THE MOST IMPORTANT SIGN: Jesus has definitive power over death.
- John 11:17, 25-26, 47.
a. This is a sign.
- v. 47.
- Throughout John we see Jesus doing miracles as signs. This is not just a sign, but the most important sign.
- John 11 is the high point of the gospel, in a literary sense. It’s the middle chapter. After this event, things are definitely moving toward the cross. And, of course, a resurrection is pretty much the most impressive miracle you can do.
- Within that, we have Jesus making the “I am” statement, also pointing to the importance of this moment.
b. It had been four days, confirming beyond any doubt Lazarus’ death.
- v. 17 – four days.
- Some Jews believed back in that day that the spirit hovered near the body for three days. Although we have no Scriptural reason to believe that is true, it could be a reason that Jesus delayed.
- Going back to last week’s sermon, we know that Jesus deliberately delayed His return. His stated reason for doing so is that He wanted to bring glory to God. That happened through the resurrection of Lazarus and the fact that there was a delay increased the impact of the miracle.
c. Jesus claims to be the resurrection and the life.
- vv. 25-26.
- Here we have another two of His “I am” statements.
- Jesus says that He is the resurrection and the life. What exactly does He mean by that? Well, He immediately explains. The next phrase defines resurrection: “He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies.” So it is life beyond death.
- Then Jesus defines what He means by “life”: “. . . and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” After the resurrection we will have ongoing life and will never die.
d. Jesus brings back Lazarus as proof of His power.
- vv. 38-44.
- Even though Lazarus has been dead for four days, Jesus has the power to bring Him back. This is a clear sign of Jesus’ ability.
- This is not a full manifestation of what Jesus is promising, though. Note that a moment ago we mentioned that the second part (the “life” part) included the promise that He will never die. Lazarus, though he is brought back, will physically die someday. That’s why we refer to this as a “sign.” This is not the thing itself – it is a foreshadowing, a promise, a sign. The incredible power that Jesus manifests in being able to resurrect Lazarus is proof that we should take His even bigger promises at face value.
THREE ADDITIONAL COMFORTS:
1. JESUS KNOWS OUR RESPONSE TO DEATH DOESN'T ALWAYS ADD UP.
- John 11:22, 24 27, 39b.
- It’s difficult trying to make all of Martha’s statements add up. It’s tempting to try to make that happen somehow, but I think we should embrace her struggles as reminiscent of ours.
a. Martha does seem to think Jesus can raise Lazarus right now.
- v. 22, 24.
- First there is the somewhat hopeful statement from her in v. 22 that she believes Jesus will get whatever He asks from God the Father. But that is followed in v. 24 by her only being able to imagine that Lazarus will be raised on the last day.
- What’s odd about that is that Martha almost certainly knew about the miracle at Nain (Luke 7:11-17). Why wouldn’t she think He could do that again here?
b. She believes He is the Christ.
- v. 27.
- We might think she has doubts that He is the Christ, but she says that He is. It’s odd: she thinks He is the Christ but she doesn’t think He can do that.
c. She even tries to stop Jesus from performing the miracle.
- v. 39b.
- When Jesus calls for the stone to be rolled away, she objects.
- In all this, it’s easy to criticize Martha for her responses that don’t all add up. But that to me emphasizes the genuineness of this narrative. Two reasons:
a. It makes sense that she had not fully processed everything about Jesus, who He was, and what He could do.
- We have had 2,000 years of theological study to lean on in our assessment of the Christ, but not her. Jesus is still within His earthly ministry and no one really has Him totally figured out. It’s not a surprise that she doesn’t either.
b. It’s also reminiscent of our own confused, contradictory, mixed emotions when it comes to death.
- We want them to come back, then we say we’re glad they’ve gone on, then we want them to come back.
- I’ve talked to the family of a person who committed suicide and had them say, “I want to bring him back so I can kill him for doing this.”
- Death brings out a lot of contradictory emotions. It did for Martha and it does for us.
2. JESUS KNOWS WE HAVE UNANSWERED "WHAT IF" QUESTIONS.
- John 11:21-24, 32, 37.
- We have a lot of “what if” questions surrounding death and so did they.
a. Martha questions what Jesus did.
- vv. 21-24.
b. Mary questions what Jesus did.
- v. 32.
c. The crowd questions what Jesus did.
- v. 37.
- Death often leaves us with numerous unanswered questions:
a. Was there something I could have done differently that would have kept them here?
b. Was it inevitable that they die now?
c. How do I handle the unfinished business between us?
d. What do I do with all these emotions I’m feeling?
- I really like that Jesus gets these “what if” questions thrown at Him and He’s not angry about it or put off by it. He takes them in stride.
- That means, I think, that when we have questions of our own within our grief it’s ok to bring them to Him without fear of an offended response. I’m reminded of Abraham debating with the angel of the Lord about Sodom.
3. JESUS' POWER OVER DEATH DOES NOT DILUTE HIS COMPASSION FOR OUR GRIEF.
- John 11:33-36, 38.
- This is, to me, perhaps the most surprising thing in this whole passage: that Jesus cries.
a. Jesus weeps.
- vv. 33-36.
b. Jesus is deeply moved at the tomb.
- v. 38.
- In my imagination I can see Jesus saying instead, “C’mon, guys, just wait a minute!” or “Why don’t you believe in Me!”
- Instead Jesus offers concern at their grief. He is deeply moved by their grief.
- How encouraging this is.
A TINY BUT ENCOURAGING DETAIL: Jesus wanted to talk with Mary.
- John 11:28.
- Jesus was asking for her.
- I know this is a small thing. But as we deal with our uncertainties and confusions surrounding death and resurrection, the fact that Jesus called for Mary and wanted to hear from her, wanted to see her, wanted to help her – that’s great news.