- John 11:1-44
- Lyndol Loyd May 17, 2020
Good morning Church! It is great to have everyone joining us as part of the LakeRidge livestream on Facebook Live, as well as those of you who are joining us on the radio on 93.7, the Eagle, or via our church website later on today or this week.
Right now, we are in the midst of our message series, “Jesus Stories,” as we look at different encounters people had with Jesus, as depicted in John’s gospel account.
In Genesis, the first book of the Bible, God speaks creation into existence. God speaks the word, and it happens – heaven and earth, ocean and stream, trees and grass, birds and fish, animals and humans. Everything is called into being by God’s spoken word.
Then in John’s gospel, we see this amazing parallel to Genesis. John presents God as speaking salvation into existence. This time, God’s word takes on human form and enters history in the person of Jesus. Jesus speaks the word, and it happens – forgiveness and judgment, healing and illumination, mercy and grace, joy and love, freedom and resurrection. Everything broken and fallen, sinful and diseased, called into salvation by God’s spoken word.
Somewhere along the way, things went wrong and are in desperate need of fixing. The fixing is all accomplished by speaking – God speaking salvation into existence in the person of Jesus Christ. In this account, Jesus not only speaks the word of God; He is the Word of God.
So far, we have retraced what it looks like to see Jesus as God with us in stories like:
- A conversation that Jesus had with a Samaritan woman at a well that would end up changing her life forever as she discovered that Jesus is the living water.
- We saw how Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 to help us understand that nothing is too big for Jesus to handle, nothing is too small to be used by God, and that Jesus is the one who can satisfy our greatest need.
- We looked at Jesus walking on water to the disciples in the midst of a terrible storm, and in that story, we found out what it means for us to experience the presence of Christ with us.
- Last week, Pastor Brian spoke to us about the story of a man who was born blind and had his sight restored by Jesus. It was a powerful story that pointed us to who Jesus is and why we can place our trust in Him.
All of these stories that John records, are meant to help us capture a broader understanding of who Jesus is as we observe Him speaking salvation into life. Today we turn to a story about a man named Lazarus, who was actually a friend of Jesus. We find this encounter in John 11:1. And this is what the bible says, “A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, ‘Lord, your dear friend is very sick.'” This was the bad news in the middle of a good life.
Let’s pause for just a moment and acknowledge that a lot of people are celebrating a lot of great things in this season of life, but there are also a lot of people that are hurting right now; they have heard similarly bad news. Maybe some of you have even heard that exact bad news, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” Someone that you’re close to has cancer or something else terrible.
Or maybe some of you heard the news, “The job you love is likely going away.” Or your dream marriage turned into a nightmare, or a close friendship may not work out.
A week ago, that was what happened to my sister and brother-in-law. Life was sailing along like normal until it wasn’t. In the span of 48 hours, life was turned upside down. On Monday afternoon, my brother-in-law was admitted to the hospital and placed in ICU with a problem related to extreme swelling in his knee. Due to Covid-19 restrictions on visitors, my sister and niece couldn’t go to the hospital with him or visit him. Then around 3:00 a.m., my sister, who was at home alone with my niece, was awakened by their barking dog and then a phone call that their next-door neighbors’ and close friends’ house was on fire. In a matter of 45 minutes, the house burned completely to the ground.
My sister started running across a pasture to their friends’ burning house and pulled her calf muscle in route. She ended up struggling to walk for the next few days.
The next morning, my brother-in-law’s doctor came by to see him in the hospital, inadvertently bumped his bed, and caused his cell phone to fall off the bed and shatter, meaning that he no longer had a way to communicate with my sister. Then my sister went for a previously scheduled appointment to have a skin cancer removed from her head only to have the surgeon discover another skin cancer spot, which he also ended up removing.
I called my sister to talk to her after she was home from her surgery and asked, “How are you?” She broke down and started crying as she told me, “You know, it has just all been a lot. I’m really just done with all of this. It has been a crazy 48 hours. My life is normally not like this.”
What do you say to your sister when it feels like her normally stable and predictable life has spun out of control all of the sudden? More importantly, what does Jesus say when someone comes to Him and says, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” We will find something helpful to us in what Jesus says.
Watch what He says in verse 4, “But when Jesus heard about it he said, ‘Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.’” This very thing that you would never ever want to happen, God is going to bring glory to Himself through the worst news that you could ever imagine.
Now, we’ll come back to that verse. Let me give you a quick summary of verses 5-14; you can read it on your own if you’d like. But basically, everybody believes Jesus is going to come to help, but what does Jesus do? Nothing. For two days, He doesn’t do anything. He hangs out. They’re freaking out, and he’s hanging out.
Two days later, He says to his disciples, “Hey, let’s go back to Judea.” They say, “No, if you go there, everybody’s going to try to kill you,” which would be true. But He says, “No, Lazarus has fallen asleep, and we need to go wake him up.” Now, He wasn’t saying Lazarus was tired and taking a nap. He was speaking in a metaphor, “He’s dead and we need to go raise him from the dead.”
I want to look at three different characters in this story. We’re going to see some of the different ways in which they were struggling. Perhaps you can relate to what they were going through, or it may be something to hold onto for another time in your life.
Let’s start with Thomas. Some of you can relate to Thomas; he was struggling with doubt. All through scripture, he was known as Doubting Thomas. In verse 16, here is “Sarcastic Doubting Thomas,” he says, “Let us also go that we may die with him.” In other words, he’s doubting. “This is never going to turn out good at all.”
I’m curious. I can’t help but wonder how many of you would be honest enough to say that you’ve had spiritual doubts at some point in your lives? Everybody I know, at some point in their lives, have prayed, believing God could, and thought He would, and He didn’t. Suddenly, they’re bombarded with doubts, “Why didn’t he do this?”
Or perhaps you grew up with a real and simple faith in God. But when you went to your freshman REL 101 class, some professor said, “This stuff didn’t really happen”. Suddenly, you think, “Well, is this real, was this my parent’s faith, or was it mine?”
Or perhaps, you believed in God, and something bad happened to somebody that you really loved, and you thought, “Well, if God is good, why did He let that happen? If He’s all-powerful, why didn’t He stop it?” Suddenly, you’re like Thomas. There’s something on the inside that’s a little bit dead in your doubts.
Or maybe, some of you are more like Mary. Mary struggled with discouragement. You just don’t see anything good happening, and you just cannot seem to get a break.
Mary was very discouraged, “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Jesus.” But what did Mary do? She just stayed at home. She feels there is no point to go out to meet Jesus, her brother is already dead, and there’s nothing Jesus can do about the situation.
That maybe, honestly, where some of you are right now. You just think, “I can’t change anything. I’m always going to feel alone. I’m always going to be depressed. I’m always going to be stuck in this dead-end job. I’m never going to have the marriage that I wanted. I’m just stuck.”
Some people struggle with doubts. Some people struggle with discouragement. And then there is Martha’s struggle. Maybe you can relate to her. She couldn’t control what was taking place. In her mind, God took too long. Jesus should have come back earlier, and He didn’t.
Why did he take so long?
In verse 17 we see how long Lazarus had been in the tomb. “On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for 4 days.”
What does this matter? When Martha was living, there was a commonly held belief that a spirit would stick around for three days after someone died. This isn’t a Christian belief. It was folklore that at four days the spirit left.
In her mind, Lazarus wasn’t just mostly dead, he was dead and then some. In verse 21 Martha says, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She looks at Jesus and says, “You took too long. Why didn’t you do this when you could have done something?”
Some of you right now can relate. You’re waiting on some answered prayer, some result.
I know a lot of married couples who are praying for a baby, and they can’t seem to conceive. It seems that everyone else in their life can jsut look at each other and they get pregnant. You know? And they’re sitting there praying, “God, why? We’re praying and believing for a child, and we can’t seem to have it.”
Some of you are praying for a loved one to experience the goodness of God. The harder you pray, the more it seems like they get farther away. And you wonder, “Why God?”
I know a lot of people who are praying for God to actually heal someone. I believe that we serve a God that says all things are possible; yet you pray, and pray, and God’s just not doing it. And you struggle with wondering, “Where are you God?”
If that’s you today, I hope that this will speak to you, and you’ll never ever forget that God’s delays are not God’s denials. Just because God hasn’t done something yet doesn’t mean that God is not still in charge and has a plan that He may be glorified in the future through the very thing going on today that you would never ever want.
Lots of bad things are happening in John 11 at this point. Lazarus dies, Thomas freaks out, Mary is depressed, Martha is mad. But then, the whole tone of everything shifts.
I’ll read to you what Martha says in verse 22, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” She looks at Jesus and says, “I know that even though we’re struggling here. Even now, God will give you whatever you ask.”
Some of you need to have an “Even Now” moment with God. You’re stuck in the bad news of your story, and you need to let faith come alive and believe that even now all things are still possible with God.
Some of you need an “even now” moment.
- Even now, when you are discouraged, God’s presence can build your faith.
- Even now, when you feel alone, like there’s no one there, the Holy Spirit’s presence can give you a peace that surpasses all understanding.
- Even now, our God can reach into your family mess and bring healing, harmony, forgiveness, and restoration.
- Even now, when everything looks impossible, we serve a God who says, “All things are possible.”
- Even now, when your heart may be cold and callous towards the things of God, our God, in a moment, can soften your heart and draw you into His presence.
- Even now, when there is something dead, the resurrection power Christ can bring it back to life.
That’s what Jesus did in v. 23. He told Martha, “‘Your brother will rise again.’ ‘Yes,’ Martha said, ‘He will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.’” She was confused; she was thinking of a different resurrection. Jesus says in v. 25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
The resurrection is not an event. It is a person. It’s not just what Jesus does, it’s who He is.
Dead things don’t stay dead when the resurrection walks into the room. The resurrection, Jesus, looks at the tomb where Lazarus isn’t just dead, but deader than dead, and he said to the disciples, “Take the stone away.” And when they did, in v. 43, Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with linen strips and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to him, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
For some of you right now, the struggle is real. You’ve lost faith, you’ve lost hope, you’re mad, you’re discouraged, you have doubts.
You feel trapped and don’t have the strength you need.
I want you to remember that the same voice that called Lazarus to come out is telling you to come out. Jesus is the one who can give you new life.
Some of you are dead in your sins. That’s what the bible says, “You’re dead in your sins.” But because of what He did, and not because we could ever earn it or deserve it, our sins can be forgiven, and you can be made brand new.
The book of John is called a gospel, which literally means the “good news.” God did something that we couldn’t do for ourselves because He is that good.