HG118 John 11:1-44 Raising of Lazarus

Harmony of the Gospels  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  23:08
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John 11:1–44 NKJV
1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” 12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” 17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” 28 And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. 34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” 37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”


As you know I have planned the 3 years in the mornings to be in chronological order going through the four gospels and so it is that I am coming to this passage today. I am sensitive today because of the news about Phil. A lot of this sermon was written already as I first preached on this passage nearly ten years ago. I get a sense of the timing of God for these things. But let us remember that Sunday by Sunday God speaks with us from His Word and hopefully through what I say or in the interactions that go on between us. The message God speaks is often to us is to us corporately together as the body of Christ here in this place and He also speaks to us individually.


Today we are introduced to this wonderful family. We have met the women before - remember Mary and Martha, Mary the one that sat at Jesus feet and Martha the one that ran around the kitchen getting het up. This home was one of great hospitality and our Lord loved being in their home. It was the place where Jesus could go and let His hair down for a while and relax. And this is necessary for all of us. A time apart from the relentlessness of life. I was grateful when in my early 20s a family gave me the key to their house. Their hospitality and heart was enormous and I am grateful to this day for them.
Now Jesus is somewhere to the north when He receives word that the one He loves is sick not even mentioning him by name. The one He loved. And Jesus knew that they meant Lazarus. The sisters message said nothing of coming for they simply assumed that He would immediately set forth for their place. They knew He would because of His great compassion. Lazarus was His friend.


In fact He loved this family so much He stayed right where He was. What?! The love here is that highest of loves, the Greek word, Agape. An unstoppable love that knows no bounds. You would have thought that He would have set off immediately but His love said stay. This is hard to digest. How is this love? How is this care? Sometimes it is difficult to believe in the goodness of God. It is very evident from this passage that His inaction was based on His love. His love caused this delay in action. No matter how it seems He knows our situation and He cares.
Preaching the Word: John—That You May Believe Introductory Background to the Miracle (vv. 1–16)

When delays and hardships come to us, we cannot expect to know all the details, all the answers, all the reasons. If we spent all our time asking why, we would be using our time very unprofitably.


Mary and Martha were wondering where Jesus was. Why hadn’t He come? Hope gave way to despair. Soon the sickness led to the death of Lazarus. And the sisters changed their conversation and often said in the last three days: if Jesus had been here he wouldn’t have died. if Jesus had been here he wouldn’t have died.
Where are you Lord? You’re too late! Where were you when my loved one got sick? Where were you when my loved one died?
Do you think it wrong to ask questions of God? Do you think you are going to offend Him? Is God not God and able to cope with the anguish poured out to Him? Read the Psalms, so many are laments. Where are you, Lord? Of course, God has to be held in proper respect but let it out to Him. He knows what you are going through.
And now Jesus comes. And the refrain is repeated to Him: If you had been here we would not be grieving.
This is where the sixth ‘I AM’ statement in John comes
John 11:25–26 NKJV
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
And Martha’s response is just as equal to Peter’s confession of faith; she declares Him to be Jesus the Christ. What a remarkable faith despite her overwhelming grief.


Mary now comes to meet with Jesus. If you had been here. Is this where we are? If only. If only this or that had happened but, of course, we are only seeing things from our own perspective, we cannot see the whole outworking of God in our lives. We all question God’s purpose sometimes. Sometimes we cannot see a way through. The Lord’s delays are not His denials. He loves us. Sometimes there is a higher purpose that transcends our needs.
If you had been here...
The sense of desolation that occurs when you are losing or have lost a loved one and the resulting emotions incapacitates us and makes us incapable of thinking in straight lines. Grief has many stages, all of which we need to work through: shock and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance and hope. We need to remember these when we are with those who are going through such a time and treat people delicately.
Unless we are in relationship with God we would not know that we shouldn’t rush over and do the thing that is most natural because we could end up being a bull in a China shop (.6). We all have to come to terms on our own and if we jump in we may short-cut the healing process and leave deeper wounds and maybe never come to terms with what has happened.
When Martha and Mary said “if you had been here” it simply was not right for Him to be there. The plan of God is not always obvious to us but it does not mean that God is not at work.


In this situation we see that Jesus groaned and was troubled. He took the grief of Martha and Mary to heart. He was also perturbed by the crowd’s grief, their criticism, their unbelief, by the loudness of the professional mourners. And He was moved to do something about it.
Jesus is touched by the feeling of our infirmities
Hebrews 4:15–16 NKJV
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus wept. The shortest verse in the Bible and clearly one of intense emotion reflected in an earlier prophecy of Him: (Isaiah 53:5) A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Preaching the Word: John—That You May Believe The Lord and Mary (vv. 30–37)

We have a great God and Savior who loves us, who delays and stays away, who allows us to go through ultimate extremity, and then he comes and enters into our sorrow. He enters the sorrow that he could have prevented in such a way that he gasps, his whole body shudders, and he begins to weep. That is the perspective Christ wants us to have. If you are hurting, he wants you to know that he weeps with you. Jesus is not a stoic, impassible God.

Preaching the Word: John—That You May Believe The Lord and Mary (vv. 30–37)

we know his delays are for our ultimate development. We also know that when affliction comes, we can pour our hearts out to him honestly and with no fear of rejection or reprisal, and he will weep with us.


What of those who said; he could have prevented Lazarus from dying? They had already taken for granted that Jesus can heal and there was an expectation that he should have done it; if you have it in your power why didn’t you? This is the same sort of conundrum we have when considering suffering in the world – it is in God’s power to stop it so why doesn’t He? We know that Jesus heals, why wasn’t He here and why did he not heal the man that he clearly loved.
There was many times when we do not have the answers. God is love. And it is to this we must cling. And to our prayers God answers every one with a yes, a no, or a wait. We always want the answers now but a day with the Lord is as a thousand and a thousand like a day.


It was June 18th, 1815, the Battle of Waterloo. The French under the command of Napoleon were fighting the Allies (British, Dutch, and Germans) under the command of Wellington. The people of England depended on a system of semaphore signals to find out how the battle was going. One of these signal stations was on the tower of Winchester Cathedral.
Late in the day it flashed the signal: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N--D-E-F-E-A-T-E-D- -." Just at that moment one of those sudden English fog clouds made it impossible to read the message. The news of defeat quickly spread throughout the city. The whole countryside was sad and gloomy when they heard the news that their country had lost the war. Suddenly the fog lifted, and the remainder of the message could be read. The message had four words, not two. The complete message was: "W-E-L-L-I-N-G-T-O-N- - -DE-F-E-A- T-E-D- - -T-H-E- - -E-N- E-M-Y!" It took only a few minutes for the good news to spread. Sorrow was turned into joy, defeat was turned into victory!
Even death is swallowed up in victory because of what Jesus did at the cross. The joy of such a situation is put before us when Jesus cried out at the grace: Lazarus, come forth!
Lazarus did come forth and he appeared like one in those old Frankenstein movies like a mummy or like a zombie.
One day we will also hear the voice of the Master calling our names. One day we will go to be with Jesus.
Jesus said: I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus has the power to give life, as in creation, he has power over death and he has power over Satan.
Jesus had no funeral sermons! Death cannot exist where He is. The funeral became a party!


The irony of raising Lazarus is that it signed his own death warrant. This whole story alludes to Jesus’ own death and resurrection. The last fear, the last worry, the last stronghold – death has been overcome – Jesus won.
Whatever happens in life we have to lift our views higher. All sorrow will give way to joy for the believer.
Revelation 21:4 NKJV
4 And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
In the meantime there are going to be things that happen in life we do not understand. We are going to get answers to prayers in the mercy of God and because He is the God of the impossible. There are other times when our faith will be stretched to breaking point either because God has said no or there appears to be no answer.
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.
No matter how it seems God is love. In due course God brings joy and resurrection life to our souls. In trusting Him we find peace and joy no matter how long we have to wait for God.


Romans 8:38–39 NKJV
38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


Hughes, R. K. (1999). John: that you may believe. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
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