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JESUS RECEIVES THE MESSAGE THAT LAZARUS WAS VERY SICK (JOHN 11:1-16)
Here, another miracle of Jesus is described. The messengers from Bethany found Him across the Jordan in the neighbourhood where John the Baptist had previously ministered. He seemed to have moved to that area to allow the vengeance of the Pharisees to cool down for they wanted to kill Him.
DEATH, MAN’S GREATEST FEAR
Death is mankind’s greatest cause of fear because it is so final. When the average person gets sick and death stares him in the face, he will give all his possessions to lengthen his life by a couple of days. Death always speaks the last word and in the end, everyone dies and their voice is no longer heard. That is the normal course of life. This story however has another ending to it.
JESUS’ REACTION TO THE BAD TIDINGS
The first thing that strikes one, is Jesus’ reaction when He was first told of Lazarus’ serious illness. Most people, even Christians, are panic-stricken when they hear of a loved one who is dying. They leave all they are busy with and rush to be with him, as if their presence would bring healing to the sick one. Many of us in such a situation, would not even have thought to seek counsel from God to hear what we ought to do. But Jesus was always in contact with His heavenly Father and did nothing before He understood in His Spirit what His Father would want Him to do. The Word puts it this way, that what He in the Spirit saw His Father do in heaven, is what He here on earth in the flesh, copied. When He received the bad news of Lazarus’ serious illness, He knew immediately that it was for a good purpose. He understood that His Father had allowed it, to create an opportunity through which the world could see that He was His only begotten Son, the only Saviour of the world. His Father also gave Him more insight than the messengers brought namely that in the meantime Lazarus had already died. “So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” (v14,15)
The disciples were fearful of going to Judea, so they said to Jesus: “But Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (v7). Shortly before, Jesus had said to them that the Father was sending Him there, but they did not consider God’s power and the work that He wanted them to do. They were just concerned with their own safety. He gave His disciples a logical answer: “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (vs 9,10) Actually Jesus was saying: “If you stumble into the future by following your own head and doing according to your own insight, you will run into unforeseen obstacles and hurt yourself, but if you wait on God and follow His leading, you will be safe, irrespective of the hindrances that you encounter, because you will see them in time and avoid them.”
Jesus tarried two days after that; then only did He say to His disciples that the time was ripe for them to go up to Lazarus’ home. One of them, a man by the name of Thomas, was by nature a very negative person. By what is written of him in other places in the Scriptures, we get the impression that he was a symbol of unbelief. He always expected the worst would happen. Here too, we see it in his pessimistic remark to the other disciples: “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” He had forgotten that Jesus had already said to them two days earlier that they were not to be afraid of people, because their Heavenly Father was leading them and would protect them, but “doubting Thomas” did not focus on Jesus’ words of faith, but was swept this way and that by the turmoil of his own thoughts which were expressed by the words that tumbled from his mouth. This is more or less what he said: “Well, let’s have one big funeral: Lazarus’ funeral and our funeral. If we must die, let’s go and get it over with.”
ARRIVAL AT BETHANY AND JESUS’ DISCOURSE WITH MARTHA (John 11:17-27)
Let us take a look at the people who were present at Lazarus’ funeral. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. His family and friends were still there, and others in the meantime had arrived from Jerusalem to sympathize with the family and to comfort them. All were waiting for Jesus to come.
Martha was the first one to get up and go an meet Him. Her words show that her faith was on a much higher plane than that of Thomas.
She believed Jesus could have prevented Lazarus’ death if He had just arrived in time, but she also believed that, even then, Jesus could ask His Father for a miracle, because His Father always gave Him what He asked for. She also believed that her brother would be raised together with the other believers in the last day and that Jesus was the Christ (Anointed One) of God – the Son of God.
What a wonderful child of God this woman was, so filled with insight and faith.
JESUS MEETS WITH MARY AND THE OTHER MOURNERS (John 11:28-37)
Here we have first of all Mary’s words and they are basically the same as that of her sister Martha: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The two of them had probably said this to each other over and over before Jesus arrived.
The reaction of the other family members and friends wee more reproachful: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” They criticized the Lord outright. They could not think there might be any possible deeper reason for Jesus’ actions. When we hear from God and do what He says, we will often be criticized by people. People judge by their human understanding and and not by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit.
Notice also Jesus’ empathy with the grief of the people. He already knew that within the next few minutes He would raise Lazarus from the dead and was therefore not grief-stricken about his death, but identified Himself very deeply with the pain of those who had come to mourn, and in particular with the tears of Mary who loved her brother so dearly, but four days before had had to take leave of him ‘for ever’ (as she thought).
How much God weeps over the terrible misery that man brought on himself through the “fall’ (into sin).
AT THE GAVE OF LAZARUS (John 11:38-44)
Then they came to the grave. It was a cave carved out of the side of the hill. A big stone had been rolled in front of the entrance. Inside, the body was lying presumably on a ledge cut out of the rock.
Let us focus on Martha again. At the last moment her faith crumbled – just before the big miracle was due to happen. If Jesus had said to her what He had said to the centurion, namely: “Let it be according to your faith”, then Lazarus would not have been raised, because it appears that at the last moment she began to doubt.
Possibly the little group became aware of the bad smell of the bound up body from where they were standing outside the grave. Was it possible for that body that was in process of decomposing and smelling so bad, to recover and become her loving brother again? When Martha was at a distance from the grave she perhaps still could have believed that it was possible; but now that she was standing near to the body, the circumstances, the facts, the reality, were so overwhelming that doubt began to surface and dominate her thoughts.
The devil possibly whispered in her ear: “Can’t you smell it? Don’t be a fool. Death is final. I hold the keys of the realm of the dead. You hope in vain for a miracle. Nothing will happen. You have suffered enough. Don’t give yourself or others cause to suffer any further by opening the grave. Respect the dignity of the dead.”
How did Jesus react to the smell of death and to Martha’s doubting? He immediately spoke words of encouragement to strengthen her faith so that she could add her faith to His and they together could bring about a miracle. Therefore He said: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (v40).
THE WORK OF DEATH IS UNDONE AND LAZARUS WALKS OUT OF THE GRAVE (John 11:41-43)
Thereupon Jesus spoke just three words with Godly authority: “Lazarus, come out” , and immediately the dead man walked out – perfectly well. What a miracle! What a powerful God! What a glorious Son of God! What a privilege to know Him!
CONCLUDING REMARKS .
God often allows painful things in our lives. We lose what we treasure – perhaps even loose our loved ones. Let us learn from this story not to be bitter, but to go to Jesus with our heartache.
There are difficulties and problems in our lives to which only God has the solution. The death of Lazarus required supernatural input. A miracle of God was necessary. Sometimes He steps in and brings a supernatural solution; at other times He gives us a peaceful acceptance of what has happened and empowers us to go forward in life.
One of the greatest challenges for a child of God, is to wait on God. Sometimes much time passes before He “shows up” (intervenes) Waiting time is growing time – growing in faith.
DEATH DOES NOT RULE OVER JESUS; HE RULES OVER DEATH; DEATH IS A CONQUERED FOE.
BY TAKING AWAY THE GUILT OF OUR SIN, HE REMOVED THE STING OF DEATH.
HE DOES NOT FEAR DEATH BUT DEATH FEARS HIM.
DEATH IS DEATH AND BRINGS DEATH TO THE LIVING, BUT JESUS IS LIFE AND BRINGS LIFE TO THE DYING.
JESUS TURNS DEATH UPSIDE DOWN BUT TURNS THE DEAD AND THE DYING RIGHT SIDE UP SO THEY CAN WALK AND TALK AND CAN PROCLAIM HIS GLORY.