This is the sermon for Wednesday evening, July 22nd 2009.
The reality of the Gospel: Resurrection and Life.
John 11:38-44 TNIV – 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
We are continuing in our story of this great miracle that Christ performed – the resurrection of Lazarus after he had been dead for 4 days. This story serves a much deeper illustration for us – it is a great illustrated true story that represents the reality of the Gospel – what happens when a sinner dead in their sins is called out of the death of sin into the newness of the resurrected life of Jesus Christ.
We are going to look at this passage in this light tonight. Let’s begin.
The Problem: Being dead stinks!
John 11:38-39 TNIV – 38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
First off, this is the second time in this chapter that Jesus is described as “deeply moved.”
John 11:33 TNIV – When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
Remember, what does deeply moved in the Greek means? “To snort with anger, and indignation.”
Now this second time that He is snorting with anger, or more likely, sighing in anger what is the reason? Well, it is found in verses 35-37.
John 11:35-37 TNIV – 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
They misunderstood Jesus weeping, and they are reasoning that Jesus at this time can’t do anything at all.
Jesus then tells them to take away the stone. It didn’t matter that they misunderstood Jesus emotions, or their lack of faith that He could do anything at this point. Jesus made the choice and decision to raise Lazarus from the dead, so in anticipation he told the people gathered around to remove the stone. Martha objects basically saying, “Lord, He has been dead for 4 days, He stinks!”
Now let’s look at this as it illustrates the Gospel.
Before Christ saved us, we were all dead in our transgressions and sins.
Ephesians 2:1-3 TNIV – 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.
You see, all of us were in the same position as the lost in the world are today – we were dead in our transgression and sins; we gratified the cravings of our sinful nature; and we were deserving of wrath. Our sins stank in the nostrils of God.
Let’s go on to our next point.
The Promise: Though dead we can experience the glory of God!
John 11:40 TNIV – Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
First notice that Jesus does not rebuke Martha of her response. He gently responds to her, to reassure her and to encourage her. He did it in the form of reminding her of what He had said earlier. This reminder also was teaching Martha a lesson: she needed to quit focusing on the dead body and the condition of the dead body and begin to focus on the One who is the Resurrection and Life that is speaking to her.
There is an important lesson to be learned here. Sometimes we see the condition of the lost and we just become so fearful and worried as they continue down the road of self-destruction and the wrath of God; we need to not focus on the condition of the lost, but focus on the One who came to seek and save the lost. When we do this, we will discover that No one is too far gone in sin that our Father cannot save through Christ Jesus.
Jesus then tells Martha that if she will believe, she will see the glory of God.
There are many ways that God would get glory in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. But one way that God would receive glory is that it would show God’s Sovereign power and the Sovereign act of Jesus Christ that is greater than death itself.
One point I want to stress here, and quite honestly I have to go a little outside the text to stress it: While Martha would see the glory of God – Lazarus would experience the Glory of God! Lazarus would experience God’s glory by being resurrected through the spoken authority of Jesus Christ.
Here is another important point to stress in God’s saving mercy over sinners. Christians can rejoice because they have seen God’s glory displayed through God’s mercy to save; and it is also a testimony to the lost as well of God’s glory. But the one who was lost and now is found is the one who actually experiences God’s glory in action through the Merciful God saving through Jesus Christ! What a glorious truth we believers should rejoice in!
Let’s go on to our next point.
The Prayer: The calm before the resurrection.
John 11:41-43 TNIV – 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Why do I call it the calm before the resurrection? Well, notice that Jesus, who was earlier stressed and agitated because of the response and unbelief of the people; when He begins praying to His Father, there is no sign of stress or agitation, but He is perfectly calm, thanking Him that He has heard His prayers.
You see, Jesus knew that God would completely answer His prayer here for a few reasons:
• He was in the Father and the Father was in Him – therefore He knew perfectly the will and mind of His Father concerning this situation.
• He was sent to perform these signs to bring glory to the Father.
• He also knew that this sign that He is about to perform would be for the sake of the Gospel message. Notice that Jesus says that He is praying so, “that they may believe that you sent me.” This is the Gospel message in a nutshell: God sent Jesus into the world to save the world, and this prayer and this sign would be another evidence of this truth.
Just a couple of things we can learn here concerning prayer:
• Sometimes God will reveal His perfect will to us, and give us peace as we pray, when this happens, like Christ, we can pray stress free prayers.
• But sometimes we may be struggling with issues and haven’t really had God’s Word concerning the situation. It is during these times that it is quite alright I believe to agonize in prayer, crying out to God.
• Both ways are valid ways under the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look at our final point.
The Power: Resurrection!
John 11:43-44 TNIV – 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Notice first that Lazarus didn’t initiate his resurrection, but Christ did by calling Him out of the tomb.
In like manner, we don’t initiate new life, it is the Father that draws us to Christ, we obey when He speaks, “Come forth from sin.”
John 6:44 TNIV – No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.
When Jesus called him out of the grave, out he came!
In the same way, when the Father draws us and calls us from our sins, we obey and enter into new life.
Let me finish the quote from the passage of Ephesians 2 that I quoted from earlier.
Ephesians 2:4-10 TNIV – 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Finally, Jesus tells the others around Lazarus to take the grave clothes off of him. By them doing this, this was evidence of God’s glory revealed through his resurrection. They knew Lazarus before he died, and as they were taking his grave clothes off, they could see that it was the very same man they knew before.
In like manner, those who knew us when we were dead in our sins can now see the glory of God as we begin living our faith among them.
This story of Lazarus and his death and resurrection is such a wonderful story of God’s glory displayed toward the sinner lost in their sins. The reality is: Jesus is the resurrection and life. He raises us from the deadness of our sins and seats us with Him. What a wonderful truth.