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John Chapter Eleven

Sermon of the Week #200807 – February 17, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, the following is a short list of gospel messages that could be preached from the resurrection of Lazarus as found in the eleventh chapter of the gospel according to John.

NUMBER ONE: Mary and Martha sent a messenger to Jesus with the information, “He whom thou lovest is sick.” Beyond this, they said nothing else. They just laid the problem before the Lord, not asking for Him to come and heal their brother; they only laid the problem before Him and let Him do with it as He would.

The sickness in this family who had such a close relationship with Jesus reminds us that the person who is close to the Lord is not immune from disease. The Christian can get just as sick as anyone else, and when it happens, there is a blessing that comes with it, as we are reminded of our mortality. Each pain is a wake-up call, and like Mary and Martha, we want to get in touch with Jesus immediately, His Word, and His Church.

As a Christian, we have a right to go to God in prayer for sickness by virtue of the fact that we are not our own. We have been bought with a price, a very high price at that. As Peter says, “We have been redeemed not with silver and with gold but with the blood of a Lamb without spot and without blemish even the blood of Christ.”

NUMBER TWO: Jesus said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God.” Life is not over at the moment of death, it goes on, for all eternity. This is evident from the other story about another Lazarus in Luke sixteen, and this story of the resurrection of Lazarus of Bethany stands almost back to back with the other Lazarus. This is significant because it teaches us that death does not end it all. Death did not end it all in the other story of the rich man, and Lazarus. They both lived after they died. We will be just as conscious as to where we are after we are dead, as we are now.

Jesus said that Lazarus had fallen asleep. The scripture speaks of the Christian as being asleep in Jesus. It is only the body that sleeps; the soul or spirit is just as much alive as it ever was. Paul also says to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, and Jesus said Lazarus His friend, had fallen asleep, “I go that I may waken him out of sleep.” It is good for us to remember as Christians we also have a friend in Heaven.

Then there is also another sense in which people are asleep. Paul warned the church in Romans 13:11-12, “It is high time for you to awake out of sleep: for now is salvation nearer to us than when we first believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.” Eternity is closer than we may think. Get into a car and drive down the road at almost any speed and when a car comes in the opposite direction, if three feet is all the distance between you and a head-on collision, then you may be just three feet from being able to hear the angels sing, or from hearing the shouts and the cries of the damned. So wake up, it is high time to awake out of sleep.

Then again when people are physically asleep they have dreams and fantasies. One of the biggest spiritual fantasies many have today is that on the Judgment Day, God will line up the human race and then Jesus will proclaim, “Father, forgive them all for they knew not what they did.” Ladies and Gentlemen, that is the biggest fantasy a mortal can have. That fantasy may turn into an eternal nightmare.

NUMBER THREE: Jesus abode two days in the place where He was. Why did He wait? Lazarus was probably dead. It took a day to come and tell Him. It took a day for Him to return to Bethany. He abode two days where He was. Whatever the reason, we know that the Lord does not operate according to our timetable.

Most of us are like Moses in Numbers chapter twelve. Miriam and Aaron in jealousy against Moses had spoken against him and the Ethiopian woman he married. God gave Miriam a good dose of leprosy, and Moses prayed for her. His prayer was short and to the point: Moses said, “Heal her now, O Lord, I beseech Thee.” We also want our prayers answered, and answered right now. Jesus answered the prayer of Mary and Martha. But He waited two days before He got started. Jesus had said this sickness was for the glory of God that the Son of God should be glorified thereby. The Lord’s delay made it possible in this to give this family a greater blessing than they ever dreamed.

NUMBER FOUR: Let us go into Judea again. The disciples reminded the Lord that the Jews were seeking to kill Him, and it would be dangerous to go at this time. Jesus knew this. He knew that if He went to raise Lazarus, it would bring Him to the brink of Calvary.

Jesus told them, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If a man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world. If a man walk in the night he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” Jesus compressed our time on earth like unto a period of twelve hours. Many people spend the whole twelve-hour lifetime walking, and stumbling in the dark. Many of them intend to come into the light sometime, and many of them die at ten thirty.

So then, Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.” That statement someday will be said of every one of us, “He is dead or she is dead.” Then the words of the Psalmist 116:15 will be most comforting, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.”

NUMBER FIVE: Both Martha and Mary said the same thing to Jesus, “Lord, if thou hast been here, my brother had not died.” It may appear that no one ever died in the Lord’s presence, at least Mary and Martha thought so of their brother Lazarus.

Then Jesus told Martha, “Thy brother shall rise again.” She said, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection, at the last day.” Martha’s faith like ours was limited. She believed that Jesus could raise all the dead at the last day, at one time, but she did not believe He could raise one man from the dead as He stood before her. We also believe that God can raise all the dead, sit on the throne of Judgment, command legions of angels when He comes again, but are not so sure He can work things out in our lives here on earth.

Then Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me, though he shall die, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. Believeth thou this?”

There is no proof that Jesus can raise the dead from books of science, or books of philosophy, or books of mathematics. There is no University that has a course explaining the virgin birth, and the details as to how Jesus will resurrect the dead. Actually there is no proof except the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ. The most critical question about the whole matter of the second coming and the judgment is the question Jesus asked Martha, and the question that we also must answer, “BELIEVEST THOU THIS?” Your answer to that can lead you to your eternal salvation. For the Christian, the triumphant words of Paul in 1st Corinthians 15:54 and the words of Isaiah 25:8 will come to pass, “Death will be swallowed up in victory.”

NUMBER SIX: Martha returned home with a secret message for Mary, “The Master is come and calleth for thee.” The Master also calls for us in a very true sense as He summons us to the cross. Hebrews 13:12-13 tells us, “Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach.” Whenever a lost sinner hears the gospel of the death, burial and resurrection, it can be said, “The Master is come and calleth for thee.”

That is the way it was in the statement of Acts 2:39 on the day of Pentecost, the day the church began. Peter had preached the story of the cross and informed them the promise of salvation was for them, and to their children, and to all that were afar off as many as the Lord our God shall call unto Him. He calls man as they hear the gospel story. Just before that, He had given them the instructions, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So the Master is here and calleth for thee.

NUMBER SEVEN: Then there is that famous verse in John 11:35, “JESUS WEPT.” Twice Jesus is said to have wept. Actually three times; once in Hebrews four, verse eleven, but there it mentions crying and tears. Twice it says that He wept. Once here at the grave of Lazarus and again in Luke nineteen, verse forty-one. There He wept over the city of Jerusalem. Two different words are used. In John eleven there was the shedding of tears silently. But in Luke nineteen the word for WEPT includes sobbing, an audible sound of weeping. Twice it says that HE WEPT. It seems that His weeping over the guilt of lost humanity was greater, than His weeping over the loss of a loved one who was prepared to die.

Paul said concerning the Christian, “We sorrow not as the rest who have no hope.” It is one thing to sorrow over a person who is prepared to die, and another to sorrow over one who is not prepared to die.

NUMBER EIGHT: Behold how He loved him. The Jews who had come to comfort Mary and Martha were impressed when they saw that Jesus wept. It was evident that He loved Lazarus greatly. So let it be seen in us regarding our own spiritual condition. Behold how He loved us. John tells us about that love in 1st John 4:10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

Look at the cradle in Bethlehem, behold, how He loved us. We see it in His temptation, “Tempted in all points like as we are”  Behold, how He loved us. We see it again as He died on the cross, tasting of death once for every man and feeling the guilt of every sin that we have ever committed. Is there any doubt? Behold how He loved us. Angels must often marvel, “BEHOLD HOW HE LOVED THEM!”

NUMBER NINE: Some said, “Could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind have caused that this man had not died?” The answer is YES, He could have. What a comfort for us in the matter of salvation. “Could not this man who saved others also save me?” When I consider Saul of Tarsus who murdered and tortured Christians, tore down Churches and tried to stamp out the Church, could not the same Lord who saved him also save me? The answer has to be YES.

Look at Peter who, after living with the Lord three years, cursed and denied that he knew Him. If the Lord would forgive him, will He not forgive me? The answer has to be YES. Look at David. If God would forgive him who was guilty of adultery and murder, would He not also be able to forgive me? The answer has to be YES.

NUMBER TEN: Roll away the stone from the door of the tomb. We have often noted that the Lord will not do for us what we can do for ourselves. In John two, He told the servants to fill the water pots with water before He turned the water into wine. Here He tells them to roll away the stone before He raised the dead. Then when they did all they could do in both cases, He stepped in and worked the miracle. In time of sickness we need to do all we can do first; take the shots, drink the goop, get the operation, then the Lord will do the rest as it pleases Him. What a thrill it must have been for the ones who rolled away that stone when Jesus raised up Lazarus; to be used by the Lord for so great a miracle. We are not far behind. He uses us today to work the miracle of salvation, by what we give and do. We must do our part; then Jesus works the miracle of salvation.

Martha said, “Lord, he hath been dead four days already and stinketh.” There is no smell more offensive than the smell of a rotting human corpse. And this reminds us of the spiritual rot of the un-forgiven sinner. Paul tells us in Ephesians that Jesus made us alive when we were dead in trespasses and sins. Before we became Christians we were spiritually dead. I am not overdrawing the picture when I say, “As un-forgiven, the spiritual rot of sinners in that condition is offensive to God.”

Now this is the only resurrection of Jesus performed on a corpse that had begun to rot, he had been dead four days. But whether four days or 2,000 years, the conclusion is the same, Jesus had power to raise the dead, even a corpse that had begun to rot.

NUMBER ELEVEN: Then, when Lazarus was raised from the dead, he came forth bound with grave clothes. Some, who have died to sin, and are resurrected from the waters of baptism in the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, do not walk in the newness of life. Paul tells us in Colossians that if we are raised with Christ, to seek the things that are above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. If we have been raised with Christ, let us shed the grave clothes. Loose him and let him go!

Many are walking around in their grave clothes; they were drunkards before accepting Christ and it seems that they have made no change after becoming a Christian. “Loose him and let him go!” Many find the parts of the shroud and cling to them. We need to assist the new Christian in any way we can to rid him of the garments of death. “Loose him and let him go!”

NUMBER TWELVE: Jesus cried with a loud voice, “LAZARUS, COME FORTH!” What a voice Jesus must have had. John in Revelation describes it as the voice of a trumpet; a loud voice. No need for amplification. No need for a transmitter. His voice was not only heard by those who were close to the tomb, but heard in the spirit world. “Lazarus, come forth!” There were many men named Lazarus, and only one came back. The Lazarus in Luke sixteen did not return nor did any of the others. “Lazarus, come forth!” Notice there was no command to wake up, and come forth, nor did He say, “Get up, and come forth!” The dead in Christ are ready just as they are, and waiting for the command on that day, “COME FORTH!”

Lazarus was glad to come back because he would be in the presence of the Lord. To be absent from Paradise for him was to be present with the Lord. For us, it is true the other way around, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, to depart and be with Christ is very far better.”

I know not the form of my mansion so fair. I know not the crown that I there then shall wear. But I know that my Saviour will welcome me there; and that will be glory for me.

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