Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
Today is the fifth Sunday of Lent. Lent is a season where we prepare our hearts to reflect on the passion of Jesus on the cross and celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the grave. This season is marked by two key elements: repentance and renewal. Repentance means that we are actively turning away from something to something else. Another key element of this season is renewal. We have been brought into God’s family through Jesus and God is actively changing us from the inside. This renewal is the Spirit’s work in us and comes as the Gospel is applied to our hearts and minds.
In our text we see the power of Jesus to restore us. Glimpses of the resurrection should come into view as we look at His actions with some very dear friends of His while here on earth.
Let’s unpack this story that should shape the way we see the world of love and death:
It’s All About The Glory Of God
Verse 4 shows us Jesus putting the news of Lazarus’ illness in relation to the glory of God and His own glory. This illness is about God’s glory and the glory of Jesus. Even though Lazarus will die, this is not mainly about death. It is mainly about how glorious God and His Son are.
This is just like John 9 which we looked at last week, where the man was born blind not because he or his parents sinned, but so that the works of God might be put on display. In this story, the issue is going to be death - not just blindness or illness. Lazarus is going to die and Jesus knows this. In fact, He chooses for Lazarus to die. This ordeal that His friends and family were enduring was infused with a higher purpose that would result in God receiving maximum glory.
This point is the very meaning of life and all of creation! The glory of God demonstrated in Jesus and humans treasuring this glory above all things - these are the two great purposes of all things.
For the third time in this chapter, John underscores the love that Jesus has for this family (verse 5). Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. John stresses this love because he knows that what Jesus is about to do here does not feel like love to most people (verse 6).
The word “so” is there in the original language and it means “therefore”. Jesus loved them, so therefore when he heard that lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer where He was. Jesus knew that this delay would mean the certainty of Lazarus’ death. By the time that Jesus gets there, Lazarus had been dead for four days. As far as Lazarus knew when he died, Jesus didn’t come. His sisters saw him die and they buried him. They wondered where Jesus was. They experienced real death and real loss and Jesus didn’t show up to stop it.
It was love that moved Jesus to let Lazarus die. It was the love of Jesus for this family and for His disciples - and for us, reading this text - that caused Him to choose to let Lazarus die. Why? His death will put the glory of God on display and makes Jesus look amazing. Love lets Lazarus die because his death will help them see, in more ways than they know, the glory of God.
Love means giving us what we need most. What we need most is not healing, but a full and endless experience of the glory of God. A revelation to our souls of the glory of God brings us the fullest and longest joy. Love is doing whatever you have to to help people see and treasure the glory of God as their supreme joy. Love is helping people see and be satisfied with the glory of God. When we see God’s glory our response should be belief (verses 14-15).
Jesus didn’t just let Lazarus die for us to see God’s glory- Jesus Himself died for this too!
Seeing Ourselves In The Resurrection Of Lazarus
In the way that John presents this story, he means for us to see the resurrection of Lazarus as a picture of our resurrection - the resurrection of all who believe in Jesus. In John 11:23-26, Jesus makes it clear to Martha that the raising of Lazarus is just what will happen to everyone who believes in Him.
Lazarus’ death was real and terrible - just as terrible as your death and mine. When we look at the death of Lazarus, it doesn’t seem that terrible because we know that Jesus will raise him. Our death will not be any more terrible than Lazarus’ death, because we too will be raised by Jesus. There might be more time between your death and your resurrection, but that amount of time is nothing compared to eternity.
Jesus raised Lazarus because He is the resurrection. In this we see a foretaste of God’s final, glorious renovation of all things, including our bodies. Lazarus is a preview of our resurrection. Jesus is coming back to this earth in power and great glory. And this event and this story is a window into that glory.
As you experience suffering and death in this life, know that He loves you and will show you His glory. Many thought that it was all over when Lazarus died - but nothing is over until Jesus says it’s over. In John 11:43-44 a dead man came to life. Death did not have the final say. Do you believe dead things can still come to life, even now, in the place where you live? Nothing is over until Jesus says it’s over—regardless of what you see, feel, or what everyone is telling you.
We do not wave the truth of the resurrection as if it suddenly renders death in all its forms painless or meaningless. We hold on in hope for the time that has been promised in which there will be no more death or crying or pain, and all things will be made new, but we are not there yet.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” - Revelation 21:4
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
An Examined Life
As we continue to reflect on the sermon, allow these questions to guide your discussion with others concerning the conviction points and what you sensed God’s Spirit was doing in you through the preached Word. Jot notes to help you remember.
What was God doing in you through the message on Sunday?
Describe how you’ve grown in your understanding of the Gospel (good news of Jesus)?
How are you going to respond to God’s Word in your life?