The Gospel of John records seven miracles of Jesus. Each of these miracles displays a different type of authority that Jesus had over each situation. The last time we were together, I preached that Jesus is the master of quantity in answer to man’s desires. Through the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5000 with five loaves and two fishes. We learned that Jesus not only can take care of our needs, but he has also taken care of our godly desires. It is when our hearts are putty in his hands, that he will work to provide us our godly desires.
Prior to that we looked at Jesus being the master of time in answer to man’s disability. Through the miracle of Jesus healing the man at the Pool of Bethesda, we were able to see that it is when we stop limiting God; when we stop making excuses, that we begin to see God’s hand doing mighty works in our lives. Before that we look at Jesus being the master of nature in answer to man’s despair. Through the miracle of Jesus walking on the water we were able to see that no matter what situation we are in, Jesus has the authority and the power to move us out of our troubles, and to calm the storm. All our troubles are under his feet.
Today, I want to talk about another miracle of Jesus. This miracle, is perhaps his most famous public miracle-raising Lazarus. We will be looking at John 11:1-44 we are we will discover that this miracle shows us that Jesus is the master of fate, in answer to man's death.
Beginning in verse one we read: "now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. Therefore the sisters sent to him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick." We begin with Jesus being about a days journey from Bethany and Jesus receives a messenger telling him that Lazarus is sick. There’s some interesting things to note here. The word sick is a little misleading. In translation it has lost some of its meaning, but it should be known that this word in the Greek actually refers to being so sick, that the person is without strength. It is also interesting to note the message that the sisters send to Jesus. The one whom you love is sick. There is no request for action on Jesus as part. The sisters simply tell Jesus that Lazarus was sick. They don't ask Jesus to heal him. They don't ask Jesus to come and heal him. They don't even ask Jesus to come and be with them. And why did they wait so long to tell Jesus about Lazarus? His condition had to have been noticeable sooner. So why did they send this message? Was it because of the relationship that they had, they just wanted Jesus to know? Or was it perhaps, they didn't believe that there was any point in Jesus coming? Maybe, when you love someone as Jesus loved these three, perhaps there was no need to ask Jesus to come, because the sisters knowing Jesus, knew that he would come. What a special relationship to have. To know Jesus so well, that all you have to do is tell him your problems, and he will come to meet you where you and your problems exist.
John 11:4-7, 11-15.
Starting in verse four we read: "when Jesus heard that, he said, this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the son of God may be glorified through it. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, let us go to Judea again.… After that he said to them, our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up. Then his disciples said, Lord, if he sleeps he will get well. However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that he was speaking about taking rest and sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him."
Jesus responds to the news of Lazarus in two ways. In word and in action. Jesus displays his divine foreknowledge of God's plan in regards to Lazarus. He not only predicts what will happen-Lazarus won't die, but he also explains why it will happen-that through it Jesus may be glorified. After making such a knowledgeable statement you would think that Jesus would want to get on the road and get to Bethany to save Lazarus from death. But he doesn't. Instead Jesus does the complete opposite. He stays put. Not just for an hour or two, but rather two more days. In our previous lessons we have learned that Jesus is the master of time. He arrives on the scene when the time is right for him to do the greatest good in our most desperate hour. So Jesus waits for the right time. Doesn't it make you glad to know that you have a Savior who knows when he is needed the most, who knows where to be and what to do in our most difficult moments? A Savior who can not be overcome by anything that this world can throw at him?
Finally, after the two days are past Jesus says let's go back to Judea. Our friend sleeps but I go that I may wake him up. Here we see an example of how even the disciples could misunderstand Jesus. Two days ago Jesus said this sickness is not unto death and now he says that Lazarus sleeps. The disciples hearing this, say to Jesus-if he's sleeping, why don't we just leave him sleeping and he'll get better? I think that if I had been there I'd be just as confused. Of course some of the disciples are worried that going back to Judea would mean the death of Jesus. So they could also be trying to rationalize their way out of going into a potentially dangerous situation. Sometimes we do that too. We see the possibility of danger or sometimes just discomfort in an upcoming situation. And so we tried to rationalize our way out of it. We try to think of reasons to avoid it, or postpone it. We forget who we have with us. Just like the disciples here were forgetting who Jesus was, and what he was capable of, so to do we forget our Savior, our God in the midst of pending troubles.
The disciples didn't understand that Jesus was referring to the death of Lazarus. It was at this point that Jesus just had to be blunt and tell the disciples that Lazarus is dead. It seems too that Jesus went on to answer an unasked question-why didn't we go right away? You could have saved him? Jesus answers-that you may believe. Jesus acts according to his will for our lives. He works in a way that leaves no doubts, no questions as to who he is. When Jesus Christ works in our lives he does it in a way which shows us that it is only him that is doing this. In doing so, there can be no doubt of his mastery over every thing in this world and the next. That is how we believe. When all doubts, and all misinformation are cast away our belief, our faith shows us that only Jesus remains.
Now as I think on this, I have an interesting thought. Jesus just revealed to the disciples that Lazarus has died and that he intends to wake Lazarus up. That must've been a very interesting journey for those disciples. I can hear them now-did you hear what Jesus said? He said that Lazarus is dead and he's going to go wake him up! Poor Jesus! What it must have been like when they were on the road! Listening to all the chatter with the people that he is the closest to, yet they don't seem to understand him. I can just picture one of the disciples in the backseat asking-are we there yet? I'm glad that Jesus loves us and is ever patient with us. Aren't you?
Now over in verse 17 we begin to read "so when Jesus came he found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about 2 miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the woman around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him, but Mary was sitting in the house. No Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you. Jesus said to her your brother will rise again. Martha said to him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? She said to him, yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the son of God, who is to come into the world.
So we read that when Jesus got to Bethany-Lazarus had been in the tomb four days. Now doing some math we know that it's a days journey from Bethany to where Jesus was. So Lazarus probably died the same day that the messenger left to find Jesus. One day for the messenger to get to Jesus, two days of waiting to depart by Jesus, and one day of travel for Jesus to get to Lazarus. Four days. Jesus gets there, and because of its close proximity to Jerusalem he finds the place packed. Many people came to mourn. Something to note here are the customs revolving around Jewish mourning at that time. Mourning was a public event. The first three days consisted of intense mourning and often involved the hiring of professional mourners. The family would stay in seclusion shut off from the outside world. The next four days, would see a less intense period of mourning. At this time friends could visit and give condolences. Jesus arrives on the fourth day which would see Mary and Martha receiving many visitors. At some point, someone told Martha that Jesus was coming, so she goes to meet him. Martha seems to have a spirit of disappointment. She has faith in the things that she thinks Jesus should have done but not faith in the things that Jesus can do. She says that if he had been there, he could've saved her brother from death. You see Martha's faith is looking backwards. It is looking at expectations that were not met, rather than hope in what is to come. How often do we do the same thing? How often do we box Jesus into a corner, expecting him to do our will? And then when he doesn't do what we think he should do we get disappointed? Martha then goes on to say that whatever you ask of God, God will give you. Martha understands who Jesus is. She knows what he is capable of doing, she just doesn't understand what he's doing. Is she discreetly asking Jesus to bring him back from the dead? Is she being subtle? Is she asking Jesus to return her brother to her without actually saying it? I think it's a good possibility. For Jesus then tells her that her brother will rise again. It is again interesting to note how Jesus is talking about one thing and again people, in this case Martha, think he's talking about something completely different. Jesus is talking about an immediate resurrection and she thinks that he is talking about the resurrection at the end times.
Jesus goes on to say that I am the resurrection and the life. This is an important statement. Because here Jesus is equating himself with God. I am. Seven times throughout the gospel of John, Jesus uses this name to describe a divine attribute of God. It describes who he is through the name given to Moses in the desert. He explains that whoever believes in him, even if his body should die, shall live. And those who live and believe in him shall never die. Even though the body may quit this world, those that believe in Jesus have no need to fear, no need to worry for their soul shall never experience an ending. That’s eternal life. Jesus asks Martha the most important question that every true Christian has answered-do you believe this? And she answered saying that Jesus is Lord, the Christ, the son of God, and in the flesh.
and when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, the teacher has come and is calling for you. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, she is going to the tomb to weep there. Then when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And he said, where have you laid him? They said to him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, see how he loved him! And some of them said could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind also have kept this man from dying?"
Discouragement, disbelief, confusion. These were the things that Mary was experiencing. Possibly even despair. She runs out to meet Jesus and falls at his feet. This is the first time we meet Mary at the feet of Jesus. After this we find her in John 12 anointing the feet of Jesus and wiping his feet with her hair. Mary knew the things that Jesus was capable of just as Martha did. She knew that while Lazarus was alive that Jesus had the power to heal him. And she to had expectations of what Jesus should have done-he should've been there to prevent Lazarus from dying. Compared to Martha though, it sounds like Mary is blaming Jesus for the death of her brother. Even in her grief, Mary unwittingly brings people to Jesus. All the mourners that were in the house came out and followed her, assuming she was going to the tomb to wail. You see, Jewish mourning is a lot different than what we experience today. It was loud and full of every external display of grief. Back then, you knew when the Jews were mourning even when you were a mile off. Now here is Jesus with Mary and many Jews. This group is making a ton of noise, wailing and doing what ever else a Jew would do back then. And Jesus groaned in the spirit and was troubled. At this point Jesus lets out a snort of displeasure and was disquieted. We’re not exactly sure why Jesus had this change of mood. Perhaps, it was from seeing the contrast between Mary's genuine, heartfelt sorrow, and the commotion amongst the Jews wailing with her. We are not told. The people take Jesus to the tomb of Lazarus and Jesus weeps. Not in an uncontrollable outburst, rather a calm tear or two for his friend Lazarus. The people see how much Jesus loved Lazarus and are in awe of that love. And and yet again, for the third time in this account, the question is raised couldn't Jesus who made the blind to see have healed this man as well? How often do we stop to think how much Jesus loves us? Do you think that Jesus weeps for us when we do something that is shameful, or when we are hurting? Perhaps Jesus wept not because his friend lay dead, but rather because he was filled with compassion for the pain that Mary and Martha were experiencing. We know that God so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten son. But we have a personal relationship with Jesus how much more does he love us? Was he not tempted as we are? Does he not experience some of our sorrows. Jesus loves his children. Even in the midst of the most chaotic event's in our lives there we will find our Jesus calm and in control.
Then Jesus, again groaning in himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, take away the stone. Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to him, Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days. Jesus said to her, did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, father, I thank you that you have heard me. And I know that you always hear me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that you sent me. Now when he had said these things, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth! And he who had died came out found hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them loose him, and let him go.
As Jesus approaches the tomb where in the body of Lazarus lay we notice that there is a stone in front of the cave. Was the stone an obstacle to Jesus? No. So why did he have the people roll the stone away? Jesus doesn't do a miracle in order to show off. No. He performs a miracle to meet a need, and to glorify God. The stone would not have blocked the miracle from happening but it did provide an opportunity for the people there to exercise a little faith. Martha, said, Lord by this time there is a stench for he has been dead four days. Jesus said take away the stone. Before that he said that Lazarus with live again. And still Martha doubts. When we doubt, that is when our Jesus who loves us so much, takes the time to encourage us with his words. Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God? The stone provided an opportunity for the people exercise faith in Jesus having the authority to do something great here. The stone provides us the opportunity to do something even if every sense in our being is saying that it is just a little too peculiar. But Jesus commands it and we have needs to obey. Faith, obedience, trust. These are traits that we must exercise in order to remove any obstacle that prevents us from seeing a miracle. The stone was between the people and Lazarus. Moving the stone moves our faith so that we can be in position to see the great things that God is doing.
Jesus begins a short prayer giving thanks to God and providing an understanding to them-the Jews, that the miracles he does our of God and not the devil like he has been accused of before. Jesus wants no doubt to arise out of the miracle he is he about to perform. Jesus wants to make sure that these people see that it is God who sends Jesus into the world. It is God who gives Jesus authority. It is God who made Jesus the master. When Jesus finished praying he cried with a loud voice Lazarus come forth! Imagine hearing the voice of Jesus calling you back to life. There is perhaps more of a miracle here than what we realize. Not only is Lazarus restored to life but his body must have been restored to that point before it began to decay. You know all the wailing of the mourners was not loud enough to bring Lazarus back, only the voice of Jesus can carry through to heaven to be heard by Lazarus and obeyed. Lazarus came forth. What authority Jesus has! Lazarus died so that Jesus could be glorified through his revival. It was the fate of Lazarus to go through this illness and die at the time appointed by God. It was the time when Jesus would be on the scene to restore Lazarus four days later. The four days was important in Jewish customs. They believed that after the body died the spirit would linger for three days. By waiting four days, Jesus showed the world that he is the master of fate in answer to man's death. And we too, can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is the master of our fate. What is fate? Fate is the inevitable outcome of life which we all must face. I think we have all experienced some aspects of fate. We have faced perhaps some of our greatest fears. We have realized some of our greatest sorrows. But in looking at the miracle that Jesus performed with Lazarus greater is our hope that our fears. More abundant are our joys than our sorrows. Greater is he that is in us, then he that is in the world. Because our Jesus is the master of our fate. Because Christian, the relationship we have with Jesus provides us with the answer to our fate. He is the master of our fate in answer to man's death. Because of Jesus we have no fear in death. Because of Jesus our hope is in eternal life. Because of Jesus death is swallowed up in victory. Through the master of our fate we are made victors by faith.