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JOHN 11:45,46
Series:  Characters At A Crucifixion

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 23, 2008

Please turn with me to John 11.  We’ll be coming in a few minutes to verse 45,46.  But before we get there - I’d like to have us begin at the start of chapter 11 and walk through this account together - to get this account fresh in our minds - to see where verses 45,46 fit in the account.

In John 11 -
starting at verse 1 - we’re told that Lazarus and his two sisters - Mary and Martha - all of whom are close friends of Jesus - Lazarus and his sisters live in the village of Bethany.  Which is this place - a village a couple of miles east of Jerusalem.

Jesus is
out beyond the Jordan River with His disciples - preaching and baptizing - probably at this place - about a days journey from Bethany.  Which is the same place John had been baptizing people.  Probably the same place Jesus Himself was baptized.  While Jesus is out at the Jordan River - messengers arrive from the town of Bethany - messengers from Mary and Martha - telling Jesus that Lazarus - someone that Jesus deeply cared about - Lazarus is very sick.

Jesus - seemingly callous to the emotional pain that His friends
are going through - these friends that He loved - seemingly indifferent to the urgency of the situation - Jesus says - verse 4 - “This sickness won’t end in death.  Lazarus is sick so that God will be glorified - so that the Son of God - Jesus - will be glorified.  Its almost dysfunctional - detached from reality of the situation.

Verse 6 says that when Jesus heard that Lazarus is sick - rather than dropping everything and rushing up to Bethany - Jesus spends two more days in ministry out by the Jordan. 
Finally - after two days go by - Jesus - verse 11 - saying something about Lazarus falling asleep and Jesus needing to wake him up - a comment that totally confused the disciples.  Jesus - knowing that by this time Lazarus has died - not just fallen asleep - Jesus finally goes to Bethany.

When Jesus gets to Bethany - verse 17 - sure enough -
Lazarus has been buried for 4 days.  The funeral is over.  But, the crowd is there - family - friends - the professional mourners.  Wailing and weeping and carrying on.  Its a sad - hopeless - situation.

When Martha hears that Jesus was just outside the village - coming into town - verse 21 - Martha comes to
meet Jesus and says, Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  We’ve seen the miracles that you’ve done - the blind see - the crippled walk - people are healed of horrible diseases.  You could have healed Him.  But, now Lazarus is dead.  He’s been dead and buried for four days.  Its too late.  There’s no hope.

Jesus said to her,
“Your brother will rise again.”   

Martha says,
“I know he’ll rise again - in the future - when God brings this world to an end.”  Its a standard - religious - we were taught this in synagogue school answer.  God will raise our loved ones on the last day.

Jesus tells Martha
- verse 25 - I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?” 

It's a
n amazing statement - audacious.  I am what God has promised.  Believe in Me and live.  Right here.  Right now.  And the question - a invitation to personal commitment, “Do you believe this?”  Looking at something intellectually - even religiously - is a lot different from believing in our hearts - believing God enough to trust Him with all we are.  Would you agree?

Martha tells Jesus - verse 27,
“Yes, Lord:  I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”  You are the One promised by God - God who has come into the world.

Verse 32.  Mary comes - followed by those who were with her trying to comfort her - she meets Jesus just outside of town - falls at His feet - weeping. 
 “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died.” 

When Jesus sees Mary weeping Jesus is deeply moved - a word in Greek that means He became angry.  Probably anger at the ravages of death - a part of our human lives because of sin.  And Jesus is troubled - overcome with emotion.  And as Jesus is led to the tomb - He weeps - grief.

Jesus is led to the tomb of His friend Lazarus.
   Traditionally this site - easily identified by the sign which says “Saint Lazarus’ tomb.”  Probably built up over the years - the original tomb was through the entrance - down stairs - below what you can see here on the right - a cave with a stone lying against it.

The burial practices of the time - and the climate of the Middle East meant that a person was entombed quickly.  Wrapped in cloths - anointed with spices - put into a cave to decompose.  After the decomposition then the remains were actually buried in the ground.

Lazarus had probably died soon after the messengers were sent to Jesus - four days earlier - his body quickly prepared and placed in this cave.

Verse 39 - Jesus stands before this cave with its stone covering - Jesus says, “Remove the stone lying in front of the tomb.”

artha protests.  “He’s been dead four days - he’ll stink.”  In other words, “What’s the use?”

reminds her of His question, “Do you believe?”  “Did I not say to you that if you believe - that I am the resurrection and the life - if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  You will visibly see God at work - what testifies of His power - His presence - His fulfilled promise. 

The stone is removed.  Then Jesus prays - aloud - so those around can hear - so they - so we - can
see God at work - and believe.  So that testimony is given that God has sent Jesus into the world - that He - Jesus - is the resurrection and the life.

Verse 41: 
“Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”

Then with a loud voice
- loud enough to wake the dead - with a loud voice Jesus cries out, “Lazarus, come forth.”  And Lazarus, who had been in that tomb for four days - very much dead - Lazarus comes out under his power - very much alive - bound from head to foot in his burial clothes.  Probably struggling to get out of the cave.

Can you picture this?  Lazarus inching his way out of the tomb.  The crowd with their jaws on the ground.  Staring in disbelief at what they’re seeing.  Maybe just a tad freaked out.

Jesus says to those standing around,
“Unbind him, and let him go.”  We can almost hear the response - the stillness of the moment is broken.  “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.  Unbind him.  Yeah.  Sure.”  How weird.  Anyone ever unwrap a living dead guy before? 

Grab this:  The reality of what Jesus has commanded.  What Jesus has done.  It is incontrovertible - without question.  Jesus is the One sent by God.  The resurrection and the life.  God incarnate.  The Savior of us all.

Which brings us to verses 45 and 46. 
“Therefore - because of everything that this crowd has just witnessed with their own eyes - therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He - Jesus - had done, believed in Him.  But some of them - those who did not believe in Jesus - some of the crowd - went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.”

These two verses are perhaps two of the most amazing statements in Scripture.  There are two responses here.   Two responses to the demonstrated working of God - the visible testimony of Jesus being God Himself entering into our world - Jesus who is the Savior of mankind.  Two responses that show us where we are in our relationship with God.

Do you see them there?   One is belief.   The other is rejection.  One turns to Jesus.  The other turns away.  The other sides with those who - even then - were formulating the plot to crucify Jesus - a plot that included Judas - a man who also had front row seat to Jesus’ ministry.

Think with me about something.  Jesus - who is the incarnate fulfillment of Biblical prophecy - the promises of God - Jesus - who for 3 years - has been purposefully moving around the countryside from Judah in the south up into southern Lebanon - traveling from the coast of the Mediterranean - around the Sea of Galilee - to east of the Jordan.  He’s taught multitudes on dusty roads - by the shores of the sea - in humble homes - and in the grandeur of the Temple.

During that time of ministry - reaching out to the multitudes living in God’s promised land - during that ministry He’s triumphed over demons and the forces of darkness - proving that He’s greater than Satan and his minions.  He’s proven His authority over the forces of nature - calming the wind and the sea.  He’s healed the sick - the lame - the blind - proving His authority over disease and the infirmities of this world.  He’s bested the greatest theological minds of His day - of any day for that matter.  Jesus has brought the reality of God’s kingdom into the lives of God’s people in a way never before understood - the realization of what God has promised His people.

Jesus has forgiven sins - claiming to be God incarnate - the Messiah.  And God the Father Himself has more than once attested to the truth of Jesus’ claim.

And now this.  Lazarus isn’t the first person Jesus has raised from the dead - and he wasn’t the last.  Perhaps Lazarus was the most visible - the more dramatic - raised as a undeniable testimony of who Jesus is.  And still there are those who don’t believe.  What does a guy have to do for us to believe Him?  Raise Himself from the dead?

That Jesus was crucified is one of the undeniable facts of history.  Some people may choose to deny His crucifixion.  They man choose to deny His death.  But, under the scrutiny of the historical record we know without a doubt that Jesus was crucified - put to death in exactly the manner God foretold - according to God’s plan - in God’s timing - and for God’s purposes.

During that Passover week - on the Friday before the Sabbath - the crucified Jesus - very much physically dead - was taken by Joseph of Arimathea - a member of the Jewish Council - the Sanhedrin - and Nicodemus - a very wealthy Pharisee and member of the Sanhedrin.  These two men were given permission by Pilate - Pilate who had confirmed that Jesus was indeed dead - under Pilate’s watchful eye these two men took Jesus’ body to Joseph’s own tomb - hastily wrapped it - prepared it - laid it in the tomb for decomposition.  Then rolled a large stone in front of the entrance.

know that the Romans and the Jews took tremendous security precautions to protect against potential fraud and lies by the disciples of Jesus.  Ordered by Pilate to use the maximum measures possible - a detachment of soldiers - who’s very lives were forfeit if they failed to keep the tomb secure - a detachment of soldiers is placed at the tomb.  An imperial Roman seal is affixed to the stone - warning of death to any unauthorized person one who would break that seal.  Jesus’ enemies took every possible precaution to make sure that Jesus stayed dead and in the tomb.  Apparently He didn’t.

Early in the morning of the first day of the week the women arrive at the tomb.  They’ve come with spices and perfumes - ready to complete the preparation of Jesus’ body for burial.  When they arrive they find the stone rolled away from the tomb and the body of Jesus missing.

Two angels are there to state the obvious. 
“He’s not here.  He has risen.  Why do you seek the living One among the dead?  Don’t you remember what He said to you in Galilee about His crucifixion and resurrection?”  The Bible tells us that at that point the women understood - believed for themselves - the reality of what Jesus had been trying to tell them.

A series of events unfold.  Jesus walking with disciples on the road to Emmaus - a village about 7 miles outside of Jerusalem - revealing Himself to them.  Jesus coming to the disciples where they’re hiding - cowering - mourning - hopeless.  Showing them that He’s alive.  Thomas having his doubts removed.  Encounters with the living God.

We know that hundreds if not thousands witnessed the resurrected Jesus.  The lives of the disciples were changed forever.  Closer to home - the reality of so many in this room - myself included - who will testify that we personally know Jesus Christ who is very much alive today. (Matthew 27:57-28:15; Mark 15:42-16:18; Luke 24:1-49; John 20:1-21:25; Acts 2:14-47)

It is important for us to understand that none of the proofs for the resurrection - the failed precautions of the Romans and Jews and the empty tomb being just one - none of the proofs or the encounters with Jesus - none of these are essential for the resurrection.  It didn’t take the overpowering of the Roman guard to allow Jesus to be resurrected.

At the moment God appointed - Jesus’ body wrapped in burial clothes - Jesus left those clothes behind to be found by the women.  He passed out of that tomb without ever needing the stone to be rolled away.  It was rolled away to let the disciples in.

As Jesus moves from encounter to encounter - its not about establishing evidence for what is an incontrovertible fact of history - its about application.  Bringing the reality of His resurrection into the lives of His disciples.

At the resurrection of Lazarus Jesus didn’t need to take three days to get to Bethany - heightening the dramatic effect.  Jesus didn’t need to pray so that the crowd could hear.  He didn’t need the involvement of the crowd - removing the stone - unwrapping Lazarus.  What Jesus did - the resurrection of Lazarus - was so that we would believe.  Understand in our hearts the reality of Jesus - who is the resurrection and the life.

The resurrection isn’t about crosses and tombs and flowers and pilgrimages and processions.  The resurrection is about the power of the living Jesus entering into the deepest need of our lives.  Our need to believe that He is alive is because we are people who are in great need of what Jesus offers to us.

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians - starting at verse 12.  In 1 Corinthians 15 - in his letter to the Corinthians church - Paul has been restating many of the proofs for the resurrection.  In verse 12 he shifts emphasis to application.  Look with me at Paul’s application of the resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15 - starting at verse 12: 
Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

Do you like pizza?  The resurrection is like pizza. Without the cheese and sausage and anchovies and stuff all it is is dough.  Both parts - dough and stuff - are essential.  If we say we believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ then we have to believe in the implications of His resurrection for our lives.    

Verse 13: 
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised - if resurrection is impossible then Jesus is dead - and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain - if Jesus is dead then we have no message.  There is no Good News.

Verse 15: 
Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise - we’re saying that God did something that God didn’t do - saying that Jesus is someone that He isn’t - God.  That’s blasphemy - if in fact the dead are not raised; for if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised;

Verse 17: 
and if Christ has not be raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins - If there is no such thing as resurrection and Jesus is dead then all those doubts you have are pretty right on.  There is no forgiveness of sins.  Christianity is just another a religious system - a spiritual teaching - like all the others.

Verse 18 - if Christ is not raised -
then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished - They’re dead.  Permanent residents of the marble orchard.  Get over it.  If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied - There is no eternal life.  All this is just wishful thinking - comforting religious happy thoughts - for the feeble minded.  We’re all going to be fertilizer.

Verse 20: 
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

Let’s repeat that together: 
But now Christ has been raised from the dead.”

That’s Paul’s application.  Do the dead live?  Is Jesus really alive?  What can Jesus offer me?  What did Paul write? 
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead.” 

Look back with me at these verses - read what Paul writes without all the questions.  His application is really clear that way.

Since Jesus Christ is resurrected from the dead everything that we’ve told you about God and life with God and His power to transform and heal our lives is true.  We really are speaking for God - testifying of what God has done.  Our faith isn’t some vain worthless collection of spiritual happy thoughts.

When you put your trust in Jesus as the Savior your sins really are forgiven.  Your relationship with God really is restored.  Those who have died trusting in Jesus are not dead.  People really do come back from the grave.  He lives.  They live.  You’ll live.  We have hope.  There is eternal life.  Don’t pity us - join us!

We like noise.  Have you ever been stopped at a stop light and your car is vibrating because of the stereo in the guys car next to you?  We have appliances that beep at us.  Cell phones that play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony - loudly - to get our attention.

When we turn the computer on what happens?  There’s a little light that comes on and a comforting hum to let us know it started.  Wouldn’t you get nervous if you didn’t see that light and hear the hum?

If things don’t make noise or have lights - or vibrate or hum or explode - we wonder if they’re working properly.  Is the power on?  Is something broken?

God demonstrates the power of Jesus’ resurrection through the empty tomb - through the rolled away stone - through the facts of the resurrection.  Jesus demonstrated it to His disciples with each encounter.  We need those images.  We relate to them.  They connect with our lives.

But - grab this - His power is there even without all the bells and whistles.

That’s where the people who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus fell short - those who went scampering off to fink to the Pharisees.  That’s where so many fall short today.  They’re looking for more proof.  More facts.  More demonstrations.  More bells and whistles.

What will it take for them to believe?  There isn’t anything more - right between the eyeballs - clearer - than the resurrection of Jesus.

What we need to believe and trust God for is not the facts and the evidence - but the reality that they represent - the resurrection power - that God desires to apply to the deepest needs of our lives.

It's not the facts that are most important.  Its what’s behind those facts that counts as most important.  The reality of what the living God offers us in Jesus Christ.  The reality of what He calls us to believe.  The choice we need to make.  What we give our lives to.

It would be so easy for us to come and get caught up in another Resurrection Sunday celebration and miss out on the life renewing - life transforming - power that Jesus is offering to us.

God and you know what your deepest needs are.  Where you struggle - fear - uncertainty - despair - anger - acceptance.  Maybe this morning your deepest need is forgiveness of sin.  You don’t know what it means to have His grace and mercy applied to your life.  To be forgiven - to have your relationship with God restored - to be set free of the crud of the past - to be who God has created you to be.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  He is the means by which our sins are forgiven.  He has the power to transform and heal our lives.

The question Jesus asked of Martha is still before us today. 
“I am the resurrection and the life.  Do you believe this?” 


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.