Do You Believe? Scripture Text: John 11:26 (Read John 11)
Introduction: Jesus’ question to Martha in John 11:26 was this: Do you believe?
The Book of John was written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God. John 20:31.
In the first six miracles of Jesus in the book, “we have seen his power over the physical aspects of life, including the human body, the natural elements, time and space, and even food and drink. But in each case Jesus also demonstrated that his purposes went beyond the physical to the spiritual. Now the Lord revealed his power by reaching beyond this life and touching death and the afterlife—territory that belongs only to God (Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 213.)”
When Jesus told the disciples that Lazarus was dead, he also said, “and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him (John 11:15).” This begs the question: for us, under what conditions does it take for us to believe? What would cause us to increase in faith or belief?
Propositional Statement: Jesus gives us a confident faith by answering our questions of faith through the varied directions of the lives of Thomas and Martha. The reason we need this message is to help us through times such as experienced by the prophet Habakkuk: Habakkuk’s words show the difficulty that many of us have concerning our world. He says, “O Lord, how long must I call for help before you will listen? I shout to you in vain; there is no answer. “Help! Murder!” I cry, but no one comes to save. Must I forever see this sin and sadness all around me? (Habakkuk 1:2, The Living Bible)
Thomas’ Problem of Confidence
A. Crisis of Faith: When Jesus was considering going back to Judea where Lazarus’ family was; “The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again? (John 11:8)”
Because Thomas thinks that they will also be stoned if they return with Jesus, he said “to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him (John 11:16).” Culturally, this is interesting: “As much as disciples loved their teachers, this is a rare expression of commitment in practice; in general, Jewish people emphasized only being prepared to die for God and his law(Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Jn 11:11–16).” Although Thomas is somewhat courageous, he is also unclear about what direction Jesus is taking them. We know that Jesus came to die on a cross as a sacrifice for sin. For that to occur, Jesus would not be stoned, nor would the disciples take part in becoming the sacrifice. Thomas’ call to the disciples to follow Jesus would become our beacon call: Take up your cross daily and follow Jesus!
What I find interesting about the faith of Thomas’ faith is his ability to forget. Thomas was one of the witnesses to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead after days; and yet when the other disciples told Thomas that Jesus was raised in John 20, he says what??, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe (John 20:25).”
Oh how our faith is similar! Are we not ever crying for physical and visible proof of His power and presence? Witnessing, we hear the skeptical and forever rational statement, “Well, if Jesus appeared to me now, maybe I would believe?” Well, Jesus did just that! He appreared!
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.”
Wordsworth writes: “The wounds which Satan inflicted in malice and scorn on our Lord’s crucified Body, have been converted by His controlling power and wisdom into proofs of His Resurrection, and marks of His personal identity. They have become indelible evidences of His power, graven, as it were, with an iron pen on the Rock of Ages, to be read by the eyes of Angels and men for eternity; and they remain for ever, as glorious trophies of His victory over death and sin, and over Satan himself.”—P. S.] John Peter Lange and Philip Schaff, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: John (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 621.
What crisis of faith are you having right now in your life? Jesus wants you to move from intellectual beliefs to actions of believing. David Jeremiah said, ‘Never doubt in the dark what God tells you in the light.’ Being in the light is all well and good; but what do you do in the dark when you have eventually lost your sight? Paul defines our good courage as believers in 2 Corinthians 5:6–9: “being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight— we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.”
Martha’s Problem of Presence and Future
A. Presence– Martha says to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.(v. 21-22)” Martha was saying, If only Jesus had just been there in their presence! In addition to saying Jesus’ presence was necessary to save Lazarus; she also thought that if Jesus was the one asking God, then certainly God would answer the prayer.
Remember, primarily this was for those who needed to know who Jesus is. If you will remember another account in the Book of John regarding Jesus’ presence; there was a royal official whose son was deathly ill and he later found out that his son was completely healed even though Jesus did not have to be physically present with the boy.
“Have you ever felt like Martha? “Where were you, Lord? You came too late. Where were you when my loved one died? Where were you when my marriage dissolved? Where were you when my parents divorced? Where were you when my father became an alcoholic? Where were you when I was cheated out of my promotion? Where were you when my child went astray?”
Disrespectful thoughts? Please notice—the Lord did not reprove Martha for her words! It is not sinful to tell God how you feel. …. we should always be reverent toward God. He is God! We are his creatures and must ever bow to him. But that does not mean we are not allowed to express to him how we feel. Some of us have feelings that ought to be shared with God. The feelings are not necessarily right, but they are feelings that need to be brought honestly before God(R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 284).” When we are honest and share our feelings with God; our faith will increase. Because of what Jesus did on the cross, not only is He our intercessor before the Father; but he can now approach the throne of God’s grace ourselves! Jesus is ever-present in our lives. We no longer have to be like Martha, when she said, “Jesus, I know if you ask the Father it will be answered.” Now, we ask, and He answers!
B. Future Help– After Jesus said Lazarus would rise, Martha says in verse 24, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.
Namely, the Sadducees of Jesus’ time did not believe in the future resurrection; but Martha and her family were ones who sided with the Pharisees, who did believe in resurrection. If you remember, we have Johns’ book so that people believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Martha is saying here: I know that in the future things will be different! “She understood only two categories of life: physical life on earth and some future life at a resurrection. In her mind, Lazarus had neither of those at the moment. She did not think there was anything Jesus could do about his death(Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 217).” Gangel writes, “They treated death as the end of life, as the final defeat, a sign that God had deserted them. The presence of death meant the absence of God(216).” Martha’s idea about this had not changed since Jesus came to them; but it was about to change….
Do we have the same questions of presence that Martha did? Do we think that the tragedies of our lives have fatal endings that will never be corrected? Or maybe we have this pie-in-the-sky idea that someday, maybe someday far off, I won’t have to deal with it?
“When a Christian is falsely accused and pleads with God to bring the evidence to clear him, and it is only after his reputation is ruined that the evidence comes, we wonder if God cares. When we plan some great event for God and the whole thing falls through, we wonder if God cares. We must be honest and admit that at ground level there are times when it is very difficult to keep believing in the goodness of God"(R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 282).”
Jesus corrected Martha on both of her misunderstandings: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.” Jesus wants Martha to know that her belief is not an abstract theoretical idea anymore; but actually is true in Jesus. Let’s note exactly what Jesus is saying here: In other words, it reads like this: I am the resurrection. I am the life. Although, resurrection and life are similar things, Jesus is not being repetitive here. Because Jesus is the resurrection; there is a future day, even if we die that we will be resurrected. 2 Corinthians 1:22 says He, “set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” And because Jesus is the life, those of us who now live and believe will come to life. Jesus said in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Not only is eternal life a future thing; but it is also a ‘right now’ thing. Do you believe this? Has your faith moved from knowledge of things to come, to a personal intimacy with Jesus? And if not, is the Holy Spirit active in your life to make your relationship with Jesus real to you?
When we commit to the Lord in belief; we commit both morally, refusing to compromise with any other; and we commit spiritually, willing to be dominated by only the Lord Jesus alone. We might feel like we are all alone sometimes, and that Jesus is not really there to help us. We may fail to recognize the ‘glory’ aspect of this story brought out in verse John 11:4; which says, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it (John 11:4).” God has placed His very reputation on the line to allow us the opportunity of faith. Now because the overall point of Jesus’ demonstration was power over death; did that mean Jesus did not love Lazarus and his family? No!! Absolutely not!! John 11:33 says, “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,….” You see, Jesus wept not for Lazarus, because Jesus knew he was going to be just fine; but for the grieving family who thought death was final. Jesus is here and He cares about your struggles and difficulties in faith! Emmanuel, God with Us! When we feel alone; “God’s silence is a silence of love. He wants us to ask the big questions. He wants us to pour our hearts out to him. He cares so much that he enters into our sorrows. He is not an impassible, stoic God. Rather, he feels our pain and weeps along with our weeping. He understands us better than we understand ourselves(R. Kent Hughes, John: That You May Believe, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 258).”
Outside of the story of Lazarus, we contemporary Christians need to determine what the story means for ourselves. We know that Jesus did what are called ‘sign miracles’ to authenticate who He was and what He came for. John 14:11 says, “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” But, have we denied Jesus’ ability to perform miracles today because of our theological beliefs. We should be very careful not to presume upon God’s will; which might include theatrical healing service productions. But, we should also be careful not to be confused and limit God’s power in our prayer life. Just because we don’t see the kind of miracles that Jesus performed everyday does not mean that God is not working. In fact, one of the greatest miracles today is the salvation of a soul. The disciples reflected upon this when they asked Jesus how it was possible. Genesis 6:5 describes the condition of peoples hearts after the fall; “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” So how is it that a heart in that condition can be transformed into a child of God? Jesus responded to the disciples about this: He said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible!”
Transition: In verse 39 of chapter 11; we might question why Jesus would have the stone moved away? “A word from Jesus could have taken away the stone as easily as a word raised Lazarus to life(H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., St. John, vol. 2, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 103).” But where divine power was not necessary; Jesus enlists the faith of those around him to accomplish what is necessary for God’s glory to be displayed. But Martha’s faith again objects to Jesus’ instructions, (and I love the KJV rendering) “Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days (John 11:39)”. “Martha reminds us of ourselves—a willingness to verbally proclaim biblical truth without applying it in our lives.(Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 218).”
What have you done in your life to overcome the barriers of your faith and trust? Is it the absence of Jesus that is the difficulty? Is it a barrier in your prayer life? Are you so concentrated on the fact of a future resurrection that you forgot about eternal life today? More time with Jesus is the answer to all of these questions!
I find it an important aspect of the story, that in John 11:45-46 it says, “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.” It is amazing that many of the ones who would be ready to stone Jesus changed their minds. I just wonder if they could of changed without the power of God in their lives. And then there were the tattle-tales….the ones who despite God’s good work would have Jesus put to death.
Maybe you are an unbeliever here today? There is more to life than might appear. It is not mere survival. Charles Simeon writes,“It must never be forgotten that God has caused all fulness to dwell in his Son, Jesus Christ; and that we must, by a continued exercise of faith, receive out of that fulness grace for gracey. It is by faith that we live, we stand, we walk, we are saved: in a word, “God has given us eternal life; but this life is in his Son: he therefore that hath the Son, hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God, hath not life(Simeon, Horae Homileticae: Luke XVII to John XII, vol. 13 (London: Holdsworth and Ball, 1833), 529).”
Conclusion: When Jesus asked Martha, Do you believe? Martha confessed, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” D.A. Carson says, “Her firm I believe (Gk. perfect, pepisteuka) reflects the state of her confident trust (cf. notes on 6:69). Her faith is a rich mixture of personal trust (fiducia) and of confidence that certain things about Jesus are true….(D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 414)” For us Christians today, our belief goes on beyond that confession! In this story, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life” so how is it that you reflect ‘resurrection and life’ into your everyday activity and action? Two short key excerpts sum up what I am trying to say today: coming from Ted Peters, book entitled Sin. He writes, “The temptation laid before the mother of us all (talking about Eve) is to mistrust God’s word, to doubt God’s promise. So Luther declares, “The root and source of sin is unbelief and turning away from God, just as, on the other hand, the source and root of righteousness is faith (69).” “Faith manifests itself to us as courage. If we lack a trusting faith, then insecurity is liable to give rise to fear and then frustration, despair, rage, aggression, and violence. Faith as trust can be directed at ourselves, at other people, or at God. God is the ultimate source of such faith, as the oft-repeated twenty-third Psalm testifies. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for you are with me; and your rod and your staff—they comfort me (66).”
We began with Habakkuk; let us also conclude with the resolution of his cries for help: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (3:17–18)”