John 11:1-45

March 30, 2014 We’re about halfway through our study of John; the point of the book is so we’ll know that Jesus is the Christ and we’ll believe on Him and receive eternal life. To prove His deity John has told us about changing the water into wine, the healing of a lame man, and the healing of a blind man. Jesus can turn something plain into something spectacular. He can call things that are not as though they were (Rom. 4:17). He enables a man to walk and to see. He is truly the Son of God and the Lord of creation so that even sickness and infirmity obey Him. Now we come to John 11 and the story of Lazarus. The point is the same as ever: John wants to show us that Jesus is the Christ to the intent that we will believe and be saved. Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2(It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) 3 Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. 4When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Jesus is very close to this family; in the next chapter we see that Mary anointed Him and washed His feet with her hair. And so when Lazarus gets so sick they call for Jesus in hopes that He’ll come and heal him. It’s obvious that both sisters believe in Jesus and they know He has power to do amazing things. But Jesus doesn’t seem too worried about it; in fact He knows there’s a reason for it. Yes, Lazarus is sick. And yes, Lazarus will die. But to Christ it doesn’t end in death, and Lazarus is only sleeping. This terrible thing happens to him so that God might be glorified. It sounds awfully familiar to the man born blind doesn’t it?

Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. 6When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. These statements almost seem contradictory, don’t they? If someone came and told me that someone I love is sick and wants me to come help , I’m going to drop what I’m doing and leave right away. At the very least I’m not going to wait around for two days. But Jesus has a reason for doing this. He’s already said that God will be

glorified in it, and He says it won’t “end” in death. Sure, he will die for a few days but he’s alive at the end of the story! Healing the sick isn’t the plan; He’s got something bigger in mind.

Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. 8His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus had crossed the River to get away from the Jewish leaders, and someone comes one day trying to get Him to back for Lazarus. Now, Bethany was only a couple miles from Jerusalem (and the people who want to kill Jesus), so you can bet His disciples were relieved when it didn’t look like He was going. But then I picture after a couple days He just stands up and says, “We’ve got to Judea.” All the disciples sort of sit there stunned with their mouths open. “But…they’ll kill you. We barely got away last time.”

Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. 10But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. See, the thing is that Jesus knew His hour hadn’t yet come. He wasn’t afraid of the Jews. He could walk right into the wolves’ den and He couldn’t be touched until it was time. And so He says, “The sun is still up. Once it sets we’ll be done working, but right now there’s more to do.”

These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. It might seem strange that Jesus is talking this way, but I think it shows us something important about Jesus. While everyone else was weeping and saying Lazarus was dead, Jesus knew it wouldn’t end that way. He’s not dead; he’s just asleep. Now, don’t get me wrong—he really was dead. But Christ could see the end as though it were now. I can’t help but think about how we were by nature objects of wrath and we were dead in our trespasses (and we were truly dead), but how Christ says He’s never lost one of His sheep. We have always been safely in the hand of the Father. We were truly dead, but He knows how it ends. But the disciples don’t understand this quite yet:

Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in

sleep. 14Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. 15And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. The disciples think it will do Lazarus some good to get some sleep; maybe he’ll feel better once he wakes up. But Lazarus won’t wake up unless Jesus raises him, so Jesus says it plainly that Lazarus is dead. But then He says something very peculiar: “I am glad I was not there.” I thought Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters? Why would Jesus be glad He wasn’t thee to save him? But look closely: Jesus is glad for the disciples’ sakes. They’re still infants in their faith. They’ve been called to follow, and they know He can do some amazing stuff, but they still don’t really believe He can raise the dead. Remember, John’s book is written so that we can have eternal life. How will they believe that if they don’t think He can raise one dead man? And so He says, “I’m glad I wasn’t there. I’m glad Lazarus died. Now I can go raise him and you’ll see and this will strengthen your faith! You’ve learned that I can heal the blind. Now come see that I can raise the dead.”

Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. It doesn’t tell us how Jesus responded to Thomas but I think it demonstrates what He just said. It’s almost like Thomas wasn’t even listening. All he knows is that they’re about to march right back into the middle of their enemies and they’re not likely to make it out alive. It’s a contrast, really, to what’s going on. Jesus is talking about giving life to a dead man and Thomas is talking about dying.

Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. 18Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: 19 And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Fifteen furlongs is right around two miles; when the Jews heard about Lazarus they came from Jerusalem and all around to comfort the sisters.

Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. 21Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. 22But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Martha doesn’t wait for Jesus to arrive, but instead she runs out to meet Him. When she finds Him she confesses that she would have liked it more if Jesus had

arrived in time to save Lazarus, but she also knows that God will give whatever Jesus asks. She’s probably admitting that it’s not too late, but I think (just as importantly) she’s saying that even if Lazarus is dead, and even if Jesus hadn’t come earlier, He is still from God. This hasn’t affected her faith in Him at all.

Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. 24Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: Now, don’t read past that too quickly. She points down the road to a certain event off in the future. “I believe he’ll live when we get the resurrection.” But then Jesus says, “That’s Me. I am the resurrection. I am the hope you seek!” Think back to John 1:4: “In Him was life.” He is the author of life and the power behind the resurrection. he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.


This goes two ways: (1) he that believes, though he were dead, will yet live, and (2) he that believes will never die. Lazarus was dead but he believed. Though he were dead yet shall he live. Also, because Lazarus believes he will ever die. Now, that’s interesting, isn’t it? Because where is Lazarus today? Well, he died again! But think of how Christ has expressed his death already: it shall not end in death; he is only sleeping! And so it is even now: to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord! These bodies quit working but we never really die because we’ve been given spiritual life from Christ. Believest thou this? 27She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. Here’s her confidence: she knows that Jesus is the promised one from God. Lazarus is dead, but Jesus is still the Christ and He will do the will of God and He is the resurrection and the life. “Yes. I believe this. And everything’s ok.”

And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. 29As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. 30Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. 31The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth

unto the grave to weep there. 32Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. There’s a little contrast here between the two sisters. Martha heard Jesus was coming so she went to meet Him, but Mary had stayed behind. Martha seems more confident in her faith and seems to mourn less. And it’s tempting to look at the two and then tell you to be more like Martha, but I don’t think that’s the point. You see, in the next chapter she’s weeping again but not from sorro w. Lazarus is raised from the dead and she’s kneeling at Jesus’ feet, kissing them, and drying the tears away with her hair. She’s so overcome and so in love with Christ. And so the point of comparing the sisters before the miracle, I think, is not to tell us how to live but rather to show us how Christ deals with each of us differently according to the measure of His grace. But the result is the same: we all are convinced in the end. None of His sheep stays astray and none remain in doubt.

When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. 34And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! 37And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? The Greek word to describe Jesus’ groaning (ἐνεβριμήσατο, enebrimesato) means to “snort.”1 It means to rebuke someone urgently or to be deeply moved. The word for troubled (ἐτάραξεν, etaraxen) means “agitated.”2 It means He was stirred up and disturbed. And then the last word, where it says He wept, (ἐδάκρυσεν, edakrusen) literally means to “shed tears.”3 The same word is used to describe the sap as it comes out of trees. And so the idea here is that Jesus is so agitated and stirred up by what He sees that He gets choked up and begins to shed tears. The question is why this happened to Him. Some say that He was angry at their lack of faith or hypocrisy. Others say He wept for Lazarus. Still others say He was moved with compassion because He saw genuine grief. I tend to lean towards the last one because this whole event is meant to help them in their faith and He knows it. He had said He was glad He hadn’t come to heal Lazarus because He intended to raise Him up for God’s glory. His compassion shows the level of concern Christ has for His people. He’s not superficially intimate. He feels our
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pains and joys so much that He can say “Whatever you’ve done to the very least of my brethren you’ve done unto Me.”

Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. 39Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. 40Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? She knows Christ is the resurrection and the life and that Lazarus will be raised, but apparently she’s still not aware of what He plans to do. He says to remove the stone and maybe she thinks He just wants to see his body, so she warns that it’s not a good idea. By now he won’t look or smell the same and seeing something like that could only add to their grief. But Jesus reminds her of their previous conversation. “Didn’t I tell you that if you should believe you’ll see God’s glory?” She gets the idea and consents:

Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Can you imagine being there to see this? Everyone’s standing there looking at Jesus and hearing His prayer. Then something’s moving around inside the cave; no one’s even breathing, their eyes are wide-open and they first see a hand and then a head and then Lazarus crawls all the way out! He stands up looking around just as confused as anyone else. And then Jesus finally says, “Take those grave clothes off him and let’s go home.”

Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. This is the point of the story. It was the reason Lazarus got sick, it was the reason Jesus waited two days, it was the reason His disciples found enough courage to follow Him to Bethany, it was the reason He met privately with Mary and Martha, and it was the reason He prayed out loud. God was glorified and many people believed. They knew for sure that Jesus was God’s Son and the Messiah.

We’ll pick back up here next time and see that not everyone has the same reaction. Some things we can learn: #1- God plans and uses the hardships of our lives for His glory. It’s too often believed that bad things happen only because of sin, but I want you to notice in this story of Lazarus that we don’t find any reason for his death other than God’s desire. He was someone Jesus loved; Jesus loved the whole family, and yet He intentionally made them to suffer for several days. But in the end God was glorified and many were saved. In the end it was shown that God’s glory was for the good of His saints. When we face trials it’s so easy to get angry or discouraged but we should be careful to remember this story and to say, like Martha, “ I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.” #2- The deliverance from our hardships is planned, but it is according to God’s timing. Jesus could have immediately left for Bethany but it wasn’t the right time. Everyone needed to know for certain that Lazarus really was dead. He wasn’t in a coma; he was stinking in the grave. But when the time came Jesus went and did what He had planned to do from the beginning. I think of Joseph with all his trials and suffering. I think of all the injustice he suffered. But God had a plan, didn’t He? He could have put him on that throne a million different ways, but there were things people needed to learn and this is how they came to know them. God could give us all our bread at once. He could take away all our pain. He could bring us to heaven even right now. But there are things we learn in this life about the glory and the love of God. There are things we witness and experience during our days as pilgrims. And when the time is right He’ll deliver us. When the time is right He’ll call us home. #3- Jesus is faithful to finish His work until the last hour. You know, that whole statement about working while there is still light is such a comforting one. Jesus could have stayed beyond the Jordan until it was time to die, but He had to go and do the will of the Father. He wasn’t going to come to earth and do 99% of His work and then call it quits in the twelfth hour. He would continue until the sun had fully set. Now think about the good work He began in us. Will He quit? Will He ever stop loving us or giving us mercy or grace? Will He ever become too tired of working on us? He finishes His work! And it’s not only His work in us; He’ll overcome the wicked. When He says vengeance belongs to Him we can be sure that even

though the day is long He hasn’t forgotten and He won’t neglect justice. He’s faithful until the last hour. #4- Jesus is patient with His children and directs our lives to build our faith. He really could have come down on Mary for weeping so much after He’s come to raise her brother. He could have been angry with all the disciples because they still don’t have a clue even after all His other miracles. But He isn’t hard on them is He? Even when He rebukes them it’s always the blows of a friend. He planned this whole day and this journey just so that His children can learn from it and see His nature for themselves. It’s common in our day for preachers to tell people that any doubts we have about God make Him angry. They point to James 1:6-7 and say we’re double-minded unless we’re always positive about God. But you know what? They’re twisting that text. If we have faith it’s because Christ authored and the Holy Spirit bears it through us. He’s a Witness of our part in the covenant and we’ve received everything we need from God. And now we’re living these lives to experience it and see it for ourselves. Yes, we doubt. Think about it: there’s a constant war against us. Our enemy prowls around like a lion seeking to devour us. We’re so weak in our flesh that we can’t obey even the simplest commands. And not only that but there’s a lot of false religion and false doctrine. There’s a lot of money and power in religion, and there are people who would use us; they would exploit us for personal gain. Not only that but we can’t see God. How can we be so sure? What if we’ve been tricked? The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. 11For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. 13Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. 14For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust (Ps. 103:8-14). Our doubts cause us to search and to think. Our doubts cause us to press against our beliefs to see if they stand. Our doubts cause us to search the Scriptures to see whether they’re true. And in the end, because of His work and His faith, we find that we are not wrong. We find that He is always there and always guiding. We find that He loves us and will never leave or forsake us. And then we have our turn to weep at His feet and to love Him in His glory. #5- Real life found in Christ alone, and that life means we will never die. Lazarus was only sleeping. We can’t put enough emphasis on that, can we? Oh, he was

dead. His heart wasn’t beating and he was starting to stink, but Christ was his life. He was united with the Word. His flesh failed and it would fail again, but to be absent from it meant that the real Lazarus was present with the Lord. We have no reason to fear death for the same reason. Yes; we’ll sleep. But our faith is in Christ. These bodies will be raised immortal, but we have already been raised from the dead by the power of the Spirit and when we leave here we go to be with Him forever! He is the resurrection! He is the life!

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