The Lord's Great Miracle of Life
The Lord's Great Miracle of Life
The Gospel of John
John 11:1-44 (Reading vs. 1-15)
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - September 16, 2018
(Revised November 19, 2019)
*Please open your Bibles to John 11, and we will begin to study one of our favorite miracles. It's the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Tonight, we will cover a lot of Scripture to get an overview of this miracle. Then over the next few weeks we will take a closer look to see the glory of God in this passage, to see how the disciples followed Jesus back into danger, and to see how the Lord led this family through the valley of the shadow of death.
*This great miracle is only found here in the Gospel of John. It took place just a few months before Jesus died on the cross for our sins. And it teaches us that we should always trust in the Lord. Let's begin by reading John 11:1-15.
*Who do you trust? I trust my wife. And I know many good, godly Christians I would trust with my money, my children and my life. But standing over and above all, we can trust in the Lord our God! The cross of Jesus Christ proves that forever. I trusted Jesus as my Lord and Savior over 44 years ago. And though I have failed Him many times in those years, He has never failed me once. And He has blessed me beyond measure.
*We can always trust in the Lord, and we should!
1. FIRST: TRUST JESUS WHEN LIFE IS A MYSTERY.
*One of the greatest truths about God is that He loves us. The Bible confirms this truth to us in many places, but most famously in John 3:16 where Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."
*God surely loves us, but we are frail creatures living in a fallen world, and we will still have to go through hard times in life. There will be mysteries in life. Sometimes it will seem like the Lord has let us down and we won’t understand how God is working in our lives.
*That's what happened here with Lazarus and his sisters. The Lord loved them for sure, but He left them in despair. We can see the Lord's love starting in vs. 1-5:
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.
*God's Word goes out of the way to confirm the love that Jesus had for these people. They were very close friends. Verse 2 mentions one of what must have been many times Jesus visited in their home. In vs. 3, the sisters sent a message to Jesus saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.'' And vs. 5 plainly says, "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."
*We also see the Lord's love down in vs. 32-36, when Lazarus' other sister Mary ran to Jesus:
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!''
*Jesus surely loved Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus, but He left them in despair, at least for a while, and it was a mystery. Consider vs. 6. There God's Word tells us that when Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, the Lord stayed two more days in the place where He was. That sounds like a very odd thing to say, just the opposite of what we would expect. Not: "He loved them, so He got back there as quickly as He could," but "He loved them, so He stayed away."
*We will find similar mysteries many times in the Bible: Why did Abraham and Sarah have to be so old when Isaac was born? Why did the Children of Israel have to stay in Egypt for four hundred years? Why did that man in John 9 have to be born blind? Why him? -- Why us? Sometimes, we are left to wonder why.
*I remember Pastor Mike Barnett's dad taking an early retirement from Exxon. The reason why was so that he and his wife, Linda, could do mission work out west for the North American Mission Board. They went, and the work was going great. New churches were started. People were getting saved. Then, at the age of 51, Linda Barnett was diagnosed with advanced cancer that cut her life short.
*Why did that happen to Mike's parents just when they were seeing great progress in their new service to the Lord? I can't tell you why. But I can tell you that God sent them special help at their lowest point. Mike's mother was in a dreary depression. She didn't feel like eating or even getting out of bed.
*Their TV was broken, and Mike's dad decided he would get it fixed, so she would have something to take her mind off her sickness. He called a repair shop, and sometime later a man arrived at their house. The repairman walked into the room with his toolkit, pulled the TV out from the wall, and sat behind it.
*Mike's dad couldn't see what he was doing. After about 5 minutes he stuck his head out from behind the TV and said, "Sir, your heart is troubled, isn't it?"
*Mike's dad told him about the struggle his wife was having with cancer. Then the repairman went to a chair in the living room and started talking to Mike's dad about the love of God. He quoted Scripture and spoke with such power that Mr. Barnett was greatly encouraged. Mike's dad was so encouraged that he asked the man to wait a minute while he went into the bedroom to get his wife. Mike's mom came out and lay on the couch while the man talked for 30-45 minutes about the love of God.
*When the man finished, he said, "Your TV is fixed." Then he walked out the door. Mike's dad never saw the man again. And he never got a bill for the work. They believed that God might have sent an angel to them that day, and that certainly could be true.
*The cancer was a mystery, but God sent them the help they needed, and they kept on trusting in the Lord. Sometimes we will have to wonder why.
2. BUT WE CAN TRUST THE LORD WHEN LIFE IS A MYSTERY, AND TRUST HIM WE ARE IN AGONY.
*The death of someone we love always hurts, and here God shows us a family going through this terrible loss. By vs. 17-21, Jesus and His disciples had almost gotten to Lazarus' house, and God's Word says:
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. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house.
21. Then Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."
*Martha and Mary were in the deep agony of grief. Their beloved brother Lazarus was dead. Verse 17 tells us that he had been dead four days by the time Jesus got there. And we can see great pain in Martha's complaint in vs. 21, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died!"
*She went to the Lord with a complaint. But the important thing is: She went to the Lord. God knows our hearts. We can't hide anything from Him anyway. And we ought to trust Him enough to take our complaints to Him.
*Now, some Christians believe it's wrong for us to grieve over the death of a loved one. And in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 Paul did say, "I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope." But that Scripture doesn't mean we won't grieve at all. It means that we never have to grieve like hopeless people without the Lord.
*Devoted Christians in the Bible certainly grieved. We see a clear example in Acts 20, when the church leaders from Ephesus realized it was the last time they would see Paul on earth. In vs. 37, "they all wept freely, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him." And in vs. 38, they were "sorrowing most of all for the words which he spoke, that they would see his face no more."
*We find the same kind of sorrow back in Acts 8, just after the deacon Stephen gave up his life for the Lord. First listen to Acts 7:59-60:
59. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.''
60. Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin.'' And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
*Then Acts 8:2 says: "Devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him." These men were suffering. We can understand that. It hurts to lose someone you love. And the pain of grief is just the natural result of losing someone we love. We usually don’t grieve over people we don’t know or love. Where there is no love, there is no grief. And since grief is a natural result of love, then we don’t have to feel guilty about our grief, as if it shows weak faith or some flaw in our character.
*The Christians in Acts 20 and Acts 8 were not disobeying God when they grieved. Acts 8:2 tells us that those men were "devout" men. They were good, reverent men, devoted to the Lord. But they made great lamentation over Stephen's death. The word picture there is beating your chest in grief. Their weeping was loud and passionate.
*Sure, they knew that Stephen was in heaven with Jesus, but he was gone from them. They loved Stephen, and they were already missing him. God didn’t condemn these men for their grief, and He won’t condemn us.
*Wherever there is love, there will be grief, even when we are sure that our loved one is safe and secure in Heaven. Vickie Arthur's godly dad died in October 2005, and she expressed this sorrow the best way I have ever heard. Vickie came into my office a few days later and said, "I know he's gone to Heaven. But he's gone." And that's what hurts, but we can trust God to help us when we hurt the worst.
Dr. James Dobson gave this testimony. "I may lack the words to describe what occurs to the faithful in times of personal crisis. It is virtually inexpressible. Let it be said, simply, that there is often a quiet awareness in the midst of chaos that the Lord is there and He is still in control. Millions of people have reported this persistent presence when life was systematically unraveling. On other occasions, He permits us to see evidence of His love at the critical moment of need.
I recall today that tragic time in 1987 when my four friends were killed in a private plane crash. We had been together the night before, and I had prayed for their safety on the journey home. They took off early the next morning on their way to Dallas, but never made it. I can never forget that telephone call indicating the wreckage had been found in a remote canyon--but there were no survivors! I loved those men like brothers, and I was staggered by the loss.
I was asked by the four families to speak briefly at their funeral. The untimely deaths of such vibrant and deeply loved men seemed to scream for an explanation. Where was God in their passing? Why did He let this happen? Why would He take such godly men from their families and leave them reeling in grief and pain? There were no answers to these agonizing questions, and I did not try to produce them. But I did say that God had not lost control of their lives, and that He wanted us to trust Him when nothing made sense. His presence was very near.
As we exited the sanctuary that day, I stood talking with loved ones and friends who had gathered to say good-bye. Suddenly, someone pointed to the sky and exclaimed, 'Look at that!' Suspended directly above the steeple was a small rainbow in the shape of a smile. There had been no precipitation that day and no more than a few fleecy clouds. Yet this beautiful little rainbow appeared only above the church. We learned later that it had been hovering there through most of the funeral service. It was as though the Lord was saying to the grieving wives and children, 'Be at peace. Your men are with Me, and all is well. I know you don't understand, but I want you to trust Me. I'm going to take care of you, and this rainbow is a sign to remember. . .'
Cynics and nonbelievers will say the rainbow and the plane are coincidences that have no spiritual significance. They are entitled to their opinion. But for every member of four wounded families, and certainly for me, the Lord used that phenomenon to convey His peace to us all. He has fulfilled His promise to take care of those four courageous widows and their children. (1)
*Just like Dr. Dobson, those four families and their friends, Martha and Mary were in the deep agony of grief. One day, we will be too, but we can surely trust the God of all comfort to give us the help we need.
3. WE CAN TRUST IN THE LORD WHEN WE ARE IN AGONY, AND TRUST HIM FOR HIS ABILITY.
*Jesus surely loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus, so of course He was sympathetic to their troubles. But the great news is that Jesus also has the ability to help like no one else can.
*Martha and Jesus both affirmed this truth in vs. 21-25:
21. Then 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.
*Then Jesus proved His ability a little while later when they went to the graveside. In vs. 39-44:
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 grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go.''
*Jesus said, "Lazarus, come forth!'' and of course, he did. But that was just a little touch of the Lord's ability. I once heard that Jesus called Lazarus by name, because if He didn't, every person in that cemetery would have come back from the dead! There was no way that the grave could hold Lazarus!
*Death couldn’t keep Lazarus in, and death couldn’t keep Jesus in when He died on the cross for our sins! That's why Peter said this when he preached on the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 2:22-24:
22. "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know
23. Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
24. whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it."
*The Amplified Bible says, "God raised (Jesus) up, liberating Him from the pangs of death, seeing that it was not possible for Him to continue to be controlled or retained by it." Jesus Christ has all power over death and the grave! And He gives eternal life to all who receive Him as Lord and Savior. That’s the victory we have right now, if we have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
*But let me ask you: How hard do you think it was for Jesus to call Lazarus out of the grave? It was easy as pie, easier than calling your dog to come to you, and a lot easier than calling a two-year-old child to you. The Lord didn't have to struggle or strain. He didn't work up a sweat.
*It was easy for Jesus to call Lazarus back from physical death for a while. But overcoming our eternal death was the hardest thing that has ever been done. That's because the Son of God had to humble Himself to become a mortal man and die on the cross for our sins. But we know that our Risen Savior has now defeated our eternal death forever! And this is our greatest comfort when death comes close to us.
*The greatest demonstration of the Lord's ability was when Jesus came back from the dead, never to die again!
4. JESUS IS THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE, SO WE CAN TRUST IN HIS ABILITY, AND TRUST HIM FOR OUR ETERNITY.
*Unless the Lord comes back first, our physical bodies are going to die. But Jesus gives us the life that will last forever! That's why in vs. 26 Jesus could say, "Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. . ." Then the Lord added that all important question: "Do you believe this?"
*In vs. 27 Martha gave the right answer, the answer that everyone should give to Jesus: "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
*Have you believed in Jesus? Have you trusted in the Lord to save you for all eternity? Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, because He is full of compassion for people, and to prove that He has divine power over death. But as Jesus brought Lazarus back to life, He was getting closer to His own death, ever closer to the cross.
*And Jesus didn't come into this world to save us from earthly suffering. He came to save us from our sins! So the greatest miracle came when Jesus took the punishment for every sinful thing we've ever done. The greatest miracle came when Jesus rose again, victorious forever over death. The greatest miracle comes when we open our hearts to receive Jesus Christ, and trust Him to save our souls. Salvation is the greatest miracle that can ever happen to us, because salvation is the only miracle that lasts forever! Have you trusted in Jesus Christ to save you for eternity?
*Let me tell you about the triple miracle that happened to Wesley's papaw Breard. Early on December 1, 2016, Breard went duck hunting with his son, Doyle, grandson Wesley, and two other buddies. Around 8:30, they stopped to eat some sausage they cooked. Papaw got sick right after that. Wesley could tell something was wrong when his papaw stood up in the duck blind. Breard told them he felt uncomfortable, and sat back down on the bench.
*About a minute later they thought he was snoring, but Papaw was gurgling his last breath, and when Doyle nudged him, Papaw didn't respond. They laid him down and started CPR, while Wesley called 911. Within about 20 seconds they got him back to breathing. Wesley was giving 911 directions on how to get to the duck blind. It's close to the Prairion boat ramp, about 25-30 minutes from St. Francis Hospital.
*To save time, they decided to get Papaw out of the duck blind and back to the gate, and they never could have done it without those two extra buddies there that day. They had to lower Breard down the hatch hole, 7 feet down into the boat.
*By God's grace it had just rained that week, so they were able to pull the boat right up to the bank. It took about 15 minutes to get Papaw to the gate, and about five minutes later the ambulance showed up. Dr. Keith White told the family it was a miracle Breard even made it to the hospital.
*Breard had an aneurysm. His aorta artery had stretched out from about an inch in diameter to the size of an eggplant. He also lost 6 units of blood. Dr. White said only 2% of people in his condition even make it to the hospital.
*But for years the family had been praying for Papaw. They were so concerned about his salvation. They often tried to talk to him about it, but Breard refused. The one time Papaw talked to our Katie, he said, "I just can't believe in something I can't see."
*He only had a 50-50 chance of making it in surgery, but God brought him through. I can't describe how concerned the family was about Breard's salvation. A couple of days later, Katie called, and she prayed the most passionate, tearful prayer I have ever heard anyone pray for someone to be saved.
*Breard slowly began to improve, but it was hard to talk to him, because he was in and out so much. He could only stay alert for a couple of minutes before dropping back off to sleep. But I could tell there was something different about him.
*On December 13th, I briefly talked to Breard about how God had blessed him with a miracle. Of course, he knew that already. Then I talked to him about Jesus, His love, and the cross. I knew Breard didn't have the strength to pray on his own. So I told Him if he wanted to trust in Jesus, I would say the words for him and he could pray in his heart.
*He firmly said, "Whatever," but not in the negative way people sometimes do today. Papaw's "whatever" was saying he was willing to do whatever he needed to do to be saved. And he did call on the Lord to save Him! Before I left, we prayed again, and as strongly as he could, Papaw said, "Amen!"
*He has slowly continued to improve since then. Papaw actually wanted to be dedicated to the Lord when our grandson John Luke was on December 18th! The day before the baby dedication, Papaw told his family about his other miracle. Doyle and his sister Sheila were in visiting with their dad, and Papaw started mumbling.
*Then he said, "Y'all just don't know what I've been through. The kids said, "Dad what do you mean? Papaw replied, "I've been to hell." (Not that he was suffering in hell, but that he was close enough to see it.)
*His stunned son Doyle replied, "Well the Lord must have snatched you up." And Papaw said, "I've seen Heaven too. I've seen the Lord. I just can't explain it. I can't describe it."
*Doyle said that you could tell Papaw was really struggling to put into words what heaven looks like. He kept saying, "It's just amazing. It's just beautiful." Last week, when he talked to Wesley's sister Meleah, Papaw talked about light, and prisms of infinite colors, and seeing his life full circle. He also gave praise to Doyle and Wesley for being patient with him, and always trying to share God's Word with him.
*Three great miracles: Not dying when he should have. A man who said, "I just can't believe in something I can't see," getting close enough to see the horrors of hell and the glories of heaven. And the greatest miracle of all: Getting saved!
*I've known 5 or 6 people who got close enough to see heaven and then come back, but I've never met anyone who has seen hell. Why did God do that? Much of it is a mystery, but it was grace! It was God's amazing grace! It was prayer. And it was the love of God shown on the cross of Jesus Christ.
*On August 25, 2018 I got to help baptize Breard in his son's swimming pool. His pastor was on one side, and I was on the other as we lowered him into the water. He is doing remarkably well for an 86-year-old man, especially after all he has been through, and best of all, he is ready to spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus.
*Are you ready? Put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ! He will give you the greatest miracle of all: Eternal life! Jesus will forgive you and save your soul forever! He will help you through the hardest times of life. And one day, He will take you all the way home to heaven.
*Call on the Lord to save you as we go to God in prayer. And do everything you can to help other people trust Him too
(1) WHEN GOD DOESN'T MAKE SENSE by Dr. James Dobson - Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. - Wheaton IL, Copyright 1993 - pp. 125-127