After seven weeks in John 10, we are now ready to turn the page and see what we can learn from John 11. There are fifty-seven verses in John 11 and they all lead up to and then flow from one event—the raising of Lazarus from the dead. The first forty-five verses center on the story of Lazarus and his illness, which led to his death, and which then led to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. The next twelve verses center around the fever pitch fury of the chief priests and the Pharisees plotting to kill Jesus. It was the raising of Lazarus that pushed them over the edge.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the seventh and final miracle of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of John. We’ve witnessed Jesus turn water into wine in Cana. We’ve witnessed Jesus give the word and the royal official’s son, who was laying on his death bed twenty miles away in Capernaum, was healed. We watched Jesus walk by the Pool of Bethesda where He met a man who had been sitting and waiting for a miracle for thirty-eight years. His miracle arrived when Jesus arrived. The man took up his mat and walked for the first time in thirty-eight years. In John 6, we witnessed Jesus feed over 5,000 people with nothing more than five small barley loaves and two small fish. If that miracle weren’t enough, the disciples made doggy bags out of twelve baskets of leftovers after everyone was full. The fifth miracle, also found in John 6, happened when Jesus’ disciples were out on the Sea of Galilee and Jesus came to them in the night walking on the water. In John 9, Jesus healed a man who had been born blind and let everyone know that it wasn’t the man’s sin, neither was it his parent’s sin that caused the blindness—the man was born blind for the glory of God!
As we’ve made our way through the first ten chapters of the Gospel of John we’ve learned that Jesus is the Bread of Life, He’s the Water of Life, He’s the Light of Life, and now, in John 11, we will learn that Jesus is the Author of Life as well. The raising of Lazarus from the dead is the climatic miracle, of all of Jesus’ miracles, because it demonstrated to the people of His day that Jesus held power even over death. All of these years later, we who follow Jesus can look back to Lazarus and be reminded that we need not fear death, for our Risen King is Sovereign even over the grave! That’s good news! Let’s read the entire story this morning and then we will focus on the first seven verses in the time we have together.
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” 11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (John 11:1-46 NIV)
It’s a remarkable story isn’t it? A man, a friend of Jesus, whom Jesus loved, died and had been in the grave for four days. Jesus didn’t call the doctor because there wasn’t a doctor in the world who could do a thing for Lazarus at that point. Jesus simply said, “Lazarus come out!” And he walked out of the tomb…still in his grave clothes. We love stories like the story of Lazarus.
What’s interesting about the story is that Lazarus really isn’t the focus of the story. That may sound strange to you since the story hinges on Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead, but in verse 4 Jesus gives us insight into the true focus of the story. Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” The glory of God is a theme that runs throughout the entire Bible. To glorify God means to acknowledge Him for who He truly is. That which glorifies God, in this case the situation that Lazarus found himself in, would serve to highlight who God is and who Jesus is as the Victor over death and the Author of life. God’s glory and Jesus’ glory are one and the same because, as we discussed last week, Jesus is God Incarnate, God come down to humanity.
All of life is intended to glorify God. All of life is intended to point us beyond ourselves and to God. All of creation serves to glorify God. We read in Psalm 19:1, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” All of the miracles that Jesus did were intended to bring honor and glory to God and to Jesus, God’s only Son. Let me show you what I’m talking about. In the very first miracle that Jesus did, the changing of the water into wine at the wedding in Cana, we find that after the miracle, after everyone marveled at what had been done, John tells us,
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11 NIV)
In John 11, the story of Jesus’ resurrecting Lazarus from the grave, Jesus gave the order to remove the stone that blocked the entrance to the tomb. Martha reminded Jesus that her brother had been dead for four days and that there would be a terrible odor if the stone was removed. Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40 NIV) The glory of God and the glory of Jesus are interchangeable. In John 5:21-23, Jesus said,
21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. (John 5:21-23 NIV)
We are to honor the Son just as we honor the Father as He works in our life to lead us to glorify and honor Him in all things. I want us to focus on “in all things.” Mary and Martha would have never have considered that God could be glorified through the sickness and eventual death of their brother. Yet, Jesus was going to use the suffering of Lazarus and the sorrow of his family and friends to glorify God, to put the power of God on full display. This is such a foreign idea to most Christians today who fail to recognize the hand of God in suffering. Let me make it clear to you, the Sovereign hand of God that raises people from their sick bed is the same Sovereign hand that works to comfort and sustain us when the sick bed remains. The same Sovereign hand of God that raised Lazarus from the dead is the same Sovereign hand that was there to carry our loved ones home, for those who have died in the Lord. He is to be glorified in both sickness and in health, in our infirmities and healing, in the terrible times of life and in the timeless moments we wish would never end.
If we fail to seek counsel from God’s Word about this matter then the next time you or someone you love goes through a painful trial and your prayers for healing and restoration are not answered in the way you desire then you will question God, be disappointed in Him, and your mind will lead you to all kinds of crazy theories about “why?” We must seek the counsel of God in the trials of life or we will most certainly draw conclusions that are off base. Let me give you an example. Turn to John 9 and notice what the disciples believed before Jesus shared the truth about the matter.
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3 NIV)
The man had been born blind. Any parent who has had a child who has been afflicted in some way knows that the man’s parents had prayed for him from the time of his birth. Yet, he was born, and remained, blind. The disciples, those who were closest to Jesus, had their theories about the man’s blindness. If they wouldn’t have consulted Jesus, if they had simply relied on their best thinking, they would have drawn conclusions about the blind man and about God that would have been so wrong. They thought the man’s blindness had to have either been caused by his sin or the sins of his parents. Jesus didn’t possess a theory, He shared the truth. It was neither the man nor his parents who sinned—the man had been born blind so that the power of God might be put on full display. Put another way, the man’s blindness was for the glory of God.
Someone who knows the Bible might answer me by saying, “Yes, but Lazarus was raised from the dead and the blind man was healed.” You are right. So let me share one more illustration with you. The Apostle Paul was afflicted with some kind of ailment, some “thorn in the flesh” that he desperately wanted the Lord to heal. Paul was tormented by his affliction. He asked the Lord three times to remove it from him. God’s answer came and we can read about it in his letter to the Church in Corinth. Paul writes,
8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. (2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV)
In all of Paul’s letters he never once mentioned the “thorn” being removed. God’s answer changed Paul’s perspective. Instead of wanting his trial to be over, instead of praying for his “thorn” to be removed, Paul instead focused on Christ’s power to help him in his weakness and frailty.
Joni Eareckson Tada, an incredible woman of God who has been a quadriplegic in a wheelchair for almost fifty years now, says, “I do not care if I am confined to this wheelchair provided from it I can bring glory to God.” That was not Joni’s thought when she was injured in a diving accident when she was 17 years old. Shortly after her tragic accident Joni thought, “How could this be an answer to a prayer for a closer walk with you, God?” She wanted to die. Joni couldn’t see any way how she could ever live a normal life after what had happened to her. Joni didn’t die and in time her questions for God drove her deep into His embrace. Joni says that she went back to the Bible and read every verse about God’s healing power. Then she writes,
What I discovered was that God still reserves the right to heal or not to heal as He sees fit. And rather than try to frantically escape the pain, I relearned the timeless lesson of allowing my suffering to push me deeper into the arms of Jesus. (Joni Eareckson Tada)
My friend, God is glorified when regardless of our situation in life we press into His arms of grace, mercy, and strength. Joni found herself in a place she never thought she would be and she took her sorrow, took her questions, to Jesus. Paul had work to do. He didn’t have time for that ol’ thorn that weighed on him day after day. He took his predicament to the Lord and ended up praising God for the strength to persevere. Martha and Mary were terrified. Their brother was sick and getting sicker by the hour. Did you notice what they did? Let me show you. Turn to John 11:1-3.
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” (John 11:1-3 NIV)
Martha and Mary wouldn’t leave Lazarus’ side, but they sent a message to Jesus. I can see how it all unfolded. Martha and Mary were at Lazarus’ bedside, watching his health slowly ebb away. They turned to a family friend and said, “Go tell Jesus the one He loves is sick.” Go tell Jesus! That’s where it all begins my friend. Go tell Jesus! Martha and Mary had no idea how things would turn out, but they knew they needed to tell Jesus. We know how it all turned out, but they had no clue.
There’s another story, even more tragic, that I want to show you before we leave here. If you would turn to Matthew 14 with me and I’ll give you some background while you are turning there. John the Baptist was a man’s man. He wore a rough robe of camel’s hair, not a Ralph Lauren label, but a John creation. He had a leather belt tied around his waist. He dined on locusts and honey under the stars while he was out in the wilderness preaching. He baptized Jesus and Jesus said that there had never been a man born that was greater than John. He got thrown into prison when he didn’t hesitate to single out Herod’s sin.
Herod threw himself a party for his birthday complete with food and drinks for his friends. His young step daughter provided the entertainment by dancing for the drunken friends of Herod. She must have put on quite a show because Herod told her he would give her anything she asked for. Matthew tells us,
8 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” (Mat 14:8 NIV)
Herod sobered up real quick, but he couldn’t embarrass himself by going back on his word, so he gave the order and John the Baptist was beheaded. Talk about injustice! Talk about tragedy! There would be no resurrection after four days. There would be no more reattachment of John’s head. He was dead. Matthew tells us what happened next in Matthew 14:12.
12 John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. (Matthew 14:12 NIV)
They were John’s disciples, not Jesus’ disciples, but after they buried John’s body, they went and told Jesus. Maybe the miracle will come as it did for Martha and Mary’s brother, Lazarus, but maybe it won’t. Regardless, you and I must tell Jesus. We must carry our sorrows, our “thorns in the flesh,” our trials and troubles, our afflictions and anxieties to Jesus and tell Him.
What is it that is keeping you up at night and burdening you throughout the day? Do you have a health issue that is persistent in weighing you down and keeping you tied in knots? Tell Jesus! Have you lost someone close to you and you just don’t think you can carry on? Tell Jesus! Do you have a loved one who has been making bad decision after bad decision and you’re worried that he or she will make an even worse decision in the days to come? Tell Jesus! Has your wife or husband lost that loving feeling, is spending more and more time away from home, and you’re afraid your marriage is over? Tell Jesus. Are you lonely? You don’t have any friends and Satan has been working on you, trying to convince you that you are unlovable, that nobody likes you? Tell Jesus! Are you afraid? You’re just a kid who should be taken care of by your parents, but your mom stays out all hours of the night and you haven’t seen your dad in years? Tell Jesus! Are you a mom or dad with little ones who has a heart that is tied in knots when you think about them growing older in this scary world full of people who wouldn’t think twice about hurting those you would give your life for? Tell Jesus! Are you lost? You can’t seem to find your way, find your purpose in life, and folks have told you about Jesus, but you’re skeptical of it all. Would you be honest enough to tell Jesus what you’re thinking and ask Him to show you the truth? Tell Jesus! Oh, I could go on and on, but I think you might be convinced that you need to tell Jesus about whatever it is that is burdening your heart this morning.
In 1893, Elisha Hoffman was a pastor in Lebanon, Pennsylvania. There was a poor woman in his church that had been through many trials in her life. Elisha wrote,
Coming to her home one day, I found her much discouraged. She unburdened her heart, concluding with the question, “Brother Hoffman, what shall I do? What shall I do?” I quoted from the word, then added, “You cannot do better than to take all of your sorrows to Jesus. You must tell Jesus.” For a moment she seemed lost in meditation. Then her eyes lighted as she exclaimed, “Yes, I must tell Jesus.” As I left her home I had a vision of that joy-illuminated face … and I heard all along my pathway the echo, “I must tell Jesus … I must tell Jesus.”
When he got back to his study, Elisha Hoffman quickly sat down and wrote out the words to the song, “I Must Tell Jesus.” Let me share just a little of Elisha’s song with you.
I must tell Jesus all of my trials;
I cannot bear these burdens alone;
In my distress He kindly will help me;
He ever loves and cares for His own.
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
I cannot bear my burdens alone;
I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!
Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.
No truer words were ever penned my friend. We must tell Jesus. Tell Him you need Him. Tell Him you can’t shoulder the load you’ve been given. Tell Him you what’s happening in your life. Tell Him you’ve lost hope. Tell Him. Tell Him.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
September 27, 2015