Faithlife Sermons

Are You Just Staying Alive

Notes & Transcripts

Are You Just Staying Alive?

John 11:1-57

Pastor Oesterwind

16For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
17And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.
Colossians 1:16-17

The Lord Jesus created all things; He also sustains what He has created.  For the second time, my wife ended up giving birth to one of our children in an emergency situation.  The moments I spent waiting to gain access to the operating room taught me to rely completely on the One who gives life.  But it also led me to think about a central core fact:  He is not obligated to do so.  Both wife and child may not make it and yet Christ is still creator and sustainer.  Paul wrote of a time that the just would be resurrected to final glory…

54So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
1 Corinthians 15:54-55

We are assured of a future victory over death and illness; however, in the present, our sin along with death and illness points to our need for spiritual life and wholeness.  It is the will of God that every man comes to Christ for spiritual life which is gained by grace through faith in the finished work of the cross. 

The close situation in the operating room and the recent trial with my dad are potent reminders of how tenuous life is.  Even as a believer you can be swept away by the emotion and grief of personal situations and fail to see that God is working.

3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
4who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
5For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5

When we turn to John 11 this evening, we find that Jesus is just two months away from His death on the cross and subsequent resurrection.  In this chapter, Jesus performs a miracle that astounds the reader.  He raises a man who had been dead in a tomb for four days.  The man was close to Christ as were his two sisters.  The family lived in Bethany - just two miles from Jerusalem and all the danger that awaited the Lord Jesus.

The religious leaders had made an attempt to kill the Lord, but He had escaped because His hour had not yet come.  Jesus fled to safety beyond the Jordan River.  The death of Lazarus beckoned Him to return.  Knowing that the religious leaders sought to kill Him, Christ returned to Bethany.  This brings us to John 11 and verse 1…

Just Staying Alive or Glorifying God (1-16)?

·         Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, sent word to Jesus saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick” (v 3).  Jesus was definitely close to this family.  Lazarus was the one Jesus loved.  Verse 5 states “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”  Jesus dwelt among people.  They, for the most part, did not receive Him (John 1.11, 14).  But He related with them. 

·         When Jesus receives the message from the sisters, he said that the sickness of Lazarus “was not unto death, but for the glory of God” (v. 4).  Jesus looked beyond physical death to the glory of God.  It is not just a matter of staying alive - even Lazarus would die twice.  Jesus stayed two more days on the other side of the Jordan before heading back to Bethany (vv. 6-7).  Why the wait?  It was the work of Christ to glorify the Father.  This was best accomplished not by keeping sickness away from Lazarus but by raising him from the dead.

·         Jesus desired to return but the disciples knew the danger (v. 8).  Jesus responded to their anxiety by saying that if a man walks in the light of day, he will not stumble (vv. 9-10).  The idea is that if Jesus was walking according to the will of His Father, He need not fear. 

·         Jesus told the disciples that Lazarus was dead (vv. 11-14).  Verse 15 adds that the death of Lazarus combined with the ensuing miracle would strengthen the faith of the disciples.  Thomas responds with doubt.  He thought that following Jesus back to Judea meant dying with Him.  He was missing the lesson of faith; he was loyal just unbelieving.  Even after the resurrection, Thomas would struggle with his doubts.

Application:  Sometimes we face certain experiences as believers so that the Lord may strengthen our trust in Him.  Once we follow the Lord by faith, we grow and are stronger.  It’s important that we don’t miss valuable lessons by approaching life in the flesh.  Are you just staying alive or are you learning the lessons of faith and growing closer to Christ? 

Just Staying Alive or Looking toward the Resurrection (17-32)? 

·         “As soon as [Martha] heard that Jesus was coming, [she] went and met Him” (v. 20).  From her perspective, if only He had been there before Lazarus died, then he would have made it.  Jesus told Martha in v. 23 that her brother would wise again.  Martha agreed, but was thinking about the last day (v. 24).  She didn’t understand what Jesus was about to do, but she did hope in a resurrection to come.  OT believers understood the resurrection from the dead by studying the OT. 

·         Jesus said that He is the resurrection and the life (vv. 25-26).  All will die physically, but physical death may be overcome because of Christ.

54So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55“O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
56The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57

·         Once you are born again, you never die spiritually even though you may die physically.  Martha said to the Lord Jesus, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (v. 27).  That’s quite a statement and resembles the momentary faith of Peter in Matthew 16. 

·         Jesus was still a distance away from the home in Bethany when Martha left Him and ran to Mary in order to tell her that the Lord had come (v. 28).  Mary met the Lord, fell at His feet, and affirmed that had He been there, Lazarus would not have died.  Mary assumed a position of worship by falling at the feet of the Lord Jesus.  This was characteristic of her constant worshipful heart toward Him. 

Application:  A heart of worship is feed by an eternal spring of hope.  Christ is the Source of that spring.  He is the only One who can provide victory over eternal death.  These sisters ought to be commended for seeing this - even if only in part.  It’s more than just staying alive - life filled with hope is constantly looking to the eternal realm.

Just Staying Alive or Entering Sympathetically into the Lives of Others (33-35)?

·         When Jesus witnessed Mary and others weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled (v. 33).  The sorrow led to weeping because of the deep love He had for Lazarus.  The people who witnessed this affectionate display understood His love but also wondered why He had not come and healed Lazarus (v. 37).

Application:  It’s wonderful as a believer to witness the depth of sympathy and human emotion in our Savior.  He was not unfeeling, but tender and compassionate.  Sometimes you wonder if some believers have a heart at all - always emotionally disconnected or using platitudes to state obvious facts but not concerned about the grief of others.  Jesus was not like this.  He is a pattern for all of us.  There is a time to rejoice and a time to weep.

Just Staying Alive or Serving to the End (36-44)?

·         Even before Lazarus had died, Jesus intended to bring him back to life.  While he entered into the emotional scene with great sympathy, He was not overcome by emotion.  He took charge, commanded the stone be removed from the tomb’s opening, and in spite of Martha’s protest (v. 39), insisted that if she would now believe, she would see the glory of God (v. 40). 

·         Now Jesus turns to the Father and thanks Him for hearing His prayer.  He said, “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” (v. 42).

Application:  Mary and Martha needed faith, but Jesus must intercede and the Father must respond.  All of this is absolutely necessary for the miracle in John 11 and any miracle during our lives.  Lazarus came forward at the command of the Son of God.  Our lives are indestructible until the Lord is ready for us to go home.  If the Lord should delay his coming, we will all die someday.  Yet staying alive is never really our goal, is it?  Serving Christ until He deems fit and calls us home ought to be our goal!

Conclusion:  How does everyone respond to this work of Christ?  Some believe immediately (v. 45).  All they needed was the miracle.  But, astoundingly, the Jewish leaders decide to kill Him (v. 53).  Why?  Because a great turning of the populace to Jesus would lead to their demise - no power over the people (v. 48).

The Romans would indeed take steps as soon as they perceived Jesus was a threat.  Caiaphas reasoned that expediency was the best policy (v. 50).  Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not only for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad (vv. 51-52).  That’s an amazing statement considering the high priest didn’t understand the impact of what he was saying.

They now plotted to put Jesus to death (v. 53).  Jesus did not presume upon the Father, but withdrew to Ephraim.  Again, He sets a pattern for us.  Having a hunch that Jesus would keep the Passover, the Jews were biding their time.  That is how this chapter closes. 

We are in God’s hands, but so are our enemies.  They may not believe, but we need not fear when they threaten.  Whatever happens, we are not just staying alive; the will of our Father is our greatest good.  He will accomplish in us what He desires; we must believe that!


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