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The Demonstration

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The Demonstration

John 11:1-53       July 1, 2001


Scripture Reading:


          How many people here have ever been involved in a demonstration?

          Perhaps like us you have experienced the vacuum cleaner salesman who showed up at your house, invited himself in, and promptly proceeded to demonstrate how his product worked by throwing dirt on your living room carpet just to show how well his vacuum cleaner worked.

          He wasn't taking a chance with his product because he knew how well it worked even though we didn't.

          What he was taking a chance on was us.

          But he made his point.

          He showed us how good his product was.

          We bought the vacuum cleaner and demonstrated it ourselves every week on our carpet for the next 25 years.


          We had a demonstration with the 5-8 grade boys in VBS on Tuesday night.

          They were learning how to saw a board, and like one of them said, "This is real man stuff."

          Almost without exception, each one wanted to "muscle" the saw too hard instead of letting the saw do its work, but we got them through it with a halfway decent looking craft project.

          We demonstrated the art of sawing a board.

          I'm sure that the other groups also had their time of demonstrating one particular art or another.

          We have often heard of political demonstrations – even those that get out of hand and cause great destruction.

          There have been recent demonstrations in the news like the one in Sweden protesting President Bush's environmental policies.

          There have also been demonstrations concerning World Trade Organization practices in places like Seattle.

          There have been demonstrations in Israel between the Jews and the Palestinian Arabs over acts of violence.    

          It is an interesting process we use to demonstrate against violence by demonstrating violence.

Chicago recently experienced thousands of cars driving around the city flying the Puerto Rican flag.

We also have times of the year when we see mass displays of Polish flags and Mexican flags as people demonstrate pride of ethnic or national origin.

          And if we stop to think about it, each of us who walked in the CareFirst Hike for Life along the lakefront this May were involved in a demonstration for the right to life.

          A demonstration "puts our money where our mouth is" so to speak.

          A demonstration is an action that proves our words or values or makes a statement or sells a product or teaches a skill.

          Now Jesus had made some striking claims and taught some amazing truths.

          Back in John 5, Jesus had claimed to be equal with God, to have the life of God within himself, and to be able to give it whomever he wished as the eternal judge of all mankind.   

So in John 5 we heard what Jesus had to say about himself.

          Then we heard also in John 5 about the evidence that supported what Jesus had to say about himself.

          Last week in John 6 we heard about the application Jesus made about the truth of all this that we might believe in him when he multiplied the loaves and fishes and fed the 5,000.

          An application helps us to see truth by relating it to something we can readily understand, like when Jesus said his body was real food and his blood was real drink.

          Now that one separated the men from the boys and the women from the girls when many of his disciples left him.

          The application was that if you wanted life, real life, spiritual life, you must feed on Jesus – you must take him in.

          Many were not ready for such radically effective religion.

          But the next step past application is demonstration.

          It puts the application to the test and makes it real.

          Like the application of the dirt on the carpet, the removal makes the claim real.

          If Jesus says he himself is real life just like food and drink, we must see his power to prove it.

          So now in John 11:1-53 we will see a marvelous demonstration of the truth of Jesus' love for those who have chosen to believe in him.

Big Question:

          How does Jesus demonstrate his love for those who believe in him?

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by allowing delay in the face of death.

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by giving hope in the face of death.

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by his moral outrage in the face of death.

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by his moral authority in the face of death.

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by offering himself as the resurrection and the life in the face of death. 

I.       Cycle One

          A.      Narrative (vv. 1-16)

          This Mary is the one who responds in heartfelt love to Jesus later in 12:3 by anointing his feet with expensive perfume and drying them with her hair.

          This account is noted with similarity in all four gospels, but the one in Luke is different.

          That account in Luke is by a sinful woman who also wipes Jesus' feet with her tears, and it is at an earlier time and different place.

          That leads me to wonder if her example of humble and sacrificial love is something that Mary had heard about and does likewise in the time drawing close for Jesus' crucifixion.

          She sees herself as a sinner in need of grace and she worships with her whole heart, soul, and body, as well as her possessions.

          At any rate, it is quite obvious that she and her sister and brother love Jesus deeply.

          They have responded to his love for them deeply.

          And isn't this the prerequisite for eternal life as we know it in the gospels?

          John is telling us about a beautiful love relationship with Jesus that any of us can respond to by faith in him.

          The right things are in place here for the perfect and ultimate demonstration of Jesus' love for us, and that is that we must respond to his love for us.

"The one you love" is the expression by Mary and Martha of the personal closeness they feel from Jesus.

          Have you ever been around one of those truly gifted senior saints who is so gracious in Spirit that each one that knows them could truly say that they are loved by them the best?

          The result of all this is that God's glory will be displayed or demonstrated.

          And it will be for our benefit.

          Lazarus was dead even as the messenger was telling Jesus of the emergency regarding his sickness (v. 17).

          They had seen Jesus heal the sick, but raising the dead would be a new phenomenon.

          Jesus was going to demonstrate his love in this new and perfect way, and so to leave no room for doubt, he waited for two more days on purpose.

          This was not a lack of concern on his part since Lazarus was already dead.

          By the time he got there he had been dead for 4 days: 1 day journey for the messenger, 2 days wait by Jesus, and 1 day journey by Jesus equals 4 days.

          Jewish superstition claimed that the departed soul hovers around the body for three days looking to re-enter it until it sees the body start to decompose, and then it leaves.

          So Jesus would wait four days to leave no room for doubt that Lazarus was indeed dead.

          It was out of love that Jesus waited so that God the Father and the Son may glorified through it and their own faith might be enhanced by the demonstration of that love they were about to witness.

          How much might we miss God's blessings by our propensity to insist on what we can get "now."

          But notice how much Jesus is willing to face imminent danger in order to give us those blessings, but also notice his confidence in God to face that danger for us (vv. 10-11).

          He walks in the light with time enough for his works of righteousness with nothing to hide.

          We see death here for the believer as a picture of sleep from which Jesus will awaken us.

          B.      Implication

          How does Jesus demonstrate his love for those who believe in him?

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by allowing delay in the face of death.

          C.      Illustration

The following is a wonderful prayer by Norwegian Theologian Ole Hallesby:

   "Lord, if it will be to Your glory, heal suddenly. If it will glorify You more, heal gradually; if it will glorify You even more, may your servant remain sick awhile; and if it will glorify Your name still more, take him to Yourself in heaven."

Christ -- was never in a hurry, never impressed by numbers, never a slave to the clock.

(but we live among people who are)

   -- J.B. Phillips

Faith is not the way around pain, it is the way through pain.

   Faith doesn't get rid of the opposition, it invites it over for dinner.

   Faith doesn't give you the winning point at the last second, it ties the game and sends you into overtime.

   Faith doesn't give you the solution, it forces you to find it.

   Faith doesn't teach you at the moment, it teaches in retrospect.

   Faith doesn't provide a net to fall into when your fingers are about to give way as you hang suspended over the cliff, faith gives your finger the strength to hang on just a little longer.

   In other words, faith doesn't do anything when it's doing something.

   -- Mike Yaconelli

          D.      Application

II.      Cycle Two

          A.      Narrative (vv. 17-27)


          Martha does not give a rebuke but a wail, and then she tries to cover up for herself by saying that she knows Jesus can do whatever he wants.

          This is just a cover though because even up to v. 39 she doesn't really believe what Jesus is going to do.

          Jesus replies ambiguously in v. 23 and Martha responds that she knows that death, although the last enemy, will not have the last word.

          And we believe that too – after all, we are Christians, aren't we?

          But just like Martha, have we failed to believe that our resurrection is present and imminent?

          Do we wallow in fear at the unknown, thinking that our hope will come "some day?"

          But Jesus says now that since he is the resurrection and the life, we can have it now in him.

          He is the resurrection, but he is also the life that we can have now.

          The life that we receive now by faith is also the resurrection life that is to come.

          Here is the two parts: he is the resurrection – as such, he who believes in him will live even though he dies physically; and he is the life – as such, whoever believes in him will never die spiritually.

          And it is this that is our present fact by faith in him.

          Jesus offers us himself for our hope in our grief over death, but we can have life even now – it is ours by faith.

          In the previous message Jesus said he is life just like food and drink to us.

          And now here again he says that he is life, but it will be shown to us not just in the teaching of metaphor but in the demonstration of victory over the grave.

          Jesus is saying that he epitomizes life (Col. Sanders/Charles DeGaulle).

          Jesus can be trusted as the resurrection and the life.

          Jesus will raise Lazarus but it will be only an enacted parable as a signpost toward what he will accomplish on the cross and from the grave himself.

          Now Martha confirms her belief, but she is still not quite there even though this is a powerful confirmation (the first such recorded for a woman in the NT).

          In our deepest loss we need more than just a listening ear, we need the reality of Jesus – that he himself is not only food for us but eternal life for us.

          We find our life and hope in him.    

          B.      Implication

          How does Jesus demonstrate his love for those who believe in him?

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by giving hope in the face of death.

          C.      Illustration

Winston Churchill chose to believe. Churchill arranged his own funeral. There were stately hymns in St. Paul's Cathedral and an impressive liturgy. But at the end of the service, Churchill had an unusual event planned. When they said the benediction, a bugler high in the dome of St. Paul's Cathedral on one side played Taps, the universal signal that the day is over. There was a long pause. Then a bugler on the other side played Reveille, the military wake-up call.

   It was Churchill's way of communicating that, while we say "Good night" here, it's "Good morning" up there. Now why could he do that? Because he believed in Jesus Christ, who said "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he were dead, yet shall he live." When a man steps out of his own grave, he is anything that he says that he is, and he can do anything that he says he can do.

   -- Robert Russell

For many centuries the men and women in Europe looked out upon the western sea, what we call the Atlantic Ocean, and they saw the sun coruscating upon the glittering surface of the waters and they wondered. They wondered if there was anything beyond. Scholars said that you could sail off the edge of the world--there was nothing out there at all. In fact, inscribed on the escutcheons of the coat of arms of the nation of Spain was its national motto, Ne Plus Ultra, meaning, "There is nothing beyond."

   One day Columbus went westering on the shiny waters. He sailed off into the sunset as people waited expectantly, and finally after a long time the sails reappeared and the crowds were exultant. They shouted with joy, and Columbus announced that there was a land beyond the sea that was rich beyond their dreams. It was a glorious paradise. The king of Spain changed the motto of that land until it reads as it does today, Plus Ultra, meaning, "There is more beyond."

   For many centuries innumerable people stood beside the dark hole that we call a grave and watched the remains of their loved ones lowered into the earth, and they wondered: Beyond the dark waters of death, is there anything beyond?

   Then one day, a young explorer went westering into the setting sun and descended into the blackness of the pit. He sailed off the edge of the world and crashed through hell. People waited expectantly. Finally on this Resurrection morning, as the sun arose in the east, the Son of God stepped forth from a grave and declared, "There is something beyond. There is a paradise beyond your greatest expectations. And there awaits a heavenly Father, waiting with outstretched arms to wipe away every tear from your cheek."

   -- D. James Kennedy

          D.      Application

III.    Cycle Three

          A.      Narrative (vv. 28-37)

          Mary was at home grieving and wailing with family and friends and, in the custom of the culture, even paid mourners so that everyone could have release and gain closure on the tragedy of death.

          The original language says that Jesus was "intensely indignant" – not deeply moved.

          This was no quiet resolution on his part but moral outrage.

          The Greek word is enebrimhsato which sounds like our inebriated.

          We could say that Jesus was inebriated in spirit over the death of Lazarus and the grief that death causes those in loss of loved ones.

          Jesus was also troubled and he wept.

          But Jesus was not weeping as we weep.

          He knew he was going to raise Lazarus from the grave.

          He is outraged because death is the product of sin – it is not the way it is supposed to be.

          Death should also make us outraged because it is the judgement of God as a result of the Fall, saying this far you may go and no further.

          And so the grave has its way for a time.

          But it is not the ultimate design of God for mankind.


          B.      Implication

          How does Jesus demonstrate his love for those who believe in him?

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by his moral outrage in the face of death.

          C.      Illustration

I am spellbound by the intensity of Jesus' emotions: not a twinge of pity, but heartbroken compassion; not a passing irritation, but terrifying anger; not a silent tear, but groans of anguish; not a weak smile, but ecstatic celebration. Jesus' emotions are like a mountain river cascading with clear water. My emotions are more like a muddy foam or a feeble trickle.

   -- G. Walter Hansen

In a recent sermon, Bill Hybels shared this story:

   "A friend of mine has a brain-damaged daughter. Sometimes the sadness she feels over her daughter's condition overwhelms her, as it did recently. She wrote me this letter and gave me permission to quote from it:

   " '... I can hardly bear it sometimes. My most recent wave of grief came just last year before her sixteenth birthday. As the day approached, I found myself brooding over all the things that she would never be able to do. What did I do? What I've learned to do again and again: I did what I believe is the only thing to do to conquer grief, and that is to embrace it. ... I cried and cried and cried, and faced the truth of my grief head on.'

   "People who face their feelings and express them freely begin the journey toward hope."

I read recently of a teaching hospital that found one of its young resident students had a marvelous effect on children. They responded to him with delight. They would do things for him and yield to his ministrations in a way that they wouldn't do for any other person on the staff. They assigned a nurse to discover what the secret of this young resident was. It wasn't until the second week when she was on night turn that she found out the secret. It was simply this: Every night on his last round he would kiss, and hug, and tuck in every one of the children. It was in that act of compassion, you see, in that act of sympathy, that he made his contact. And it's this--this sympathy, this compassion that belongs to Jesus--that reaches out to us. It's this about him that charms us more than anything else.

   -- Bruce W. Thielemann

          D.      Application

IV.    Cycle Four

          A.      Narrative (vv. 38-44)

          Jesus is so incensed by death that he takes action against it.

          He precedes his action with prayer to show that this is the power of God at work in his command over the grave.

          But this much we can surmise, that if Jesus had not addressed his command to Lazarus when he told him to come out, then every tomb would have emptied.

But this command was addressed specifically to Lazarus and Lazarus had to hear it to come out.

Those who are not in Christ cannot hear him.

          Perhaps you have heard the expression, "Born once; die twice: born twice; die once."

          But in the case of Lazarus it was, "Born twice; die twice."

          Was he fortunate or unfortunate?

          Certainly he was resurrected only to die again when his time came – but he would also be resurrected again.

          Imagine his response, "Been there, done that, no fear!"

          Certainly he was fortunate to die twice as a believer because it was for the glory of God and the Son.

          But it also tells us that if Jesus was willing to let him die twice, then death for believers is not to be feared – it is no big deal.

          Jesus loved Lazarus so much that he allowed him to be a living demonstration of power over the grave by faith.

          We are not told everything that Lazarus lived through.

          We don’t know his life or what prompted his death.

          But we are told that Jesus raises the dead.

          And we are told that Jesus did not take death lightly – God cares.

          Jesus confronts death and displays his sovereignty over it in tears and outrage.

          Tears without outrage quickly degenerate into sentimentality.

          Outrage without tears hardens into arrogance.

          Jesus put them appropriately together as a model for us.

          Moral outrage is OK when shared with tears.

          And Jesus takes appropriate action.

          Indeed he can do so because of his righteousness leading to moral authority.

          B.      Implication

          How does Jesus demonstrate his love for those who believe in him?

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by his moral authority in the face of death.

          C.      Illustration

When my parents were visiting the Holy Land, they sent us a postcard of Lazarus's tomb. Showing it to our six-year-old son Leslie, my husband explained that this is where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Leslie asked if Grandma and Grandpa met Lazarus.

   "Of course not, he's dead," my husband said.

   To which Leslie retorted, "What? Again?"

   -- Aleta Nolan

Remember it is the very time for faith to work when sight ceases. The greater the difficulties, the easier for faith; as long as there remain certain natural prospects, faith does not get on even as easily as where natural prospects fail.

   -- George Mueller

Fred Craddock tells a story about a young pastor who goes to pray with an older woman. She's near death; she's in the hospital lying on the pillow, gasping for breath. He visits with her, and then he says, "I need to go, but would you like to have prayer before I go?"

   The old woman says, "Yes."

   He says, "Well, what would you like us to pray for today?"

   And she says, "I'd like to pray I'd be healed, of course."

   The young pastor gasps but goes on, "Lord, we pray for your sustaining presence with this sick sister. And if it be thy will, we pray that she will be restored to health and to service. But if it's not thy will, we certainly hope that she will adjust to her circumstances."

   Suddenly the old woman opens her eyes and sits up in bed. She throws her feet over the side of the bed. She stands up. She says, "I think I'm healed!" And she strides out the door. The last the pastor sees, she's striding down the hall toward the nurses' station, saying "Look! Look at me!"

   The pastor goes down the steps, goes out to the parking lot. Before he opens the door of his car, he looks up and says, "Don't you ever do that to me again!"

   -- William Willimon

          D.      Application

V.      Cycle Five

          A.      Narrative (vv. 45-53)

          The fact of this miracle has many of those who witnessed it stirring with faith, but evidently not all, for some went and tattled to the Pharisees.

          And this, of course, called for a high-level meeting to discuss the "problem" that Jesus created by displaying the power of God as a man.

          They asked, "What are we accomplishing? - or- "What are we going to do about it?"

          Notice that they do not deny the miracle.

          What is it they think they can do about such a man who can perform such a miracle?

          But they felt threatened with spiritual power here to the extent that their spiritual and political position was as stake.

          They rightly feared a rebellion that would bring down the Roman fist because this power over death that Jesus displayed could draw all men to himself which of course they could not do and did not want not allow.

          The rebellion was in their own hearts and they react out of fear instead of faith.

          So the high priest in ignorant arrogance speaks the truth that God placed in his mouth because of his position, and he prophesies the sacrifice of Jesus for the people.

          He speaks of the substitutionary death of the Son of God for sinners that is the central tenet of the gospel.

          Even though he speaks his considered opinion (not like Balaam's ass), he speaks better than he knows.

          He pursues political expediency at the expense of justice and still speaks forth the divine will of God.

For Caiaphas the death of Jesus will save the people from the judgment of the Romans; for the apostle John it would be a death which would avert the judgment of God (3:16), and open the door of the saving sovereignty to all nations (12:31–32).

          Ultimately, do we need to fear anyone in power?

          Not if we are in the bosom of God's care by faith in Jesus.

          Jesus would pay for the life of Lazarus and for all who follow him in faith by offering his own life in death for all of us.

          The resurrection of Lazarus hinged upon what Jesus would do – our resurrection hinges upon what Jesus did do.

          Lazarus might have come back this once at the command of Jesus, but unless Jesus went to the cross, he would not come back again.

He death, in death laid low;

Made sin, he sin overthrew.

Bow to the grave?

Destroyed it so,

And death by dying slew.

          B.      Implication

          How does Jesus demonstrate his love for those who believe in him?

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by offering himself as the resurrection and the life in the face of death. 

          C.      Illustration

          D.      Application


Big Answer:

          How does Jesus demonstrate his love for those who believe in him?

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by allowing delay in the face of death.

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by giving hope in the face of death.

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by his moral outrage in the face of death.

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by his moral authority in the face of death.

          Jesus demonstrates his love for us by offering himself as the resurrection and the life in the face of death. 

          Jesus looks death in the face and defies it to have any hold on him or those who believe in him because he is the resurrection and the life.

          [How does Jesus demonstrate the truth of his love for those who believe in him?

          Jesus demonstrates the truth of his love for us by allowing us to die so we might experience his life.

          Jesus demonstrates the truth of his love for us by his moral outrage and authority over death.

          Jesus demonstrates the truth of his love for us by dying himself.]

          This is the last of the sign miracles of Jesus related to us by John, and it is done by Jesus as proof that if he can raise the dead he can also raise himself from the death he is about to experience for all of us.

          The end of the story of Lazarus is the death of Jesus himself.

So we have come full circle from the Evidence to the Application to the Demonstration as a picture of what Jesus would accomplish upon the cross and from the grave, and we will celebrate this in communion this morning.

          All this did indeed happen, but in this present day we ourselves who believe are the best demonstration of God's present love and power and Christ's victory over the grave.


Since Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, Christian existence in Christ is life before death! It is not primarily something awaited, but the principle of life in the present, and since it is life in union with the Lord who conquered death, death cannot touch it.

The Surgeon General said this week that, "There is no valid evidence that homosexuality can be changed."

          But Lazarus walked out of the grave because he believed and so have we.

          The psychologists call many immoralities incurable.

          But Lazarus walked out of the grave because he believed and so have we.

          The doctors call aids and many forms of cancer incurable.

          But Lazarus walked out of the grave because he believed and so have we.

          What do you face today, dear believer?

          What is it that you need to overcome?

          Perhaps you need to die so you can live, because our resurrection from the dead by faith is not just for the next life but for this one also.

          In the words of Thomas in v. 16, "Let us also go that we may die with him."

9 ¶ Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders

 10  nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

 11  And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 (1 Corinthians 6:9-11 NIVUS)

          Let us celebrate the life of Christ within us!

Timeless Truth:

          Actions speak louder than words.

          The love for us that Jesus has is displayed for us in calling us from the grave.

          The love for Jesus that we have is displayed for him in our obedience to his voice.

          Just like the ones that Jesus keeps are the ones who won't go (6:67), the ones Jesus raises are the ones who get up.

VBS Song: "You Are The Life"

You are the life.

            You are the life, Jesus.

You are the life. You are the life.

Whoever believes in You

            Shall live eternally.

You're the resurrection

            And the life.

John 11:25


By grace You saved me,

Through faith You gave me.

You made a way for me,

And I will serve You faithfully.

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