What Do You Believe About
Resurrection Power - Part I
The deity of Jesus is being demonstrated each time a miracle takes place. Each miracle reveals more of God’s power. The first miracle was a sign miracle that demonstrated the power that Jesus had over the elements. It was no hocus-pocus when He changed the water into wine. God in the flesh, who as the creator God, was able to transform the very chemical nature of H20 (water), transforming it into something entirely different. This first miracle was not an easy miracle to be followed by those more difficult, though there seems to be a progression to the more difficult. Instead, with God there are no miracles of great difficulty in magnitude; for with God all things are of no challenge. We measure work by its requirements, by its demands, or its difficulty, but with God there is no difference. One of the attributes of omnipotence is that all challenges are the same, and the strength of the Omnipotent one is not at all diminished.
Yet God seems to allow the miracles to progress from the easy to the more difficult. In human development the baby learns to sit, then stand, and then walk. The first miracle may have been a “sitting” miracle; the next a “standing” miracle followed by a “walking” miracle. Even as Jesus further revealed Himself as God with each event taking place, He also does the same in the Scriptures. For this reason God’s Word must be studied “line upon line” and “precept upon precept.” As one studies this way there is a continuous and further revealing of truth.
This study presents the greatest miracle as of yet, from our perspective. The miracle is greater than the giving of sight to the blind; it is the giving of life back to a dead man. How difficult is this to Jesus who is God? It is no more or less difficult than the changing of the water into wine.
I believe that I understood this truth when I was a student in a state college. My professor knew that I was a Christian, and that I believed in the Genesis’ account of creation. He made a statement in class that very few people believe the Genesis’ account of creation. I raised my hand. “Yes, Max” as he recognized my hand. “Sir, I believe in the Genesis’ account of creation.” He then responded by saying, “Anyone who believes in the Genesis’ account of creation reduces his mind down to the size of a pill box.” I must admit that this very much angered me, but I did not answer back. Yet at the end of the class period and with it being Friday, the professor said, “God bless you and have a nice weekend.” I again raised my hand and said, “If God can’t create you, how can He bless you.?” To me a miracle is a miracle. This same professor died of a heart attack in his classroom several years after making this statement.
This study on the resurrection will be in two parts. The first part will consider the “death of Lazarus” while the second part will consider the “deliverance of Lazarus.” in this first study, may we notice that (1) The death of Lazarus was preceded by his sickness (vv. 1-3); (2) The death of Lazarus was predicted by the Saviour (vv. 4-15); (3) The death of Lazarus was part of their sorrow (vv. 16-26).
I. THE DEATH OF LAZARUS WAS PRECEDED BY HIS SICK- NESS vv. 1-3
This great chapter begins with the introduction of a very sick man. Lazarus is that “certain” man under consideration. The name Lazarus is a very fascinating name. I was taught years ago to research and discover the meaning of names. Names in the Bible usually carry great significance. The name Lazarus is no exception. When I first looked up the meaning of the name Lazarus, it was when I was preaching a message on “The Rich man and Lazarus.” The rich man seemingly had everything that life could afford, but he did not have the Lord. Lazarus had nothing, but really had everything, for he had the Lord. The name Lazarus means, “God, a help.” Lazarus’ mother knew her poverty and plight, but as a believer, she also knew that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” Since she was unable to give her son great riches, she gave him a good name. She gave him the name Lazarus reminding him every time that his name was called that even if people do not help you, God will!
When Lazarus died he went into “Abraham’s bosom” (Luke 16:22) while the rich man in hell lifted up his eyes in torments (Luke 16:23). Truly God was a help to Lazarus. In our study Lazarus is being introduced as a sick man and our text will show that he died and that the Lord Jesus comes to his rescue. The Lord is indeed a help!
May we notice as we study the sickness of Lazarus, (1) The condition of Lazarus (vv. 1-2); (2) The concern for Lazarus (v. 3).
The condition of Lazarus (vv. 1-2). Lazarus is a sick man. Sickness is not uncommon. All will sometimes face sickness. Yet his sickness will be surrounded by very uncommon events. The sick man will die; the sick man will be raised from the dead. This is what makes this story so different. It is this difference that demonstrates the awesome power of God.
Any sickness is a cause for concern. This sickness was perhaps already in the terminal stages and surely the sisters of Lazarus recognized this. They exercised faith in the Lord by approaching Him. They showed human pathos by telling the Lord that the sick person was one whom He also loved. If we permit Lazarus to be a type of the very common sinner, then we allow the sisters to typify the concerned soul winners and the Lord to be the compassionate Saviour.
May we remind ourselves, that apart from God’s saving grace, we are all in the terminal stages of sin. James 1:15 warns us, “… sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” I John 5:16, tells us that there is a sin unto death. The original curse allowed the seeds of decay to be deposited into the human soil. Since Adam, all must die.
The continual reading of the text emphasizes how bad off Lazarus really was. There also is a Spiritual or theological term that we use to describe how bad off the sinner really is. That term is “depravity.” Isaiah 1:4-6 is a classical, Scriptural picture of the state of depravity. Listen to the prophet of old as he paints that awful picture of the sick human soul. “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isaiah 1:4-6). We can dress and robe ourselves in our human refinery only to camouflage the real condition of the heart, but God knows well the condition of the patient. Likewise, the Lord in His omniscience knew the condition of Lazarus. Their concern was also His concern in regards to Lazarus.
The concern for Lazarus (v. 3). As we noted the condition of Lazarus, we also noted the concern. Let us emphasize more closely the concern that the sisters had for Lazarus. “Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick” (v. 3). Is it not wonderful that people care for people? Recently, we had a family that lost everything but their lives to fire. I saw the agony written on their faces as the English family saw everything destroyed. Yet, I also saw the hope and gratitude in knowing that no life was lost in this awful fire. As people became aware of this tragedy, they overwhelmingly began to respond. People from their church, sister churches, their acquaintances, the Red Cross, businesses, and people from different areas of the country all began to show their love for this family.
So touching has been this demonstration of love towards this family. This concern should also be given to the poor lost soul that is en route to an eternal everlasting hell fire. I am afraid that we can show more concern for the temporal while neglecting the eternal. May we have a greater passion for the lost.
II. THE DEATH OF LAZARUS WAS PREDICTED BY THE SAV- IOUR vv. 4-15
This section of Scripture demonstrates the power that Jesus had over death, but importantly, it also shows that Jesus could see the future. Not only could He see the future, but He could see the events in a distant location. This declares that God is not only omnipotent, omniscience, but also omnipresent. Jesus while on the earth voluntarily limited Himself for the purpose of fulfilling the requirements of the Kinsman Redeemer. This is known theologically as the kenosis. Though, in His Human body, Jesus was unable to be where Lazarus was; He in His spirit was able to view all the events taking place as though He were there in body.
May we now observe that Lazarus’ death was providential (vv. 4-6); and that Lazarus’ death was with purpose (vv. 7-15)
Lazarus’ death was providential (vv. 4-6). Verse four tells us that Lazarus’ sickness was not unto death, and in verse 14 the Scriptures tell us, “Lazarus is dead.” Jesus is not contradicting Himself in these two verses. He is speaking in terms of distinction. Remember, the simplest definition of death is separation. When someone dies there is separation. Death may be expressed in three different ways. There is a physical death, defined as a separation of the soul and spirit from the body. There is a spiritual death, when man is separated from God. Then, there is an eternal death when man is cast into the lake of fire for all eternity. When Jesus said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” He was not referring to death in its most ultimate sense, but in the sense of a temporary condition. The phrase “is not unto death” emphasizes the preposition “unto” when contrasted with the preposition “for” in reference to God’s glory. Jesus was saying, “not unto death” contrasted to, “but for the glory of God.” He way saying that this was a temporary condition that would serve the purpose of glorifying God. Sometimes a sickness or death takes place to bring glory to God. When this happens we often focus on the seeming finality of death and forget the eternal purposes of God. Every condition of one’s existence ought to serve the purpose of bringing glory to the Lord.
While the Lord was with His disciples, there was no display of anxiety on His part; He is always in control. The tense of the Lord is neither challenged by the past, nor the future. As the “I am” God, He is never early, nor is He late; He is always on time. This is the reason Dr. Sightler would ask in his preaching, “Has it ever occurred to you that nothing has ever occurred to God?”
The events and the circumstances that seem so insurmountable to us have always been in the mind of God. His providence involves special care during these times. Just as the Lord knew when “to go” to be a blessing to the woman at the well, He also knew when “to stay” as in this instance. This is true because Jesus is the God of providence.
Lazarus’ death was with purpose (vv. 7-15). Ecclesiastes reminds us that there is, “a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Solomon gives clear attention to this truth in this passage of Scripture. “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).
Verse 15 tells us that His purpose was that men might believe. The purpose of God is still that men will believe.
Two days after the message was delivered concerning Lazarus unto Jesus, He said, “Let us go into Judaea again.” In response to what the disciples said unto Him in verse 8, “… Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?” The answer that Jesus gave them in verse 9-10 shows us that Jesus could safely go back to Judea, where an attempt had been made to stone Him, as long as He was walking in the light of His Father’s will. This should be the attitude of anyone in the Lord’s service. You are under His umbrella of safety until He is through with you. Anything that happens to you is within His providential watch care and with purpose. To acknowledge the Lord is to have Him directing your paths. He knows where the paths are and what is in the path.
Certainly it is a wonderful comfort to know that in ever endeavor, that is Spirit led, that God has a purpose in mind. He does everything on purpose and with purpose. Listen to the answer Jesus gives the disciples in verse 9-10. “Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.”
Jesus told the disciples that He wanted to go and awake Lazarus out of his sleep. By Him referring to Lazarus’ death as sleep, they thought all was well. They did not think Jesus was referring to Lazarus’ death. It was then that “Jesus said unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” Jesus explains that this death was for the purpose of bringing about a state of belief on the part of the disciples (v. 15).
III. THE DEATH OF LAZARUS WAS PART OF THEIR SORROW vv. 16-26
Thomas led a challenge to the other disciples when he said unto his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16). Thomas and the other disciples felt that it was unwise to go back to Judaea, yet were loyal enough to Jesus to go anyway. Later, the Scriptures will tell us that, “they all forsook Him.”
When they arrived, they discovered that Lazarus had “lain in the grave four days already” (v. 17). The time that Lazarus had been dead will further authenticate the miracle of being raised from the dead. By this time the body had already begun to decompose. The people were sorrowing over this loss.
This sorrowing was natural (vv. 16-22). Sorrow is a very natural and common aspect of death. I remember as a child going to my first funeral. The part of the funeral that I remember the most was the weeping of the people. I further remember the graveside, as the body was being lowered into the ground. As a child, I remember how difficult that was for me. I still recall the sadness that I felt then.
Since then I have learned that there is a sorrow for the believer that is different from that of the unbeliever. There is a sorrow that is with hope and a sorrow that is without hope. I have often remarked that believers die differently than those who are unbelievers. I may add that those who sorrow have a different sorrow when believing loved ones die. Since I began this book on John, I had to face the sorrow of my father’s death. Thank God that I can be comforted in knowing that he is in God’s presence.
To lose someone who is close to you will bring about a natural sorrow, but looking at the “big picture” it is not necessary.
This sorrow was unnecessary (vv. 23-26). Martha met Jesus and said unto Jesus, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou will ask of God, God will give it thee” (vv. 21-22). Martha is exhibiting her faith in Jesus, but it is not a mature faith at this time. For there was no precedent involving someone being raised from the dead, as of yet. She showed that she believed in a future general resurrection but did not expect to see her brother immediately restored to life.
Jesus used this opportunity to show that he is “the resurrection and the life.” Notice in verse 25-26 what Jesus says about Him being the resurrection and the life. “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
The sorrow that they were experiencing was either unnecessary or at least necessary for only a short period of time. Jesus was soon to call Lazarus forth to live again. Likewise our sorrow, relatively speaking, is for a short time. There will be a resurrection, and we will forever be reunited with our loved ones. This is what Paul was teaching us in I Thessalonians 4:13-17. “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”
Sermon From Dr. Max Alderman