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New Life- The Raising of Lazarus

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Sermon shared by Chris Appleby

November 1990
Summary: The raising of Lazarus - the centrality of belief in Jesus - how far does it go?
Series: Book of John
Denomination: Anglican
Audience: Believer adults
Sermon:
Introduction: Belief
Do you believe in Jesus? Do you BELIEVE in Jesus? Do you really believe in Jesus? That I think is the compelling question that weíre faced with as we read this passage today. What does it mean for you to believe in Jesus? As an abstract question itís probably easy enough to answer. Yes I believe in Jesus. I believe heís the Son of God. How else could he have done those miracles? I believe he died and rose again. (Sounds like the words of a song doesnít it?) The evidence for the resurrection seems overwhelming.
The Disciplesí Belief
The disciples believed in Jesus. Peter had spoken on behalf of all of them when he confessed Jesus to be the Christ. But how far did their belief in him go? Well, letís have a look and see.
When Jesus heard that Lazarus, his friend, was sick, he wasnít worried. He knew what the outcome would be. So he waited 2 days before announcing to his disciples that they were going back to Judea to check on Lazarus. And what was the disciples response? "Hang on Jesus, it isnít very safe there at the moment. Itís not that long since the last time we were there and the Jews tried to stone you. Are you sure you know what youíre doing?" How far did their belief in him go? Far enough to trust him to keep them safe? To even keep himself safe? It doesnít sound like it does it? In fact when he tells them that Lazarus has fallen asleep, they think of natural sleep and think this gives them an out. If heís sleeping then heíll recover, so thereís no need to go back at all. Phew! But in fact it isnít natural sleep that Jesus is talking about, itís the sleep of death. So Jesus tells them plainly. "Lazarus is dead." Then he says what seems a strange thing. "And for your sake Iím glad I was not there, so that you may believe."
How could anyone be glad that a friend has died? What about the pain that Mary and Martha are feeling at that moment? Doesnít Jesus care about that? Or is it that all he cares about is making his point with the disciples? Well it becomes quite clear as the story progresses that he does care. Twice weíre told how heís moved with emotion, moved to tears, as he sees the sadness of those who are there to mourn Lazarus. But still, he knows that thereís more at issue here than their sadness and he knows what the outcome will be. Heís already said that this illness wonít lead to death. Rather it will have the twofold result of God being glorified and the disciples and Martha and Mary growing in faith, in their belief in Jesus. And thatís what makes him glad.
The Need for Deeper Faith
You see the disciplesí belief in Jesus still needed to grow and be strengthened. Even though theyíd spent all this time living with him, they still didnít really understand who he was. And when it came to the crunch their faith still wasnít enough to sustain them. I read an old Irish proverb the other day. It said "Never doubt in the darkness, what you believed in the light." Thereís an echo of Johnís gospel there isnít there? Look at v9: "Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. 10But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them." Interestingly those words are almost identical to what Jesus said at the start of ch9, when he was talking about giving sight to the blind man. So John obviously intends there to
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