John 11: 38-44
John • Sermon • Submitted
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In John’s gospel, Jesus healed w/ miraculous signs. We looked at a few in John’s gospel on our way to the cross with Jesus:
Sick, close to death
He & household believed
man @ pool of Bethesda
38 yrs crippled
Reported to Jews
“I was blind;
now I see”
Believed & worshipped
In ch. 11, Jesus’ friend Lazarus falls ill while Jesus is several days’ journey north of Bethany in Galilee. Lazarus’ sisters send word.
Jesus’ response is surprising.
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
John 11:5–7 (NIV)
These verses really stuck out. “Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus so he stayed away 2 more days” How do those 2 thoughts fit together?
When people are in crisis, my inclination is to drop everything and rush to be with them. Why would Jesus stay away?
The way John tells the gospel, the main goal of Jesus’ actions, teaching and miraculous signs is for people to come to faith. Near the end of the gospel, John explains his reasons for writing:
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John 20:30–31 (NIV)
When Jesus tells his disciples that he’s headed south to Judea and that Lazarus has died from his illness, he adds a comment that helps us see his motivation.
Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.
But Jesus’ remaining disciples already believe in Jesus. When other followers were deserting Jesus, Peter expressed the faith of those who stuck with Jesus
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.
John 6:68–69 (NIV)
And Martha and Mary have faith in Jesus. That’s why they sent the urgent message to Galilee telling Jesus of Lazarus’ sickness. They used exactly the same words when Jesus finally arrived: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” It makes you wonder how many times they said that to each other and to everyone who came for the funeral, “If Jesus had come when we asked, this would have ended differently.”
It’s not that the disciples and Martha, and Mary didn’t have faith. It seems Jesus stayed away to stretch their faith, to deepen their faith. Jesus had a plan as soon as he heard of Lazarus’ illness. He already told his disciples,
This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
John 11:4 (NIV)
Jesus’ plan for Lazarus and his sisters is like all his miraculous signs.
Miraculous Sign è Faith è Eternal life
Jesus’ plan is for Martha, Mary, and his disciples to grow in faith.
Tell me: is “Timbit soccer” different than World Cup soccer? How?
You don’t play T-ball forever: you learn positions, add pitcher, rules get enforced, and the games become more competitive.
Same w/ video games. In Pac-man, after you complete a level, the next level is harder: ghosts moved faster but more bonuses. Many video games have the idea of “levelling up.”
Level up in faith.
For Martha and Mary, there’s a difference b/t believing that Jesus could heal Lazarus when he was sick and believing that Jesus can call Lazarus to life from the grave. Martha hints that Jesus might able to intervene even after Lazarus has died . . .
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
It’s not a subtle hint. It has the flavour of deep hopefulness.
We need to linger here and think about the emotions around death. For 2 years we’ve endured a pandemic. You’re tired of Covid-19. You’re tired of dealing with reports of illness and death.
Two years ago, when the pandemic went global, we were afraid of a high death toll. Remember the early reports out of Italy and New York: overwhelmed hospitals, nurses, and doctors and terrible choices of who would receive a ventilator and who wouldn’t.
After almost two grim months, the outbreak at Maple Manor long-term care in Tillsonburg was finally over, a spokesperson for the health unit confirmed. The outbreak – first declared on Dec. 12, 2020 – resulted in 85 resident and 52 staff infections, as well as 20 resident deaths, becoming one of the most devastating in Southwestern ON.
We worried Covid would do the same here in Tillsonburg Hospital and in our families. The weeks that Maple Manor had an outbreak are seared in the memories of many people.
Some of you still worry that you’ll catch Covid-19. Death is frightening. Death is sad. The pain of illness, the terror of not being able to breath is awful. It’s not something that Jesus and his followers gloss over.
Jesus knew that Lazarus’ illness wouldn’t end in death. He told his disciples. Yet Jesus was still deeply moved by Martha’s sadness, Mary’s grief, and Lazarus’ death. Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, yet he wept when Lazarus died.
Some of you are grieve for the death of someone you love. Or you fight tears as you watch someone you love grow older and more fragile. Four uncles of mine died in 2021; none from Covid.
Each day or news feeds are cluttered with news of war in Ukraine. Bombs and bullets, hunger and illness are killing people. We can’t escape it.
I’ve heard young people wonder aloud if this will flare into a world war . . . if they’ll be called upon to fight, perhaps to die.
How can you face so much news of death and destruction? Where do you turn with your sadness and worry?
Jesus – completely human – understands pain and sadness of death.
Jesus – completely divine – feels pain of death of his image-bearers.
Death is “not good,” therefore Jesus has done something about it. Jesus’ grief over Lazarus’ death and the way Jesus called Lazarus from the grave is a sign of what Jesus will do for all his followers.
God made creation good. Humankind is very good. Sin and death intruded when human faith in God faltered when our first parents stopped obeying God’s instructions. Death and brokenness is result for humanity’s sin and for individual sin b/c God is just.
Not just physical death, but eternal death, cut off from God, the source of comfort and life. That’s the significance of Jesus’ offer of eternal life – eternity of life w/ God; eternity of life for God!
Lazarus’ death and resurrection point to Jesus’ death and resurrection. After Jesus called Lazarus from grave, his opponents resolved to kill Jesus. They reject Jesus more fiercely. Their evil plotting goes deeper so that they conclude that they don’t just have to kill Jesus, they need to remove Lazarus as well.
Jesus came to take human punishment for sin by being lifted up on the cross. He endured God’s wrath for human sin. After he died, he was buried, just like Lazarus was.
On 3rd day, Jesus rose: like Lazarus and unlike Lazarus. When Lazarus grew older, he died again and was buried. Jesus rose in glory to eternal life. Lazarus will be raised from the grave a 2nd time along with all who have died after putting their faith in Jesus.
When Jesus rose from the grave, he conquered sin and death. Jesus’ resurrection, like Lazarus’ resurrection gives assurance that Jesus IS the Resurrection and the Life. By faith in Jesus, you too will live. That’s the reassurance Jesus gave Martha:
The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.
Do you believe this?
With Lazarus’ death and resurrection, Jesus’ disciples, incl. Martha and Mary, learn more about Jesus’ mission, his authority, and his power. Through the emotional rollercoaster of Lazarus’ illness, death, having Jesus grieve along with them, and then seeing Lazarus obey Jesus’ command to come out of the tomb, their faith was stretched.
In the celebration that followed Lazarus’ resurrection, Martha, Lazarus, and Mary shared their joy and relief with Jesus. At the dinner in Jesus’ honour, Mary was so moved with gratitude that she took a pint of pure nard and poured it on Jesus’ feet.
Do you think they leveled up?
You’re invited, not just to put faith in Jesus, but to involve him in the ups and downs of your life. Whatever your emotions, they can be shared with Jesus. He doesn’t offer un-ending life; he offers abundant life with all the support, intimacy, and love that Adam & Eve enjoyed in the Garden of Eden. You can walk with God