John 11:1-6 - Part 1 -Tthe death of lazarus and its purposes

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"When you experience disappointments in your life, how do you respond?  Do you respond by blaming yourself or someone else?  Well, often we face disappointments where we don’t know how to respond, and we find ourselves hindered in our walk with the Lord.

Israel had fled the giant Goliath in great fear, but David calmly stood there and said, “who is the uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God (1Sam.17:26).  You know the rest of the story.  Israel prevailed that day.  The difference was one of perspective. 

Israel saw everything from ground level.  David saw everything from a divine perspective.  Our perspective makes all the difference.  We see the ground level perspective of Mary and Martha, and the divine perspective of Jesus.    That’s what I want to talk about today in this message, “Looking Beyond Our Disappointments."

A.                  the sickness of lazarus (11:1-3)

1.                   The Background (v.1-2). 

Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus and brother of Mary and Martha, lies sick in Bethany.  Jesus had said. “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”" (Matthew 8:20).  At this time, Jesus was being rejected by almost everywhere.  Apparently He was an unwelcome guest in most homes. He was walking about preaching and proclaiming that He was One with God, the Son of God Himself .  He was thought to be “mad” and devil-possessed (Mark 3:20-21; Luke 4:25). His own family was even having difficulty with Him at this time. 

 However, there was one family who always opened its home to Jesus when He was in and around Jerusalem—the family of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, who were brother and sisters.  Do you open your home to Jesus?  They lived in Bethany, a suburb about two miles outside Jerusalem. Their closeness to Jesus is the reason the sister’s felt so free to interrupt His evangelistic tour with the request to help their sick brother. Jesus’ great love for this family should be noted throughout this passage.

a)                  Mary and Martha.

(1)                 Mary Loved To Sit At Jesus’ Feet And Hear His Word (Luke 10:39, 42)
(a)                 Scripture records only one sentence spoken by Mary of Bethany (John 11:32), and even that wasn’t original: her sister Martha had already said the same thing (11:21)! But what Mary may have lacked in outspokenness, she more than made up for in devotion to Jesus. All three portraits of her in the Gospels show her at the Lord’s feet:

(i)                   As noted earlier, Mary sat at His feet, listening (Luke 10:38–42).

(ii)                 When Jesus came to Bethany after Lazarus’ death, Mary fell at His feet, completely broken over the tragedy (John 11:32).

(iii)                During a Passover meal just before Jesus’ death, Mary poured fragrant oil on His head and feet, and wiped His feet with her hair (Matt. 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8).  Mary had been influenced by an incident that had taken place earlier in Luke’s gospel (7:36-50).

(b)                On Each Of These Occasions, Mary Was Criticized By Others.

(i)                   But apparently she didn’t notice or didn’t care. Mary seemed to be a woman who made choices based on a COMMITMENT TO JESUS THAT WENT TO THE CORE OF HER BEING.  In return, Jesus defended her actions, giving her freedom to be His disciple.

(c)                 Mary demonstrates that preaching sermons or leading movements are not the only ways to follow Jesus. One can also show devotion by listening to the Lord’s voice and worshiping at His feet.


(2)                 Martha Welcomed Jesus Into Her House (Luke 10:38). 
(a)                 However, she was distracted with much serving, worried and troubled about many things (Luke10:38,40-41)
(b)                Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus as well (Luke 19:6)
(c)                 We Need To Welcome Jesus Our House (John 1:12; Revelation 3:20; Col.3:16; 1Thess.2:13).
(d)                Martha again is serving Jesus, but this time she did not forget what the Lord had told her earlier in Luke’s gospel.  Here attitude had changed.  

b)                  Lazarus (God has helped)—the brother of Mary & Martha

(1)                 John (11:43) tells about his death and resurrection at the command of Jesus.
(2)                 He Mentioned in John 12 after the resurrection miracle (John 12:1-2).  Because of the publicity surrounding this event, the chief priest plotted to kill Lazarus “because on account of Lazarus many believed in Jesus” (John 12:9–11).
(3)                 LAZARUS HAD BECOME A STAR WITNESS FOR JESUS.  I find that amazing because I find nothing in the Gospels outstanding about Lazarus.  Nothing is recorded about him saying anything, or perhaps doing anything worth recording.  Yet he ended up being one of the star witnesses for Jesus.  Why? 
(4)                 It’s Not In What Lazarus Did For Jesus, But What Jesus Did For Lazarus. 
(a)                 Lazarus Was Dead, Just As We Were Dead In Our Sins (Eph.2:1-10)
(b)                Jesus commanded Lazarus to “come forth” as we were (John 5:25-26)
(c)                 Jesus Commanded Them To Loose Him And Let Him Go (Col.3:1-17).
(d)                Lazarus’ Life Is Emblematic Of New Life In Christ: "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (2 Corinthians 5:17)

(i)                   Every believer’s life has been so changed that the only way it can be accounted for is the power of Christ (Romans 1:16; Acts 3:1-16).

(ii)                 If we have new life and are fellowshipping with Christ, we are great arguments for the Gospel of Jesus (2 Cor.3:2)

(e)                 All Believers Have Risen To Walk In The Newness Of Life: "that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Romans 6:4-6)

2.                  The Beckoning (v.3)

a)                  The sisters notify Jesus of this sickness.  

(1)                 Note: the sister’s make no request, or make any demand of Him, or ask Him to do anything. They simply make Him aware of their need, and know that because He loves and cares He will respond appropriately.
(a)                 So often in our prayers we demand that the Lord would heal the sick.
(b)                Yes, we are to call upon Him when we are sick (James 5:13-15).  However, we know that sometimes it is not God’s will to heal a person. 
(c)                 God’s Sovereignty and purposes always play a part in our lives (John 9:3)
(d)               “He whom You love”—“you love” means, “to love as a friend”.  Lazarus is loved by the Savior.  Paul said, “He loved me” (Gal. 2:20). John called himself the disciple whom Jesus loved. Peter declared that Jesus loves us. And by the way, He loves you and He loves me.  Anyone who is a child of God is one whom Jesus loves.
(2)                 The sisters either could have assumed, because of the Lord’s ability and His love for Lazarus, that He would immediately respond to their word about Lazarus’ illness and come.

B.                  the summary and purposes concerning lazarus and his sickness(11:4-16).  Jesus uses this sad event to overview the purpose for his earthly ministry. 

1.                  The First Purpose Of Lazarus’ Sickness Was To Glorify God (v.4).

a)                  Jesus permits this to happen because god will get the glory In It.  

(1)                 We need to learn that we are not the center of the universe—nor is our home, our church, our town. The headquarters of everything are in heaven, and everything is running for His glory. Nothing will come into our lives without His permission, and if He permits it, it is going to be for His glory.

b)                  Lazarus’ sickness was not for death.

(1)                 He was to die for the glory of God and Christ. He was sick, and he was to die so that the works of God could be demonstrated. Lazarus died so that...
(a)                 God could be glorified...         

(i)                   By showing His desire for man to have life

(ii)                 By proving His power to give life

(iii)                By showing His approval of Christ by which He proved that He really did love the world enough to send His Son to save the world

(b)                Christ could be glorified...

(i)                   By having the opportunity to do the work of God

(ii)                 By demonstrating God’s power

(iii)                By showing compassion

(iv)               By strengthening the belief of believers

(v)                 By leading unbelievers to believe

c)                  Jesus told Peter what kind of death he would die to glorify God  (John 21:15-19)

d)                  Dying to ourselves brings glory to God (Luke 9:23-26)

People in Jesus’ day knew what it meant to “take up” a cross. They saw many criminals bearing the cross to the place where they were to be executed, and they witnessed many of crucifixions, some even by the side of the roads that led in and out of the cities.

·                     The cross does not mean merely bearing one’s particular hardship in life.  The cross is always an instrument of death, not just an object to carry or bear.  

·                     The Christian is to die mentally and actively and daily. He is to let the mind of Christ, the mind of humbling himself to the point of death, be in him and fill his thoughts every day (Phil. 2:5-8; 2 Cor. 10:3-5).

·                     He is to put his will, his desires, his wants, his ambitions to death. In their stead, he is to follow Jesus and to do His will all day long.

·                     It takes positive, active behavior to will, to deny self, to take up one’s cross, to follow Christ.

There Are Several Ways The Believer Dies To Self. Romans 6:11-13 spells out the ways clearly.

(1)                 The Believer Reckons Or Counts Himself Crucified With Christ.

"Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin" (Romans 6:11a, NKJV)

"Knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin." (Romans 6:6, NKJV)

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20, NKJV)

(2)                 The Believer Reckons Or Counts Himself Dead To Sin, But Alive To God.

"Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:11, NKJV)

"Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." (1 Peter 4:1-2, NKJV)

(3)                 The Believer Does Not Let Sin Reign In His Body.

"Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts." (Romans 6:12, NKJV)

"Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry." (Colossians 3:5, NKJV)

(4)                 The Believer Does Not Yield His Bodily Members As Instruments Of Sin.

"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin (Romans 6:13a)

"For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live." (Romans 8:13, NKJV)

(5)                 The Believer Yields Himself To God—As Much As Those Who Are Alive From The Dead.

"Present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead." (Romans 6:13b, NKJV)

"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service." (Romans 12:1, NKJV)

"But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Romans 13:14, NKJV)

(6)                 The Believer Yields His Bodily Members As Instruments Of Righteousness.

"And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God." (Romans 6:13, NKJV)

"I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16, NKJV)

2.                  The Second Purpose Of Lazarus’ Sickness Was To Show Jesus’ Great Love (v.5).

a)                  In the hour of crisis and need, remember that God loves us. 

(1)               He loves you when you are sick, He loves you when you are well, He loves you all the time. You can’t keep Him from loving you. You may ask why He lets certain difficulties happen to you. I don’t know the reason, but I do know He loves you. He loves you whether or not you are a Christian. You can’t keep Him from loving you.

"Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you." (Jeremiah 31:3, NKJV)    

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends." (John 15:9-13, NKJV)

"For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God." (John 16:27, NKJV)

"And from Jesus Christ… To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood," (Revelation 1:5, NKJV)


3.                  Third Purpose Of Lazarus’ Sickness: To Show The Necessity For Waiting Upon God (v.6).

a)                  In our trials, sometimes God delays & we need to learn to wait upon God in times of crisis.

(1)                 Jesus was not waiting two days so that Lazarus would die and He could perform a great miracle.  Jesus knew that Lazarus was either already dead or that Lazarus was going to die on the very day the person brought word of Lazarus’ illness.  We know this because Lazarus had already been buried four days when Jesus arrived in Bethany (John 11:17, 39).  Jewish burial immediately followed death. The four days would be counted from...
(a)                 the day of travel by the messengers in bringing word to Jesus (John 11:3).
(b)                the two days needed for Jesus to complete His ministry (John 11:6).
(c)                 the day or two needed by Jesus to travel to Bethany (John 11:17).

(2)                 Martha thought it was to late (v.21) she believed that God could raise Him in the resurrection at the last day but not now.  God likes to put the circumstance that where, humanly nothing can be done, so that when it is accomplished all men will know that this is a work of God!  He gets the glory!
(3)                 The point is this: Martha and Mary were learning to wait upon God throughout the whole experience. In facing severe illness or death, there is no answer but to wait upon God. Jesus knows when to act.

b)                  We cannot dictate to God when to act nor how to act. Note two examples.

(1)                 Jesus’ own mother (John 2:3-4).  At the marriage feast she wanted Him to go and make more wine.   He first refused to grant their request, then He fulfilled it after asserting that He does things according to the timing and will of God, not man. 
(a)                 Through His actions, Jesus demonstrated that His delays were not denials. They would bring greater glory to God. 
(2)                 Jesus’ own brothers (John 7:3-8).  They tried to ridicule Him into going by caravan with them to the feast in Jerusalem.

4.                  Twelve Reasons Why We Experience A Delay

In Philippians 4:12, Paul stated, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”  Paul knew what it meant to experience God’s full supply, but he also knew what it meant to suffer need—which is being needy to the point of suffering. Why would God allow such a great servant as Paul to suffer?

a)                  Delay Caused By Our Disobedience (Psalm 81:10-12,16).

(1)                 Their rejection of God and their failure to obey his voice. 
(2)                 God wanted them to have the very best. But they cut off the supply lines by their behavior.  They not only failed to receive God’s best in their lives, but they also ended up stubbornly wallowing in their own ideas and plans.


b)                  Delay Caused By Our Doubt (James 1:5-8).

(1)                 Circumstances Are Not Going The Way I Thought They Should (Matthew 11:2-3)
(2)                 We Really Don’t Know God.  Paul addressed his praise to My God” “my God” is used 139 times in the Bible.  

c)                  Delay Caused By Wrong Motivation (James 4:3).  

(1)                 Hannah’s womb was closed until she asked with the right motives (1Sam.1:1-18)
(2)                 Solomon asked with the right motivation (1 Kings 3:5-14)
(3)                 The writer of Proverbs prayed with the right motivation (Prov.30:7-9)

"This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." (1 John 5:14, NASB95)

d)                  Delay Caused By Our Attempt At Manipulation (1Sam.13:8-14).

To “Manipulate” is       to take matters into our hands and try to get what we desire through our own efforts at controlling others. At times we even try to control or manipulate God, justifying our actions all the way.

e)                  Delay Caused By Our Lack of Responsibility (Prov.6:6-11).

(1)                 If someone needs a job they cant just sit around and expect someone to call them on the phone.  They need to get out and look for one. 
(2)                 Nobody is exempt from the responsibility to work, to contribute, to function, to act, or to expend effort and energy on behalf of others.  Don’t Be Lazy

"The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, So he begs during the harvest and has nothing." (Proverbs 20:4, NASB95)

"Laziness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle man will suffer hunger." (Proverbs 19:15)

"The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! A lion is in the open square!”" (Proverbs 26:13, NASB95)

f)                   Delay Caused By An Illegitimate Need.

(1)                 Today’s generation feels they have the right to grow up with a…
(a)                 color T.V. in their bedroom, $200.00 sound system
(b)                designer clothes, 20 pairs of shoes, etc. 

In reality, nobody needs these things to he healthy physically, emotionally, or spiritually; to praise and worship God; to grow in faith etc. 

g)                  Delay Caused By God’s Redirection (Genesis 37, 39-50).

God doesn’t always meet our needs immediately or in a way that is completely satisfying to us because He is in the process of redirecting us or preparing us for something new.

·                     Joseph had a need to be released from the pit into which his brothers had cast him.
·                     Joseph had a need for security and provision.
·                     Joseph had a need to get out of prison.

Did God meet Joseph’s needs? Yes.  And in the process, He met the needs of Jacob and all of the other brothers who became the founders of the tribes of Israel. But along the way, Joseph no doubt felt at many times that God was silent and that he was left alone in his neediness.

Why, then, did God delay so long in meeting the needs of Joseph? Why did he have to work for Potiphar?  Why did he have to go to a prison? Why did he spend two years in that prison after his correct interpretation of the dreams of Pharaoh’s butler and baker?

(1)               God delayed meeting Joseph’s needs so that a greater purpose might be accomplished.
(2)               The meeting of all the needs of Joseph’s entire family.
(3)               In like manner, sometimes God is in the process of redirecting our lives, and He delays meeting certain needs in our lives so that His greater plan for us—and for others—might be accomplished (Romans 8:28).

h)                  Delay Caused By God’s Desire To Teach Us (Philippians 3:13).  

Too many people do everything they can possibly do to meet the need in their lives until they collapse utterly exhausted at the foot of the cross and say, “Help me!”

(1)               From God’s perspective, they are finally in the position that He desired for them to be in all the time. God was just waiting for them to turn to Him and to learn to trust Him to be their total source of provision.
(2)               Often God delays meeting our temporal and material needs so that we will focus on our spiritual and eternal needs.  He delays meeting our needs so that we will turn to Him and learn to trust Him in all things and for all things.

i)                    Delay Caused By God’s Desire To Bring Us To Repentance (Luke 15:11-31).

God at times delays meeting our needs so that we will own up to our sin, confess it to God, and repent of it—which means to turn away from our sin and to turn toward God’s righteousness.

(1)               This Is A Necessary Tool For Man People.  Many need to come to the point where they are willing to do things God’s way and to follow God’s path rather than the one they had originally chosen for themselves.

j)                    Joshua 3:1-17—We Must Get Our Feet Wet First, Step Out! 

We like to say, “Ok God, if you part the sea I will be more that willing to cross it”, but He says, “Put your feet in the water, then I will part it” in other words, “trust Me”!

k)                  2kings 5:1-14—Thinking We Know How Things Should Work Out!

This is probably not the message that he was looking for (v.10).  Naaman had this miracle all worked out the way he thought it should be done (v.11).  We cannot order God to do a miracle the way we want it to be done, & then when it doesn’t happen we say, “God, You didn’t do it the right way”, kind of like Martha, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would have not died.”  When he did it, not the way he thought it should be done, but God’s way, the miracle was brought about.

"Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass." (Psalm 37:7, NKJV)

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9, NKJV)

l)                    Luke 11:5-8—Persistence In Prayer, With God All Things Are Possible.

(1)                 Matthew 15:22-28—The Canaanite’s daughter is severely possessed
(2)               Great faith does not give up; it is not deterred by obstacles, setbacks, or disappointments. Jesus therefore tested the faith of this woman by setting up a series of barriers. Some people have to struggle against strong doubts before they come to fully trust Christ for salvation. Others have to struggle against the objections and arguments of friends and family. Still others struggle to believe because they have never heard the gospel clearly presented or because they see inconsistencies in the lives of Christians they know. This woman, however, had barriers placed in her way by the Savior Himself.

Next Week

5.                  The Decision (v.7)

He announced His plans to visit Bethany.

6.                  The Dialogue (v.8-15)

Jesus and His disciples now discuss this issue.

a)                  Their concern (v.8)—The disciples protest that it is to dangerous for Jesus to go to Bethany.

b)                  His commitment (v.9-11)—They will however go there, for Jesus intends to awake Lazarus from his sleep!

c)                  Their confusion (v.12-13)—they think Jesus is referring to natural sleep.

d)                  His declaration (v.14-15)—He tells them Lazarus has died! 

7.                  The Despair (v.16)

Thomas agrees to go but prepares for the worst!

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