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JOHN 11:45,46

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
June 10, 2018

In your bulletins you will find John 11:1-46.  Which is a lot of verses.  A lot of verses that we’re not going to read.  Which may be a relief.


But they are there for reference.  We’re going to walk through this account together - what is probably a familiar account - we’re going to walk through this account together and touch down on a few verses along the way.  Which are bold faced and you’ll see the verse numbers for. 


Where we want to end up is at verses 45 and 46 - which is where we want to ultimately focus this morning and consider what God may desire to speak to us from those two verses.


But the background for those verses - what sets up the application for us - is in these other verses that we’re going to walk through together.


So beginning 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 was a village a little over a mile and a half east of Jerusalem.


Jesus is out beyond the Jordan River with His disciples at a place kind of like where we are today.  Except they were by the Jordan River instead of by a lake.  And the Jordan River is more the size of Bear Creek - so a lot less water.  And there was no lawn area and picnic tables.  But at least there was water.  So we can kind of picture this.


Where they were on the Jordan River was about a days journey from Bethany.  Which is the same place John had been baptizing people.  It may have been 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 their brother Lazarus - someone that Jesus deeply cared about - Lazarus is very sick.


Jesus - Whom were told deeply loves Mary and Martha and Lazarus - meaning they’re super tight.  Jesus responds seemingly callous to the emotional pain that His friends are going through - seemingly indifferent to the urgency of the situation - Jesus says in verse 4 - “This illness does not lead to death.  It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God [Jesus]  may be glorified through it.”


Verse 6 records 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 - says something about Lazarus falling asleep and Jesus needing to wake him up.  Which is 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.


Then verse 17 - when Jesus finally gets to Bethany - sure enough - Lazarus has been buried for 4 days.  The funeral is over.  But, the crowd is still there - family - friends - the professional mourners who are mourning professionally.  People who brought casseroles and Costco cookies.  [Just checking].


They all are there wailing and weeping and carrying on.  Because it is a sad - hopeless - gut wrenching - situation.  If we’d of been there we’d have been mourning right along with them.


When Martha hears that Jesus was just outside the village - coming into town - verse 21 - Martha comes to meet Jesus and tells Jesus, 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.  It’s too late.  There’s no hope.


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


Verse 24 - 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.  Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”

Which is one of the most amazing statements in Scripture. 
It’s an amazing if not audacious.  I am what God has promised.  Believe in Me and live.  Right here.  Right now.  And the question - an invitation to personal commitment, “Do you believe this?”


Martha tells Jesus - verse 27, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, Who is coming into the world.”  You are the One promised by God.  God who has come into the world.  The Messiah we’ve been waiting for.


Good answer.  Yes?


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.


Then Jesus is led to the tomb of His friend Lazarus.


Today if we were to go to Bethany - which today is the Arab village of al-Eizariya [al-Azariyeh] - there’s a sign that identifies a tomb as “Saint Lazarus’ Tomb” - which tradition says is the tomb Lazarus was in.


The entrance - where the sign is - the entrance leads into a staircase which leads down through what - over time - has been built up over the tomb.  So what is supposed to be Lazarus’ tomb is down the stairs and there’s cave down there with a stone lying against it.


Which - tradition being what it is - may be or may not be the actual tomb.  But it does fit the description of what John is recording here.


According to the burial practices of the time - 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.  Then after the decomposition the remains - bones probably being what was left - then after decomposition the remains were 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.  Since then, there’s been a whole lot of decomposing going on.


So - in verse 39 - when Jesus stood before this cave with its stone covering and Jesus says, Take away the stone.  Martha protests.  “He’s been dead four days - he’ll stink.”  In other words, “What’s the use?  His body is already decomposing.


Jesus cycles back to the conversation they had earlier:  “Did I not say to you that if you believe - that I am the resurrection and I am the life - if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  Meaning:  “Will you trust Me?  God is a work here.  He will bring glory to Himself even in this situation.” 


Which is Jesus coming back around to the question Jesus asked Martha earlier outside of town:  “Do you believe?”


It’s important for us to be clear on why Jesus won’t let go of His question.


Which given the circumstances - the death of her brother - the tomb - the mourning - the hopelessness - Lazarus’ decomposing stinking body - with all the emotions - given the circumstances Jesus harping on this question - questioning Martha’s beliefs - which we all agreed together - that her answer seemed pretty textbook okay - that questioning seems pretty callous and over-the-top.


Why is Jesus going there?


Answer:  Jesus is trying to help Martha - and the disciples - and everyone else there - and us - to process what we really heart level actually believe.  “Martha.  You said you believed.  What do you really believe?”


Looking at something intellectually - even religiously - is a lot different from actually believing in our hearts - believing God enough to trust Him with all we are in the day-to-day reality of life.  Yes?


We can believe what we believe about God on Sunday.  But Monday’s coming.  When real life hits the fan what do we really believe?


There are tons of people who know about Lazarus and something about what’s recorded here.  This is a really familiar account even if we haven’t been around church.


And maybe they believe that something happened.  Just what maybe we’re not sure.  Dead is dead.  But medical knowledge being what it was back then - people wanting to believe in something will believe most anything - who knows.  But people coming back to life and what Jesus claims about Himself is a bit out there.  Maybe way out there. 


So, people trying to put all that together in their minds - what people believe about Lazarus may not make a whole lot of difference to them in the day-to-day of their lives.  Because it’s a nice story full of hope.  But not much more.


Like most of us have heard this account so many times that some of you are way ahead down the path of our walk through these verses together.  We know what comes next.  But when the rubber meets the road what exactly do we believe?  How does what we believe happens here actually impact how we live on Monday?


Are we hearing Jesus question - for us?


There’s a difference between knowing what we know and having what we know change how we respond to God and how we live by faith from the heart level out.  How does what we’re reading here effect us in the day-to-day of how we do life?  How does what we’re reading here effect our trust in God?  What do we really believe?


So, the stone is removed.  Then Jesus prays - loudly - so those around can hear - so they - so we - can know and see God at work - God bringing glory to Himself - and believe.  So that testimony is given that God has sent Jesus into the world - that He - Jesus - really is the resurrection and the life.  On Sunday and any other day of the week.


Verse 41 - Jesus praying:  “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.  I knew that You always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 


Then with a loud voice - literally loud enough to wake the dead - with a loud voice Jesus cries out, “Lazarus, come out.” 


And Lazarus, who’s been in that tomb for four days - very much stinkin’ dead - Lazarus comes out under his own power - very much alive - bound from head to foot in his burial clothes.  Probably struggling - maybe hoping - to get out of the cave. 


It’s not hard to imagine the crowd with their jaws on the ground.  Staring in disbelief at what they’re seeing.  Maybe just a tad freaked out.  Wouldn’t we be just a tad freaked out?  Just saying.


This is Facebook click-bait.  Jesus tells a dead guy to come out of a tomb and you won’t believe what happens next.


Then Jesus says to those standing around, “Unbind him, and let him go.” 


Which maybe Jesus had to tell them to do because they didn’t know what to do next.  Probably most of them hadn’t unwrapped a previously dead guy before.  So they needed instructions on what to do next.


Let’s be clear.  What we’re seeing here - ties back to what Jesus told Martha would happen - which is the glory of God on display - what points to Martha’s need to heart level believe - to our need to believe - in Jesus.


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.  Would you read these out loud together we me? 


Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in Him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 


Do you see the two responses to Jesus?  Everyone of us here fits into one or the other of those two responses. 


Seeing is… believing.  Maybe.  Some believed.  Some did not.


“But some” contrasts those who believed with those who went and told the Pharisees.


With everything this crowd has just witnessed with their own eyes.  The demonstrated working of God - the visible testimony of Jesus being God Himself entering into our world - Jesus who is the Savior of mankind.  One response is belief.  The other is rejection.  One turns to Jesus.  The other turns away.


Those that turned away went and told the Pharisees what Jesus had done.


Reading farther on in the account - in the next few verses John records that the Pharisees fearing for their own status in the nation and how the Romans would respond to growing crowds of people following Jesus - the Pharisees begin to plot how to kill Lazarus.  Which is hugely senseless if not ironic.  Trying to kill a guy who had already died.


More to the point of what John records for us here - is that the Pharisees begin to plot to kill Jesus.  The ultimate in rejection of the One who has authority over death itself.  Which is itself senseless. 


But it does tell us about what the Pharisees actually heart level believed.  Instead of celebrating the resurrection and turning in belief to Jesus they rejected Him as being a threat to their carefully constructed Pharisee world.


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 - to the glory of God.


And yet 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?


Which we know the resurrection of Lazarus points forward to.  Jesus’ own death and resurrection.


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 - for God’s glory. 


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.  And 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.  Same as Lazarus.  Dead is dead.


We know that the Romans and the Jews took tremendous security precautions to protect against potential fraud and to make sure that Jesus stayed dead and in the tomb.  Which He didn’t. 


Early in the morning of the first day of the week - in mourning - without hope - 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.”

The Bible tells us that at that point the women understood - heart level - life transforming - believed for themselves - the reality of what Jesus had been teaching them.


A series of events unfold.  Jesus revealing Himself to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.  Jesus revealing Himself to the disciples hiding - mourning - hopeless in the upper room.  To Thomas who doubts.  We know that hundreds if not thousands witnessed the resurrected Jesus.  The lives of the disciples were  heart level by faith changed forever. 


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.


According to God’s plan and purposes - all for the glory of God - at the moment God appointed - Jesus’ body wrapped in burial clothes - Jesus left those clothes behind to be found by the disciples.  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 - it’s not about establishing evidence for what is an incontrovertible fact of history - it’s about application.  Bringing the reality of His resurrection into the lives of His disciples.  Reality that must be responded to - heart level believed.


Just like 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 loudly 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 heart level believe.  Understand in our hearts the reality of Jesus - who is the resurrection and the life.  Today and in the day-to-day of tomorrow.


That’s huge for us to grab onto.


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 let’s be clear - God’s power is there even without all the bells and whistles.


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.


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.  It’s 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 heart level believe.  The choice we need to make.  What we give our lives to today and tomorrow and moving forward through life.


Processing all that…


How many of you remember Francis Shaeffer?  That might date some of us.


Francis Shaeffer was theologian, philosopher, pastor, Christian apologist who passed away in 1984.  A man that God gave great insight to


Shaeffer founded a Christian organization that had its headquarters in Switzerland - southeast of Lake Geneva - up in the mountains.  An amazingly beautiful area with gorgeous really tall snow covered mountains


Listen to Shaeffer describing where he lives.


“Not far from where we live in Switzerland is a high ridge of rock with a valley on both sides.  One time I was there when there was snow on the ground along that ridge.  The snow was lying there unbroken, a seeming unity.  However, that unity was an illusion, for it lay along a great divide; it lay along a watershed.  One portion of the snow when it melted would flow into one valley.  The snow which lay close beside would flow into another valley when it melted.


“Now it just so happens on that particular ridge that the melting snow which flows down one side of that ridge goes down into a valley, into a small river, and then down into the Rhine River.  The Rhine then flows on through Germany and the water ends up in the cold waters of the North Sea.  The water from the snow that started out so close along that watershed on the other side of the ridge, when this snow melts, drops off sharply down the ridge into the Rhone Valley.  This water flows into Lac Leman—or as it is known in the English speaking world, Lake Geneva—and goes down below that into the Rhone River which flows through France and into the warm waters of the Mediterranean.


“The snow lies along that watershed, unbroken, as seeming unity.  But when it melts, where it ends in its destinations is literally a thousand miles apart.  That is a watershed.  That is what a watershed is.  A watershed divides.  A clear line can be drawn between what seems at first to be same or a least very close, but in reality ends in very different situations.  In a watershed there is a line. (1)


The work of Jesus on the cross - His death and resurrection - is a watershed.  At the cross everything changes.  How we respond to that dividing line in history - belief or rejection - our response has consequences for how we go through life now and where we’ll end up for eternity.


Costco sells caskets - in bulk.  Google it.  Sooner or later everyone of us - unless Jesus comes back before then - everyone of us is going to physically die.


Between now and death we all go through pretty much the same stuff of life.  The same seasons of life - growing up and growing older.  We all have similar struggles - joys - concerns.  Some go through all that with Jesus.  Some go through all that without Jesus.


Everyone of us is on one of two possible courses through life.  With God or without God.  Those who by faith are trusting in Jesus as our Savior.  Those who are not.


Both of these trajectories follow similar courses through life but they end up in very different places.  Eternity with God - the blessedness of which is beyond out ability to grasp - but what we deeply long for.  The other destination is eternity without God - the horrendousness of which - thank God - is beyond our ability to grasp.


The watershed dividing line is the cross.  Our response has consequences for how we go through life now and where we’ll end up for eternity.


Jesus cycles around to the question “Do you believe” because answering the question is that important.  It points to the cross.  Not just understanding the theology and understanding the facts - but grabbing for ourselves the significance of what those facts require of us - a heart level response of faith - to believe in Who Jesus really is - what He really has done for us on the cross.


It would be so easy for us to come to this beautiful spot with picnic benches and a lake and get caught up in the familiarity of the Lazarus’ resurrection and the facts of Jesus’ resurrection that Lazarus’ resurrection points to - and miss out on the life that Jesus is offering to each one of us.


Because Jesus is Who Jesus says He is - the resurrection and the life - each of us can personally know God’s grace and mercy and love and forgiveness and His peace and presence in our lives.


What God offers to us in our failure and weakness and sin and separation from Him - He really does offer to us.  Atonement and redemption and renewal and rescue - being given a right restored relationship with Him is all true.


And as we go through life we don’t need to live in fear and doubt and despair and depression - stumbling along trying to find our way through it all.  God gives purpose and meaning to our lives and the wisdom and guidance we need.  We really can trust God with our lives.  He really does have it all under control and He’s got us.


And Heaven is real.  God really does adopt us and we really do become inheritors of the riches of heaven.  We do not travel alone through life and we will live with God forever in the unimaginable awesomeness of His presence.





1. Francis Schaffer, “The Great Evangelical Disaster”, Crossway Books, Westchester, Illinois, 1984, page 43


Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®  (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.