Harbor Lights Sermon  Mar, 2011

The Resurrection of Lazarus

You've probably have heard the story of Lazarus and the rich which Jesus told in Luke chapter 16, of how Lazarus died and went to paradise and that the rich man died and went to hell. At the end of the story it says that the rich man requested Lazarus  to be raised from the dead so he could warn his brothers of what awaits them after death. But he was told, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." Lk 16:31 The Bible gives us sufficient warning to prepare for the afterlife. But you know, there was a man named Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, who did in fact die and rise from the dead as recorded in John chapter 11. That's what we'll consider today.

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 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. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, "Lord, the one you love is sick." 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." Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days. John 11:1-6 

After this, Jesus said to his disciples, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up." His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." John 11:11-15

Jesus intentionally delayed coming to heal Lazarus, and Lazarus died. You would think that Martha and Mary would have resented Jesus for this, as would anyone who was simply interested in getting Jesus to do what they wanted him to do. Jesus leaves plenty of room for skeptics and unbelievers to find something wrong with him. They may point out this apparent contradiction between Jesus saying that Lazarus would not die, and yet he did. Jesus intentionally didn't meet their expectations. We have expectations. Jesus intentionally doesn't always meet our expectations.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." John 11:20-27

In living the Christian life we need to learn to relinquish much of our expectations, that is we should not presume what  God has not promised, and even with regards to what he has promised, to allow the Lord to interpret his own promises.

Likewise there was a time when the Lord commanded Abraham to kill his son Isaac, and yet the Lord had promised that Isaac would have children, Abraham tried to resolve this apparent contradiction by reasoning that God would raise Isaac from the dead. Though he was mistaken on that matter, for at the last moment the Lord stopped Abraham from killing his son, yet Abraham was commended for not rejecting the apparent contradiction between the Lord's promise and the Lord' s command but trying to reason out a solution. So also here Martha is to be commnended for not doubting the Lord, but rather trying to reason out what he meant by his promise.

Jesus viewed death differently than most people. He promised, "whoever lives and believes in me will never die." And in John 5:24 "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life."

Likewise the other sister, Mary, approached Jesus. 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." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

Previously we don't see Jesus sorrowful over this matter. In fact he wasn't sorrowful for Lazarus, but rather he was empathetic of the sorrow experienced by those who had lost a loved one, who thought they would never again see him in this life. In fact I wonder if Lazarus was getting the raw end of the deal in being resurrected in being called from Paradise to an earthly existence. Though perhaps not, as the best situation is to be with the Lord, as Paul said in 2Cor 5:6 "We would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord." But in this case the Lord was on the earth.

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
"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." Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 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." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" 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." John 11:28-44

There's an analog to those who have spiritually passed from death to life. For we were dead in our transgessions and sins, but upon putting our faith in Christ we have been made alive in Christ. Yet we still have grave clothes, this sinful nature inherent in our flesh. And it says, "You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Eph 4:21-24

Col 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.

Now as I said at the beginning you would think Lazarus' resurrection would have been rather convincing evidence affirming Jesus. And indeed it says,  "Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." John 11:45-48

In fact "the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him." John 12:10,11

Just like back then so now given the affadivit of eyewitnesses to the public miracles of Christ recorded for us in the gospels, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Jesus is the Son of God, but just like back then so now there are those who are intent on disbelieving, based upon their prejudices and their concern of the implications of this truth, how it would impact their life. If people are unwilling to accept what the Bible says, neither will they be convinced by miracles.

But concerning the death of Christians, Paul writes the Thessalonians saying, "Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in" 1Th 4:13,14 While there may be sorrow of the temporary loss of the relationship with a fellow believer who had died, their life is eternal.

And we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us in his presence. Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

To repeat, Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" John 11:25,26

Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus
My Redeemer
Jul 29,2015