals in v. 6.
A. Jesus did not leave immediately for Bethany. He waited and Lazarus died. But that did not mean that He did not love Martha, Mary or Lazarus. In fact it may suggest that He loved them so much that He stayed two more days! God’s love cannot be measured by time. (If God does not give me what I want NOW He does not love me) Jesus’ delay would actually contribute to N increase in the faith and joy of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
IV. The Disciples’ Test: (v. 7-16) After the two days Jesus summons His disciples to follow Him to Judea. This becomes a test of faith for them, since Jesus was a wanted man, and the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sought to kill Him – “are you going there again?” Jesus gives the disciples two facts:
A. It was not time for Him to die (v. 9-10) – It was still daytime (are there not twelve hours in the day); as long as He was alive there was no need for their faith to stumble. But the night would come, and He would die, and they would stumble – But not now.
B. Lazarus was dead (v. 11) Jesus initially told them Lazarus was asleep and He was going to wake him up. Sleep is used throughout the Bible as a euphemism for death, particularly that of believers (cf. the repeated use of the phrase “slept with his fathers” in 1 and 2 Kings and 2 Chron). Jesus was displaying His confident power over death – it was just a sleep from which one could be easily awakened.
1. The disciples misunderstand. If Lazarus is sleeping, then let him alone. He will get better. Jesus ended their confusion, and said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” Here is an unmistakable indication of the Lord’s omniscience, since the messenger had merely said that Lazarus was sick (v. 3), and there was no way for Jesus to have heard that Lazarus had already died.
2. Jesus’ next statement, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe,” does not mean that He rejoiced in the death of His dear friend. The Lord’s point was that Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead would do far more to strengthen the disciples’ faith than a healing alone.
3. v. 16 – Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him. The statement of Thomas may reflect the other disciples as well. It seems to indicate a strong love, but a weaker faith. Thomas loves Jesus enough to go to Bethany and die with Him, but his faith is so weak he knew he was sure he would die if he went. Devotion and despondency at the same time.
a. Do you love Jesus enough to die with Him? It might be difficult for us to know that about ourselves. But most of us have not even been willing to live for Him in a secure and safe environment. We live for ourselves, our goals, our pleasure, our possessions.
V. Jesus’ Arrival: (v. 17-19) After a day’s journey, Jesus arrives in Bethany. Lazarus had been dead for 4 days. Those must have been a perplexing 4 days for Mary and Martha. Where was Jesus? Why did He allow Lazarus to die? Upon Jesus’ arrival we are introduced to another character in the story – the Jews from Jerusalem. John often used the term “the Jews to refer to the Jewish leaders who were Jesus’ enemies throughout. There were certainly skeptics in this crowd, but they are sympathetic to the sisters, and they had come to comfort them.
A. Jesus and Martha: As we have mentioned, this event is about creating faith in Jesus. At the center of Jesus’ intention is the faith of Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha is the first to meet Jesus when He arrives. She has faith, but not enough faith.
- John 11:20-22 – 20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Some suggest that Martha is scolding Jesus for not being there earlier. But I believe that she is expressing her grief (if only) at the circumstance and her faith in Jesus. She truly believed that Jesus could have helped Lazarus when he was alive. But now he was dead.
1. We have that kind of faith – we believe that God could have dome something about this before, but now it is too far gone. Our level of faith relies upon our expectations of what God should do, and when He should do it. (there was a time when my child would have become a Christian, and I prayed about it then, but now he has married the wrong person, and it will never happen.)
2. Martha expressed her faith that even now, if Jesus asks God, God will do something for Him. She recognizes Jesus’ dependence on the Father, and acknowledges her dependence on Jesus.
- John 11:23-26 – Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
3. We would think that Jesus’ words here would have caused Martha to explode in joy – let me go tell Mary and the others! But her doubt shines through. She assumes He is talking about the resurrection on the last day. She tough Jesus was telling her something she already knew.
4. She believed that Christ had the power to raise Lazarus at the last day but couldn’t handle it when he had been dead for only four days. Does that seem odd? Do people rejoice in the power of God for the future and yet doubt His power today? We do that all the time. We believe in heaven and all its glories, but do not have confidence that God can, or will, solve our problems today. “If you can trust God over there, you can trust Him here. If His power is going to be exhibited there, it’s the same power right here. Many Christians who believe in a resurrection of the body later on, do not believe that God can or will help them overcome the temptation to sin now. The power of Jesus resurrection is the power of my new life.
5. Jesus answer to Martha’s doubt in v. 25: Jesus said to her, “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Can you see that statement in its context? Jesus is saying, it is immaterial about when the person in dead, or how long he has been dead, I AM the resurrection, past, present and future. It is not I will resurrect, but I AM the resurrection. (The familiar “I AM” phrase is the designation of God in the OT)
a. Jesus’ words are the reason for what is about to happen. Jesus was going to demonstrate what He had just affirmed.
b. Jesus’ next two statements are not redundant: v. 25 -, “he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and V. 26 – everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die,” They teach separate, though related, truths.
- The one who believes in Jesus will live even if he dies physically because He will raise him on the last day (5:21, 25-29; 6:39-40, 44, 54).
- And since everyone who lives and believes in Him has eternal life, they will never die spiritually (as long as they continue to be believers. Physical death does not interrupt eternal life. He who has the Son has the life.
- As a result, Christians can say with Paul, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor 15:55).
Conclusion: If you want to investigate the rest of the story with us, you will need to come back tonight. We will follow Jesus to the grave of Lazarus and witness what happens there. But I will mention it once more – this event was about belief. Jesus is the resurrection and the Life. It is only through Him that power of death can be erased. Do you believe this?
After Jesus’ own resurrection He sent His apostles into all the world with a message of hope. It was not the hope of a better government, or world peace. It was not the hope of a clean environment or cleansed earth. It was the hope of a resurrection.
- Rom 6:3-11 – Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. 7 For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- 1 Peter 1:3-5 – Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.