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Seven Signs of John: The Rising of Lazarus

The Seven Signs in John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. In Him we have eternal life and abundant life.

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Text: John 11:18-27
Theme: Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. In Him we have eternal life and abundant life.
Steven Pinker is a Harvard professor. We assume, for the most part, that to be a professor at America’s first, oldest and perhaps most preeminent university in the nation implies that you’re a pretty smart person. Last week, however, Steven Pinker—no stranger to controversial statements—said something truly idiotic. He tweeted in a tweet on Twitter that, “belief in an afterlife is a "malignant delusion" because it "devalues actual lives and discourages action that would make them longer, safer, and happier. Exhibit A: What’s really behind Republicans wanting a swift reopening? [dramatic pause] Evangelicals." The tweet has since been taken down, but it was a tweet that sent the internet into a tumultuous twitter. It’s a remarkably arrogant tweet. It’s also astoundingly hypocritical. The accusation that Evangelicals devalue actual lives because we believe in an afterlife is coming from the same man who defends infanticide as morally acceptable if the baby is mentally or physically disabled. Talk about devaluing life!
As Christians we value both—this life and the afterlife—because Jesus valued both. That’s the lesson of the seventh and last “signs” from the Gospel of John.
We should never get tired of telling and re-telling the story of the raising of Lazarus. It sheds light into the realm of darkness, brings life where death reigns, and robs the tomb of its terror.

I. THE PROBLEM THAT HAD THEM IN DESPAIR

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (John 11:21, NIV84)
1. Lazarus was dead and grief had invaded a once happy home
a. a sibling whom Mary and Martha loved dearly was snatched from their presence and they were devastated
b. they find themselves mourning their brother’s passing
1) there is every indication that this was a close-knit family, whose home was frequented by Jesus
a) it’s Jesus’ home-away-from-home whenever he is near Jerusalem
b) John 11:5 indicates how special this family was to Jesus
“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (John 11:5, NIV84)
c. the passage opens with the announcement that Lazarus of Bethany is sick
1) Lazarus’ sister, Mary, is further identified as the woman who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair (and actually happens in chpt. 12)
d. but very quickly the announcement comes that Lazarus had died, vs. 11 and it’s Jesus who makes the announcement
2. meanwhile, back in Bethany, Lazarus’ family are making funeral arrangements
a. in Jesus' time, bodies were washed, wrapped, and scented for their initial entombment which usually took place on the day of death
b. the formal period of mourning lasted for seven days
c. the family would sit in their house and mourn, receiving the condolences of friends and neighbors during the week
d. this was called shiva and is what Mary and Martha were practicing when Jesus arrives
3. this passage reminds us of some universal truths about death

A. 1st, DEATH IS AN UGLY EVENT

1. it invades our homes and can bring with it division, discouragement, disillusionment, despair, and defeat
a. the Bible portrays death as a monstrosity that terrorizes mankind
b. death looms over us, and as David reminds us in the Psalms, casts its shadow upon us
2. Mary and Martha are distressed over their brother’s death, and perturbed that Jesus was not there to heal their brother (even though the time-line indicates that Lazarus died the day the messenger reached Jesus)
a. Jesus is twenty-five miles away on the other side of the Jordan (John 10:40)
b. it’s easy to imagine the sisters sitting by their brother’s deathbed, hoping and praying that Jesus would arrive in time
1) he does not
c. even today, we have the tendency to believe that any delay in God responding affirmatively to our prayers must mean the denial of our petition
1) not so!
2) Jesus has His own plan and time table for our lives
d. we forget that, for the believer, our sickness and death ultimately brings glory to God the Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ
“When he heard this, Jesus said, “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, NIV84)
1) never forget that God’s Son is glorified through death of every saint
3. the process of dying can be an even uglier event
ILLUS. My mom and dad.
a. like Mary and Martha, we too are sometimes tempted to blame the Lord and say, If only you’d come sooner ... if only you’d been here ... if only you’d answered my prayers

B. 2nd, DEATH IS A UNIVERSAL EVENT

“One man dies in full vigor, completely secure and at ease, 24 his body well nourished, his bones rich with marrow. 25 Another man dies in bitterness of soul, never having enjoyed anything good. 26 Side by side they lie in the dust, and worms cover them both.” (Job 21:23–26, NIV84)
“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19, NIV84)
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12, NIV84)
1. these, and many other Scripture verses speak of the reality of death
a. as Christians, we read this story with knowledge of why the tragedy takes place and the happy understanding of how it ends
1) but unlike us, Mary and Martha did not have this knowledge
b. neither the sisters nor the disciples know what Jesus know—death will intervene in Lazarus’ life, but death would not have the last word in Lazarus’ life
2. death is a universal event

C. 3rd, DEATH IS OFTEN AN UNEXPECTED EVENT

ILLUS. At the end of January, just four months ago, the economy was booming, Americans were working, 401k plans were fat, and Americans were hopeful about the future. But then COVID-19 happened. A simple virus—a unseen enemy—has radically changed our society. 100,000 + Americans have died and millions more live in terror that they might be next.
1. Martha and Mary hoped that Lazarus would recover from his sickness and that everything would return to normal
a. if not that, that Jesus would arrive in the nick of time and perform a miracle
b. Death had other ideas!
2. the New Testament so many of our fellow citizens live as if death is a long way off
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” (Proverbs 27:1, NIV84)
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14, NIV84)
a. in Luke 12:16-20 we have the story of The Rich Fool
1) he thought that he would continue to live and enjoy his life and his riches, and so he made big plans for the future, but death came and found him unprepared
2) the point of the parable is not about not making plans, but erroneously assuming that we are sovereign over our own life
a) a foolhardy assumption
3. Death Was a Problem That Had Mary and Martha Defeated

II. THE POWER JESUS DESCRIBED

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;” (John 11:25, NIV84)
1. Jesus claimed to possess power over the grave
a. He claimed title as the Resurrection and the Life
b. He said that He possesses this power within Himself
c. therefore, when you know Jesus Christ, you have eternal life and abundant life
“He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:12, NIV84)
2. what right does Jesus have to make such claims?
a. let's look at what the Bible says about His life giving power

A. JESUS RAISED OTHERS FROM THE DEAD

1. I’ve always wondered why the raising of Lazarus is considered such a remarkable “sign” considering that Jesus had done this before?
a. in Mark 5:41-42 he raises Jairus's daughter from the dead
b. in Luke 7:11 he raises the Widow of Nain's son back to life
2. so what is so unique about this resuscitation?
a. I think it has to do with the Jewish superstition of that day
ILLUS. According to Jewish tradition, the soul hovers over the body for three days after death. The human soul is somewhat lost and confused between death and before burial, and it stays in the general vicinity of the body, refusing to leave until the body is buried. During that time family and friends perform Shemira—the religious ritual of watching the body of the deceased. During this time the guardians of the dead read aloud comforting psalms during the time that they are watching the body. Jewish mourning ritual is most concerned with the feelings of the deceased, not primarily the feelings of the mourners.
b. in the first two instances, the deceased have been dead for mere minutes our hours when Jesus raised them to life
1) since the soul was still around, the soul could have simple re-entered the body
c. but in Lazarus case, death is indisputable, the soul has departed, and to be blunt “he stinketh”
1) when Jesus raises Lazarus, it’s incontrovertible that Jesus is bringing a dead man to life
2) that’s astounding ... even with all our technology we cannot resuscitate a corpse after four days
3. Jesus proved His power over death and the grave by raising these people from the dead

B. JESUS RAISED HIMSELF FROM THE DEAD

1. if the story of Christ’s death on the cross at Calvary ended there, it would be a story similar to a Greek tragedy
a. but, thank God, three days after His crucifixion, Jesus came out of His tomb, victorious over death, Hell and the grave
““Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28:6, NIV84)
3. when Jesus tells Mary I am the resurrection and the life, He had ever right to make such a claim
a. with such assurance the saints of God can face death with confidence, knowing that one day, these bodies will live again

C. JESUS PROMISED TO RAISE HIS FOLLOWERS FROM THE DEAD

“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (1 Corinthians 15:20–23, NIV84)
“Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–17, NIV84)
1. those who have trusted Jesus as their personal Savior can have the confidence that
Jesus will keep His promises and one day resurrect their bodies from the grave
2. in this passage we’ve seen The Problem That Had Them In Despair and The Power
Jesus Described

III. THE LESSONS OF THE SEVENTH SIGN

“Do you believe this?” (John 11:26b, NIV)
1. of all the passages where John describes a miracle as a “sign” this is the only one where John tells us what the sign is all about
a. this life-giver will give his life for the ransom of many (John 11:45-53)
1) many will believe
2) many more will not
b. this is the “sign” that will put into motion the culmination of God’s redemptive work

A. DEATH IS OUR MORTAL ENEMY

1. death looms over western culture in a powerful way right now, and as I look around I see our culture attempting to deal with it in several ways
2. 1st, many seek to deny it ... if we don’t talk about it, if we don’t acknowledge it, if we shut society down, and isolate ourselves in our homes we can deny that the death angel is real and not coming to our home
a. it’s a conspiracy of silence ... let’s not admit that death is real and it ain’t
ILLUS. In his book Western Attitudes Toward Death, Richard Ariès writes, “For society’s sake we must hide the unbearable disturbance caused by the ugliness of dying. People need to believe that life is happy.” Ariès is suggesting that the most important thing in life is our happiness and we must simply pretend that anything that interferes with our happiness just isn’t real.
b. such a denial of death is simply delusional
3. 2nd, many seek to sentimentalize it ... let’s not be afraid of it, let’s face it and say that death is our “friend” ... death is a natural thing so embrace it ... death is a beautiful thing
4. neither of these views is biblical
a. we obviously cannot live in denial of death
1) pretending that death is not real, or attempting to hide from it as if death doesn’t know how to find us is not a successful strategy for life
b. neither should we sentimentalize it
1) death, according to the Bible, is our great enemy ... it’s not a friend
2) in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul calls death the last enemy
5. Christianity alone, of all the world faiths, sees death as a defeated enemy
a. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians ...
“When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Corinthians 15:54–56, NIV84)
b. in this passage we hear the Apostle taunting death, because Paul know that death cannot hold him
c. in his first sermon after the resurrection Peter said, “Jesus Christ broke the bands of death. It was not possible for them to hold him”
6. we are to have a resolute hope that death leads to victory, knowing that the worst thing that can happen to us is the best thing that can happen to us
ILLUS. Death for the Christian is a dark tunnel that leads into the cheering stadium.

B. JESUS IS OUR ONLY MEANS OF DEFEATING DEATH

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, NIV84)
1. to receive the promise of Christ and be rescued from spiritual death and from the power of the grave, you have to believe on Jesus
a. believing on means more than merely believing in
b. that is, you must trust Jesus and Him alone for your soul's salvation
“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV84)
1) in this verse we see the exclusivity of the Gospel
2) it is not an invention of the Church, but the proclamation of our Savior
2. the essence of Christianity is personal pronouns
a. if you are here this evening saying, The Son of God was born, he died, he was raise, he ascended, and he’s coming again, that doesn’t make you a Christian
b. but, if you are here this evening saying, The Son of God was born for me, he died on the cross for me, he was raised for me, he ascended to the right hand of the Father for me, and he’s going to come again for me, that’s the essence of true saving faith
3. the central truth of this entire event is found in John 11:25-26
“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”” (John 11:25–26, NIV84)
a. in these verses Jesus is talking about two resurrections in our life
b. the first is physical resurrection, vs. 25
1) Jesus is saying, “When you die you won’t stay dead, but your body will come back to life. You will get a new body.”
c. the second is spiritual resurrection, vs. 26
1) Jesus is saying, “There’s a spiritual resurrection that happens when the Holy Spirit comes into your life when you believe on me. You become a new creation; you’re changed, you’re transformed, and until the day you die you’re being transformed from one degree of splendor into the next.”

C. JESUS GUARANTEES ESCAPE FROM SIN AND FROM ALL ITS BAGGAGE

1. sin carries with it a tremendous price tag
a. in fact, people start receiving the dividends of sin as soon as they come into the world
2. salvation delivers the believer from the most vicious aspects of sin's power
a. Salvation Delivers From The Power Of Sin - Rom. 6:14
b. Salvation Delivers From The Penalty Of Sin - Rom. 5:9
c. Salvation Delivers From The Presence Of Sin - Rev. 21:27
3. salvation comes only through commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8–9, NIV84)
a. do not be deceived—any plan of salvation that neglects Jesus and His shed blood is doomed to failure from the start
“how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.” (Hebrews 2:3–4, NIV84)
1) works will never get the job done - Gal. 2:16
2) turning over a new leaf will never get the job done - Matt. 12:43-45
3) religion will never get the job done - Titus 3:5
4. but, when you come to trust Jesus and trust Him, you will find that the job is already done
“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2, NIV84)
ILLUS. When Jesus died on the cross, some of the last words out of His mouth were, "It is finished!" Please notice that He did not say, "I am finished." This was not the cry of a defeated dying men. This was the triumphant shout of a great victor. It is the cry of One who has completed His task and fulfilled His mission. When Jesus died on the cross, He finished the plan of salvation for all men. Now, anyone who receives Jesus finds that salvation has been prepared and paid for in full. All the lost sinner has to do is receive the finished work of Jesus as his own.

D. THIS IS THE ONLY PLAN THAT IS ENDORSED BY GOD

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV84)
1. long before the believers were called Christians and before a gathered group of Christians was called the Church, those who followed Christ referred to Christianity as The Way
a. the Christian faith was more than holding the right beliefs, possessing the right theology, and maintaining the right doctrine
b. it was literally a way of life that sought to emulate the life of Christ
2. if you learn nothing else this morning, at least learn that you must be born again
“In reply Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3, NIV84)
a. you must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ if you expect to miss Hell, go to Heaven and experience the life that can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ
I suppose the best way to end this message is with the question that Jesus posed to Martha in verse 26, Believest thou this? How you answer that question will decide your eternity. If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ, then I invite you to come to Him right now. He loves you and will receive you. If you will only come to Him, He will give you everlasting life without charge. If you have the least bit of concern about where you will spend eternity think long and hard about what you will do with Jesus.
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