Raising Lazarus

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We have been going through the book of John. Nathaniel’s been going through it. This week, it’s my opportunity. And we are in John chapter 11. And I hope, my goal is to get through most of John chapter 11 with you today. And we might as well just jump right into it. So John chapter 11 verses one through three says this, “Now, a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany. The village of Mary and her sister, Martha, and it was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. So the sisters went, sent word to him saying, ‘Lord behold, he whom you love is sick.'”

So Jesus is with his disciples. They’re up north in Galilee and they receive this news, and it’s bad news. It’s the news that their friend, Jesus’ dear friend is ill. And I figured that it must be pretty bad if Mary and Martha are sending word to Jesus, because A, he’s far away and B, for Jesus to come and heal Lazarus, he has to go through and go into Judea, which is the place where people want to kill him. Now it’s unclear if Mary and Martha exactly know that people want to kill Jesus in Judea, but I’m fairly certain that is the case because they are close to Jesus. They know Jesus and they follow his ministry. And it’s not exactly private that the Jewish leaders want to kill Jesus. And we learn that when we read the rest of this passage.

So the reason why they asked for Jesus is because they desperately want him to what, equivalent to a rescue mission down south to save their brother’s life. They want Jesus to intervene, to save their brother. And the message that they send not only explains what Jesus should do, but it also explains why Jesus should do that. I’m sorry if that is a little small, the text. Hopefully you brought your Bibles this morning, because I messed up. But anyway, anyways, the message tells him what he should do and why he should do it without even saying it. I mean, women’s messages are just so good. They say so much with such a short sentence. It says, “Lord behold, he whom you love is sick.”

Now Jesus has been healing strangers and all sorts of people with different ailments around the past three years, and it only makes sense that he would come and heal someone who is like family to him. And before we go on, I want to ask you guys, have you ever been in Mary and Martha’s position, asking, praying, “Jesus, the one whom you love is sick. Jesus, someone who loves you is in terrible pain right now. Intervene, do something about this.” Mary, Martha and we who proclaim that Christ is Lord know that he is capable of healing, that he is able and that he loves us, but yet pain, suffering, sickness are still realities that every single one of us face. It’s not a matter of when, not a matter of if, it is a matter of when those who we love, those around us will be sick. Those who are dear to us will be sick and the people around us die. And when we get to those moments, we sound a lot like Martha and Mary. We are incapable. And the reason why is because we are incapable of keeping them from death. Even the best doctors, even the most capable doctors with the best medicine are unable to keep people from dying.

But there is one who is capable, one who is able, one who loves us, who hears us, and sometimes he doesn’t act the way that we believe he should. Sometimes he doesn’t act the way we asked him to. So how does Jesus respond to the message that Mary and Martha send? Verse four, starting in verse four says this, “But when Jesus heard this, he said, this sickness is not meant for death, but is for the glory of God, so that the son of God may be glorified by it.” So when he heard that he was sick, he then stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

Now, does this make any sense to you? Because it doesn’t really to me, I thought Jesus loved them. How can Jesus wait and not do anything? Lazarus is in pain. He is dying and Mary and Martha are enduring seeing their brother die. Jesus, why are you allowing that suffering? You hear the request. You love Lazarus. Yet, you wait. He stayed where he was two days longer. Now I can imagine quite clearly in my mind that Mary and Martha are waiting and wondering when Jesus is going to show up, calculating the time that it would take for their message to go to Jesus and for him to respond in comeback. And they are keeping an eye on the road and they’re keeping on the road for Jesus. And they’re keeping an eye on their brother Lazarus, who’s sick in bed. And eventually it becomes clear that Jesus is not coming, that he will not be there in time. And both the sisters express exactly how they feel when Jesus eventually does come, for they both say the exact same thing to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

How many of you have ever waited like Mary and Martha for the Lord to show up? The Lord, where are you? Do you really love us? Do you even care? What is taking you so long? This wouldn’t have happened, this would not have happened if you would have just shown up in time. I’m sure almost all of us or most of us who are a little older can relate to their situation. He stayed where he was two days longer. You know why? The Lord’s timing is not our timing. His thoughts are not our thoughts. His ways are not our ways, and the reason is that his perspective and his, the goal is much greater than our own. His perspective comes through the light of eternity and his goal is always the glory of God. How does Jesus respond? This sickness is not meant for death or in other translations, it will not end in death, but it is for the glory of God so that the son of man may be glorified by it.

Jesus already knows what’s going to happen. The news of his good friend being sick does not come as a shock to him. And because of that, he does not react. He acts, and his purpose is expressed. This is for the glory of God to be made known and for the son of man to be glorified by it. Jesus gives the explanation and the reason for this happening. And that is, it will not end in death, but in the glory of God. Glory, what do you guys think of when you hear that word? Glory, the Bible talks about it throughout its pages. It comes up all the time at church. We think about it at church. Yet it remains relatively unused outside of Christian vocabulary. It is because, is it because glory is irrelevant? It’s something that is archaic or old-fashioned, an idea that has disappeared with the time or is it exclusive to the church?

And I would say by no means. The concept of glory is still alive, well, it’s still well alive in the hearts and minds of human beings as much as it ever has been. We just use different terminology to express it. To understand what glory means, I want to define it for us. And if you’ve been thinking about what glory means for these past couple of seconds in which I’ve mentioned it, you will realize that it’s not so easily defined. It’s not, it’s an abstract concept that doesn’t come quite that easily to say this is what it is. And this is what it’s not. It’s impossible, it’s almost impossible to be measured, but it is seen and it is felt. For example, how many of you have ever experienced the glory of In-N-Out Burger?

Right? Right? If you thought you have, and you hadn’t had the animal style burger or fries, you just lied to yourself. You have not tasted the true glory of In-N-Out. I have tasted and I have seen, and it is good, In-N-Out burger animal style delicious. How many of you guys have ever been to the Grand Tetons or the Grand Canyon or even the American Fort Canyon in the fall, or looked up at the stars on a clear night when you’re far away from light pollution and can see the stars in full array and see the spiral arm of the Milky Way galaxy above you. It is glorious.

We know these have glory, but what makes them glorious? What is glory? Glory is the greatness of something made known. It is that which inspires praise, that which brings awe, that which moves our hearts. It is the beauty, the magnificence, the unveiling of the worth of an object, an event, an act, a place, a thing or a person. It is a reputation. Glory is renown. It is prestige. It is honor, not of mere appearance, but of substance. The Hebrew word for glory used throughout the Old Testament has the idea of weight or worthiness, which brings up the image of a scale, in glory, although being intangible, having a weight to it that signifies its great value.

The simplest and my favorite way to define glory is that glory is a revealing of value. It is this display of worth. It shows the significance of something. And because of that, it inspires praise. Nations have aspired to glory since the beginning of time, building wonders, conquering lands in the name of glory from the Pyramids of Egypt, to the Colosseum and conquest of Rome to the vast British empire, great endeavors were taken up by people of these nations and nations all over the world in the name of glory, to display the worth of their God or gods or their king or their country.

And we are not really that different today. How many of you were alive during the Cold War? I imagine quite a bit of you. I was born a year and a half after it finished, the USSR dissolved in 1991, December 26th. And I was born April 10th, 1993. So I missed it by about a year and a half, didn’t get to live in it. But the Cold War is really interesting because it was a decades-long conflict, almost half a century-long conflict, but unlike World War One and World War wo, the wars that preceded it, it was rarely fought on the battlefield. Now there are some exceptions like Korea, Vietnam or Afghanistan that served as proxy wars. But most of the conflict was in fact a battle for glory, about proving the value or worth of one side over the other. They had to prove that they were glorious to themselves, to the world and to the other side, which resulted in this contest for glory.

Thus, the battle grounds for this conflict became Olympic stadiums, space, the economy. It became music. It became movies. It became literature. It became chess games, everything and anything that could prove the value of democracy or communism, show the worth of America or the Soviet Union. It was a war, not of armies maneuvering on the battlefield, but of glory, of prestige. And of course, countries are not the only ones that participate in this business. Businesses compete with one another, with advertisements, services, products, trying to build reputations that bring and retain customers by their brand, by their image, and that results in a value, at least in public companies, by investors putting their money and saying it’s worth that much. That’s how much I’m willing to pay for one stock of this company. Their worth is measured.

Not only do countries and companies engage in this struggle for glory, but so do individuals. It doesn’t take very long, and you can scroll through any number of social media sites and see that people desire glory. It is alive and well in the human heart to show one’s value to the world and to build one’s reputation, to prove that one is worthy.

Glory finds its way into every aspect of the human life, and it is wonder, for we were made to glorify. We were made in the image of God to bear his image, and sin is falling short of the glory in which God has created for us, us for more as, as his image bearers, and when sin entered the world, glory and what we glorified became distorted. Read Romans 1:21 through 23 with me real quick. It says, For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him. But they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal men and birds and animals and creeping things.” Instead of glorifying God, man exchanged that glorification for glorifying creation, including ourselves, and has been doing it ever since.

The Grand Canyon, fall, sunsets, the ocean, the goodness in man reveals the beauty and wonder and glory of our maker, for all are the works of his hand and only experienced by his grace. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands.” Isaiah 6:3, “And one called to one another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts. The whole earth is filled of his glory.'” Certainly all things exist to bring glory to the Lord. Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen.” Unlike man’s glory, the glory of God will not perish because his kingdom is forever, his glory is eternal, for he is unending and of incomparable worth.

From the very beginning, we were designed with the rest of creation to bring God glory, but we failed. And Jesus fulfills this purpose. Jesus came to glorify the father, and for the son of man to be glorified, to reveal to the world the worth of God, to show mankind the beauty, the love, the power, the grace, the justice, and the truth of who God is. And he did it perfectly. Read John 1:14 through 18 with me or 14 and 18, you can read the whole chapter if you want, because I think it proves the point, but the case to make it short, John at the beginning of his gospel sets the stage for what his book and what the gospel of John is going to be about. And we see it in John 11, but he prefaces that here, the word became flesh, that being Jesus and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son who came from the father full of grace and truth. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only son, who is himself God is in closest relationship with the father. He has made him known.

This sickness will not end in death, not meant for death, but is for the glory of God so that the son of God may be glorified by it. Picking up the story in verse seven, it says this, “Then after this, he said to his disciples, ‘Let’s go to Judea again.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and yet you are going there again?’ Jesus replied, ‘Are there not 12 hours in a day? If anyone walks during the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks during the night, he stumbles because the light is not in him.’ This he said, and after this, he said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m going so that I may waken him from his sleep.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will come out of it.'”

“Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought he was speaking of actual sleep. So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died or Lazarus died. And I’m glad for your sakes that I was not there so that you may believe.'” Jesus said, “I’m glad for your sakes, that I was not there so that you may believe.” Jesus is not glad for everyone’s sake. He’s not rejoicing over the fact that Lazarus has died. In fact, he will weep. He will cry. He will be moved in spirit over his friend in the pain that his death has caused. But even through all of this, Jesus has a plan, a plan for God’s glory to be revealed, to save Lazarus so that his disciples and those who not just witness, but understand God’s glory and the weight of who he is, will be brought into belief and belief into new life.

This death will not be in vain resulting, but will result in many having life because of the glory of God will be made known, resulting in belief. Going on, and it says in verse 16, “Therefore Thomas who was called Didymus said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go so that we may die with him.’ So when Jesus came, he found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now, Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 15 stadia away. And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. So then Martha, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha then said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now, I know whatever you ask of God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise from the dead.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even if he dies. And everyone who believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I’ve come to believe that you are the Christ, the son of God. And he who comes into the world.'”

Martha and Mary have the same response. Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but their hearts are in very different places. And you can see that when you pay attention to the story. And because of that, Jesus responds to them very differently. Martha confronts Jesus. She goes out to meet him. And Jesus responds to her and tells her exactly what she needs to hear, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Jesus shares the truth with her. And there are many times in which we need to be refreshed in the truth, to be confronted and guided. A good friend will stand up to you and tell you the truth, which is how Jesus ministers to the heart of Martha, “Do not be troubled. I am sovereign over death. If you believe in me, you will be saved.”

Jesus responds to Martha with truth and confronts her and tells her that he is the resurrection and the life. But Mary is in a much different place. And there are many times when you confront people with that and it can push them away. But Jesus meets Mary exactly where she is at. And there are many times when we don’t need a statement of fact, but a loving heart that sympathizes someone who will enter into our brokenness and weep with us.

And this is exactly how Jesus meets Mary, continuing in verse 28, “When she had said this, she left and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, ‘The teacher is here in his calling for you.’ And when she heard this, she got up quickly and came to him. Now Jesus had not come into the village, but was still at the place where Martha met him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house and were consoling her, when they saw that Mary had gotten up quickly and left, they followed her thinking that she was going to the tomb to weep there. So when Mary came to the place where Jesus was, she saw him and fell at his feet saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews were saying, ‘See how he loves him.’ But some of them said, ‘Could this man who opened the eyes of the man born blind, not have also kept this man from dying?'”

Why does Jesus weep? Shouldn’t he just tell them, “I am the resurrection and the life.” What he told Martha? “Quit mourning. I’m going to make this all better. Wait 10 minutes and your tears will turn to joy. There’s no point in them.” Yet instead, he is troubled and deeply moved in spirit. Jesus weeps over the pain, the sorrow, the suffering that is happening. And he meets Mary’s heart exactly where she is. She falls at his feet and weeps, and don’t forget he weeps with her, even though he knows what happens next.

Don’t be mistaken. You are allowed to weep as a Christian. Jesus weeps with us. This is not how it’s supposed to be. Death, suffering, loss are all the results of the fall of brokenness, the consequences of sin, which separate us from God and keep us from knowing his glory. There is a reason why Jesus came and he came to write all these things and he doesn’t with truth. Exactly how Jesus dealt with Mary and with Martha is how he deals with us and how he dealt with the world. He came into the world’s brokenness and he shared the suffering of the world and he met the world where it’s at, but he also shared the truth and gave the world hope, the hope of who he is.

Verse 38, continuing in the story, “So Jesus, again began 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 for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they removed the stone and Jesus raised his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me, but I know that you always hear me. Nevertheless, because of the people standing around, I said it so that they may believe you, believe that you sent me.’ And when he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus come out.’ Out came the man who had died, bound hand and foot with wrappings and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to him, to them, ‘Unbind him and let him go.’ Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what he had done believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.”

This story, the story of Lazarus reveals to us the glory of God. It reveals who he is in many ways, because it is an unveiling of the heart of God, an unveiling of his power and of his plans and of his love because it shows us who Jesus is. And his plan, that promise that he gives the messenger, this sickness is not meant for death, but is for the glory of God, so that the son of God may be glorified by it, is the exact promise and plan that every believer today can hold on to, because this is the exact one he gives to us.

II Corinthians 4:14 through 15, as well as many other passages in scripture relate this idea. But it says this, “Knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you, for all things are for your sakes so that the grace having spread to more people will cause Thanksgiving to the overflow, to the glory of God.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” That’s what Jesus says. “The one 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?” John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The same promise is given to us. Where is the proof? How do we know that he is able? Lazarus himself. He is able. The glory, if God is made known through the power of resurrection. His heart is revealed in his weeping, his suffering, his willingness to enter the brokenness. We serve a God that is not just all wise and all powerful, but all loving. He’s all that and more. And we witness it. We are witnesses of this glory in the story of Lazarus, and we might never fully understand why things happen to us or the people around us. We will encounter terrible suffering. And we might ask God, “Where are you? When are you going to show up? What is taking you so long?” But never forget that he suffers with us. He weeps with us. He was beaten. He was mocked, the Lord of all creation, in whom all things were created for entered our suffering to suffer and die on our behalf so we might witness the worth of who God is, come to know him and believe so that we might have eternal life.

God works all things for his glory and for our good, the good of those who love him, who’ve been called according to his purposes, Romans 8:28. And we see this clearly demonstrated in how he deals with Mary, Martha, Lazarus, his disciples, and all those who come into contact with him. And of course, that is because his glory is our ultimate good. They’re one and the same. And he asks us to trust and to believe in him. Listen to this part of the prayer that Jesus gives right before he dies on the cross. It’s usually called the high priestly prayer that Jesus gives. And he says this, just the first section, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your son, that your son may glorify you, for you have granted him authority over all people, that he might give eternal life to all those you have given have him.”

Listen to this, “Now this is eternal life that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours and you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. This is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” The glory of God and the son of God glorified for his glory is our ultimate good because that is what we were made for.

And the question that Jesus asked Martha remains and is relevant as it was back then as it is for every one of us, because Jesus has not changed. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one 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?” Because when you do, you become a child of the living God inheriting internal life. He doesn’t promise that this life that we live now will not be filled with hardship, or we won’t feel loss or pain. But what he did was suffer with us, cry with us, die in our place. And his promise is that the suffering now will disappear with the glory of who he is, and in the light of eternity.

I’ll end on this last one first found in Romans 8:16 through 18, “The spirit himself testifies with our spirit, that we are children of God and have children heirs, also heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Indeed, if we suffer with him so that we also be glorified with him, for I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed in us.”