I want to discuss a fellow named Lazarus. Oh, I know you have heard his story, about how he was dead and Jesus raised him up. Great story, but to quote Paul Harvey, “Now you’re going to hear the r-e-e-e-st of the story.
As a background, it is important to know that Lazarus had two sisters, Martha and Mary. This was the same Mary who massaged the Lord’s feet with aromatic oils and then wiped them with her hair. Well, Lazarus became sick and Mary sent a message to Jesus, saying, “Master, the one you love so much is sick.”
Obviously Jesus had an excellent relationship with Lazarus, and he also dearly loved his two sisters. It is believed that their home served as an oasis for the Master and his disciples. We know Lazarus and his family loved Jesus, but I am impressed in how that passage we just read, emphatically describes our Lord’s love them: “The one you love very much is sick” (John 11:3).
When Jesus heard that, he sent them a message: “This sickness will not end in death” (John 11:4). Well, that must have cheered them up, well, at least a little. But Jesus added, “It is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” What in the world did that mean?
Now that might confuse you, but Jesus knew that his Father intended for this miracle to give him glory and give them confidence and faith! But I am sure they did not understand what Jesus meant by his statement. Now we know that Jesus loved Martha and her sister, as well as Lazarus, but oddly, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days. Huh? Yeah! And after the two days, he told his disciples, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
Now, that sounds rather harsh. When one of my daughter-in-laws heard that her mother was dying, she made plans to travel to California as soon as she could go. A friend of mine heard that his dad was in a serious car accident, and he waited long enough to call the prayer team at his church before he traveled across the country. But Jesus waited two more days! Wow! Then, when he told his Disciples he was going to travel to Judea, they rubbed their heads and said, “Ah, excuse me Rabbi, you can’t do that. The Jews are out to kill you, and you’re going back? Are you nuts?” (or something like that). Jesus looked and them and explained, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. I’m going to wake him up.”
“He fell asleep? Oh! Well, that’s no big deal. If that’s all it is, we’ll just let him sleep so he can get a good rest and wake up feeling fine.” Now, we know that Jesus was talking about death, but his disciples thought he was talking about taking a nap. That’s when Jesus had to explain: “Um, guys . . . Lazarus died. I’m glad for your sakes that I wasn’t there because I am about to be given new grounds for believing. Now let’s go to him.”
Now it is rather funny because Thomas [you know, “doubting Thomas”] said, “Hey! We should go to so we can die with him!” Yeah . . . well, not this time Tom. Maybe later.
I just want you to notice that the disciples doubted him, Mary and Martha doubted him, and so did the all of the friends of Lazarus who were crying their eyes out. When Jesus finally got there, he found Lazarus had already been dead for four days, and many of the Jews were visiting Martha and Mary, sympathizing with them over their brother. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went out to meet him, but Mary remained in the house.
Martha said, “Master if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever you ask God he will give you.” Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.”
Martha replied, “Oh, I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.” See, she was a good soldier. She knows all about what the Word promised:
“You don’t have to wait for the End. I am the one who brings people back to life, and I am life itself! Those who believe in me will live even if they die. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe that?” (John 11:25-26)
Martha’s eyes probably grew large as she proclaimed, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who was expected to come into the world.”
Now wait a minute. Back up a little and notice how Martha and Mary reacted to Jesus’ arrival? Her first comment was, “Lord, if you had just been here on time . . . but it’s too late now, the damage is done” (see vs. 21) Do you think Martha finally realized how deeply they had hurt him when she accused him of being preoccupied and disinterested in her problem? Certainly Mary was ticked off, because she did not even come out to meet him! She obviously harbored some anger that Jesus took so long.
Do you think that Martha finally realized how it hurt her Master when she questioned his resurrection power? He had plainly told her, “Your brother will rise again!” But evidently, his word was not enough. She answered, in essence, “Oh, yes, on resurrection day he will arise but that doesn’t help today!” (see vs. 24)
It doesn’t specifically say it in the text, but I imagine it must have been painful for Jesus to have his dearest friends doubt that he had all the power they needed. Jesus almost seems to be saying, “Don’t you know who I am yet? . . . I am the resurrection, and the life. Believe in me. I have the power, the life” (see vs. 25).
I don’t think any of us can know how deep the pain was. His own disciples couldn’t grasp the concept of who he was. It was hurtful enough that his own nation didn’t know who he was, but don’t you think that those he dearly loved should have recognize his power? Do you think he ever said to himself, “Wow! Not even my dearest friends believe — then who will ever believe?” You know, he did expect more of them. Look at that event told in the fourth chapter of Mark’s Gospel, where Jesus commanded them to cross the lake, and he went and took a nap:
“Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” Now a great storm developed and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. But Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.
Did you catch that? He told them to take their boat to the other side of the lake. Now, don’t you think he knew there would be a severe storm? He was God Incarnate! Of course he did! But he said, “Let’s go anyway . . .” So when the storm becomes severe enough, they go a wake him up (just like some of us! We wait until the situation is unbearable, before we to to our Lord in prayer):
They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?”
Oh, how many times have you said that? When it gets really tough for you: your boss becomes difficult to deal with; you become disabled in some way; your cars break down and bills begin to overwhelm you . . . and then, when you finally do cry out, it is more a complaint than a request for help: “Oh Lord, don’t you care that we are about to die?” Hmm? Has I touched a sore spot, yet?
So he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!” Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm.
Oh Glory to God! They cried out, he spoke and their problem was resolved! Oh, praise the Lord! Ooh, but wait . . . he didn’t simply pat their hands and say, “Oh, there you go. It is all over with now. You can take a deep breath and relax.” NOPE!
He rebuked them and said, “Why are you so cowardly? How can you still have such little faith!”
Ouch! Even today, when we doubt his concern and power, he becomes upset. It grieves him because our success and victory was purchased with his blood! If we, his dearest friends, those he calls brothers and sisters, don’t trust his power and faithfulness, who will? Oh, we love to call him brother and Lord, but we still live lives that are defeated and depressingly overwhelmed with the affairs of life. It is as if he did not possess the power to keep us victorious and joyful — in every one of our pains and difficulties! Why is that?
My dear friends, this morning, please understand that what truly satisfies the heart of our Lord is we are able to rest completely in his love and tender care; when we are able to cast aside all of our questions doubts, and throw ourselves completely in the hands of our Lord!
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