Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
July 30, 2000
There are those, like the atheist, who deny that existence of the human soul, so they deal with death as simply the cessation of the chemical activity that makes up life. For them, there is no essential difference between the death of a human and the death of the fish they had for dinner. They try to deal with death by removing its eternal ramifications.
Some religions, like Hinduism and other Eastern mystical religions treat death as part of the normal sequence of repeating events. Death is the door which releases your soul from its current body to return in another body.
Other religions, treat death as the door through which the person enters into a life similar to the current one, but better because the problems and pains of this world are left behind. This is the idea of the “happy hunting ground.”
Other religions see death as the door to judgement of the soul. Those who have done “good” as defined by that particular religion get to go to a good place often called heaven, and those that have lived a “bad” life are punished in some manner. Depending on the religion, the punishment ranges from eternal torment, to temporary torment before graduating to a good place, to annihilation. These are religions of personal achievement.
In true Christianity, death is the door to judgement of the soul, but it is God’s grace that sends a person to heaven and not personal effort, Eternal punishment in hell is given justly according to the person’s deeds. In true Christianity death is still an enemy, but it is a conquered enemy. Death does not have the victory in the present or in the future. Only in true Christianity is the answer “yes” to the great question, “Has anyone conquered death, and if so, can they enable me to conquer it too?”
This morning we are going to continue in our study of John 11 and His great miracle in raising Lazarus from the dead. Other people had been raised from the dead in the past. Elijah raised the widow’s son (1 Kings 17); Elisha raised the Shunammite’s son (2 Kings 4); Jesus had already raised the synagogue official’s daughter (Luke 8) and even stopped a funeral and raised a young man back to life (Luke 7). But in each of these cases, it could be argued by the unbelieving that the person had not really died for the resurrection was either done in private or was very soon after the person’s death. That would not be the case with Lazarus.
Look at John 11:17. So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning [their] brother.
Remember what I pointed out last week from the first part of this chapter that Jesus has purposely delayed responding to the message from Martha and Mary until Lazarus was dead. Jesus had sent a comforting message to them in verse 4, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” However, Mary and Martha would not have understood that to mean that Lazarus was going to die and then Jesus would raise him from the dead a few days later. They would have first taken it to mean that Lazarus would not die, and then after he did, they would have considered the last part of the message concerning the glory of God and considered it a reference to the resurrection to come on the last day.
Verse 6 tells us that Jesus waited two days after he received the message before He prepared to go to Bethany, and His statement in verse 12, 14 & 15 make it clear that He had waited until Lazarus was dead because He was planning on “awakening him” so that the disciples, and others, would believe.
The practice of the Jews was to bury the individual on the same day that they died. They did not embalm the body as did the Egyptians, but only anointed the body with spices. The same is still true today among most Jews. They do not embalm the body and they hold the funerals very soon after the person dies.
Since it was a two-day journey from where Jesus was at to Bethany, it had now been four days since Lazarus had been buried. Jesus could have known about Lazarus’ burial in the same way that He knew about his death through His omniscience, but the text seems to indicate that someone probably told Jesus about the burial as He came near to Bethany.
John points out in his account of the events that Bethany was about 15 stadia, or about 2 miles, from Jerusalem. This is to explain where so many people had come to console Mary and Martha. John also points out that it was “many of the Jews” that had come. John’s usage of this term is not about ethnic heritage, for most of the people in the area would have been Jewish. Rather, it points back his earlier usage of the term in reference to the religious leaders and their followers. The fact that many of them came out to comfort Mary and Martha indicates something of the standing of family in the community as being well known and respected.
We can but speculate on all the motives of the different ones that came, but the text is clear that there was a desire on their part to console Lazarus’ sisters. The fact that some of them opposed Jesus (10:24, 31,33) did not keep them from coming to the aid of Martha and Mary. However, Martha is aware of the opposition and acts accordingly when she hears that Jesus is near.
John 11:20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him; but Mary still sat in the house.
Jesus was on the outskirts of the village (vs. 30) and someone told Martha that He was near. It is probable that Jesus sent someone to get Martha in view of the fact that Jesus did the same to Mary a short time later (vs. 28). Jesus has a specific purpose for not coming into the village, but it was not fear of the Jews. Jesus had already made it clear to His disciples back in verses 9 & 10 that He did not fear them and knew that He would complete His work.
The temperament of each of the two sisters is different. Mary is the more contemplative and quiet one, so Martha went out to meet Jesus while Mary stayed in the house. The fact that Martha’s departure did not attract any attention, as did Mary’s a short time later, also indicates Martha’s busy nature. She was deeply grieved over her brother’s death, but she is still active while Mary has become still and reflective. Martha’s heart is revealed when she meets Jesus.
Martha therefore said to Jesus, 21 “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”
Martha does not state this as criticism or resentment of Jesus, but it is rather an expression of her grief. Lazarus had died four days ago. The timing of the events are such that Lazarus would have died either just before or soon after the messenger returned from telling Jesus that Lazarus was sick. From her viewpoint it would have been very difficult if not impossible for Jesus to have arrived in time. Her statement is one of both grief and testimony of her faith in Jesus. Again, she calls Jesus, “Lord,” and then expresses her belief that Jesus could have healed Lazarus. There is no doubt in her mind about His power or the compassion He would have extended to Lazarus had He been present. In addition, she adds her continuing belief that Jesus can approach God the Father with anything and it will be granted. Though Lazarus is dead, her trust in Jesus has not diminished in the least.
How many of us have that same kind of faith in Jesus. Too often when some tragedy or trial comes upon us and we do not get from God what we want, we quickly to listen to our adversaries lies and start doubting God’s goodness and love for us. As I pointed out last week, His goodness and mercy is proven by the very fact that you are still alive and not under His just condemnation in eternal Hell. God has proven His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). The problem is our self-centeredness. God does not exist for our benefit and pleasure. He created us for His own purposes and pleasure. We may not understand why things happen as they do, but we can be confident in God’s love for us and that His plans for us are for our good and His glory (Jer. 29:11).
Jesus respond to Martha in verse 23. Jesus ^said to her, “Your brother shall rise again.” 24 Martha ^said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
Jesus tells Martha that He is going to do just what she had expressed. God will grant Him any request that He makes and He is going to raise Lazarus from the dead. However, Martha does not understand that Jesus is talking about the immediate future. She believe He is talking about the distant future when the resurrection of the righteous would take place. Her hope, as was the hope of all the godly Jews, was in God’s promises concerning the eternal future. The resurrection had been prophesied in Isaiah 26:19; and Daniel 12:2. It was David’s hope in Psalm 16:9-11; 17:15; the hope of Asaph in Psalm 73:25, 26 and Job probably expressed it first and best in Job:19:25-27 – “And as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth. 26 “Even after my skin is destroyed, Yet from my flesh I shall see God; 27 Whom I myself shall behold, And whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart faints within me.” As Christians we share that same hope with even more promises secured by Jesus’ resurrection.
Jesus now brings Martha to a better understanding of the hope of resurrection and in whom it is based. John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? ”
This is the fifth of Jesus’ “I Am” statements (I am the bread of life – 6:35; I am the light of the world – 8:12; I am the door – 10:12). The resurrection and the life are in the person of Jesus. Resurrection comes first because it is the guarantee of the promise of eternal life with God. The believer’s hope for a blessed eternal future is found in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the creator of all things (John 1:3) and it is by His power that all things hold together (Col. 1:17). Jesus had yet to become the first born from the dead (Col. 1:18) through His own resurrection, but He had already proven His power over death by raising a young man and the Synagogue official’s daughter, as I mentioned earlier.
Martha expressed her belief and hope in the resurrection to occur in the future. Jesus brings her to a deeper faith in Him by proclaiming Himself to be the object of that very hope. It is only those who believe in Him that will share in the first resurrection unto life (Rev. 20:5,6). Those that reject Jesus will take place in the second resurrection unto judgement and the second death of eternal hell (Rev. 20:11-15). Again, as I have pointed out many times, this belief is not an intellectual assent which has no practical effect on the life. This participle used here points out that this is an ongoing belief. The Hebrew mind set is that a belief effects how you live. Belief in Jesus results in faith, trust and a following after Him.
In making His declaration to Martha, Jesus also explains something of the nature of this life and gives hope concerning both those who were still alive and those who had already died physically. “He who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Lazarus had died physically, but that which actually is Lazarus, his soul, is still alive. What was true for those that had died physically, was equally true for those that were still alive physically. That which makes them alive, their souls, would never die. They would not be separated from God. Paul states this in Romans 8:10 saying, And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. This would have been very comforting to Martha.
Martha responds in vs. 27 to Jesus question about her belief. She ^said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, [even] He who comes into the world.”
Again we find that Martha had a good understanding of Jesus. While many of the religious leaders failed to grasp Jesus’ many declarations that He was the Messiah (10:24, etc.), Martha understood very clearly and declares her personal belief in Him. She states her belief using a perfect tense which demonstrates that this was a settled conviction for her. She had already come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah and she continues to so believe.
What other things Jesus may have said to Martha we do not know, but we do know that He asked her to get her sister. 28. And when she had said this, she went away, and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here, and is calling for you.”
Martha did not want to attract the attention of all the people that were there and so she talks to Mary so others could not hear. Perhaps she wanted Mary to have the same privilege that she just had to talk to Christ alone. Mary immediately responds. 29 And when she heard it, she ^arose quickly, and was coming to Him. She goes to Jesus who is still outside the village. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him.
If the goal was for Mary to have a private meeting with Jesus, that plan was frustrated. 31 The Jews then who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. The quickness Mary’s departure attracted the attention of those that were with her. As the text says, they thought she was going to the tomb to weep, so they also got up and followed her for they had come to comfort her. I think it was in Jesus’ plan for these people to come out to see what He was about to do, for it was for the glory of God and that the Son of God may be glorified by it (vs. 4).
John 11:32 (NASB) Therefore, when Mary came 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.” Mary said the same thing to Jesus that Martha had said and for the same reasons. Mary was grieved and she and Martha had probably said something like this to each other when Lazarus was sick – “If only Jesus were here, Lazarus would be healed.” Mary expresses her own submission and belief in Jesus by her falling at Jesus’ feet, which is an act of worship, and addressing Him as “Lord.”
This would have been a very moving scene and filled anyone’s heart for compassion. Jesus is so moved. 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her, [also] weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit, and was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They ^said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
Jesus is a compassionate savior who understands us (Heb. 4:15; Isa. 53:4). Jesus was “deeply moved in spirit and troubled” and he “wept.” The words used here convey the idea that Jesus’ soul was agitated by what He was seeing. The result was that He wept. The word “wept” (dakruw /dakruo) here is different from the “weeping” (klaiw /klaio) of everyone else. They were crying or wailing with their grief. Jesus was simply shedding tears.
The sense I get from this is that though Jesus would not have shared their grief since He knew what He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, yet He was still moved to tears because of the grief that death had caused Mary & Martha and their friends. They were tears of sympathy prompted by seeing Mary and the people weeping. I also think Jesus wept over the sin that had entered the world that had perverted God’s original design and was the cause of physical death. These were tears prompted because of His soul being agitated over the consequences of sin. Jesus may have even wept over the sinful response He knew that some of those watching were going to have. A similar thought prompted Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem in Matthew 23:37,38.
Jesus’ tears were noticed by those who had come with Mary, but there was a mixed response to them. John 11:36 And so the Jews were saying, “Behold how He loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of him who was blind, have kept this man also from dying?”
Some of these Jews saw Jesus’ tears as evidence of His great love for Lazarus and therefore an expression of His own grief. They could not have imagined what Jesus was about to do and therefore could not have known that His tears where out of sympathy rather than personal grief over Lazarus.
Others were still controlled by their hatred of Jesus and criticize Him. While they correctly acknowledge Jesus power to do miracles, specifically citing His recent healing of the man born blind (John 9), they malign Him as someone who failed His friend in letting Him die. They saw this as proof that though Jesus was powerful, He was not as powerful as His claim to be the Son of God.
Understand that from their viewpoint, though they acknowledge Jesus’ ability to miraculously heal, they see death as that ultimate enemy that even Jesus could not conquer. Perhaps they had not heard about the raising of Jairus’ daughter to life, or perhaps they just saw Lazarus’ death as too different. There is a Rabbinic tradition that the soul of a dead person remained near the body for three days in the hope of reunion, but then departs because the body enters into a state of decomposition. This tradition was written down a couple of hundred years after this event, but like most traditions, it may have existed a long time before it was written down. In either case, these Jews treat Lazarus’ death as final and that Jesus had failed him.
Jesus now takes action. John 11:38 Jesus therefore again being deeply moved within, ^came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 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] four days.”
Jesus is still moved by His compassion for them and He orders the stone to be moved away. John records Martha’s warning as proof of Lazarus’ death. This puts emphasis upon the miracle that Jesus is about to perform. Martha did not know what Jesus was about to do, but she was concerned that Lazarus’ body would have already started to decompose and would stink. I think any of us can understand Martha’s concern. It is hard enough to know that your loved one is dead, but the agony of the grief does not need to be increased by having to smell the stench of death from the decomposing body. Lazarus had been buried in a cave with a stone sealing the entrance. It would be like the one that Jesus Himself would be buried in just a few short months.
Jesus comforts Martha and then proceeds with His plan. John 11:38 (NASB) Jesus therefore again being deeply moved within, ^came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 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] four days.” 40 Jesus ^said to her, “Did I not say to you, if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 And so they removed the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank Thee that Thou heardest Me. 42 “And I knew that Thou hearest Me always; but because of the people standing around I said it, that they may believe that Thou didst send Me.” 43 And when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” 44 He who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings; and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus ^said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Jesus comforts Martha and then encourages her to believe in Him just has He prompted her to do earlier. Then He has the stone covering the tomb rolled away and Jesus begins to pray. Remember from verses 4 and 15, that the purpose of this miracle was to bring glory to the Father and to the Son and to cause people to believe. Through this prayer Jesus places the focus on these three things being accomplished. There is glory to the Father because through the prayer it is acknowledged that this miracle would be done through the Father’s will and power. The Son is glorified because the prayer emphasizes that the Father always hears the Son. People would be caused to believe because in hearing the prayer and seeing the miracle they are confronted with the proof of Jesus’ claim that He was sent by the Father. The prayer was spoken very loudly for the benefit of those standing around.
Jesus does not have to touch Lazarus, but only to call Him out from the grave. There can be no claim that Jesus somehow just revived a man who was in a coma. This is a miracle for in an instant the process of decomposition was instantly reversed and the body restored to proper functioning while the soul of Lazarus was rejoined with that body so that he could hear Jesus’ command to come forth and obey. And when Lazarus did come hobbling out in his grave clothes, Jesus had him unbound. His grave clothes would have been strips of linen that were wrapped around the body and included a napkin that was placed over the face.
What was the response? John 11:45 (NASB) Many therefore of the Jews, who had come to Mary and beheld what He had done, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees, and told them the things which Jesus had done.
As has been the case throughout the ministry of Jesus. Some came to believe Jesus’ claims to be true, while others continued to reject and went off to plot evil against Jesus.
It is still that way today. Some will believe the claims of Jesus Christ and the evidence proving the claims to be true. God gives his grace to those who will humble themselves. Others are proud and will reject Christ regardless of any proof presented to them. God resists them and they condemn themselves, for they will not escape God’s judgement (1 Thess. 1:7-9).
We need to remain humble people before God. We, like Lazarus, Martha & Mary, may not understand all that God is doing at the moment, but we can be sure of His love for us and that He is working to glorify Himself through us. We can also rejoice and take comfort in our savior’s compassion for us. He is our high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses (Heb. 4:15) and ever lives to make intercession (Heb. 7:25). The same one who prayed to the Father and then called Lazarus from the grave is the same one who continues to intercede with the Father on my behalf. That gives me great comfort and peace regardless of present circumstances and an enduring hope for the future, because I know my own resurrection to eternal life with Him is entrusted to the one who has the power to raise men from the dead.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count how many times the name “Martha” is said. 2) Discuss with your parents what Martha belief and hope.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
How do different groups view death? How do you view death? Why did Jesus wait two days before going to Bethany? What is the significance of Lazarus being dead for four days? Was Martha (or Mary) critical of Jesus? What is Martha’s hope for Lazarus? Why? What is the significance of Jesus’ “I am” statement in verses 25,26? What does it mean to “believe in” Jesus? Lazarus was dead, how was he still alive (vs. 25)? Why did Martha understand what the religious leaders did not? Why did the Jews follow Mary? Why did Jesus weep? Why did some of the Jews criticize Jesus? Why does John record Martha’s concern about Lazarus stinking? Why did Jesus pray out loud? How did this miracle glorify the Father? The Son? Did it accomplish any other purpose? What miracles had to occur in order for Lazarus to come out of the grave? How does this miracle affect your beliefs? How you live your life? Why did some of the Jews continue to oppose Jesus even after seeing this miracle? What is Jesus’ current ministry to Christians? How do you know that God loves you?
Jesus & Martha (vs. 21-29)
Jesus Comes to Bethany (17-20) Jesus waited _______________ before going to Bethany (vs. 6)
Martha’s Hope (21-24)
From her viewpoint it would have been ________________ for Jesus to have arrived in time
The problem is our __________________. God created us for His own purposes and pleasure.
First Resurrection – Rev. 20:5,6
Second Resurrection – Rev. 20:11-15
Lazarus had died physically, but that which actually is Lazarus is ________________ (Rom 8:10)
Martha’s Belief (27)
Jesus & Mary (vs. 28-37)
Martha gets Mary (28-29)
The Jews Who Follow (30-31)
The Jews also got up and followed her in order to ___________________
Mary’s Grief (32)
Weeping – __________________
Jesus’ Compassion (33-35)
Deeply moved in spirit and troubled
Wept – _____________
Responses of the Jews (36,37)
These Jews treated Lazarus’ death as ____________ and that Jesus had __________ him.
Jesus & Lazarus (vs. 38-44)
Jesus’ Acts (38-40)
Jesus’ Prayer (41,42)
There is glory to the Father because ___________________________________________________
There is glory to the Son because _____________________________________________________
Hearing the prayer and seeing the miracle, people are confronted with proof of Jesus’ claim.
Jesus’ Commands (43,44)
In order for Lazarus to hear and obey in coming out, his body must be instantly _____________
And his soul must be ___________ with his body.
Responses (vs. 45,46)
I have comfort, peace and hope despite circumstances because Jesus loves me & He can resurrect dead men.
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