Summary: Awaiting the glory of God. Even when all seems lost, there is hope.
BACKGROUND: The Gospel of John was written by John the apostle around the year A.D. 90. He wrote this account in order “to bring people to firm belief in Jesus…and to anchor believers firmly in the faith” (E. E. Elliott, A Study of the New Testament [Newburgh, IN: Trinity Press, 1996], 130). He also wanted to make sure we understand that Jesus is God as a human being-- what we call the Incarnation. As well as understanding the spiritual meaning to the historical events
In the Gospel of John we find:
Who Jesus is.
What he did on the cross.
How Jesus can be known personally.
How to receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.
The account in chapter 11 records the seventh miraculous sign Jesus performs in the Gospel of John.
Let’s look at the setting, because before there’s a solution, there’s a problem.
(Read John 11:1-16)
INTRODUCTION: There’s a story about the only survivor of a shipwreck. He washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed for God to rescue him, and every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed to be coming. He eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possessions. But then one day, after searching for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, the smoke rolling up to the sky. The worst has happened: everything was lost. He was stung with grief and anger: “God!!! How could you do this to me!” Early the next say he was awakened by the sound of a ship that was approaching the island. It had come to rescue him. “How did you know I was here?” the weary man asked his rescuers. They replied, “We saw your smoke signal.”
God may sometimes work in ways don’t understand-- but he still works.
In John 11:1 we see: “A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha” (NLT). We are not told the cause of his sickness or how long he had been sick. Had it come on his suddenly? Had it been an extended illness which had become progressively worse? Anyone who has watched a loved one get weaker and weaker as an illness ravages his or her body knows the anxiety that this family may have experienced. You spend hour after hour comforting, feeding, doing anything you can to help the remaining days be as good as possible. There is an agonizing feeling of helplessness.
Ten years ago I went up to visit my parents at a time when they were taking care of my great aunt who was bed-ridden. She was 92-years-old at the time. Aunt Eva and I had always been very close; she was more like a grandmother to me. She always said to me, “I love all you kids just the same-- but you’re special.”
It was difficult to watch her body overcome with the ravages of aging. On the first night I was there, my mother came running into my room in the middle of the night and said that my aunt needed me. She was having terrible pain and she was very scared. I went running into the room where her hospital bed was and held onto her. She wrapped her arms around me and sobbed and shook and trembled. I rubbed her head and told her I would stay right there with her as long as she needed me that night. There was nothing I could do to stop the pain. There was nothing I could do to reverse the degeneration of her body. All I could physically do was sit there with her and do my best to comfort her and love her. I knew the end was near. A few days later I received word that she had died.
To love someone and be unable to do anything to take away the pain is a horrible feeling! That’s what Mary and Martha were going through with their dear brother, Lazarus. What could they do? We read in the text that “the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, ‘Lord, the one you love is very sick’” (John 11:3 NLT). Jesus would come! He would fix everything! After all, look at the great things he has done: He had healed a Roman official’s son from miles away. He had healed a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda; He had even given sight to a blind man! Surely, if he made it in time, Jesus would be able to heal poor, sick Lazarus.
We can imagine the one who was sent to take the message to Jesus traveling as quickly as he could, the entire time thinking of the urgent word he was taking to the great miracle worker. He was probably hoping and praying that he would be able to get the message to Jesus on time. And then that Jesus would be able to make it to Bethany before it was too late.