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John 11:28-37 - Jesus and mary: the real needs of man

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man has great needs. These needs are seen in the experience of Mary with Jesus.

            1.         Need 1: the glorious message of Christ (v.28).

            2.         Need 2: the right response—arise quickly and come to Christ (v.29-30).

            3.         Need 3: the reaching out of people to help others (v.31).

            4.         Need 4: the confession of faith (even if it is limited and weak) (v.32).

            5.         Need 5: the understanding, feelings, and compassion of Jesus (v.33-36).

            6.         Conclusion: the misunderstanding of man—how could Jesus love so much and let this happen (v.37)?

A.                  the message of Jesus christ

1.                  Need 1: The Message Of Christ (v.28)

Martha had made a great confession of faith: “Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (John 11:27).

            The confession apparently struck some kind of hope within Martha. Just what she was expecting, perhaps even she did not know, but there was a spark of hope. Her Lord, the Son of God Himself, was now with her. Whatever could be done would be done; whatever help was available would be given. Her faith and trust were in Him. Only one thing was missing: her dear sister, Mary. So she hurried to share the news with her.

Note that she shared three things.

a)                  He is the “Master” (v.28a)

Master (ho didaskalos): means the Teacher. The definite article (the) is important. Jesus is not just another teacher like all other teachers. He is the Teacher, the teaching Master. This means at least two things.

(1)                 Jesus is the Supreme Teacher.  He is known for being the greatest of teachers. No one compares or even comes close to comparing with Him. He stands alone as the Teacher.
(a)                 PEOPLE WERE ASTONISHED AT HIS TEACHING (Matt.7:28).  Astonished literally means to be struck out of oneself, and was used figuratively of being struck in the mind, that is, of being astounded or beside oneself. The crowd was totally dumbfounded by the power of what Jesus said. 

(i)                 A similar statement is found in (John 7:46).

(b)                HE TAUGHT AS ONE HAVING AUTHORITY (Matt.7:29).  But the most remarkable thing that struck the audience that day was that Jesus was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.  In the New Testament it is used for the power that proves and reflects the sovereignty of Jesus. The scribes quoted others to lend authority to their teachings, but Jesus quoted only God’s Word and spoke as the final authority on truth. He spoke eternal truth simply, directly, with love (in contrast to the bitter hatred of the Pharisees), and without hesitation or consultation. That astounded the crowd.
(c)                 WHAT THEY NEEDED WAS NOT AMAZEMENT BUT BELIEF, not astonishment but obedience. Jesus did not tell them all of those things for their amazement, or even simply for their information, but for their salvation. He did not intend merely to show them the narrow gate and the narrow way, but pleaded with them to enter that gate and to follow that way, which He would make accessible by paying the penalty for their sins.

(i)                   But most of the people only watched and listened, only heard and considered-but Did Not Decide. Even by not deciding, however, they decided. For whatever reasons-possibly for no conscious reason at all-they decided to stay on the broad road.

C. S. Lewis gives a remarkable illustration from his own life of what the attitude is of many who hear the gospel:

When I was a child I often had toothache, and I knew that if I went to my mother she would give me something which would deaden the pain for that night and let me get to sleep. But I did not go to my mother-at least, not till the pain became very bad. And the reason I did not go was this. I did not doubt she would give me the aspirin: but I knew she would also do something else. I knew she would take me to the dentist next morning. I could not get what I wanted out of her without getting something more, which I did not want. I wanted immediate relief from pain: but I could not get it without having my teeth set permanently right. And I knew those dentists; I knew they started fiddling about with all sorts of other teeth which had not yet begun to ache. They would not let sleeping dogs lie. (Mere Christianity [New York: Macmillan, 1977], p. 177)

It is that very sort of thinking that keeps many people out of the kingdom: the price is more than they want to pay

(2)                 Jesus is the Master, the Lord, the Teacher of all men. In calling Jesus the Teacher, there is the idea of His Lordship and deity. Note that He claims deity Himself: “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am” (John 13:13). His being the Teacher is tied closely with His being the Lord. In fact, logic alone would tell us that the Lord would be the greatest Teacher among all men.

b)                  The teacher “has come” (v.28b)

The answer that man desperately needs is now available. The One who can give us the help we need has now come: the Teacher who can teach us how to meet all of our...

·            needs and necessities.

·            troubles and trials.

·            sorrow and hurt.

·            loneliness and emptiness.

"Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”" (Matthew 20:28, NASB95)

"“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, And recovery of sight to the blind, To set free those who are oppressed, To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”" (Luke 4:18-19, NASB95)

"“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." (John 10:10, NASB95)

"Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them." (Hebrews 7:25, NASB95)


c)                  The Teacher calls “for you” (v.28c)

"Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29, NLT)

"“Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink—even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk—it’s all free!" (Isaiah 55:1, NLT)

(1)                 Blind Bartimaeus calls upon Jesus (Mark 10:46-52)
(2)                 There are those whom he calls (Matt.22:14) but don’t want to come because:

Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way that leads to life and there are few who find it (Matt.7:14). 

Jesus said to “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many will seek to enter and will not be able (Luke 13:24)

Sin is holding them back (John 3:18-20)

2.                  Need 2: The Right Response—Arise Quickly And Come To Christ (v.29-30)

The second need is to make the right response to Christ—the response of arising quickly and running to Him.

a)                  The message of Christ was enough to stir Mary (v.29).

(1)                 It is enough to stir action within the heart of any person who honestly seeks the answer to the trials of life and death.

b)                  When Mary heard & her heart was stirred, she responded quickly (v.29).

(1)                 The idea is that she jumped up (arose quickly) and ran to meet Jesus. Hope and expectation were stirred in her heart. Note that the message had come to her in a very quiet manner: secretly, in a whisper, without anyone else knowing it (John 11:28).

Thought 1. No matter how quietly the message is proclaimed, man is to respond by arising quickly and running to meet Jesus.

c)                  Mary Acted On Her Own And Made Her Own Decision.

(1)                 SHE DID NOT TALK WITH HER FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, not even with those who were closest to her. She got up and went to Jesus, leaving both friends and neighbors behind (Matthew 19:27-29).
(2)                 SHE DID NOT CONSULT WITH RELIGIONISTS.  Religion was important to her. The local religious leaders were even present, visiting and comforting her in her sorrow and sharing the comfort that their religion offered. But it helped her so little.  When she heard the message that the Lord was calling for her, she went to Him, saying nothing to the religionists.
(3)                 SHE DID NOT CONSIDER APPEARANCE.  Think about the situation. There was a house full of friends and neighbors. Who was going to greet them, receive their sympathies, express appreciation, and handle their presence? None of that mattered to Mary, not now. The Lord was calling for her. She must respond and go to Him immediately.
(4)                 SHE DID NOT CONSIDER THE DISTANCE. Jesus had not yet entered town, so Mary had to walk a considerable distance to reach Him.  

"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened." (Luke 11:9-10, NASB95)

"At the acceptable time I listened to you, And on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation”—" (2 Corinthians 6:2, NASB95)

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants," (Deuteronomy 30:19, NASB95)

d)                  And Illustration Of the Wrong Response (Jonah 1:1-3)

3.                  Need 3: The Reaching Out Of People To Help Others (v.31)

The third need is for people, friends and neighbors, to reach out to help each other. This is a touching picture. When the neighbors and friends saw Mary leave quickly, they thought she was going to the tomb to mourn over Lazarus. They were with her for one reason: to “comfort” her. Naturally, they followed her, thinking she needed help in bearing up under her loss. Note what happened.

a)                  They, too, were brought face to face with Jesus.

(1)                 Because they were set on comforting Mary, they were to share in Mary’s experience with Christ.

b)                  They, too, were given the opportunity to trust Christ.

(1)                 In fact, many did “believe on Him” (John 11:45).


Thought 1. The friends and neighbors set a clear example of helping others. The world needs more and more neighbors such as these. Note the result of sincere help. It does not go unnoticed by Christ. Many are brought to Christ when they help those who already know Christ, (funerals for example).

"I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”" (Acts 20:35,)

"We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves." (Romans 15:1, NKJV)

"Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (Galatians 6:2, NKJV)

"Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also." (Hebrews 13:3, NKJV)

"Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27, NKJV)


4.                  Need 4: The Confession Of Faith (Even If It Is Limited And Weak) (v.32)

The fourth need is the confession of faith, even if the faith is limited and weak. As soon as Mary saw Jesus, she fell at His feet in homage and worship and made a confession of faith in Him.

a)                  The confession: Lord (v.32a)

(1)                 Means master, owner. Jesus was called Lord from the very first of His ministry (Matthew 8:2) and He accepted the title. He even called Himself Lord (Matthew 7:21).
(2)                 When Jesus is called Lord, it means that He is Master and Owner, the King of kings and Lord of lords, the only true God. He is Jehovah, Adonai, God Himself.

b)                  The Worship (v.32b)

(1)                 Scripture records only one sentence spoken by Mary of Bethany (John 11:32c), and even that wasn’t original: her sister Martha had already said the same thing (11:21)!  But what Mary may have lacked in outspokenness, she more than made up for in devotion to Jesus. All three portraits of her in the Gospels show her at the Lord’s feet:
(a)                 Note: Mary sat at His feet, listening to His Words (Luke 10:38–42).
(b)                When Jesus came to Bethany after Lazarus’ death, Mary fell at His feet, completely broken over the tragedy (John 11:32).
(c)                 During a Passover meal just before Jesus’ death, Mary poured fragrant oil on His head and feet, and wiped His feet with her hair (Matt. 26:6–13; Mark 14:3–9; John 12:1–8).  Mary had been influenced by an incident that had taken place earlier in Luke’s gospel (7:36-50).
(2)                 On Each Of These Occasions, Mary Was Criticized By Others.
(a)                 But apparently she didn’t notice or didn’t care. Mary seemed to be a woman who made choices based on a COMMITMENT TO JESUS THAT WENT TO THE CORE OF HER BEING.  In return, Jesus defended her actions, giving her freedom to be His disciple.

c)                  The complaining, limited faith (v.32c)

(1)                 Mary’s Complaining, Limited Her Faith In Jesus. She believed in Jesus & even believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus and kept him from dying. But Jesus had not come immediately when He was called (11:6); therefore, her brother was dead.
(2)                 The point is this: Mary Believed In Jesus, But Her Faith Was A Complaining Faith. She did not believe to the point of resting in faith.  She was not entrusting the matter completely into the Lord’s hands and was not yet convinced that what had happened was for the best. She trusted Jesus as her Savior, but she questioned what had happened.

Thought 1. The need of man is to make a genuine confession of faith. Even if one’s belief and confession are weak, they will grow as one walks with Jesus day by day.

"“Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:32, NKJV)

"That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." (Romans 10:9-10, NKJV)

"And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:11, NKJV)

"Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:15, NKJV)

5.                  Need 5: The Understanding, Feelings, And Compassion Of Jesus (v.33-36)

a)                  Jesus saw her weeping (v.33)

(1)                 Jesus sees you when you are weeping and cares

b)                  He groans in spirit (v.33)

(1)                 OVER DEATH (v.33a).  The word “groaned” is also used in (v.38) & often interpreted to mean stern reaction, displeasure, or anger (because of its use in other places Matt.9:30; Mark 1:43; 14:5).  Some interpreters feel that Jesus was angry with the friends and neighbors because of their loud wailing and moaning, feeling that they were being hypocritical and insincere in their sorrow. This interpretation is difficult to see.

Þ            Mary was certainly sincere in her sorrow, and Jesus was definitely touched by her need.

Þ            The Jewish friends and neighbors (which were “many,” John 11:19) were sincere in “comforting” her (John 11:31), and many were open to trusting the Lord (John 11:45). Jesus was certainly touched by those as well.

(a)                 Here in (v.33) “groaned in the spirit” refers to a highly charged emotional state that Jesus experienced in his spirit, that is, internally.
(b)                 John says that Jesus was also troubled (v.33) (ταράσσω, tarasso), meaning he was very disturbed.

(i)                 This word is used elsewhere to describe the angelic troubling of the waters of the healing pool (5:7) and the troubled emotional state of Jesus when he announces that one of the disciples is a traitor (13:21).

(2)                 OVER MAN’S PAIN (v.33b).  Jesus does groan in spirit: He groans in understanding and feeling and compassion for all who are hurting and suffering. The words “was troubled” (etaraxen heauton) mean agitated, moved deeply, disturbed within. Jesus was actually feeling the misery and pain of all. His spirit was disturbed and agitated, deeply moved by the whole scene of sorrow and death.  Jesus is near emotional breaking point.

In light of the whole scene, it seems best to see Jesus gripped with intense emotion. He was deeply moved...

·              by Mary, who was so broken in sorrow (v.33).

·              by Martha, who was gripped by pain and hurt (v.21-27).

·              by those who were really feeling the death of Lazarus and the sorrow of the family.

·              by the terrible tragedy of death and the pain it causes.

·              by the price He was soon to pay conquering death (Hebrews 5:7; Luke 22:41-44; Hebrews 12:2)

c)                  He asks where the dead person is (v.34)

Note that Jesus knew where the grave was, but He asked where it was for two reasons.

(1)                 If He had gone straight to the tomb, there was the possibility of some charging Him and Lazarus with being in collusion and tricking the people.
(2)                 He needed to distract the people from their deep wailing and arouse their expectation for something unusual about to happen.

Note also that Jesus demonstrated His concern over the dead.  He wants to point man’s attention to the fact that all men lie in the grave. All must look to Him if they wish to escape death (Hebrews 9:27; John 3:16; John 5:24.)

d)                  Jesus Wept: He weeps in love: Over death and man’s pain (v.35-36)

(1)               This is not the same word for weeping as in verse 33, but δακρύω (dakryo) meaning that the tears begin to flow.
(2)               What sort of human being would Jesus be if he could ignore the pain of Mary and Martha, and block out his own personal heartache over the death of his friend Lazarus? And for once the Jews do not attack Jesus or attempt to discredit him. They see him through their own tears and empathize with this wonderful person by exclaiming, “See how he loved him!”
(a)                 Romans 12:15 weep with those who weep
(b)                1 Corinthians 12:26 if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it
(c)                 Acts 9:4 any persecution on a Christian is a direct attack on Christ

"Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea." (Matthew 18:5-6, NKJV)

(d)                 You are the “apple of His eye” a figurative expression for something very valuable

For he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8)… He guarded him as the pupil of His eye (Deut.32:10)… Keep me as the apple of the eye (Psalm 17:8)

(3)               The human Jesus was not immune to these emotions, nor did he try to be. We should not be either. When death strikes, it is natural and acceptable to let the tears flow. It is not a sign of a lack of faith. To do otherwise may be an unnatural repression of a God-sanctioned emotional release.

Man was never made for sin and death; man was made for righteousness and life.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" (Romans 8:35, NKJV)

"For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 4:15, NKJV)

"As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him." (Psalm 103:13, NKJV)

"But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children," (Psalm 103:17, NKJV)

(4)                 Jesus Also wept Over Jerusalem (Luke 19:41-42)

6.                  Conclusion: The misunderstanding of man—how could Jesus let this happen? (v.37)

a)                  The Problem—Man Does Not Understand (v.37).

(1)                 The misunderstanding of man. The people asked the same question that is so often asked by men of every generation. How could Jesus love so much and let this happen? The problem, of course, is not Jesus. People just do not understand...
(a)                 that the nature of the world is decay and corruption, trial and trouble, suffering and pain, death and hell—all because of selfishness and sin.
(b)                that trials and sickness can be an opportunity for God to do a great work ( John 11:4).

(i)                   He was to die for the glory of God and Christ. He was sick, and he was to die so that the works of God could be demonstrated. Lazarus died so that...

(a)                 God could be glorified...          

(b)               Christ could be glorified...

(2)               The trouble that came to Jesus as a result of the healing of the blind man is merely a taste of what is to come on the raising of Lazarus.
(3)               For John, the Lazarus miracle will be the event that causes the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem to kill Jesus (11:45-53; cf. 12:10–11).

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