Summary: We want to feel safe. But Jesus has other goals in mind.
WARM AND SAFE: It’s a human instinct to want to feel safe.
- There is a part of all of us that wants to feel safe.
- We get anxious and concerned when we feel unsafe.
- In fact, for many of us, feeling safe becomes the goal. We take out all kinds of insurance to keep our financial status secure. (I’m not saying insurance is bad – I’m just noting what motivates it.) We pick neighborhoods to live in where we’ll be safe. (Again, not saying that a good neighborhood is bad – I’m just noting what motivates us to move there.)
- The problem becomes when this desire to feel safe takes too high a place in our lives and begins to crowd out more important goals. This is what we want to talk about this morning.
- This chapter is mostly about the resurrection of Lazarus. That story is central to the book of John. In fact, chapter 11 is the crucial turning point of John.
- But this chapter also has some other things going on. Here at the beginning we have this story about feeling safe. This story finds a bookend at the end of the chapter. We’ll talk about what exactly that looks like later in the sermon.
1. MARY AND MARTHA BELIEVED THEY WERE SAFE BECAUSE JESUS WOULD KEEP TROUBLE AWAY.
- John 11:1-3, 5.
- Let’s start with the first three verses. Lazarus is sick. That’s a problem. In fact, it’s a big problem because it’s apparently bad enough that they feel the need to send a message to Jesus.
- Even with the sickness, though, I think their message gives us the understanding that they believed they were safe. Jesus could handle this! And Jesus would handle this!
- Even though trouble had entered into their lives, Jesus would push it away before it became anything really bad.
- One of the reasons we believe that God will do such things for us is that He loves us.
- Look at the mutual love expressed in these verses.
- v. 2 – This is a woman who had displayed extraordinary love and devotion to Jesus.
- v. 5 – Even more significantly, the passage explicitly tells us that Jesus loves these three people. So it is not an issue of lack of love or care.
- Many of believe that’s God’s job. It’s His job to keep trouble away from us. It’s His job to keep us safe.
- We presume that’s what we signed up for. When we have a problem, we take it to God and He keeps the trouble away.
- And yet that’s not what happens. Lazarus dies. Jesus doesn’t keep the trouble away. And it’s not an incidental oversight. He intentionally does not show up in time or do the miracle of healing at a distance as soon as He hears. He has something else as His focus.
2. THE DISCIPLES BELIEVED THEY WERE SAFE IF THEY STAYED AWAY FROM TROUBLE.
- John 11:7-8, 16.
- Now we go a little later in the story to another group, but we again have the issue of being safe.
- In vv. 7-8, Jesus tells His disciples that He wants to go back to Judea. In reading casually through the story, you automatically connect the request from Mary and Martha with Jesus’ call to go back to Judea. (And that, in fact, was the right place to go to see Lazarus.)
- But apparently that wasn’t the first thought of the disciples. Note that v. 6 says this conversation with the disciples happens two days after the message from Mary and Martha. It makes sense to presume that the disciples saw Jesus continuing to hang around where they were despite the urgent message about Lazarus and thought, “He probably just spoke a word and Lazarus was healed.” Or that Jesus knew it wasn’t as bad as the report said and that He had time. It wouldn’t make any sense to them that Jesus would intentionally let His dear friend die.
- I say all of that to say that when Jesus says in v. 7 that He wants to go back to Judea, I don’t think the disciples immediately thought about the situation with Lazarus. No, I believe they initially thought about the violent opposition He had recently encountered there. That is borne out by their response in v. 8. They don’t want to go back there – they know the danger – and so they object.
- They believe they are safe if they stay away from trouble.
- This shows up also in the resigned statement by Thomas in v. 16 that they are going to go die with Him. I do not believe this is said enthusiastically or boldly – I think it’s said as a concession. “Well, we’re with Jesus and He’s going there. I guess we’re going to die. Let’s go get it over with.”