Jesus Gives New Life
John 11:1-45 4-29-18
In the late 1800’s a man by the name Eric Weisz grew up in New York City. He was the son of a Rabbi, but he didn’t take his father’s occupation because he loved magic. So he took up the occupation of being a magician and he was very, very good at his trade. He took the stage name Harry Houdini, and the magic trick that made him famous, in America and in Europe, was this… there were a number of them but there was a special one by the name of what he called the water torture cell. This was a trick where they would descend him, drop him slowly upside down into this big rectangle of water, this rectangular box made of glass and the only thing hanging out were his feet, everything else was in the box. And somehow amazingly he would escape from this water torture cell and everybody loved it. The crowds just loved it and they were wowed and entertained over and over and over. And he was probably the best magician, the most accomplished magician of his era.
Well, I’m sad to say that many view the amazing works of Jesus as Houdini type magic tricks, just things that were tricks and interesting, amazing things that were done to entertain the crowds, to wow the crowds. And this argument that Jesus, well, you know, He was really just an entertainer that did these interesting tricks for entertainment purposes and for purposes of getting the crowds to be amazed. That argument was made two thousand years ago when the church first was established. It was made by a skeptic, an unbeliever by the name of Celsus, and this argument has been repeated over the centuries. Just get on the internet and put in your Google search bar Jesus and magic or Jesus the magician and you’ll see all kinds of garbage there. There’s even an article from that [can’t understand word, sounds like Ferrin balanced] media outlet NBC News, and so you see all of this garbage because this argument has repeated itself over and over. And the reason for the argument is this: if someone wants to avoid the message of Jesus the first thing they want to do is discredit the miracles because the miracles and the message are linked.
And one of the Church Fathers, Origen, his name is Origen, captured what this skeptic, this unbeliever who was attacking Jesus’ argument and Jesus’ message, he captured his argument, Celcus, and here’s what Origen said when he was refuting Celcus’s argument, and he repeats it. He says this: “[Celsus] compares them” that is the works of Jesus, “to the tricks of jugglers, who profess to do more wonderful things . . . . But, as it helped his [Celcus’] purpose, he compares the (miracles) related of Jesus to the results produced by magic.” [“Origen against Celsus,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. A. Roberts, J. Donaldson, and A. C. Coxe, vol. 4 trans. Frederick Crombie (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 427.]
Now we, as believers, understand that the works of Jesus were not done as phony magic tricks; they were done in the power of God as miracles done in the power of God to communicate a message. Now there’s a legitimate question that we should ask ourselves: why the miracles? Why the specific ones? Why the miracles that Jesus chose? Why heal a blind man? A mute man? A lame man? Why feed 5,000? Why raise someone from the dead? Why not turn a donkey into a turtle? Right, I mean, why not turn a rock into a pineapple? Why the particular miracles that He chose?
We should ask ourselves that question and the answer; the answer to that question is because He chose His miracles with extreme precision. The miracles that He chose were there to show that He was ready, willing and able to fulfill the promises that God had given and the prophecies that God had given in the Scriptures, because when Jesus walked on the earth the only Scriptures that existed were the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. And so Jesus chose His miracles to show that He was ready, willing and able to perform what God had promised, to perform what God had prophesied would happen.
Now, to be sure Jesus performed miracles and signs and wonders to make an impression on the people who were around Him, to make an impression on the crowd. But it wasn’t so that they would be entertained like some Houdini type crowd. It was so that they would understand that He was able to fulfill the promises that God had made in the Scripture. Jesus, for example, healed the deaf and the blind and the mute and the lame to fulfill the promise that God made in Isaiah 35. Isaiah 35:5 where Isaiah, he’s talking about the millennium and God communicates through Isaiah and Isaiah records the words of God here: “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.  Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.” So what Jesus does is He fulfills a small portion of the larger promise, a small portion of the larger prophecy so that the people could see, oh, He does what the promise says will happen.
And so Jesus didn’t heal all the disabled of Israel. No, He healed only a few who were in His periphery to show them I’m able to do what God has promised. I am able to do what God has promised in the Scripture, the Old Testament and the New Testament are linked. We can’t understand the New Testament if we don’t understand the Old Testament. And today we’re going to look at one of those miracles that Jesus performed; it’s the miracle that’s laid out in John 11, the raising of Lazarus from the dead. We’re going to see what He did and why He did it. This is a miracle about how Jesus gives a sign, He gives a wonder, a miracle, a work that He gives new life, that He gives life when life is gone, life is dead, He restores it. That’s what this miracle shows.
And we’ll see today that this miracle shows that Jesus does what God does. Right? He gives life. What did God do in Genesis 2? He breathed life into the man and the man became a living being. But God doesn’t just give life, He restores life when life has been lost, where life is dead. And so we learned about that from Pastor Woods just a few weeks ago in Daniel 12:2, another promise from the Old Testament, a promise of resurrection. There we read, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.”
The raising of Lazarus in John 11 is going to show us that Jesus does what God does; He restores life by resurrecting the dead.
Now let me just take a moment to talk about the Book of John before we dive into our passage in John 11. The book of John, the Gospel of John, is the only book that has as its express purpose written in the text the evangelization of the unbeliever. Many books of the Bible have the gospel message, of course, but the Gospel of John is the only book that has written in the language of the book, in the text of the book, that its purpose is to evangelize the unbeliever, that’s so that the unbeliever might go from death into life. And here’s what I mean by that: John says in chapter 20, verse 30-31, “ Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;  but these have been written so that you may believe” such an important word in we’re in today, “the account of Lazarus, we’re going to see this word “believe” over and over and over this morning. “These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
You see, people have two options with Jesus. There’s only two things they can get from Jesus, one of two, life or wrath. Believe and we receive Jesus’ life, which is eternal life. If we don’t believe then the person is subject to Jesus’ wrath that Jesus will impose at the Great White Throne Judgment when the unbeliever is subject to this horrific wrath and judgment which is being cast into the lake of fire. And so Jesus says I don’t want that, I want you to believe, and so I’m going to show these miracles to show that I AM the Meshia, the Hebrew word for Messiah; I am the Messiah. And so Jesus wants all of humanity to believe and John wants them to believe so he records these miracles in his gospel.
You know, we say Jesus Christ, well, Christ is not His last name, of course, right? I mean, if He had a football Jersey it wouldn’t say Christ on the back. Christ is a description, it’s who He is. Meshia, Hebrew for Messiah, which means chosen one or anointed one, Meshia translated into Geek is Christos; Christos translated into English is Christ. So He is Jesus the Christ; for short we say Jesus Christ. The point is Jesus wants them to know that He is the Christ, the One through whom salvation and life are obtained.
Now if you’re a believer (and I pray that you are) you may be scratching your head and saying well okay, I’m a believer, is the Book of John, since it’s written so that the unbeliever might be saved, is the Book of John of value to me if I’m a believer. YES it is, absolutely! What we’re going to see today, really there are three groups but it’s two types of folks, we’re going to see believers and we’re going to see unbelievers. The account of Lazarus really has two types of folks, unbelievers and Jesus wants them to believe so that they will be saved and receive His eternal life. Believers, who actually most of this account of Lazarus Jesus is dealing with believers, not unbelievers, the believer group here in this account of Lazarus Jesus wants them to develop their faith, to strengthen their faith because faith is like a muscle, you either exercise it and it’s there when you need it or you don’t. And if you don’t exercise it then it gets squishy and it atrophies and it’s not of value for you when you need it.
Now when it comes to salvation someone goes from being an unbeliever to a believer just by a little more faith than no faith at all and so God takes just a tiny fraction of faith, which is a little more faith than no faith at all in Him, and the person becomes saved. But after they’re saved, well now what? Now that faith needs to be developed and strengthened because this world is full of challenges and difficulties and suffering and God wants us to serve in this world of suffering and so much of the account of the raising of Lazarus today we’ll see is about strengthening the faith of you and me. It’s about strengthening the faith of believers.
Well, the outline of the raising of Lazarus is basically four points. The first grouping of verses if Lazarus gets sick and dies, that’s verses 1-16. Then Jesus claims to bring new life, verses 17-27. Then there is mourning over the death of Lazarus, [verses 28-37]. And then finally Jesus proves His claim that He brings new life by raising Lazarus from the dead. [verses 38-45]
And we’re going to see five Lazarus principles today. Principle number 1, God’s ultimate purpose is to glorify Himself. Number 2, at times God allows us to suffer for His glory. This is a painful principle but it’s a principle in the Scripture so we’re going to lay it out. Number 3, trust God when you’re suffering for His glory. Number 4, Jesus, the God-man, weeps with us in our suffering. He’s not out there detached, disinterested, no, no, no, no, no! He’s interested in you and He’s engaged in your life and He loves you and He longs for you. And so when you suffer Jesus weeps; we’re going to see in this account Jesus weeping for those who are suffering and with those who are suffering. Finally, God blesses those who seek His glory.
Let’s get into our passage with that background in mind. John 11:1, “Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.  It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.” So here John is telling us this is the Mary that we’re talking about here, the Mary who anointed the oil and wiped His feet, and John describes her actually in the next chapter, chapter 12. Verse 2, “ So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, ‘Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.’” Verse 4, “But when Jesus heard this, He said, This sickness is not to end in death,” in other words, Jesus is going to raise this man from the dead. “…This sickness is not to end in death but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.’” May be glorified by the sickness. ” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” The Greek word for love there is agape, this intimate love. These are believers, Martha, Mary, her sister, and Lazarus. Verse 6, “So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”
So Jesus is going to let His friend, Lazarus, die so that God will be glorified through Jesus. And that’s principle number one. God’s purpose is to glorify Himself. His purpose in human history is to glorify Himself. There are a number of Scriptures there on the slide, we don’t have time to go into them. [on slide: (Isaiah 48:9-11, Habakkuk 2:14, John 14:13, Romans 11:36, 1 Corinthians 10:31)] But that’s His purpose in human history.
Now the skeptic, the unbel who wants to avoid Jesus‘ message and avoid the Word of God says well hey, I got ya‘ believer, look, I’m not going to worship a God who is into Himself. This is the argument of the unbel, I’m not going to worship a God who’s arrogant, He’s an egomaniac if He’s into glorifying Himself (again, this is the argument of the unbeliever). Here’s what’s bogus about that argument: it totally misses who God is. It puts God on the same level as the rest of us. It’s kind of like this, if I came and I said look, I am majestic, I am amazingly awesome, I’m just incredible, you need to worship me, you need to praise me, you need to glorify me. Well you rightly say boy, you are a fool, you’re cocky, you’re arrogant and you’re an idiot, and you would run me out of town… as you should!
But on the other hand, if God Himself were to appear before us then we would fall on our faces and grovel before Him because his very nature, His very person demands glory because He alond is worthy. He alone is omnipotent. He alone is all powerful, omnipresent majesty, glory, holy, righteousness, truth, love all of those divine characteristics, He alone is those, no one else is! And so He alone is worthy and His very nature demands glory. And so out of an interest of honesty and truth God seeks His own glory because His nature commands it. And so this concept of glory to God is throughout all the Scriptures but it’s especially here in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
And what we also see in the gospel of John is that God’s self-revelation through Jesus is closely linked to his self-glorification. What I mean by that is when God reveals who He is it brings glory to Him because He alone is God! He alone is worthy! He alone is all of those divine characteristics. It’s kind of like this; when someone takes their Bible and opens it and sees and recognizes that the revelation that is in this Book is of God, then God is glorified because when someone sees that the revelation that is in the Book is from God and they trust in God’s Word as revealed in His Scriptures now God is glorified. Bcause He revealed Himself that brings glory to Himself. Same thing when Jesus walked on the earth. When people saw Jesus and beheld Jesus they recognized this man is of God, this man is from heaven, this man IS God. And so as Jesus revealed Himself He revealed the Father and that revelation prompted glory because faith…, when we have faith in Jesus there’s no glory in us. Right? When I beleive in Jesus and I trust in Jesus I’m pushing all the glory to Him because I can’t very well say check me out, I believed in Jesus, I’m all that? What? That doesn’t make any sense. If I believed towards Him, He’s the object, so that’s why God demands faith of us, it is kind of tough to glorify God without faith? No, it’s impossibe!
What is the passage in Hebrews, “It is impossible to please God without faith.“ [Hebrews 11:6] And one day faith won’t be required anymore, because one day Jesus will more fully reveal His majesty and His power. And that day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father. [Philippians 2:9, “so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,” Romans 14:11, “For it is written, ‘AS I LIVE, SAYS THE LORD, EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW TO ME, AND EVERY TONGUE SHALL GIVE PRAISE TO GOD.”]
Today faith is required because God reveals a portion of Himself and so faith is required, but one day Jesus will reveal His glory much more fully and then it will be undeniable that He is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we may have life through His name. [John 20:31, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”]
Our second principle today, and this is a painful principle but it’s in the Scripture so we teach it, at times God allows us to suffer for His glory, to suffer so that He may be glorified. It’s painful to acknowledge because let’s be honest, we don’t like pain and suffering, I don’t, none of us do because it hurts but God’s plan is bigger than ours. That’s because He is God and we are not. Job said it well, “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” [Job 1:21]
Here’s what we know. God told us to trust Him. God has promised to make “all things to work together for good to those who love Him.” That last phrase is real important, “to those who love Him.” He’s not saying that all things are good. No, there’s the good, the bad and the ugly in this world but that promise is telling us that He’s going to cause all of those things to “work together for good” and there are really two types of suffering. There’s suffering that we bring on ourselves, it’s self-induced suffering from our own sinful decisions. And the solution to that is to confess our sin and to get back into fellowship with Him, get back on His path, 1 John 1:9. [1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”]
And the other type of suffering is undeserved suffering, suffering that God allows in our life for His glory; it’s undeserved. And that’s really the suffering we’re going to talk about today. When we go through that we should trust Him; we shouldn’t get mad at God, we shouldn’t get disappointed with God because God has sacrificed much more for us than we will ever sacrifice for Him. God the Father sent His Son with whom He had perfect eternal fellowship, trillions of years ago in eternity past. He sent His Son so that He would be slaughtered for you and me. I don’t have that love in me, I can’t send my child to die for the sins of the world, I just don’t have that love in me. Well, praise God I’m not God, right! God the Father send His Son and sacrificed and slaughtered His Son for us because He loves you. So then it’s not just God the Father, it’s God the Son, right?
God the Son endured the cross and our sins for us and so God has sacrificed much more than we will ever sacrifice. And so when we say, when we’re mad at God, and let’s just be direct here, when we’re mad at God and we’re disappointed in God we’re sinning, it’s an attitude of sin because what it’s doing is it’s saying I’m the creature, You’re the Creator but You did me wrong, You allowed this thing in my life, You’re wrong, You did me wrong Creator, by allowing this in my life. And so that’s sin, when the creature judges the Creator as being in the wrong.
So what are we to do when we’re in suffering, when we’re in undeserved suffering? We’re to trust Him… we’re to trust Him! We’re to submit to Him and let Him know you don’t understand, and let him know you don’t get it, let Him know that you hurt and you ask for His help. Have you ever prayed Father, this hurts, help me? I have, many times. I think God answers that prayer. This hurts! Help me!!! Just pray the prayer “help me” and He answers that prayer because that’s a prayer of submission, that’s a prayer of trust in Him. That’s a prayer that recognizes you’ve got nowhere else to go but to God. Yes, we should comfort one another, we should be comforted by our family and friends when we’re in suffering. We should weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. But in the end only our Maker gives us life and restores life. And Jesus is like us in all respects except for sinning and so He relates to our suffering. The Bible calls Him “a man of sorrows, whose acquainted with grief.” [Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”] And so He weeps with us in our suffering. We’re going to see that as this account of Lazarus unfolds this morning.
Back to our passage, verse 7, “Then after this He said to the disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.”  The disciples said to Him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?’”  Jesus answered, ‘Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.  But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him [John 11:7-10] Jesus said to him, I’m doing the Father’s will, nothing is going to happen to Me until it’s time, until it’s My time because I’m doing the Father’s will. Until it’s My time nothing is going to happen to Me. And that’s the same thing for us; the safest place for us to be is in the will of God. When we’re outside the will of God now we’re in the danger zone, but that’s Jesus’ point there.
Verse 11, “This He said, and after that He said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”’ When Jesus uses the word sleep here He’s alluding back to Daniel 12:2, the promise of resurrection. What does Daniel 12:2 day, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the ground will awake, these to everlasting life, but the others to disgrace and everlasting contempt.” Jesus is unpacking for them that He’s the One who fulfills the Scripture. He’s the One who fulfills the Scripture of resurrection.
Verse 12, “The disciples then said to Him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’  “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought He was speaking of literal sleep.”  So Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead  and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there so that you may believe;” there’s that word again, “but let us go to him.’” Notice in verse 15 Jesus is saying I didn’t grant Martha and Mary’s request that I get there quicker so that I could heal him so that he wouldn’t die. And I’m glad that my friend died, Jesus says, so that you disciples “will believe.”
Wait a second, time out, believe? These guys are already believers except for Judas… believe what? They’ve already believed and trusted that He’s the Christ. Jesus wants them to trust Him, to understand who He is. They trusted that He’s the Christ but they don’t fully understand who He is. They’ve trusted that He is the Christ and so God has taken that little speck of faith that they had and made it effective for salvation; they’re believers but now He wants to grow their faith, like a muscle. He’s going to reveal to them, (the disciples) who He is more fully so that they may believe and so through believing they’ll glorify Jesus and that means they’ll glorify the Father.
That’s what Jesus wants to do in your life and in my life too; He wants us to exercise our faith muscle so that develops and we trust in Him for all things. We trust in Him when life is all roses and we trust in Him when life is the pits, because we’re in suffering, because we live in this fallen broken world and suffering comes our way. Jesus is glorified by revealing who He is and who God is so that people will believe or trust in Him.
There are three groups here in this account of Lazarus. There are the disciples, they’re believers, He wants to grow their faith. There’s Martha and Mary, they’re believers, He wants to grow their faith. So we have this set of folks that are believers and then as I mentioned earlier we have a third group which are unbelievers, the folks standing around the tomb, Jesus wants them to take the first step, which is faith in Him, so that they will have life. Each of these three groups doesn’t get it. There’s something they misunderstand about Jesus, each one of them. And so Jesus has to reveal a little more and in revealing a little more He is glorified and through that the Father is glorified.
This first group, what they don’t get, what they misunderstand about Jesus is they think Jesus is saying Lazarus is taking a siesta, He’s just sleeping, He took some antihistamines because He’s sick and He’s just taking a nap. They don’t understand that Jesus is saying no, no, no, He’s DEAD! And I allowed him to die so that your faith will grow disciples. I allowed him to die so that you will see who I am because I want to reveal that to you and through that I’m going to be glorified and through that the Father is going to be glorified. You know, I a little bit we’re going to see what the other two groups also misunderstand about Jesus.
Verse 16, “Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, ‘“Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”’ This is the same Thomas who we call doubting Thomas, the disciple who wouldn’t believe in the resurrection until he saw the holes in His hands and His side and touched them. But here Thomas is right on; here we should acknowledge Thomas for his courage and devotion and commitment to the Lord. We each fail and we each have moments of success and obedience to the Lord. This is a great moment of obedience and trust of Thomas. Later he’s going to have a moment of failure.
Well, that ends the first part of our study here this morning in terms of the account of Lazarus. Lazarus has gotten sick and he’s died. The second part that we’re now getting into is Jesus claims to bring new life, and that’s verses 17-27. There we read:  So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.” So Lazarus is really dead, it’s not as if he’s been dead three minutes, you know, five minutes and we’re not sure if he really passed on. NO, he is dead, he’s been in the grave four days.
Verse 18 , “Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; [19 ] and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother.  Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house.  Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  ‘Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.’” So Martha runs out to meet Jesus to accuse Him of doing wrong, to accuse Him of not getting there on time; she trusts that Jesus is the Christ. She knows that Jesus can heal and that’s why she’s upset, because she’s upset that Jesus didn’t get there earlier so her brother wouldn’t die and she wouldn’t be in this grief and everyone else around her in this grief. You could say she’s disappointed with Jesus, which she shouldn’t be. That’s a sinful attitude.
But Jesus wants her to trust Him and so He’s going to reveal more about His self to her. Verse 23, “Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’  Martha said to Him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’” She’s making a statement about some future event, a resurrection, the resurrection that’s been promised in the Scripture and like the disciples Martha doesn’t understand what Jesus is saying. Martha misunderstands, she doesn’t understand that Jesus is talking about right now your brother will rise again so Jesus can reveal some more to her. He said to her Martha, you don’t get it. I’m not talking about some future event of resurrection, I’m talking about right now you’re going to see who I am. Right now you’re going to see that I am the one who restores life. Right now you’re going to see that I do what God does because I am God!
Verse 25, “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,  and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’” Do you believe this He says? Jesus says “I am the resurrection” meaning I am the one who does Daniel 12:2, raise believers and raise unbelievers, I am the resurrection, I’m going to do that, I’m going to do what the Scripture promised and prophesied. I have that power. I have power over life and death. I’m going to do that. But He’s not just the resurrection, He says, “I am the resurrection and the life” so those believers that I raised, I’m going to raise them to everlasting life. Unbelievers, they don’t have My life because they’re rejected me and My father and My life. So Jesus is the resurrection AND the life.
He can say that He’s the life because He’s the One who gives us life and sustains our lives. He gives every human being physical life and He sustains it, believers and unbelievers. But then when it comes to believers, only believers, He gives them spiritual life and that spiritual life is already eternal life. It’s not five year life, it’s not fifty year life, it’s not seventy year life, it’s eternal life. If we can lose our spiritual life, if we can lose our salvation, if we can lose the life that we get from Jesus, then we’re calling it the wrong thing. Let’s stop calling it eternal life if we can lose it.
We can’t lose it, this is a great eternal security passage. There’s a reason it’s called everlasting life, because it’s forever. There’s a reason it’s called eternal life, it’s FOREVER! And that’s the point here when Jesus says “never” He means “NEVER!” “Everyone who lives in Me will never die” He says. You see, Jesus conquers humanity’s greatest enemy, and who is that? Death! The world has this frantic search to conquer and defeat and really avoid, let’s just ignore death. Let’s get into all this pleasure and excitement and entertainment because we don’t want to talk about this boogie man over here, right over here, because we can’t deal with this boogie man—death!
But Jesus comes in and says bring it, I conquered death, I conquered death! And the reason He does is because He conquers sin. Death is a consequence of sin and so when He conquers sin by paying for the sins of the world He conquers death. That’s where Jesus comes in, He conquers sin and death when no one else can. And that’s why the Apostle Paul mocks death, he makes fun of it. He does that in 1 Corinthians 15:55, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law;  but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus defeats both physical death and spiritual death by paying for the sins of the world. If death comes from sin (and it does) and Jesus conquered sin by paying for the sins of the world, then He’s dealt with both sin and death.
How does He conquer your physical death? Because He will raise that body that you sit in to everlasting life. You’re going to get a new body and so are your loved ones who have passed on before you. This flesh is mortal; these bones are mortal, they will fade away but He’s going to take them and transform them into immortal flesh, immortal bones, with a body that’s fit for heaven. Can I say with a body that’s fit for space travel? Right. In Acts 1 what did Jesus do? He ascends up into the clouds to the third heaven, the abode of God. He doesn’t have a space helmet on or a space jet pack, it’s a new body, it’s a resurrection body that’s fit for heaven. That’s how Jesus conquers your physical death and He conquers your spiritual death by giving you eternal life. That’s eternal life for the believer only. When Jesus says never He means NEVER. “If you believe in Me you will never die.” He means spiritually you will never die. [John 11:26, “and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”]
Let’s get back to Martha here. Jesus didn’t ask her if she believed in some future event of the resurrection. He didn’t ask her if some future resurrection would happen. The Pharisees believed in a future event of resurrection. That’s not Jesus’ question to her. His question to her is do you believe that I am the one who raises the dead and gives eternal life? And she says in verse 27 yes. “She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” Martha uses that same phrase that John has in his purpose statement, “The Christ, the Son of God, and believing you may have life through His name,” she uses the same phrase. [John 20:31, “but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”] She is a believer, and notice what she says at the end of the verse, she says, “He who comes into the world,” what does she mean by that. [John 11:27, “She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.’”] She means You’re not of this world, You’re not of this sinful, fallen, broken world, You’re of heaven and have come to the world, into the world.
But Martha, like the disciples, is misunderstanding something about what Jesus is saying. She doesn’t understand when Jesus says your brother will rise again. She doesn’t understand that Jesus means right then. So Jesus is going to reveal more to her to exercise her faith muscle so that she will trust in Him, so that her faith will grow so she’ll trust in Him in all things, not just when life is great but she’ll trust in Him in her suffering as well. And that’s our third principle, right, trust God when you’re suffering for His glory.
Well that ends this part of the account of Lazarus, how Jesus claims to bring new life. Let’s get into the next part which is the mourning that the people are going through because of Lazarus’ death. Verse 28, “When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”’  And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.  Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him.  Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.  Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, Lord,” she said the same thing Martha said, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”’ So she, like Martha, is focused on the human perspective, not the divine perspective of glory to God. They weren’t oriented to God’s purposes here. But ultimately in their grief Martha and Mary trust that Jesus will solve their suffering problem because they realize they’ve got nowhere else to go. Their brother is dead and they’ve got nowhere else to go so they trust in Him for their only solution, their suffering solution, the solution to their suffering and once they do that they see the power of God through Jesus.
Verse 33, “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,  and said, Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’” And then you get to the shortest verse in the Bible, verse 35, “Jesus wept.” That to me is such an amazing verse, “Jesus wept.” He’s a man, so as a man He cried, but He’s not just a man, He’s the God-man. He knows that in a minute He’s going to raise Lazarus from the dead. All His grief is going to be gone in a minute because He’s going to raise Him from the dead. So why is Jesus crying if He knows He’s going to raise Him from the dead? He’s crying because of the painful plight of humanity; humanity is broken and fallen and suffers because of the consequences of sin and that troubles Jesus and when He saw their emotion and pain He wept.
Just consider that for a minute; God who is justice and righteousness and almighty is also a God of compassion and mercy. You see that in the Psalms where we’re told, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” Psalm 103:8. [Psalm 86:15, “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.”] Or how about Psalm 116:15, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.” We’re told that Jesus, the God-man wept, wept with them. Just consider that, Jesus, the Lord of the angelic warriors, the angelic armies, who inflicts horrific wrath on His enemies weeps for us and with us in our suffering. Don’t you ever think that God doesn’t love you? Don’t you ever think that! God loves you with a love that will not let you go! So in you moment of pain and suffering which is real trust Him, remember that He weeps with you and for you.
Verse 36, “So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!”  But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”’ This is our third group here. It’s the crowd around the tomb, the unbelievers. These people, like the first two groups, don’t understand what’s going on with Jesus. They misunderstand why Jesus is weeping. They wrongly think that Jesus is weeping because although He can do miracles, they know He can do miracles, they know He can heal, but the crowd thinks rats, Jesus must be thinking to himself rats, hmmm, I couldn’t get here on time to heal my friend and so I’m sad about it. That’s what the crowd thinks is going on in Jesus’ mind. They don’t understand and so Jesus is going to reveal His power over life and death. He’s going to reveal the Father through His power, Jesus’ power, so that they may understand and glorify Jesus and by doing that they glorify the Father.
Well now we’re in the final part of our study which is Jesus is now going to prove his claim that He gives new life by raising Lazarus from the dead. Verse 38, “So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.  Jesus said, ‘Remove the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.  Jesus said to her, Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’”
You’ve got to love Martha, I mean, I feel like Martha, I feel like we’re like Martha often, right, we get so focused on the problem, here’s my problem, here’s my problem, here’s my problem, we just keep playing the tape over and over and over in our head, here’s my problem, here’s my problem, here’s my problem, instead of focusing on the solution. Right. We get so focused on the problem because we live in a fallen world and this world hurts, it’s full of difficulties and pain and so we forget to trust God, or maybe I should be more blunt about it; we don’t believe that God will solve our problem. We don’t believe that God is the solution. Are we like that?
Are we trusting ourselves and our own resources when we’re in the time of need? Or are we trusting Him? If we’re trusting ourselves and our own resources then we’re outside of His plan, we’re outside His resources. What are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to trust Him. Ask God for help! It’s simple, it’s not complicated. We make it complicated in our pride… I’ve got this, I’ve got this God. You know pride, we make it complicated but if we would just submit to Him in humility and trust Him then He says “I’ve got this, you just be cool, get in line and get in My power.” Ask Him for guidance, ask Him for empowerment, ask Him for comfort so that He gets the glory, not us.
Martha believed that Jesus had power over life, she did believe that, over life and death but she didn’t believe that Jesus was going to raise her brother right then; it’s going to happen right now if you will just get out of the way Martha, just MOVE. And so Jesus is going to solve her problem when she gets out of the way. Once she aligns herself with Jesus, Jesus’ purpose, which is the glory of the Father, then she’s going to be blessed. And that’s one of our principles; that’s a faith lesson for us. If we seek God’s glory then we’ll see His blessing. It’s that straightforward. When we align ourselves with God’s purposes, which He will accomplish, what does He say? He says My Word will go forth and will not return to me empty. He will accomplish His purposes because He is God and no one else is.
So if we align ourselves with His purposes, which is His glory, then we’ll see His blessing because His purpose will be accomplished one way or the other.
Verse 41, “So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe” there’s that word again, “that You sent Me.”’ Notice in verse 41 Jesus is not asking the Father to raise Lazarus from the dead; he’s thanking the Father that the Father has already granted his request. He’s already asked the Father for this, the Father has already granted it and now here Jesus is thanking the Father. That’s a huge point for us. Is our prayer life…, does it have thanksgiving in it? Or is it just give me, give me, give me, give me? I want this God and I want this, I don’t want this God, and I want this, and I want this and for them I want them to have that and that. Don’t misunderstand me, we should be asking God for our petitions. We absolutely should submit our petitions to God, we’re commanded to do that, petitions for us and for others.
But there’s another part of our prayer life that we can’t forget, which is thanksgiving. Thank Him when you come to Him. Thank Him in your prayer because when you thank Him and you recognize that all good things come from God that’s an act of faith. That’s an act of glory to You Father for these good things. I don’t get the glory, You get the glory, in other words you are believing that those good things come from God.
And here’s the other thing on these passages up here on the screen, verse 42, if you read it too fast you’ll miss it. Jesus is saying I’m praying out loud so that the crowd here will understand our relationship, the relationship between the Son and the Father. Jesus is saying I’m praying out loud so that the crowd understands our relationship, Father, You always grant my prayers because I’m in such unity with You that my requests are always aligned with Your will. I always seek Your glory and You always grant my prayers, I know this but now I want the crowd to know it, these people standing around. In a minute I’m going to do a miracle and they’re going to give the glory to me and they’re going to be impressed but I want them to know that You sent me, so I want them to know that the glory is yours, not mine.
And that’s why Jesus says here in verse 42, “but because of the people standing around I said it,” He said what? He said this prayer here, right there at the end “so that they may believe that You sent Me.”’ He’s from the Father, Jesus is I mean, verse 42.
Verse 43, “When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”  The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” With a word Jesus acted… with a word! That’s what God does, only God does that. When God created the heavens and the earth what did He say? “Let there be light” and boom, there was light. “Let there be an expanse that separates the waters from above and below” in other words a sky. Boom, there’s a sky. Let there be plant life, boom. Let there be animal life, boom. Only God creates with a word. That’s what Jesus does. That’s because Jesus is God, He’s the God-man.
And notice that these verses talk about the humanity of Jesus and the deity of Jesus. He weeps like a man but He creates life where there is no life, with a word, like God. You see, God’s not just out there detached, disinterested, which is what the Greeks viewed their god as they’re kind of out there, they’re fighting with each other, no no! Your God loves you. God came into this world, became a man and dwelt among us to call His sheep out of darkness. What did Jesus say, just in the prior chapter, chapter 10, about the good shepherd? He said the good shepherd “calls his own sheep by name and He leads them out.” [John 10:3] He goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. “Lazarus,” He called him by name, “Come forth,” and a dead man walks out of the tomb. [John 11:43, “When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.’  The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”]
We are the sheep, Jesus is the shepherd. We know His voice, we recognize it and we follow Him.
Verse 45, “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.” I’m certain that they did it, watching a dead man (his corpse had been rotting for four days) walk out of the grave. One of the many things that you love about Jesus is He doesn’t just say trust Me, He says let me show you why you should trust Me, let me show you! This argument that Christians have blind faith is hogwash. Blind faith? I don’t know what you’re talking about blind faith. That’s the argument that the skeptic, that the unbeliever says, ah, you guys, you believers, you just believe blindly. No we don’t, here’s the evidence. Jesus says let me show you why you should believe in Me. Let me show you why the promise that I give new life is real, the promise that I give life where life has been lost. So in the same way that Jesus, through God’s power, gave new physical life to Lazarus, Lazarus later died, 20 years, 30 years later, 5 years later, in that same way that Jesus gave new physical life to Lazarus He gives us new spiritual life. He gives everyone who believes in Him new spiritual life so that they don’t have to go through the second death which is the Great White Throne Judgment in Revelation 20. He gives eternal life to those who believe.
Jesus did His miracles, not to entertain the crowd, like some Houdini type magician. He did His miracles so that they would believe and that’s John’s purpose statement. Right? “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
So really what the event of Lazarus is about, it’s a foretaste, it’s an appetizer. Okay, it’s a foretaste of what God would do with Jesus. Lazarus, as I say, was raised and then he died later and in fact, we learn later in the Scripture that this miracle was so effective to make people believe that the Pharisees wanted to kill, they wanted to murder Lazarus because so many people were believing in Jesus because of this miracle. But in any event, Lazarus was raised, and then he later died. You could say he was resuscitated but that’s a foretaste of what happened with Jesus when He died. But when He died He was actually resurrected a new body, a new body never to die again, a new body fit for heaven.
The second foretaste, appetizer as I like to call it, that we have here in this account of Lazarus is your resurrection and my resurrection. You see, we get used to that word resurrection, we get casual with it, resurrection, yeah, yeah, yeah, resurrection, I know that! Whoa, hold on now, think about this concept of resurrection. We go into the ground when we’re buried but then we are raised from the ground with a new body forever. That’s the evidence that Jesus is who He said He is, because if Jesus wasn’t resurrected then what are we doing? I mean, we would be worshipping a dead prophet. The resurrection proves that He is the God-man. Proves that the claims that He made, because if He wasn’t resurrected, then as C.S. Lewis said He’s either a lunatic or a liar or He’s the Messiah, He’s one or the other. He doesn’t leave us that option of saying well, He was a nice teacher, that’s very nice, that’s very sweet. No, C.S. Lewis said it well, He’s either a lunatic on the level of a man who says He’s a poached egg or He’s a liar, or He is in fact the son of God. And so Jesus proves that He’s the Son of God and the resurrection shows it. Lazarus is a foretaste of our resurrection. The only thing that’s different between Jesus’ resurrection and ours is that He was first, we’ll be second. Our body will be just like His, fit for heaven.
Finally, the raising Lazarus from the dead shows us that God often used suffering for His glory, our suffering for His glory and this is painful to recognize. I wish life were all prosperity and peace but that’s just not the world we live in. It’s the world that God created in the garden for Adam and Eve but once they sinned sin was ushered in and we confirm our sinful condition, we commit our own sin. So once sin entered the world, the world was full of pain and suffering and death and we serve God in this broken fallen world. But God, through His Christ, He uses our suffering in this world for His glory and His divine good which is ultimately for our good, Romans 8:28, He causes “all things to work together for good to those who love Him.”
Principle number four, Jesus, the God-Man, weeps with us in our suffering. He’s not disinterested, He’s not detached, He is a God who longs for you, who cares for you, who weeps with you and comforts you if you’ll just ask Him for help, submit to Him. And finally, God blesses those who seek His glory.
Now this morning if there’s anybody here without Christ, without hope and without eternal life we want you to know that Jesus died for you and He paid for your sins, and that Jesus makes a promise that if you will just submit to Him and trust Him, and the promise is that he who believes in Me will live even if he dies. You can go from being subject to Jesus’ wrath to enjoying the benefits of His life, instead of subjects of wrath have His eternal life that He gives to you. Go from being the enemy of God to the daughter or the son of God, and it’s a real easy process, it’s very painful, very difficult for Him, but He made it easy for you because God loves you. All you have to do is trust that he has paid for your sins, so what the Apostle Paul said in Acts 16 to that Philippian jailor, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.” That’s it! So we’d urge you to do that if you have not done that in your life.
Father, we thank You for this time together, we ask that You use this account of the raising of Lazarus from the dead to strengthen our faith. We also ask that you use it to challenge anyone who has not believed that they believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that they trust in Him for their eternal life. And for us who live in this broken fallen painful world we ask that you help us recall to mind that when we trust You, You provide for us. Help us recall to mind that You love us and help us rely on You. Remind us about what You have done for us when we suffer, and when we suffer for Your glory. And we pray these things in Jesus’ name, Amen.