Summary: To examine how Jesus is the resurrection and the life
SBC Philippi 3/26/06 am; last morning sermon at Philippi
Rev. Jeff Simms
Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead
Primary Purpose: To understand that Jesus has the power to raise us from the dead as he did Lazarus.
We now come to one of the most amazing chapters in the gospel of John. It is one of the greatest miracles that Jesus ever did in his earthly ministry. It is also a foreshadowing of what he will do one day not only for Lazarus, but for all who believe in his name. Jesus reveals himself to the people as the “resurrection and the life”. We will divide this chapter into four sections. Then I want to go back and focus on the conversation that Jesus had with Martha.
The first section is verses 1-6 called “Jesus receives a request”. Jesus was some distance away in Galilee and news came from Mary and Martha that Lazarus his friend who he loved is sick. At this point, probably Lazarus has already died by the time news has come to Jesus. Notice that the sisters don’t tell Jesus what to do (verse 3). They aren’t bold enough to order Jesus around. They simply tell him the facts knowing that he will do the right thing. But, Jesus does something they probably did not expect, he stays where he is for two more days. As the reader of Scripture, we can see the reason for this without experiencing the heartache of waiting for God to act here. Jesus tells us the reason for the delay. He says the purpose of this death is so that God will be glorified. Jesus will get more glory from it by his waiting, so Jesus does nothing for two days.
The second section is verses 7-17 called “Jesus Responds to the Request”. Jesus’ life was threatened back in and around Jerusalem. Bethany is less than two miles from Jerusalem and is filled with Jews who want to kill Jesus. You notice in the story when Martha finally does come and speak with Jesus that when she goes back to tell Mary she goes back secretly. She doesn’t want those who hate Jesus to know he is near. She is trying to protect him in her own way. Thomas was worried also. Thomas should get some credit here because he clearly believes that there is great danger in going back, but is willing to follow Jesus back there. Jesus response to Thomas is that the safest place for him to be is in doing the work of his father.
Jesus knows something the disciples don’t already know. So, when he refers to Lazarus as asleep then they think he means he is improving from his sickness. Jesus then tells them plainly, “No, he’s not asleep, he is dead.” Jesus and other passages in the Bible often refer to death as sleep. This isn’t because dead is an unconscious state, but rather because sleep is a temporary time of rest and renewal for the person. The body is only temporarily in the grave, one day it will be raised up and glorified also.
The third section here has to do with verses 18-38 called “Jesus responds to the cries of his people”. Jesus knew that he was going to raise up Lazarus from the very beginning, but when he reaches the grave he sees the heartache of dead in the eyes of Martha and Mary and all those around here. Jesus hates death and the pain it causes. He came to abolish death and hell. That is why I think he cries because of the pain and heartache that death was causing here. They had been in mourning for four days for Lazarus. Even though he was going to raise him up, one day Lazarus’ body would die again.
In another story with Mary and Martha we saw that Mary was at the feet of Jesus while Martha was busy in the kitchen. Martha gets a lot of flax for being too busy. But, Martha’s confession in this chapter is the more remarkable because when she says it Lazarus is still in the tomb. She seems to have no idea that Jesus is going to raise Lazarus up. She seems to hold out some sense of hope because of what she says in verse 22 “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus has appeared to be late on the scene. Both Martha and Mary say that if Jesus had been there he wouldn’t have died. But, when confronted with what she believes she says without hesitation “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.” She is saying that despite the fact that Jesus hasn’t healed Lazarus, but allowed him to died. This isn’t something that has just come to her, but notice she says, “I have believed” meaning that she has believed this for some time now.