Summary: Jesus involved the people in the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead by asking them to do 2 things: "remove the grave clothes" and "loose him and let him go". These words have practical application for us today.
Removing Stones Instead of Casting Stones
38Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39“Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”
41So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
45Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
Intro: The sickness and eventual death of Lazarus teach us many things.
1. One, they teach us that bad things do happen to good people.
a) A common misperception is that bad things happen only to bad people and good things happen only to good people.
b) Jesus dispelled this theory when he encountered a man that had been born blind.
· His disciples asked – “Master who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind?”
· John 9:3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
c) Lazarus had not become sick because of some sin in his life. He wasn’t sick because of a lack of faith on his part.
· Lazarus became sick and he even died, in order to display the glory of God.
d) Yes, it’s true, God does discipline those He loves. Sometimes the pain and problems we face in this life are the direct result of our disobedience.
· But just as true, is the fact that sometimes, the negative stuff we encounter is nothing more than God using us to glorify His name.
2. There was no question – Jesus loved Lazarus. His sisters knew it. Even all the neighbors who gathered to mourn his death knew it as well.
a) I mention that, because troubling times have a way of causing us to question God’s love for us.
· Too often, we’re tempted to believe that He somehow loves us less during those difficult times of life. But that’s so far from the truth - as the death of Lazarus clearly points out.
3. The death of Lazarus also teaches us something about prayer, especially prayer that goes unanswered.
a) Could Jesus have responded to the request of Mary and Martha and arrived in time to heal Lazarus before he died?
b) There’s not doubt He could have – but He chose not to, because He had something much greater in store that He wanted to reveal to them.
c) Again this should encourage our hearts to know, that when we ask for something within His will and He doesn’t respond, then He must have something greater in store either for us, or for others through us.
4. When you face difficult times, don’t assume that God is judging or disciplining you, He may be pruning you to be more fruitful, or He maybe using you to glorify His name.
a) when you face such times, and we all will, look to Him for understanding, go to Him for grace to sustain you.
5. When you face difficult times – don’t conclude, that He doesn’t love you. Remember, nothing can separate you from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
a) during such times, ask Him to make that love more real to you than ever.
6. When you face trying times, and your prayers seem to fall on deaf ears, don’t give up on prayer and don’t give up on God, He may just have a greater miracle in store for you or those around you.
7. I could spend the rest of this message expounding on these and other truths that the sickness and death of Lazarus teach us about God and our relationship with Him.