Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.
Eagle Rock Lutheran Church
Los Angeles, CA
April 06, 2014
Our passage reveals at least three realities of life: (1) sickness is at the door, (2) death is like a thief in the night, and (3) resurrection is sure for God’s glory.
There were three siblings: Lazarus, Martha and Mary living in the village of Bethany, east of Jerusalem. Mary was the one who would apply Jesus with perfume and wipe his feet with her hair (John 12:1-3). Mary was also the one who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to Jesus’ teaching while Martha was busy hosting (Luke 10:38-42). Lazarus was a loving friend of Jesus, and the disciples (Jn. 11:3, 11).
Our passage centers in the sickness, death and raising of Lazarus, a friend of Jesus and his disciples.
1. Lazarus Was Sick and Died (John 11:3, 14, 17)
1.1. Lazarus was ill (v.3).
Jesus received a message that his friend, Lazarus, was ill. Probably there were two reasons why Martha and Maria sent for him; one, because they supposed he would be desirous of knowing his friend’s situation; the other, because they supposed he could heal Lazarus.
The messenger came to Jesus probably after one day. Since the travel from Bethany to the place of Jesus and his disciples, probably in Perea across the Jordan (John 10:40) would take at least one day journey. Jesus and his disciples were busy in their missions that’s why they scheduled their travel back to Judea after two days, or probably Jesus waited for the right time (God’s time) so that he could show God’s glory through raising Lazarus from the dead.
1.2. Lazarus consequently died (v.14).
Lazarus died and Jesus knew that (v.14), or perhaps it was told by the messenger that Lazarus was dying and not just sick. Most likely Jesus got discernment that Lazarus would be dead soon.
Indeed, Lazarus was dead as told by Jesus and it was testified by Martha (v.21), testified by Mary (v.32) and testified by the Jews (v.19). When Jesus and his disciples arrived in Judea, Lazarus was already in his tomb (cave) for four days (v.17).
2. Lazarus’ Sickness was Not Unto Death (John 11:4).
Before going to Judea, Jesus told his disciples that the sickness of Lazarus was not meant to end in death. It was for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.
It was the intention of God that Lazarus would be raised from the dead so that He would be glorified, so that people would believe in God’s miracles, so that they might know that God was real and alive through the ministry of Jesus Christ.
2.2. For the Glory of the Son of God (v.4).
It was also the intention of God that through the miracles Jesus would be glorified. It was also his intention that through the raising of Lazarus, it would prove that Jesus was with God and He was sent by God (v.42).
3. Lessons from the Death of Lazarus (John 11: 25-26).
You might ask what are the lessons we could gather from the death and raising of Lazarus? There are at least two lessons here: (1) It was an event to tell something about the resurrection, and (2) an event for God’s power and demonstration.
3.1. An event to teach Resurrection (vv.23-27).
Read the conversation between Jesus and Martha:
(23) Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
(24) Martha told him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
(25) Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The person who believes in me, even though he dies, will live.
(26) Indeed, everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe that?”
(27) “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world.”
Resurrection was not new in the teachings of Judaism, it was already taught in the book of Daniel (12:1-3). The book of Daniel says that there are resurrection for the righteous and for the wicked. That’s why Martha told to Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Listen to Daniel:
(1) At that time Michael will arise, the great prince who will stand up on behalf of your people, and a time of trouble will come like there has never been since nations began until that time. Also at that time, your people will be delivered—everyone who will have been written in the book.
(2) Many of those who are sleeping in the dust of the earth will awaken—some to life everlasting, and some to disgrace and everlasting contempt.
(3) Those who manifest wisdom will shine like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who turn many to righteousness will shine like the stars for ever and ever.
Indeed, Daniel prophesied that there are resurrection for the righteous and for the wicked. However, in the teaching of Jesus, resurrection and eternal life are sure for those who will believe in Him.
The raising of Lazarus was not just an event for timely teaching of Jesus, but also an event to demonstrate the power of God who sent Jesus Christ.
John 11:41-42 tells the prayer of Jesus, “Father, I thank you for hearing me. I know that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”
After Jesus prayed, he shouted in front of the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!” Verse 44 tells us a miracle, “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet tied with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a handkerchief.” Hallelujah!
Jesus touched “to-see-is-to-believe philosophy” of most people in His time, and because of that ……
3.2.1. Some Jews believed Jesus as a result of the demonstration of power (v.45).
Yes, indeed, those who were there in the raising of Lazarus witnessed his resurrection. And because of that they believed in Jesus as the One who sent by God. However, not all witnesses believed Jesus.
3.2.2. Some Jews did not believe Jesus and planned to persecute Him (v.46-53).
Some Jews who witnessed the raising of Lazarus told that matter to the Pharisees. And because of that they were bothered, so the Jews, the high priest (a Sadducee), the Pharisees and the council made a plot to kill Jesus for the sake of their status quo in the Judeo-Roman society.
The High Priest Caiaphas says “You don’t know anything! You don’t realize that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed” (vv.49-50).
Others believe it was a prophecy uttered unknowingly by the High Priest, but in his knowing mind it was a plot to sacrifice one man rather than sacrifice the whole nation. For the High Priest, it was a political thing.
3.3. Lazarus’ death and raising were a concrete demonstration of Jesus’ teaching on Resurrection (vv.12:9-11).
Indeed, that is our perception regarding Lazarus’ death and resurrection. But the Jews had different perception, Lazarus was a thorn in the neck that they needed to pluck out. John says, “The high priests planned to kill Lazarus, too, since he was the reason why so many of the Jews were leaving to believe in Jesus” (vv.12:10-11).
Some of the Jews believed Jesus and consequently deserted from their Jewish faith. These were the people who witnessed and believed what Jesus did. And surely they believed Jesus was the life and the resurrection.
Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The person who believes in me, even though he dies, will live. Indeed, everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe that?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who was to come into the world” (11:25-27).
How this story about Lazarus become relevant to all of us nowadays? If Lazarus experienced physical death, nowadays we also experience death in some ways.
We die in our greed and sins, in our society we die due to government mismanagement, graft and corruption. In the recent story of Malaysian plane (MH 370) tragedy people die in lies, suspense, and concealment. Some countries are literally dying of hunger, plague, and sickness due to lack of food, water contamination and mosquitoes.
Churches die due to political struggle, faith and belief differences, indifference to God’s mission and evangelism, indifference to the welfare of the poor and our neighborhood. We die because of our petty quarrels and useless jealousy.
Indeed, we die or should I say that we are dead, too. If that is the case we must come out from being dead. Jesus shouted in front of the tomb, “Lazarus, come out!” (v.43), and Lazarus came out from the cave– alive! How about saying this, “members of Eagle Rock Lutheran Church, come out!”
Revival as Visitation of God
James Parker says that revival is the visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have been sleeping and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness. Thence springs a vivid sense of sin and a profound exercise of heart in repentance, praise, and love, with an evangelistic outflow.
Each revival movement has its own distinctive features, but the pattern is the same every time.
(1) First God comes. On New Year’s Eve 1739, John Wesley, George Whitefield, and some of their friends held a “love feast” which became a watch night of prayer to see the New Year in. At about 3 a.m., Wesley wrote, “the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground.” Revival always begins with a restoration of the sense of the closeness of the Holy One.
(2) Second, the gospel is loved as never before. The sense of God’s nearness creates an overwhelming awareness of one’s own sins and sinfulness, and so the power of the cleansing blood of Christ is greatly appreciated.
(3) Then repentance deepens. In the Ulster (Ireland) revival in the 1920s shipyard workers brought back so many stolen tools that new storages had to be built to house the recovered property! Repentance results in restitution.
(4) Finally, the Spirit works fast: godliness multiplies, Christians mature, converts appear. Paul was at Thessalonica for less than three weeks, but God worked quickly and Paul left a strong church behind him (James Packer, Your Father Loves You, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1986).
Revival in Northern Ireland
In the mid-1800s in the town of Kells in Northern Ireland, four (4) men met each Saturday night for intense prayer. The whole night was devoted to prayer. Shortly afterwards, there was a powerful revival. Courts adjourned for lack of cases. Jails were closed for lack of criminals. Policemen formed quartets to sing in churches because they had nothing else to do.
I pray that the revival of God will also experience by our churches and our country nowadays.