Summary: Sermon contrasts the characteristics of this miracle with magical phenomena in much of the popular media of today such as "Harry Potter" "Crossing Over" etc...
A Genuine Miracle
Fortifying the Foundations # 26
At the beginning of the service we read our text in John 11:38-54. It is the story of Jesus’ last great miracle before his crucifixion: The resurrection of Lazarus.
Miracles play a central role in John’s gospel. In Chapter 20 he tells us the purpose of his book. John 20:30-31 “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” NIV
The Greek word translated “miraculous signs” is semeion (say-mi’-on). A sign is something that points us to something else. The miracles John records are designed to point us to Jesus as the Messiah.
“But these are written that you may believe...” In these first eleven chapters John records eight miraculous signs:
1.John 2:1-11 Turning Water into Wine
2.John 2:12-25 Cleansing the Temple
3.John 4:43-54 Healing the Officer’s Son
4.John 5 Healing the Man at the Pool of Bethesda
5.John 6:1-15 Feeding the 5000
6.John 6: 16-21 Stilling the Storm
7.John 9:1-38 Healing the Man Born Blind
8.John 11 Resurrection of Lazarus
This morning as we consider the resurrection of Lazarus I want us to keep this question in mind: What are the characteristics of genuine miracles?
Miracles are a significant aspect of proclaiming the gospel effectively.
Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 2:4 “ My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” NIV
God does not limit Himself to human reason. Our gospel is a supernatural gospel for today! “Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.” He stills heals the sick; saves the lost; and delivers the oppressed. When the gospel was preached with signs following in the Book of Acts the kingdom of God advanced mightily. And even today throughout the world when the gospel is preached with power and demonstration people commit their lives to Christ.
When confronted by his enemies in John 10:38, Jesus referred those skeptics to his miracles as proof of his commission from God (“...even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." ) NIV
On the one hand, miracles validate God’s involvement. Nicodemus was right when he said to Jesus, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."
John 3:2 NIV The miracles were significant proof that God was working through Jesus.
On the other hand, the Bible warns us to not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1). Just because something is supernatural does not necessarily mean it’s of God. In fact, it may be of the devil. It’s important to be able to tell the difference.
There has come an interesting shift in our society. A few decades ago humanism was the predominant influence in secular society. It was in vogue to be skeptical of anything supernatural. People proudly claimed to be totally scientific in their approach to reality—denying anything that could not be demonstrated in the laboratory test tube.
For many people that limited worldview proved to be a totally inadequate explanation of reality. It denied far too many undeniable experiences. So there has now come in America an unprecedented receptivity to the miraculous. It is a wonderful opportunity for us to proclaim the living God. But this change, this openness to the supernatural, is not without its problems as well.
Most people who accept the supernatural do not have much discernment between the hand of God and the hand of the devil. They are enticed and lead astray by lying wonders partly because they are not familiar with the real thing. I have heard that the way banks teach their employees to spot counterfeit money is to teach them what the real thing looks like. When you really know the real thing you don’t fall for the false.
A real $ 20 bill has certain characteristics that are hard to duplicate. So the trained employ holds the bill up to the light and looks for those characteristics.
The miracle in John 11 has characteristics that can help us be a discerning people.
I. The miracle was designed to meet human need.
There was Martha and Mary grieving over the death of their little brother, Lazarus. They were hurting and Jesus felt their pain. Notice how he connects with them emotionally in verses 33-38. Two small words (“Jesus wept”) communicate volumes. He sees the pain these people are in and two distinct emotions rise up within him: (1) Compassion for those who are hurting and (2) Indignation toward the devil and his works.