Miracle 30:
                    The Raising of Lazarus
            

John 11:1-46

A.       Progression Stated: Geographical and Biographical

§      Let’s pause for a moment to get the perspective of John. In the first ten chapters, Christ has revealed Himself in an ever widening circle. This began at the wedding of Cana where there were guests and also His disciples. We are told that His disciples believed on Him. At the Feast of Tabernacles and the Feast of Dedication, the whole nation was before Him. He presented Himself to the nation and He was rejected: His works were rejected in John 5:16; His words were rejected in John 8:58–59; and His Person was rejected in John 10:30–31. 

§      This chapter is a kind of intermission. His public ministry is over and He retires into a private ministry. Centering Himself on individuals, He no longer is reaching out to the nation. The events of this chapter occur between the Feast of Dedication and the Passover which would be sometime between December and April.

§     The Gospel of John is like climbing up a mountain in that each chapter brings us a little higher than the preceding chapter. Remember that John has told us why he wrote this Gospel: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:30–31). Going back to the very beginning: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). While He walked among us in the flesh, this great thesis was sustained by miracle and parable and discourse. 

§     Now the supreme question is: Can Jesus raise the dead? The big question in any religion concerns death. Death is a great mystery. And life is a great mystery, but life is practically meaningless if there is no resurrection of the dead. The question to ask of any religion is whether it has power over death.

§     The Gospels tell us three incidents of Jesus raising the dead. There was the twelve-year-old girl who had just died. She was a juvenile. There was a young man, whose body was being carried to the cemetery. Then there was Lazarus, possibly a senior citizen, who had been dead four days and had been buried. They were all raised, from every age group. 

§     Allow me to be technical and state that these people were raised from the dead but were not resurrected. Rather, it was a restoration to life. Resurrection is this: “… It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body …” (1 Cor. 15:42–44). These people were raised from the dead, but none of them were given glorified bodies. They all faced death again. Christ is the firstfruits of them that sleep. His is the only true resurrection—“… Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming” (1 Cor. 15:23). 

§     While our Lord used different methods to perform His miracles of healing, His method of raising the dead was always the same. He called to them and spoke to them as if they heard Him. Do you know why He did that? Because they heard Him! I think that when He returns with a shout, every one of us will hear his own name because He will call us back from the dead.

C. Presentation Summarized:

1. Context  John 11:1-2  1Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany,  the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

a.     Christ is approaching Calvary, so the death of Christ serves the framework for the raising of Lazarus. 

b.     Note that Bethany is the town of Mary. This was written about b.c. 90 and by that time people knew about Mary who had anointed the feet of Jesus with spikenard. The fragrance of the box that she broke still fills this world. Jesus said that her act of devotion would be remembered wherever the gospel was preached.

c.     I am of the opinion that many a humble person is breaking an alabaster box of ointment and will have more recognition in heaven than many well-known Christian leaders who receive much publicity down here.

d.     It was the home of Martha. Our Lord had visited there before. Martha had been cumbered and frustrated with her preparations for dinner. Jesus had told her that to sit at His feet and learn of Him is better than being too busy with service.

e.     It was the town of Mary and the home of Martha. There are different gifts. Some women are given a marvelous gift in the home. Talk about women’s liberation! I know of no one who is the big boss more than a wife and a mother in her home. She can hustle you out of the kitchen, make you stay out of the refrigerator, and tell you to move when she wants to vacuum. She is in charge of the kitchen and of the whole house. This is the calling of many Christian women. There are others who have an outside ministry. They teach Bible classes and child evangelism classes, and work in the church. Remember, friend, the woman who serves in her home can be serving the Lord and the woman who serves outside her home can be serving the Lord. The Holy Spirit bestows gifts for many types of ministries.

f.      Jesus, you see, was not in Bethany at the time, and a message was sent to Him. 

2. Content  11:3-44

a. Beyond the Jordan  (Jesus with Disciples)  11:3-16
(1)     The difficulty -  3Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.
a.    Lazarus was sick and about to die. 
b.    Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick [John 11:3].
c.   These are humble folk, and they make no request, no demand of Him. They tell Jesus the problem and let Him decide what to do. So often in prayers I hear the people demanding that the Lord heal the sick. When did God become a Western Union boy? When did He become a waiter to wait upon us or a redcap boy to carry our suitcase? He doesn’t do things that way. Mary and Martha knew their Lord! “Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.”
d.    He whom thou lovest.” Lazarus is loved by the Savior. Paul said, “He loved me” (see Gal. 2:20). John called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. Peter declared that Jesus loves us. And by the way, He loves you and He loves me. Anyone who is a child of God is one whom Jesus loves.
e.   In verse 3 we see that Mary and Martha know Jesus loves Lazarus.  Then in verse 5 John points out again that Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus.  Why the repetition?  Obviously, John wants to emphasize the love between Jesus and this family.  Perhaps the reason for the repetition is that Jesus is about to do something that doesn’t seem very loving.  He’s going to let Lazarus die. Maybe John is just trying to emphasize that just because bad things happen to us, it doesn’t mean God doesn’t love us. Later on in the account, we see Jesus “deeply moved” and “troubled” and even weeping. So there should be no question that Jesus cares.
f.     Jesus points out that the purpose of the sickness was so that God and He himself might be glorified.
(2) The delay  (4-6)  4When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. 5Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. 

a.    Jesus delays going to Bethany until after Lazarus has died. Again, the delay was so that God would receive more glory.

b.   Some people say that a Christian should never be sick. Is sickness in the will of God? I wish Lazarus were here to tell you about that. Sickness is not a sign that God does not love you.

c.   “For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them” (Eccl. 9:1).

d.   In other words, you cannot tell by the circumstances of a man whether God loves him or not. You have no right to judge. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts …” (1 Cor. 4:5).

e.   Jesus loved Lazarus when he was sick. Not only that, Jesus will let Lazarus die—but He still loves him.

(3) The discussion  (7-16)

a.    Safety  (7-10) 7Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? 9Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

1.   Jesus could have healed or raised Lazarus from a distance, but perhaps he wants to go to Bethany to test the disciples willingness to follow Him into danger.

2.   Don’t miss that word again. He had been there and had been forced to withdraw. Now He returns and takes His disciples with Him into the danger zone.

3.   This was more preparation for the persecution they would experience after His ascension. Interestingly, it is “doubting” Thomas who has boldness and encourages the rest of the disciples to follow Jesus.

4.   There are twelve hours in the day, and you can’t change that. Because the Father has given the Son a work to do, nothing can stop Him.

5.   There is a great principle here. God has given to each man a lifework. You can’t extend that for one day any more than you can keep the sun from going down in the afternoon. But, thank God, you are absolutely invulnerable until your work is done. Nobody, not even Satan, can thwart God’s purpose in your life if you are following Him. To fail to follow Him is dangerous.  

b.   Sleep  (11-16) 11These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. 16Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

1.   Here we see the omniscience of Jesus.

2.   No one told Him that Lazarus was dead.

3.   The disciples did not understand what Jesus meant when He said that Lazarus was     sleeping.

4.   Because many people today do not understand it either, we find people who talk about soul-sleep. Friend, sleep is for the body, never for the soul. This is true of both sleep in this life and the sleep of death.

5.   Death means separation. The body of the believer sleeps in the grave, but the spirit goes to be with Christ. For the believer, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (see 2 Cor. 5:8). Jesus is called the firstfruits of them that sleep. Does this mean that Jesus is sleeping somewhere today? Absolutely not. He is in His glorified body. The believer goes immediately to be with the Lord, but the body sleeps until the day of resurrection when the body will be raised.

6.   Death, for the believer, is a sleep for his body. Are you afraid of sleep? You shouldn’t be. Sleep is a relief from labor. It is the rest that comes for renewal and preparation for the new day that is coming. There is nothing quite as beautiful as the word sleep when it is used for the death of a believer.

7.    The body is put to sleep, to be awakened by our Lord. He is the only One who has the alarm clock. He is the only One who can raise the dead. One day He will come and we shall awaken in our new bodies.

8.    The Greek word for resurrection is anastasis which means “a standing up.” C. S. Lewis, that brilliant Oxford don, ridiculing those who hold that resurrection is spiritual rather than physical, asked, “If it is the spirit that stands up, what position does it take?” There’s a question to work over! No, resurrection means a standing up, and it always refers to the body. The soul never dies, nor does the soul ever sleep.

9.    Death is a reality, an awful reality of the body. But, remember, the resurrection is also reality. You see, man leaves off at death. Even in the hospital, there is a finality about death. Doctors will work and work over a patient. Then when he dies, they all stop working. When death comes, they are through. Science is helpless in the presence of death. Where man must leave off, Jesus begins. Resurrection is also reality.

b. At Bethany  (Jesus with Mary and Martha)   11:17-32 

17Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:  19And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.  

1.   Martha seems always to be the aggressive type. She is the woman of action. She reveals a wonderful faith but also an impatience and a lack of bending to the will of God. By contrast, Mary is willing to sit at home. She has learned to sit at Jesus’ feet.

2.   We can see now that Martha should have been sitting at Jesus’ feet a little more. She says, “I know that if You will ask God.” Martha, don’t you realize that He is God? He is God, manifest in the flesh. He has been in your home, sat at your table and has eaten your biscuits, but you didn’t realize that He was God, did you? Oh, my friend, how we need to spend time at His feet. How we need to listen.

23Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?  

3.    Martha believed in a resurrection. But listen, it makes less demand upon faith to believe that in a future day we shall receive glorified bodies than it does to rest now on the assurance that they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. It is easier to believe that the Lord is coming and the dead will be raised than it is to believe that tomorrow I can live for God. It is so easy to comfort people who are mourning and say, “Well, you’ll see your loved ones someday.” That doesn’t take much faith.

4.     It takes a lot of faith to say, “I have just lost my loved one but I am comforted with the assurance that God is with me and He does all things well.” You see, although Martha knew from the Old Testament that there would be a resurrection from the dead, she didn’t believe that Jesus could help her now.

5.     Jesus says to her, “Martha, don’t you know that I am the resurrection and the life?” If we have Jesus, we have life. “He that believeth in me, though he were dead” is referring to spiritual death. Though a person is spiritually dead, “yet shall he live.” Then He looks into the future and says that the one who has trusted Him shall never die. Life begins at the moment a person accepts the Savior. Whosoever lives and believes in Jesus will never die because Jesus has already died for him. That is, he will never die a penal death for his sins. He will never be separated from God. Then Jesus asks the question: “Believest thou this?"

27She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. 28And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 29As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. 30Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 31The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying,  She goeth unto the grave to weep there. 32Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

c. At burial site  (Jesus with Lazarus)  11:33-46
(1) His anguish (33-38) 33When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,  34And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35Jesus wept. 36Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?

a.    The Jews missed the point here. He wept, not because He loved Lazarus—He was not weeping for the dead—He wept for those who were living.

b.    You notice that the Jews go back to the incident of healing the blind man. That obviously made a great impression on them.

38Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave.  It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

c.     Even though Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus, He wept with the others.

d.     We have an advocate with God who understands us and empathizes with us.

(2)   His actions (39-44)  39Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

a.   The subject of death is skirted by people today. The undertakers try in every way to make death seem like a pleasant episode. But let us face it very frankly, we can’t cover up death by embalming and painting up the face, dressing the body in a good suit of clothes, then placing it in a pretty coffin surrounded by flowers. Although this is done to help soften the shock, death is an awful thing.

b.   Martha said that he had been buried for four days already and his body would stink; it would be decaying. Someone may think that sounds crude. So is death crude. It is awful. This case is certainly going to require a miracle.

(3)   41Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.

a.   Remember that this whole incident is for the glory of God. Jesus prays audibly to let the people know that what He is going to do is the will of the Father so that the Father will get the glory.

b.   He voices His prayer for the benefit of those who are present.

(4)   43And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.

a.    I want to mention here that I think there were multitudes raised from the dead by Jesus Christ. I think there were multitudes who were healed, hundreds of blind people who received their sight. The Gospels record only a few instances for us.

b.    Notice that for Lazarus, life was restored to the old body. He came out still wrapped in all the graveclothes. When our Lord rose from the dead, He left all the graveclothes in place just as they had been wrapped around His body, including the napkin which had been wrapped around His head. He came right out of them. Why? Because He came out in a glorified body. They didn’t need to roll away the stone for Jesus to come out. It was rolled away so the people on the outside could look in and see that the tomb was empty. His glorified body could leave the sealed grave and it could also enter a room with all the doors locked.

c.    There is a beautiful picture of salvation in this. We were dead in trespasses and sins, dead to God, and are now made alive to God in Christ Jesus. But, friend, each of us is being held back by those graveclothes. Paul could say, “… For what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I…. O wretched man that I am! …” (Rom. 7:15, 24). This was not an unsaved man talking; this was a believer. Jesus wants us to be free from those graveclothes. He says, “Loose him, and let him go.”

(5)  His  audience (45-46)  45Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. 46But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.

II. INTERPRETATION

“Jesus is the resurrection and the life” is stated in the miracle and is the main point. Whoever believes will never die.

·          Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, sent into the world to save man.  Martha’s confession vs 27.

III. APPLICATIONS

·          Even seeing a resurrection doesn’t make everyone believe.

·          I should accept the timing of God. His delay (from our perspective) is for our good and brings Him greater glory.

·          I should find comfort in the fact that Jesus understands my pain, sorrow, disappointment, etc.

·          I should have compassion and hurt when others hurt.

·          There is a future hope for all who believe.  At times it seems that God gives us the first half of our life to enjoy               earth and the last half to anticipate heaven.  As our parents begin getting sick and dying and our bodies don’t            work like they used to, we finally recognize that this earthly life is not enough, we start longing for heaven and the            resurrection becomes very comforting.  If there is no resurrection, there is no hope.

          When bad things happen, it doesn’t mean God doesn’t care.