Summary: Mary & Martha said that Lazarus was the one whom Jesus loved. But how could Jesus treat a friend like He did? Why would He callously stay away while this close friend died... and He could have prevented it?
OPEN: “How many of you know the name of the brother of Mary and Martha who Jesus raised from the dead?” (most of the audience raised their hand). Who was it? Lazarus.
Read text: John 11:1-47 followed by prayer.
ILLUS: A few years back I read a story about a may village in southwest France where they had a problem. The cemetery was full and there was no room to bury anyone. This presented something of a crisis, and the mayor came up with a unique solution: he passed a law that declared no one was allowed to die.
The Mayor (Gerard Lalanne) posted an ordinance in the council offices advising the village's 260 residents that "all persons not having a plot in the cemetery and wishing to be buried in Sarpourenx are forbidden from dying in the parish."
It added, "Offenders will be severely punished."
APPLY: Now, I’m not sure he can enforce that
Unless we’re fortunate enough to be here when Jesus comes back, everybody is going to die, and no mayor, or president, or king can stop it from happening.
Hebrews 9:27 “.. it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:’
No matter who you are, how much you own, who you know… we’re all going to die.
And that reality has always plagued mankind with fear
Hebrews 2:15 tells us
Jesus came to “free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
That’s why – at Lazarus’ funeral so many were crying.
Now, Mary and Martha believed – ONE DAY – there would be a resurrection of the dead.
When Jesus said to Martha, "Your brother will rise again" Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." John11:23-24
And Martha believed that, because that’s what the Scriptures taught her.
Job – for example – declared:
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” Job 19:25-27
And Isaiah promised Israel:
“But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead.” Isaiah 26:19
And in Hosea God declared:
"I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction?” Hosea 13:14
Martha believed in the resurrection of the dead… but that was just theology. The cold reality was that her brother was dead in the grave… and Jesus could have stopped that had He wanted to.
So, why didn’t He?
Why didn’t Jesus prevent Lazarus from dying?
It’s not like He couldn’t. He’d healed hundreds of people over the past 3 years and Martha and her sister had sent him a message over 4 days ago.
Yet Jesus didn’t come.
In fact he deliberately delayed coming.