Summary: We need not let hardships and difficulties keep us down, because we serve a God that can bring life from death, bringing glory to Himself.
John 11:1-44 - No Matter What Your Stinking Problem is, Get Up Again Anyway
Sir Alexander Mackenzie is a Canadian hero. An early fur trader and explorer, he accomplished a magnificent feat when he led an expedition across Canada from Fort Chippewyan on Lake Athabasca to the Pacific Ocean. His incredible journey was completed in 1793, 11 years before Lewis and Clark began their famous expedition to the west. Mackenzie’s earlier attempt in 1789, however, had been a major disappointment. His explorers had set out in an effort to find a water route to the Pacific. The valiant group followed a mighty river (now named the Mackenzie) with high hopes, paddling furiously amid great danger. Unfortunately, it didn’t empty into the Pacific, but into the Arctic Ocean. In his diary, Mackenzie called it the “River of Disappointment.”
You know, many of us find ourselves paddling up rivers of disappointments of our own. We struggle and strain. We try to do worthwhile things, but we fade away instead. We have all faced situations that looked hopeless, and sometimes we let them get the better of us. We have felt like Abraham Lincoln when he failed to get into the Illinois senate in 1858: “I feel like the boy who stubbed his toe: I am too big to cry and too badly hurt to laugh.” But we are not alone. We are not the first to walk through valleys of the shadow of death. Many have faced the big D of disappointment before. In today’s story out of John 11, we will see two ladies who felt hopeless and angry. And Jesus broke thru their darkness and shot great beams of light into their hearts. John 11:1-3. Mary and Martha’s brother was sick. But this was not news to Jesus. V4-6. Jesus did not go to help. Lazarus, whom Jesus loved, did not help him. This is an interesting picture of Jesus. Someone who doesn’t immediately pluck us out of our situations. Maybe you’re a little uncomfortable with that image. But there was a reason. God would get more focus and attention, more glory out of Lazarus dying.
Anyway, the story progresses. Lazarus died. V14. Because Jesus didn’t go immediately to help, the situation got worse. Maybe you have felt that way. Maybe you have felt how Martha felt when Jesus finally arrived on the scene. V17-21. Mary felt the same way in v32. Have you ever felt that way? “Lord, if you had been here, this tragedy would not have happened.” -“Lord, if you had fixed this like I asked, these bad things would not have happened.” – “Lord, if you had only done something…” And the blame goes to God for bad things in our lives.
Now what’s neat about this story is that Jesus doesn’t lash out at her. In fact, we can get a real glimpse of his love for struggling disciples, including Lazarus. Let’s look at this situation for a second. V19 tells us that many Jews had been consoling Mary and Martha in their time of loss. And by the time Jesus got there, it was day#4 since Lazarus’ death. These Jewish folk were committed to Lazarus’ sisters.
Now, that would have been different if Lazarus had been a known follower of Jesus. Since Jesus was hated in the area, to the point that He was almost stoned to death His last time through, any known followers of His would have been treated very differently at death. So-called “mourners” would have worn festive white garments, celebrating the death of an apostate from the Jewish religion. They would have shouted insults at the family. But since this didn’t happen for Lazarus, obviously, the Jewish leaders did not consider him a serious follower of Jesus.
So, the question is, was Lazarus only a close friend of Jesus not not a believer? Or was he a believer in secret, unwilling to lose his public reputation by openly declaring faith in the man who called himself the Son of God? Either way, Jesus still loved Lazarus. Let this be a comfort to you struggling disciples, who really want to follow Christ but stumble all the way. Jesus still loves you. And He still wants to help you pick up and move on.
Continuing on, Martha seemed to sense that Jesus could still help her – v22. Jesus gives her hope – v23. Martha didn’t quite pick up on all that Jesus was saying, but she knew enough theology to know that things would be better in the sweet by-and-by – v24. “Someday,” she said, “things will be better. Things will be better when we die. Heaven will be better.” And Jesus took that thought and said: v25. He said, “Actually, I am the source of hope. Things will be better someday, yes, but it’s because of me. I am what you need. I am your source of strength. I am who you need today.”