When a doctor loses a patient on the operating table, there is a deep sense of remorse and sadness in the surgical theater. Doctors are trained to save lives but sometimes even the best trained physicians are unable to control complications that lead to death. But here we discover that Christ, the Great Physician, not only knows that His patient is sick--He allows him to die! Here are three principles about Divine Medicine that we can all learn.
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Questions for Other Patients:
There are few people you trust more than your doctor. You trust doctors will make a correct physical assessment of your health and know what to do. Jesus portrays Himself as a physician. In Mark 2: 17 He says, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." In fact, Jesus is the Great Physician, the Master Physician.
In Luke 5:12-15, He acted as dermatologist when He cured a man of leprosy.
In Luke 13:10-13, He acted as orthopedist when He cured the crippled woman.
In Mark 5:25-34, He acted as hematologist when He healed the woman with an issue of blood.
In John 4: 46-54, He acted as pediatrician when He healed the nobleman's son.
In Matthew 8:5-13, He acted as neurologist when He healed a man with palsy.
In John 9, he acted as ophthalmologist when he healed a blind man.
In John 11, he acted as post-mortem resuscitative specialist, when he resurrected Lazarus.
Jesus, who has all power and all ability, let his friend Lazarus die.
John 11 marks the transition from Jesus' public to His private ministry. The nation has rejected Him and for the few months before His crucifixion He concentrates on private ministry, secluded within His disciples. John 10 takes place in the winter, during the Feast of Dedication and John 12 takes place in the spring at the Passover, John 11 is sometime between the two. We are at about the midpoint of the Gospel of John; the first half of the book focuses on the first thirty-three years of His life; the second half will focus on the last 48-hours, because the most important event is Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.
Figures Referenced: Dr. Walter Martin; C.H. Spurgeon; Ruth Graham
Cross References: Job 5:7; Psalm 116:15; Psalm 119:71; Isaiah 55:8-9; Matthew 8:5-13; Matthew 5:45; Mark 5:25-34; Luke 5:12-15; Luke 13:10-13; John 4:46-54; John 9; John 14; 2 Corinthians 5:8
Greek Terms: φιλεîς - phileo - brotherly love, friendship love; ηγάπα - agapaó - divine, complete love
Keywords: sovereignty, healing, resurrection, prayer, delay, God's timing, Lazarus
Would you open your Bibles, I trust you brought them, to John Chapter 11. We're back in the Gospel of John, we've been doing a series called "Believe", as you can see behind me with a banner. It is up there today, "Believe 879", 879 verses in the Gospel of John. The grand theme is that we would believe and also in the text we're about to read, that same thought is very prevalent.
So we're in John chapter 11 this morning. Let's begin again with the word of prayer. Father, as we have worshiped you with our mouths, we want to worship you now with our ears. We remember that James said that we ought to be slow to speak and swift to hear and so as we listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in the Word of God. As our ears grasp the words, I pray that the very core of us, our very hearts, will apprehend the meaning and rejoice in the application.
We pray that you would mold us and shape us and hone us and make us fit for the kingdom of God. Thank you that we're saved by grace, but thank you lord that you were committed the working in the perfection of your saints, in Jesus name, Amen.
Let me tell you about Allen. He was a motorcycle mechanic. One day, he was working on a Harley Davidson pulling out a piston and he looked up and he saw on the other side of the shop a pretty famous heart surgeon. He was renowned, he was well known in the community. The surgeon had brought his motorcycle in to get somebody to look at it in the shop. Allen said, "Hey Doc, can I ask you a question?" So the heart surgeon made his way toward Allen, Allen got up, wiped his hands with a rug and said, "Doc, look at this engine, this is the heart of this motorcycle." And he said, "Doc, I too, open hearts. I take valves out and fix them. I have replaced old parts with new parts and when I'm done, Doc, this motorcycle will be like brand new."
"So as I see it, Doc, you and I do the same work but why is it that I make so little money and you make the big bucks?" The doctor smiled, thought about it, leaned over to Allen and said, "Try doing it with the engine running." A big difference between working on a motorcycle that isn't running and a human being that is. There are probably few people you trust more than your doctor. You trust that he or she will make a correct assessment of your physical stature, nature, constitution, and that they'll know what to do if something goes wrong.
In the Bible, Jesus himself pictured himself as a physician, a doctor. In Mark Chapter 2, when people were criticizing him for hanging out with the wrong crowd, he said to them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor, sick people do. I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough." Jesus was the great physician. In fact, Jesus was the master physician with a 100% success ratio. Without the help of anesthetics, antiseptics, chemotherapy, surgical sweets(ph), drugs. He cured a variety of people.
Here's an example. In Luke 5, he was a dermatologist. And somebody with a dreaded disease of leprosy, untouchable, Jesus touched him and healed him. In Luke 13, he was an orthopedist. A woman bent over, her stature was out of shape for 18 years and the Bible says she was loosed from her infirmity.
In Mark Chapter 5, Jesus was a hematologist. A woman had an issue of blood or a hemorrhage of blood for 12 years. In fact, the Bible says she suffered many things from doctors and spent all that she had and was no better but rather she grew worse. In John Chapter 4, Jesus played the role of a pediatrician as he healed the son of a nobleman who was at Capernaum. In Mathew Chapter 8, he played the role of a neurologist. A centurion servant had what the Bible calls a palsy, a disorder of the central nervous system that eventuates in paralysis, cured 100% by Christ. In John Chapter 9, he was an ophthalmologist. As a man born blind was healed by Christ and he did it in a very unconventional means medically, right? He took a mud ball and spat on it and put a spit on the mud in the guy's eye and he said, "Now go wash yourself." and the man was cured.
And here in Chapter 11, we'll see that he's a post mortem resuscitative specialist. Lazarus, by the time Jesus gets a hold of him, has been dead for four full days and Jesus will resurrect him from the grave.
But not so fast, the set-up, the introduction toward the miracle tells us a different story. Here we find Doctor Jesus with all power and all ability to heal every disease, who has at many times healed complete strangers, let's his friend, Lazarus die.
In Chapter 11 of the Gospel of John, we transition off of the public ministry of Jesus and on to what we call the private ministry. It's where he turns from the crowd, he's done with the nation, they have rejected him, he leaves them, and for the next few months before his crucifixion, he concentrates on private ministry. He is secluded within his own group, the disciples, as he trains them. Something else to make note of, the timing.
In Chapter 10 of John, it was the winter time. The Feast of Dedication takes place in the dead of winter. Chapter 12 is the Passover already, that's the spring time. So somewhere in between the winter time and the spring time, the resurrection of Lazarus takes place. I want you to think of something remarkable. We're really at just the midpoint of this book. We've been in it for a long time, we're at the midpoint.
In Chapter 12, we're already at the Passover at which Jesus Christ was killed. Don't you think that it's remarkable that John spent as much time on the 48 hours, the last 48 hours of Jesus' life as he did the first 33 years of his life? Because to John and Mark and Mathew, all the Gospel writers, the most important event that Jesus did was his sacrificial death on the cross. Hence, the lion's share of the focus is upon that event and he slows down as he moves toward the cross.
There are a few principles I want to note with you this morning in our verses, verses 1 through 16, and here's the first one. Jesus' friends gets sick, verse one. Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Marry and her sister, Martha. It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.
Now it seems that this family was pretty well known to John's readers just the way he positions and introduces them. He says, "Now, there was a man, a certain man who is sick." And so the readers would want more information. "Well, his name was Lazarus." Well, that didn't really help because a lot of people were named Lazarus. It's the Hebrew shortened form of the name Eleazar and so John says, "Oh, that's the brother of Mary and Martha and if you don't know who they are, it's the Mary who anointed the feet of Jesus."
And since John was the last of the four Gospels written and Mary and Martha and Lazarus were spoken about in the other Gospels plus everybody by now knew who Lazarus was. He's the guy that got raised from the dead. So they knew the readers, they understood now who he was talking about. And he continues verse 3, "Therefore the sisters sent to him saying, "Lord, behold he whom you love is sick."
When Jesus heard that he said, "This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it." Lazarus and Mary and Martha were close friends of Jesus, almost like family. If ever there was a home away from home, it was the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha that was that for Jesus. They lived in Bethany. Bethany is about a mile and a half outside of Jerusalem, just on the other side of the Mountain of Olives. You can walk through it.
Jesus spent a lot of his time there. And now, his good friend Lazarus is sick and the word sick indicates a disease of deterioration leading to death.
And when it got to critical mess and it was tending toward death, they immediately thought, "We got to summon the great physician. We have to call on Jesus. There's only one person we need to get and that is Christ."
I love their appeal. I think it's simple and it has no instructions in it. Notice it says, "Lord, behold he whom you love is sick." Now notice the basis of their appeal. They don't say, "Lord, you know you stayed at our house a lot and the food you ate was our food and the bed you slept in, those were our sheets. And that you've hung out there quite a bit, so we kind of think you owe us one."
None of that manipulation, nor did they say, "You know Lord, Lazarus really loves you and Lazarus really served you." That would be bribery. It wasn't on the basis of their love for Christ or Lazarus's service of Christ. They appealed to Jesus on the basis of his love for them. Not that they didn't love him, of course they did, but his love for them was so much greater. It's a beautiful appeal. They just state the need and they don't tell Jesus what to do. That's a good prayer. A lot of times we say, "Lord, we have a problem and here's how you ought to fix it." They didn't do that, "Lord, all you need to know is the one that you love --" and Jesus knew who that was, it was Lazarus, "-- is sick."
They took refuge in Jesus' love for them. And it's worth noting the word "love" that they used is the word "phileo". We get the term Philadelphia, the city of Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Philanthropy, philanthropic comes from this Greek term "phileo". It means brotherly love. Close brotherly affection, friendship, love. So they're saying, "Lord, your close pal whom you have a deep friendship with, the one you love like a brother is sick."
Now could it be, here's a thought, could it be that Mary and Martha, like so many of us were actually surprised, that somebody that Jesus loved that much could get that sick. It could be. In fact, there's a hint of that in the word "behold." Notice how it's written. "Lord, behold, he whom you love is sick." Like "Lord, look. Wow, this guy really loves you and you really love him and he's really, really sick."
Typically, we get surprised when sickness comes. I don't know why we do, but we do. When sickness comes to Christians, we kind of think, "Wow! I mean, Lord, what kind of love is this? If you really love me, why would you allow this to happen to me?" But it really shouldn't surprise us. It shouldn't have surprised Mary and Martha. It shouldn't surprise us for this reason.
Number one, because the man that Jesus loves is still a man. And ever since the fall of man in the garden, there has been in all of nature a constant entropy and deterioration. It's part of the fall. Jesus said, "The son falls on the just and the end just and the rain pours on the just and the end just, the righteous and the unrighteous alike." Ever since the very beginning, from the fall of humanity there has been a deterioration and people get sick and they die.
Walter Martin, the great apologist years ago who came every now and then to this church, one of the many things he said that I smiled at was, "Everyone dies of his last disease." I know it sounds very simple but it's so profound. Something's going to get you. Everybody dies, everybody gets sick. Job Chapter 5:7 writes, "Man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward."
That's what Job said. Even though certain people in the last 20 years have developed a faith movement that says, "If you're really Jesus' friend, you won't get sick." Well, you got a real problem here because Lazarus, Jesus really loved and there's no evidence of gross sin in his life or anything wrong and yet he's very, very sick.
Charles preached on this very text that I'm speaking on and in his sermon he said this, "The love of Jesus does not separate us from the common necessities and infirmities of human life. Men of God are still men. The covenant of grace is not a charter of exemption from disease."
So it shouldn't surprise us because the man Jesus loves or the woman Jesus loves is still human. Second, it shouldn't surprise us because God uses sickness for our benefit. Did you know that? I have talked to people, I can't even count how many times I have over the years, who have told me, "You know, I know God and I know my bible but when this horrible thing entered my life and I didn't want it, I didn't relish it, I wish it would've gone away.
And yet, the intimacy I have discovered with my Lord, the resources I have found, my bible has never come alive like it has now." You know that happened to David. David wrote in Psalm 119. "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes." Sickness helped David understand his bible like never before. There's a third benefit and that is it is used by God for the good of others.
When you go through a time of suffering and others look at you and they will, and they will scrutinize, and they will see how you're doing with it. It can actually be for their benefit. Now watch this, go down to verse 14. Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there that you may believe. Nevertheless, let us go to him." What happened to Lazarus in his illness and subsequent death did more to further the faith of the disciples in just about anything else. What they're about to see in the suffering and death of Jesus' friend bolstered their faith.
Have you ever thought about it this way that you and I are on display? And if you ever just taken this thought and applied it, that suffering believers are one of the ways God uses to let the world know that he's real, when they see us suffering like they suffer but in grace, and in trust, and in humility, and then belief that God has a greater plan. They will take a double take at our faith.
They will consider deeply what we believe. Verse 4, Jesus said, "The sickness is not on the death but for the glory of God." Now he's not saying Lazarus won't die because he eventually says, "Let me guys -- let me tell you, you're not getting it. He's dead." But what he means is that ultimately, death won't be the outcome, it will be life. But the greater point is that sickness and even death may sometimes be God's will for his children, for his people, for his friends.
So number one, Jesus' friends get sick. But number two is we followed the story Jesus' foresight gets seen. As we make our way through the story we get the strong indication that Jesus not only knows what is happening. He knows when Lazarus is dead pass the point of sickness and he's not even close to him geographically. But also he has everything in perfect control. He is monitoring everything and the timing is just right.
So watch this, verse 5. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister, that's Mary and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was and then after this he said to his disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." You'll notice that rather than rushing to the side of Lazarus and rushing to Mary and Martha, that Jesus waits. And I want you to notice this. Look at it again, look at those verses. "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus."
Do you see the word love there? It's different than what the sisters sent in the note or the messenger. They said, "The one whom you love, "phileo", brotherly love, he's sick." Now John, the author, writes his own commentary, his own note and he states so we might know. Now, Jesus really loved them and the word he uses is, "agape", "agapao". That's the divine love, that's the total love, that's the complete love. And then it's followed by the word "so" or "therefore".
So let me read it to you as it should be understood. Jesus loved them with a complete unending, ongoing love and so he stayed two more days. In other words, Jesus delay was directly connected to his love for his friends.
I know you're thinking, what kind of love is that? Somebody's sick and so, I really love you. I'm not coming. I'm going to stay until he's dead. How can this be? I mean, shouldn't it read something like "Jesus really loved them so he immediately run out and stood by their side." It didn't say that. He stayed two more days and he arrived to get this. Four full days after Lazarus had been buried in the tomb because he loved them.
If you have ever experienced God's delays in your life, I want you to listen carefully. Let me rephrase that. If you've ever experienced what you perceive to be God's delays, I want you to listen. God's delays are the delays of love. The motivation is love.
In fact, let me say it this way. God's delays are not God's denials. And when God delays or we perceive it has a delay, it doesn't prove that he's not on time. It just proves that you're not on time. "God, you're late!" No, you're just way early. You see, he wants to dress up his gifts, his packages, and he takes enough time, takes all the time needed to dress up his packages, get the right way before he presents it. He has the right time tog give it. His delays are not his denials.
You see, the thing is you don't know the big picture. He knows that big picture. He has the foresight. He knows what should happen. They want resuscitation. That's all they want. Make him better, Jesus wants a resurrection.
In Isaiah chapter 55, God declares, "My thoughts are not your thoughts. My ways are not your ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
So just understand that when things happen, when life happens, when stuff happens, God's got the big picture you don't. The other night I was channel surfing, and I'm not really good at landing on a program that gets my attention very long. And especially if I'm watching the news and there's a commercial I'll just start to bing-bing-bing-bing-bing and go back up the other way bing-bing-bing-bing-bing and go back up the other way bing-bing-bing-bing-bing and then bing-bing-bing-bing-bing and then by that time the commercials over.
And something caught my attention. It was an artist and what caught my attention is this guy was -- he just sort of look like a throwback from the 70's. He had this hairdo and these clothes and I thought, "This is weird. I got to see what this is about." Well he was an artist. He was drawing a painting and I watched. It was the beginning of his work and honestly, there was just a few blotches on the canvass and a few lines and a few markings and I looked at that and I thought, "That's not very good." It's not. In fact, I thought, "I can do that."
Boy was I wrong as I kept watching. As I kept watching what were blotches and lines and markings took shape and took form and became trees and a lake and sunlight filtering through the leaves and striking objects and just different patterns and leaves with colors and eventually the whole picture. And I discovered that artist had the picture in his mind when he started. He had the big picture. I only saw the beginning portion of it. I didn't see the bug picture. And from an outside observer who didn't get it, I didn't get it because I didn't get the picture that the artist got from the beginning.
Same in our lives, with our circumstances, you look at something that happens to you or God allows to come into your life and to you it's a big blotch and a big mark and a smudge and you look at it and go, "That's not very good. I can do that. You made a mess of my life, God. I can do that." But wait for it, wait for it, wait for it and at some point, viola! You might just get what he sees from the beginning.
It's the handy work of God. God's delays are not God's denials. He sees the end from the beginning, we can't. So, what does a delay do? What good? What possible good could a delay – what we would cal a delay. We ask for something, we pray for something, we believe there's something and it doesn't happen. What possible good could come out of that? I'm glad you asked that question. There are two things actually. Number one, delays mold our errant wills to conform to his perfect will. Let me say that again. Delays conform or mold -- delays mold our errant wills to conform to his perfect will. You want to jot that down.
Here's an example. Do you know how long it should have taken the children of Israel when they were in bondage in Egypt? You know how long the trip was from Egypt to Canaan? Eleven days. They could have made it in 11 days. They're going up the coast, it's a direct route. You know how long it took them? Forty years.
They've wandered around for 40 years. God let them wander in the desert for 40 years and they complained and unlike every 10 minutes, they got good. They we're like complaining they had turned into an art form. And so God needed time and he took 40 years to crush their errant will to conform to his perfect will so that by the time got into the land, they were ready.
Number two, delays build faith. Have you ever thought about this? That your faith wouldn't grow if every time you needed something, wanted something, prayed for something, demanded something, it came at that time?
You just be a petulant spoiled child. "I claim that I demanded in Jesus' name." If that happened, "Okay, here. You did it. I owe it you." You wouldn't grow at all. So God delays things so that your faith might grow. Case in point, Abraham. That guy waited, didn't he? Remember God promised Abraham – was his original name, Abraham, -- he said, "Abraham, you're going to have a son." Right? That was a promise. What happened after the promise? Nothing.
He got older and older and really old and really, really, really old. I mean, how many think a hundred is really, really, really old? I do. And when he was almost a hundred, 99 years of age, he has a son. Now during the time of that delay, that waiting, did Abraham's faith diminish? Did he just become burdened and burned out and hardened and walked away or did his faith actually grow? It grew. God built his faith.
So, here's the lesson. It's so important. Learn to interpret your circumstances by the love of Christ rather than interpreting the love of Christ by your circumstances.
If you get that reversed, what will happen is you'll never understand your circumstances and you'll always doubt God's love. You'll never understand your circumstances; you'll always doubt God's love. And that is what we so often do. "Jesus doesn't love me very much because I prayed for that a long and didn't come." Instead of interpreting your circumstances by Christ's love, you've interpreted his love by your circumstances. So, they prayed and they said your friend is sick and you love them and so Jesus really, really loved them so he didn't come. He stayed two full days.
And then in verse 7 he said to his disciples, "Let us go Judea again." Jesus' friends get sick, Jesus' foresight gets seen, and here's the third and we'll close with this, Jesus' followers get schooled. And part of this process, Jesus is – as I mentioned, he's not doing public ministry, this is private ministry. He wants to train these guys. He's going to set them lose on the world and say, "Go out and preach the Gospel to every living creature."
They need to be ready and their faith needs to grow. Now, I don't know how you've seen the apostles in your mind. Some people think the apostles sort of glowed, emitted a kind of a light wherever they went. I mean, they had halos, all the pictures show them that way, and they had halos wherever they go. Now these guys so often weren't spiritual and were even rude.
You know, if a PR firm were to have selected the best earthly representatives and helpers to surround the Son of God for his initial contact with humanity, these guys wouldn't show up on the radar screen. But Jesus picked them. It's as if he went out of his way to pick the least likely and most incompatible.
On the same team, the same apostles, the same disciples, there's a tax collector. Everybody hated them; Matthew was a tax collector, and a zealot. Simon was a zealot. Zealots typically murdered the tax collectors. It would be like having Osama Bin Laden and George W. Bush on the same team. Not a good strategy. Jesus picked them.
I was looking through my annual this week and I was looking at my high school picture and other people that I knew, high school picture and remembering a whole other world so long a go and I came to the page where it was "Most Athletic", "Best Dress", "Most Likely to Succeed", "Best All Around", I was in none of those categories by the way.
I looked at Scott Zalaha(ph) and Jen Webster's picture, most like to succeed, then I thought about these disciples and I thought, if they had a high school annual most of them would be in the category "Most Unlikely to Succeed". Jesus picked them after a night of prayer. He chose this rough group of people. And notice how enthused they are about following Jesus up to Judea when in verse 7 Jesus says, "Let's go again to Judea." Look at verse 8, the disciple said to him, "Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone you and you want to go there again?"
See, they're not too crazy about the idea of going with Jesus to Judea because it's a physical threat. They remember John chapter 10 when to took up stones to kill him, they were there. They remember it. Besides that, they knew something about Jesus. Did Jesus have to physically travel to get a job done? Did he have to physically travel to heal somebody? No, because they were. In John chapter 4, when Jesus said to the nobleman whose son was like 15, 20 miles away, "Go way, your son's alive." Jesus performed a long distance miracle from Canaan to Capernaum. He wasn't even there.
So the disciples are think, "Why should we go to Judea? They want to kill you. All you got do is say some spiritual stuff and he'll be fine and we'll live here." They weren't very enthused. Jesus answered, "Are there not 12 hours in that day? If any walks in the day, he does not stumble because he sees the light of the world. But if one walks in the night, he stumbles because the light is not in it."
What does that mean? It was a common Jewish example. The Jewish calendar divided up every day into two 12-hour segments and the first segment was the segment of daylight. Actually, it was from night and then morning but the daylight hours, the typical 12 hours of daylight were the hours the people worked. You didn't work when it was night because you can't see at night, you stumble into things. But during the day, you don't stumble. You get work done.
So while it's day you do your work and it's got to get done by the daytime because at night you don't work. The daylight, the sunlight, represents Jesus' earthly life as prescribed by the Father in heaven. The night typifies the end of Jesus' earthly ministry.
So the disciples are concerned, "Let's not go up there again. They want to kill you." What Jesus is saying is "I have a work that the Father has for me to do while it's daylight. Your concern for me isn't going to add another hour or day to my life and their threats and desire to kill me isn't going to take it away. I am invincible until I finish the work the Father for me. When the night comes, it's over."
That's how he answers it. There's a great thought here by the way. Do you now that you're invincible until God's done with you? You can walk into danger and a threatening situation and as a believer you are absolutely invincible until the moment go is done with you and your prescribed work plan and it's time for you to go. Now what throws this off is we think that our work plan should continue until we're 120. When people die younger, when something happens we think, "Oh my goodness, and God is saying I'm done."
And honestly, as a believer, when I'm done, I don't want to hang around here. When the night has come and I can go home, I want to. But you're invincible until your work is done. Nothing can that.
Verse 11, these things he said, "And after that he said to them—" Why does John wire that? Because Jesus speaks and then Jesus speaks. I think Jesus spoke and then he waited and he let what he said just sort of sink in and after it sunk in these things he said, and after he said that to him he said, "Our friend, Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up." Then his disciple said, "Lord, if he sleeps, he'll get well."
In other words if he's sick, that's what they're presuming, so if he's sick and he's asleep that's a good thing. When people get sick they have to rest. However, Jesus spoke of his death. But they thought he was speaking about taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead."
I want you to know that Jesus wasn't speaking about some kind of "soul sleep", some dormant state that happens when a person dies and unfortunately there are those who call themselves believers who say that when a believer dies, they go into soul sleep. They're dormant, they just -- nothing happens. No consciousness whatsoever until the resurrection. That's not true. Paul said to be absent from the body is to be what? Present with the Lord. Paul said, "I have a desire to leave, depart this earth and be with Christ, which is far better."
What Jesus is speaking about when he says he's asleep was a euphemism, a metaphor, an analogy of death. When a person dies, physically they give the appearance that they're asleep. But more than that, sleep is temporary. If a person is asleep, they will what? Wake up. And a person who's a believer is dead, he will? Wake up. There will be a resurrection. "Lazarus is asleep. I'm going to go wake him up." That's what physical resurrection is. He awakens them from the dead. So that's what he means when he says –
I remember when I was a kid and my mom used to say, "It's nap time." I hated nap time. It's like a punishment. "What did I do wrong?" "You need to take a nap."
As I've grown older, a nap? Did somebody say a nap? I get to take a nap? It's a reward. My point is that as a Christian, you don't need to fear death any more than you need top fear a nap. You go sleep, you will wake up. I want you to notice something in verse 14 and verse 15 because you know in those days there weren't verses. Jesus didn't say, "Now, verse 14, and now that I'm done with that, verse 15." You just – this is his conversation, people added that years later.
Jesus said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead and I am glad --" Don't those words form a striking expression? Jesus announcing the death of somebody he loves and saying "I am glad?" "Lazarus is dead and I am glad." We don't expect Jesus to say that. What we expect is Jesus is to say something like, "Lazarus is dead and I am sad." Or "Lazarus is physically sleeping and I am glad because it means he's going to wake up."
Why would Jesus say, "Lazarus is dead. I am glad." I can think of three reasons. There's really one reason in the text but I can think of three reasons. Number one, Lazarus was a believer and Jesus understood what the death of a believer meant. You know the bible says in the Old Testament, "Precious in the side of God is the death of his saints." When a saint that he has taken care of on earth finally gets to come home to heaven, go rejoices in that. "He's home, she's home with me. I can now pamper that person and bless that person eternally in way I could never so it on earth."
Number two, because Jesus knew, he was going to raise him from the dead. He was glad about that. That's what verse 11 implies. "He's asleep; I'm going to go wake him up."
Number three, he was glad because he knew what it would do to the disciples, and that's the point when he said, "Lazarus is dead. I am glad for your sakes that I was not there that you may believe. Nevertheless, let's go to him." Jesus knew that when these disciples, who believed already, would see a resurrection from the dead of Lazarus after four days, four day of being in the grave. Their faith would move forward in leaps and bounds. Not only that Mary and Martha, whose heart was broker at the death of their brother, their faith would move ahead leaps and bounds not only that, there were unbelievers who are watching this event or hearing of it who didn't have ay faith in Christ at all who would come to faith because of it. No wonder Jesus said, "Lazarus is dead and I am glad for your sakes that I wasn't there, that you may believe." And he says, "Let's go."
Well, verse 8, are the disciples and everything we've read so far is Jesus and the disciples – plural the group. Now, John wants us to know about one disciple, one we all know about. His name is Thomas. Verse 16, "Then Thomas, who is called the twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go that we may die with him."
Love to have him on your team, wouldn't you? What is Thomas known for typically? Doubt. And what do we call a pessimist? A doubting Thomas. As if Thomas is the patron saint of all skeptics. And he sort of had been cast that way, right? He's sort of been – and I'll admit what he says here, it's not a happy thing he said. It's not a positive statement. It's the dark side of truth. One thing about Thomas, he always saw the darker underbelly of situations. I think if this were a Winnie the Pooh cartoon, he would be Eeyore. That's Thomas. "Let's go to Judea that we may die with him." He fits that role so perfect.
But here's what I want you to see. These are not words of doubt. These are words of love. These are words of faithfulness. These are words of loyalty. These are words of courage. Nobody else wants to go. "Lord, why do we have to go? They want to kill you." Thomas goes, "Let's go! Don't let him die alone. He predicted his death. Let's go and die with him." These are words of courageous loyalty. And a lot of times we want to knock Thomas' faith but we cant even match his love.
A lot of us can't even live for Christ. He says, "I'm willing to die for him." That's loyalty. That's faithfulness. Something else about Thomas, you know what I love about Thomas? I think we need to get this because we're going to get into that doubting part later on. Thomas was honest. He wasn't the kind who wears a mask and just say, "Hallelujah! Praise the Lord everyone! I really think I'm spiritual." He was honest. And in John 14, the upper room, and I say it now because John 14, we could be five years before we get to that.
In the upper room, Jesus gets his disciples around him and he says these words, "Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God you believe also in me. In my father's house there are many mansions. If there were not so, I would have told you. I'm going to prepare a place for you. And if I go, I will come again and take you under myself that where I am there you may be also. And where I'm going you know and the way you know."
One guy piped up. His name was Thomas. Thomas said, "Excuse me, we don't know where you're going and how can we know the way?" I think the other disciples are sort of listening to Jesus, kind of nodding their heads going, "Yeah. Amen." "Yeah, that's good." having no idea what he means at all. Thomas as going, "I don't get it. I don't know here you're going. How can I know the way?"
I admire that. And I'm glad he brought that up because that's when Jesus said, one of the most things ever, "I am the way. I am the truth. I am the life. So I like Thomas. Honest. That's the end of this paragraph. Verse 17 that we'll pick up next time shows that next event.
Now, Jesus , the great physician, take shin interns, goes up to Judea and performs a miracle, a work that is greater than anything ever. And although doctors are able to fix people while the engine is running, Lazarus' engine stops running. He's been dead for four days and Jesus does what no doctor could ever do, after four days resurrects that body and gives it full life.
But in the mean time, in the mean time, that's what we're dealing with this morning. In the mean time, Lazarus, Jesus' friend gets sick and sicker and dies and Mary and Martha's heart gets broken because Jesus didn't answer their prayer the way they wanted. And it's all because Jesus loved them so.
Ruth Graham, who was the wife of Billy Graham, used to say in many occasions -- in fact, I asked her about this personally at her house years ago. She said, "If God had answered every prayer of mine, I would have married the wrong man seen times." She saw a guy and she wanted to marry him. She had another and God said no, no, no, no, no, no, no. That's seven, I counted. One day she saw Billy. She prayed again and God said, "Yep, that's the one."
And so she said, "I'm glad God didn't answer all my prayer." And the truth is God always answers your prayers, Christian. Sometimes the answer is "No." That's an answer. More often it's "Not yet" "Not now." "Wait." "Well that's delay!" No it's not. It's perfect time. Wait for it, wait for it, you'll see.