The Strangest Funeral Ever
|John 11 (NKJV™)|
|33||Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.|
|34||And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see."|
|36||Then the Jews said, "See how He loved him!"|
|37||And some of them said, "Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?"|
|38||Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it.|
|39||Jesus said, "Take away the stone." Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days."|
|40||Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?"|
|41||Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.|
|42||"And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me."|
|43||Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!"|
|44||And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go."|
New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.
According to one source, there are approximately 2 million funerals in America per year, which means that about 5,479 funerals take place every single day! Most of those funerals are pretty typical: a formal service followed by an interment. But the funeral service we're looking at was really different--and not just because of a resurrection. Here Jesus does three things that are pretty normal for most people at a funeral, but strikingly odd for Jesus.
"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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Death is a very real part of life; everyone who lives will die—unless the Lord comes back before that. How many people return from the dead on the day of their funeral? Lazarus has been dead for four days. It is the strangest funeral ever, because Jesus will perform his most famous, greatest miracle. Jesus has resurrected others: the daughter of Jairus, after a short time (Matthew 9:18-26), and the son of the widow at Nain, after about a day (Luke 7:11-16).
As we study our text, we have considered Jesus' delay and the interaction between Mary and Martha with Jesus. Now we come to the main event: ultimate proof of Jesus' claim in John 11:25, "I am the resurrection and the life."
400 years BC, as Socrates lay on his deathbed after drinking hemlock, his friends asked, "will we live again?" Socrates replied "I hope so, but no one can ever know." Jesus action here blows that notion out of the water.
Figures Referenced: Socrates, John Van Doren, C.H. Spurgeon
Publications Referenced: "The Love of God" by Frederick M. Lehman
Greek Terms: Κλαίο Klaio- properly expressing uncontainable audible grief; Δακρύω dakrýō -to silently weep burst out silently in tears; Ταράσσω tarassó agitate, stir up, trouble
Cross References: Matthew 9:18-26; Luke 7:11-16; John 1:4; John 3:16; John 4:46-54; John 5:28-29; John 6:47-48; John 9; John 10:10; John 11:25; Romans 6:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; Hebrews 4:15; Revelation 18:7
Keywords: Mary, Martha, Lazarus, resurrection, death, salvation, weeps
John Chapter 11, let's turn there, John Chapter 11. Finally today, we get Lazarus out of the grave. We've been looking at him for a few weeks, and this is the highlight. John Chapter 11, let's pray together.
Lord, in a very unique manner, we have all gathered together from different places that we live, different parts of the city and the state, we're gathered in one place to hear the common texts and truth of the Word of God. All of us are needy, we depend upon you. All of us, our needs are varied, but we all need to hear what you have to say through your word. And even though the spokesman is imperfect, your Holy Spirit, we trust will be the one who will ultimately bring such truths, home to our lives. We love reading about Jesus and we love reading about what he says and what he does. We're always amazed. He can never be put into a box, very unique. And I pray Lord it is that we reflect upon this story, this truth. I pray that we would see its relevance for our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.
I was in a store sometime ago and I was looking at the magazine racks and I was noticing the word Life appear in a lot of different magazines. For example, there was a magazine, no longer in print called LIFE Magazine. It's all about life. Another magazine, People Magazine, it's all about living people. There is a magazine called Best Life. Another one called Natural Life. Another one called Woman's Life. Another one, Mac|Life, if you're into the computers. It's all about living. You'll never see a magazine called Death Magazine or Dead People Magazine or Victorian cemeteries -- Victorian Homes maybe, but not cemeteries, or Death Week Magazine.
Even though we know that death is a very real part of life that everyone who lives will die unless the Lord comes back before that time which is a real possibility, but other than that, people die. One clever mortician down in Florida, rather than signing his correspondence cordially yours, he signs it eventually yours, [Laughter] spooky kind of a thought. But how many people get the chance to get back up from the dead on the day of their funeral?
I heard about one woman who died and it was her funeral and after the service in church, the pallbearers grab her casket and were walking her out toward the hers. One of the pallbearers slumped, bumped into a wall and ajar the casket and a faint moan was heard from the coffin. They opened up the casket to find the woman was alive and that she lived 10 more years. Well, eventually, she died and they had the funeral again. This time the real funeral, same church, same pallbearers and as they were walking the casket out after the service coming close to that wall, her husband yelled out and said, "Watch out for that wall!"
I'm not going to go there except to say that we now come to the funeral of Lazarus. He has been in the tomb in his grave for days. A period of seven days was required called heavy mourning where mourners came around the family and they would often wail and shout, and it was very emotive followed by 30 days of light mourning. This is the fourth day and it's a strange funeral. I've done a lot of funerals in 30 years. I buried lots of people, all ages and you can imagine with that many funerals, I've heard and seen some pretty strange things.
One thing that I can tell you about, I don't have the freedom to tell you all the things I've seen and heard, but one very vivid reminder or memory that I have was after a funeral service and we -- years ago, this was years ago. I went out to the cemetery to intern the body and a musician was there with a guitar who was drunk. Now, I thought that the family had asked this person to come. They thought I had asked this person to come. The truth is nobody asked this person to come. He just showed up and started playing his guitar and singing. He was drunk by the way. And it was until he was halfway through the first verse, his wearing his word and we thought, "This isn't right." We had to haul him up. I'll never forget that funeral.
But, this takes the cake in terms of strange things that happened at funerals. A resurrection would be the strangest. We're familiar with this passage. It's the most famous and I would even say the greatest of all of the miracles that Jesus performed. Certainly, he has raised dead people before in the scripture, a boy and a girl. The daughter of Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue. She was dead for a short period of time. Son of a widow at Nain who was dead for about a day, but Lazarus has been dead for four days.
So if the disciples were ever to release an album called Jesus' Greatest Hits, this would be hit number one, The Resurrection of Lazarus from the Dead. We've spent a couple of weeks already looking at it. It's a long passage. Week number one, we considered the delay. Jesus stayed where he was when he heard Lazarus was sick and we dealt all about the delays or the denials of God. Last week, the second week, we looked at the interaction between two people and Jesus, Mary and Martha and what was going on in their heart is they poured it out before the Lord.
Now, we come to the main event. This is the ultimate proof of the claim that he made back in Verse 25, which is the key verse to the whole chapter. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life." It's a wonderful thing to say but somebody listening to that could have said, "Prove it." He's about to.
Four hundred years before Christ, a man named Socrates, the great philosopher of Athens, drank the poison hemlock and laid down to die. While he was on his deathbed and friends gathered around him, they asked the great philosopher, "Will we live again?" And Socrates, with all of his wisdom and all of his experience, and all of the great knowledge that he had -- this is what he said when his friends said, "Shall we live again?" Here it is. Here's the great wisdom of the sage, "I hope so."
"Really, you can't do any better than that? Will we live again?" "I hope so." But no one can ever know. Well, what Jesus is about to do completely blows Socrates' notion out of the water. But, there's three strikingly odd things about this funeral. I'll show them to you, but let's read our verses, so we'll see where we're at, Verse 33. "Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping," that's Mary, "And the Jews who came with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And he said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!' And some of them said, 'Could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind also have kept this man from dying?' Then Jesus again groaning in himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave and a stone lay against it and Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.'"
"Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to him, 'Lord, by this time, there's a stench where he's been dead four days.'" I still like the Old King James the best. By this time, he's stinking, [Laughter] there's nothing better than that. That's just cool. "Jesus said to her, 'Did I not say to you that if you would believe, you would see the Glory of a God?' Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying and Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I know that you always hear me but because of the people who are standing by, I said this that they may believe that you sent me.'"
"Now, when he had said these things, he cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come forth!' And he who died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes and his face was wrapped with a cloth. And Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go." There's a few things that are odd about this, strikingly odd. Number one, tears. You've got tears Skip.
It's a funeral. People cry at funerals. No, I'm not talking about people crying. It says in Verse 35, "Jesus wept." It's the shortest version in the Bible by the way. John Van Doren says, "It's the shortest verse, but it's the longest sermon." It goes to show that less is more, Jesus wept. It's the kind of passage that you got to do more than analyze it. You got to do more than study. You got to feel this passage. Enter into it.
Charles had then spurge and preached two separate messages on that single verse, two words, Jesus wept, and this is what he said. "There is infinitely more in these two words than any sermonizer or student of the word will ever be able to bring out of them, even though he should apply the microscope of the most attentive consideration." Here's what's important to see. When he says Jesus wept, he wasn't weeping like the other people that are mentioned are weeping, Mary and Martha and the crowd.
The word that is used for their weeping is the Greek word Kleio and it means to wail. When he says that Jesus wept, it's a word used nowhere else in the New Testament. This is the only place and it's the Greek word Dakruo, which means to silently weep or to burst out quietly in tears. So just picture Jesus standing there and tears are now coursing down in his cheeks and filling those omniscient eyes. The question is, "Why is Jesus weeping?" I mean he knows that within five or ten minutes, he's going to raise Lazarus from the dead, right? He knows that within a few minutes, those two sisters who are mourning the loss of their brother are going to be embracing him because he will be alive and that funeral will be turned into party zone central. Why is he crying?
You think, this is the guy who is coming to the funeral with a Kleenex box saying, "Dry it up. Stop crying. Just watch what is about to happen." He doesn't do that. Jesus wept. Here is God incarnate. Here is God in a human body. By now, you know that that's one of the great themes of John is that he presents Jesus in his deity. In the beginning, it was the word and the word was with God, and the word was God and that's Jesus Christ. But what is interesting to me and a tremendous truth is here is John who exalts the deity of Christ, has no qualms at all about showing us his humanity. Jesus wept. Why does he say that? Why does he include that in this book?
John wants to show us and Jesus wants to show us by weeping that God enters into the sorrow of those that he loves. He enters into the sorrow of those that he loves and that's the reaction of the mourners at Verse 36. After Jesus wept, it says "See how he loved him." Now, think about this. The very sorrow, Jesus could have himself prevented. He now fully enters into it. Could have prevented it, "If you have been here Lord, my brother wouldn't have died," both of them said that. You could have prevented that now, the very sorrow he himself could have prevented, he fully enters into it. He's moved by what he sees and what he knows. He's moved because he loves Mary, he loves Martha and he certainly as a friend loved Lazarus.
I think this is important to muse upon for a moment and I want you to think in a comparative way. Compare the Greeks for example. They had their belief system at this time. The Greeks had many Gods and many Goddesses. Did you know that the chief characteristic, according to the Greeks, of their gods and their goddesses and their pantheon was summed up at a single word Apatheia in Greek, which means apathy.
The chief characteristic of their gods is they were apathetic. Indifferent, unable to feel human emotion and didn't even care about it. They were apathetic, that was their chief characteristic. Now, here is Jesus, who presents a God totally different from that nonsense. Here's Jesus, he's not stoic, he's not aloof, he's not detached, he is representing God the Father who are one in purpose, as one who cares deeply with the sorrow of man.
How did Isaiah predict Christ? Isaiah 53, "He would be a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief". And 10 chapters later, Isaiah 63:9, "In all of their distresses, he too was distressed."
Or just get this truth. We serve a God who really cares about all of those he loves who are sorrowful. It moves him. He's not detached. The writer of Hebrews was so clear about this when he said, "We don't have a high priest or a representative who is unable to be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but he was in all points tested like as we, without saying. That's the love of God. And the love of God, I've always loved to him about the love of God, it's sort of sums it up in one little stanza. "The love of God is greater far than ink or pen can ever tell. It stretches to the farthest star and reaches to the lowest hell. And could we with ink the ocean's fill and were the skies of parchment made, were every stock on earth a quill, and every man a scribe by trade. To write the love of God would drain the oceans dry. Nor could the scroll contain the whole. Though stretched from sky to sky." People don't write songs like that anymore. What a truth, the love of God and here's a little picture of a God who cares, Jesus wept.
So he wept and they said, "See how he loved him!" They picked up on that and John recorded it, Verse 37. "And some of them said, 'Could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind also have kept this man from dying?'" Now, it sounds to me like the crowd has picked up on the same attitude the two sisters had that we noted last week. They said, "If you would have been here, my brother wouldn't have died," now they're sort of picking up on that. And they're confused by it.
Here's Jesus weeping over somebody he loves and they're thinking, "Well, if he loved him so much, why do you let him die?" And it's interesting that they are reaching back to a memory. They mentioned the blind man that was healed, that's way back in John Chapter 9 several months before. There was a man in Jerusalem that Jesus, remember he spat and the mud made a little spit mud ball and put it on the guy's eye and said, "Go wash in the pool of Siloam," like I was a total stranger. So they're thinking, "Here's Jesus, he heals a guy who is a total stranger. His own friend Lazarus whom he loves, he lets die." Why?
Now, I find this to be their question, I find this to be the philosophy of most people at a time of loss. It seems that whenever we lose something, even among believers, among Christians, there is the same predictable, banal argument, how can a God of love allow people to suffer especially me? As if they are somehow to be immune from all of the troubles in life and God's never allowed to let anything bad happen to build character to anyone, and so they bring up this argument.
By the way, if you're a parent, answer that argument. Well, how can a God of love allow anything bad to happen to his kids? If you're a parent, you answer that question. You can answer it. Here's a question for you, parents. Do you intercept every decision your children ever make? If they're going to make a bad decision, do you say, "I see what's coming, it's a bad choice. I'm not going to let them make that." You might do that in the formative years, but as they grow older, if you intercept and stop every choice they make, you will develop emotionally stunted, unable to cope with life kind of individuals. There are needs to be consequences that everybody faces for growth.
But, when you deny your child something here that she wants, or you discipline your child when they do something wrong, one of the things they say, "You don't love me." Now parents, is that true? When you deny them something and they say, "You don't love me," or if you spank them and they say, "You don't love me," does your denial or your discipline demonstrate that you don't love your children? Of course not, it demonstrates you love them, they just don't get it right now. They will, it's not important what they think of you today, what's important is what they think of you when they're 18 and 20 and 30.
So here's this crowd, typical. Why would Jesus allow this to happen? So number one, his tears, they're odd. It's strange, he's crying. He knows he's going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Number two, anger. Jesus is angry, Verse 33, "Therefore, when the Jews -- when Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her weeping," look at this, "He groaned in the spirit and was troubled."
Verse 38, "Then Jesus again groaning in himself came to the tomb, it was a cave and a stone laid against it." We read that twice, groaning. The word groan is a very interesting word that literally means the snorting of a horse. Just sort of intricate can you pick -- what that sound like? What does a horse sound like when it snorts? You don't want to do it. [Laughter] Right? Something like [Snorts], maybe that's not a good horse, but you get the idea. [Laughter] Embrimasthai is the Greek word, the snorting of a horse. When it's transferred into human emotion, it speaks of outrage anger, indignation.
My wife has a cute little habit, it's endearing. Whenever she gets frustrated with something, she groans. I mean especially if she's working on computer stuff. It could be a number of things. When she's working on the computer and I'm in the kitchen, I hear it. She'll be typing away and then I hear a -- there's little grrr. And I always smile, it's so cute. [Laughter] It means that she's had an impasse and she's venting her frustration.
Well, this is a little deeper than that. In fact, one translation translates it, "He gave way to such distress of spirit as to make His body tremble," groaning. Look at the second word in Verse 33. "Groaned in the spirit and was troubled torasso, means agitated or stirred up or restless, again, deep emotion.
Now, it would not be surprising for anyone else at that funeral to be angry. I mentioned last week that one of the stages of anger management whenever there is loss, one of the first stages is anger, denial and then anger. I am mad at the doctors. He could have done something to prevent the death of my loved one. I'm mad at the nurses. I'm angry because they weren't attentive enough. I'm angry with family members because they didn't tell us that there was a problem to begin with. I'm mad at God because he let this happen. Those are part of the emotional range that takes place.
But Jesus is angry, groaning, deeply agitated in the spirit. Why is he groaning? Certainly enough for those reasons. First of all, he knew that Lazarus is dead before anybody else knew it and he told His disciples. Number two, he's there to raise Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is angry I believe -- now, follow me here, at death itself, and more specifically, at the sin that has caused death overall.
Here is Jesus looking at a tomb, a friend he loves is dead and he knows that from the very beginning, this was not God's plan. It shouldn't be like this. That wasn't part of the whole plan to begin with, when God created man upon the earth. Now, we all hate death. We hate it. We fight it. We revile against it, rebel against it, get spooked out by it. We hate it.
And when somebody we love dies, we say, "This is wrong. I've been ripped off. I've been robbed." That's why the very first emotion whenever there is loss is that denial. "No! No! It couldn't happen! It shouldn't happen!" I want you to know that Jesus shares that sentiment and he shares that anger. In fact, that's why he came, to fix that. That's why Jesus came to give life.
I'm amazed that how often that theme runs through this Gospel. In Chapter 1:4, John says, "In him," in Christ , "Was life and the life was the light of men." John 3:16, "For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten son that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life." John Chapter 6, "I am the bread of life. He who believes in me has everlasting life." John Chapter 10:10, "I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." And so, that theme goes 47 times in the Gospel of John. John wants you to know Jesus is about life, life, life, life, life, all the way through. And now, he's standing in front of death. And he is angry like we are.
Here's the difference. We're powerless to do anything about it. And he's about to do something about it, we're powerless to do anything about mortality, death, lifespan. We can't do anything about it. We can't fix it. We are powerless to redeem ourselves. We are powerless to save ourselves. We are powerless to keep ourselves from the grave and you know why? Because death is a result of one thing and what's that? Sin, the wages of sin is death. We can't fix it. Jesus can fix it. The wages of sin is death. This is happening and this has happened, it will happen because there's sin in the world. And the day that you eat the fruit of this Adam and Eve, you will surely die.
There's a myth in the United States of America. I encountered it many times when I do funerals and I've done a lot of them as I mentioned, and sometimes there are funerals for people who are marginally religious or are not spiritual at all. But the myth is this, "That the only thing you need to go to heaven is to just die." So what I got to do? So there's people they live without God, they don't care about God, they never pray, they never read their Bible, they don't want anything to do with God and then they die. And suddenly, everybody is religious. He's at a church and he's in heaven and -- he's in heaven? Why would he want to be in heaven, why would God make him be in heaven? He wanted nothing to do with God his whole life. Why would God let him suffer in his presence forever?
But that's the myth. All you got to do to go to heaven is just kick the bucket and you're there. There's another myth closely associated with the first one and that is, "If you want to get to heaven, you just do good things." Be a good person, be very, very sincere and fill your life with good deeds. No amount of good deeds can ever earn a spot in the kingdom of heaven because the wages of sin is death and that's why Jesus came to the earth, was to pay that debt of sin that no one else can pay.
And just to note by the way, Lazarus will get up, no question. Lazarus will be resurrected. You know what that means? It means he has to die again. How depressing is that? Yeah, I died once, it was a real drag. [Laughter] And I haven't been feeling good the last couple of days, this might be number two. I might be dead in a couple of days. He had to die again. Now, just for the record, if I ever get really close to death and I'm almost in heaven, don't you dare pray me back. [Laughter] Do you hear me? I will make life miserable for you if I find out you're the one responsible for bringing me back when I'm that close to heaven. I don't want to come back. Are you kidding? Taxes again? [Laughter] Aging again?
So tears, anger, the third thing that's odd is approach. Here's Jesus, his face filled with tears. Here's Jesus, his heart filled with anger and with his tears and in his anger, he goes somewhere. He does something with it. He does something about it. He goes to the tomb of Lazarus, Verse 38. "And Jesus again groaning in himself came to the tomb. It was a cave and a stone laid against it and Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.' Martha, the sister of him who was dead said, 'Lord, by now, this time there's a stench for he's been dead four days.' Jesus said to her, 'Did I not say to you that if you would believe, you would see the Glory of God?' They took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. Jesus lifted up his eyes and said -- now Jesus prays publicly in front of people, 'Father, I thank you that you've heard me, and I know that you always hear me, but because of the people who are standing by, I said this that they may believe that you sent me.'"
"Now, when he said these things, he cried out with a loud voice. 'Lazarus, come forth!'" a word about tombs and burial. In those days, they didn't embalm people, I mentioned that last week. And so, the day they died was the day they buried them. They buried them in a tomb which was typically a cave, a natural cave appropriated for the use of a tomb, or they would carve out of a hillside in pure rock a little room, a tomb. The tomb was a room of about 8 x 10 or 9 x 10 x 8 and it had shelves on the sides of the wall. Niches to accommodate eight corpses total because usually families were buried together in a common tomb. When a person died, they were wrapped up with bandages, pieces of cloth. Every single appendage, each arm, each leg was individually wrapped, so it was like a mummy.
And then aromatic spices were put within the folds or between the folds of the wrapping and that was to simply take away the stench. It was only good for a couple of days, after that the stench of the corpse would overpower and overshadow that.
Once they were placed in the tomb, a stone was rolled in front of it, a groove was cut on the outside of the tomb so a large cartwheel round kind of a stone was rolled downward in place to keep out animals, to keep out grave robbers, and to keep out the stench. The body was laid in state for one year. After a year, they would walk in that tomb and by that time, all the flesh had eroded off the bones, they were simply a skeleton. The bones were collected and placed in a very small box called an ossuary or a bone box and placed in one of those niches. That's what was happening here.
Jesus says, "Roll the stone away," and Martha protests. And I got to say, I don't chide her at all for saying, "Lord, he stinks." If you have ever smelled rotting human flesh, you will never forget it. I worked in the medical field and when I was training in radiography, they would bring in body parts and bodies that have been -- the coroner would do this. They have been found after two or three months of death, and the smell, the stench is something I will never forget. So I read this and go, "I get this protest." And I bet Martha is assuming that Jesus just wants one last look at his friend, "I just want to see Lazarus one last time," she's probably assuming that, which is one of the reasons for an open casket today, to have that last look.
And so she protest, "Lord, you don't want to look at putrefying corpse. You got to understand, that would tear Martha and Mary's heart out." They've already dealt with the grief of the loss of their brother not to exhume the body after decay is adding insult to injury, so the protest. Jesus prays after saying -- having a word to her, and then he says, this is kind of interesting if not strange in itself. In Verse 43, he said these things; "He cried out with a loud voice." And the word for loud voice is the loudness of a multitude, to cry with the loudness of a multitude. It was a shout, "Lazarus, come forth!" probably even louder than that.
And why did he have to do that? He certainly didn't need to shout, right? I mean, Jesus could have simply said, "Lazarus, it's time. Come on out buddy." That he could have just thought it, right? He could have kind of go on like this. [Laughter] Why do they have to shout? Well, a couple of reasons I think. Number one, Jesus is about to do a powerful deed. The most powerful, the greatest miracle of all of his miracles and the voice matches the deed, a loud, powerful, commanding, consuming shout. There's a second reason perhaps that he shouted. Did you know that wizards would cast their spells or give their incantations by muttering, by whispering, very low voices? As to distinguish from that nonsense, that black magic, he shouted, "Lazarus, come forth!" Now, it's public. Now, you got to understand, once you say those words, now you're on the line. If that guy didn't come out of that tomb, you're done.
So third reason, I think simply to command their attention. When he said, "Roll the stone away," I bet everybody is doing this or leaning in, husband talking to wife, leaning in [whispers] you know. It happens sometimes when I preach. I notice people talking to each other [Laughter] and Jesus wants to get their attention, "Lazarus, whoa!" there's now locked into him. Locked into this event and Jesus wants everyone to understand the drama of what is happening. So in a loud, commanding, powerful, "Lazarus!" Oh by the way, why did Jesus have to address him by name? Why couldn't he just say come forth? The answer is to limit the response. Right?
If Jesus with his power would have said, "Come forth!" Hades would have emptied itself. Every corpse in that cemetery would have -- shut up. That would be quite a scene so he's very specific. "Lazarus, come forth!"
Verse 44, "And he who had died," just picture this, "Came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes." Can you just see him shuffling his way to the entrance of the tomb? And His face was wrapped with a cloth and Jesus said to them, so practical, "Loose him and let him go." So Jesus went to the grave, walked to the tomb -- he didn't have to. Couldn't Jesus have simply -- from wherever he was before he got in to Bethany, where he met Martha and Mary, simply from that point, done it? You remember the nobleman's son John Chapter 4? Nobleman's son was dead, the nobleman came to Jesus, "My son is sick," and then his son died. Jesus said to him, "Your son lives," and that's 20 miles away. It's a long distance miracle.
Jesus didn't need to be there to get it done. Couldn't Jesus that said, "Mary, Martha, go to the tomb. You're going to see something really cool. Blow your mind, your brother is alive." Jesus goes to the tomb. Now, put it all together, with tears in his eyes, with anger in his heart, Jesus goes to the place of death, the tomb that houses his friend Lazarus and conquers death by resurrection. You know what that's called? In movie jargon, we would call this a trailer, a preview of coming attractions.
What Jesus did that day at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus will one day do again at your grave and your grave, in your grave, in my grave, as we will be raised from the death, he'll conquer death. I want you to see this, turn backward to John Chapter 5, look at two verses. You're about to see the general principle of which we have seen a mere preview of. We've seen the preview. Now, here's the full scope. Two verses, John Chapter 5:28. Here's Jesus speaking, "Do not marvel at this, for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear his voice." You get that? "And come forth, Lazarus, come forth. And come forth those who have done good, to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil to the resurrection of damnation or condemnation."
So what happens at Bethany with Lazarus is but a pale anticipation of what will happen in our future resurrection. You know when that is by the way? You know when we'll going to be resurrected? At the rapture -- the rapture of the church, some point in history when Jesus is done with this whole mess, he will come down out of heaven and take those who are alive on the earth and believe in him up with him and a whole new event happens called the tribulation period. At the rapture of the church will be a physical resurrection of our bodies. I want to read it to you. You don't have to turn there but write it down, jot it down, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17. I'll read it and listen how close this sounds like to what we read with Lazarus.
"For the Lord Himself, Jesus Himself will descend from heaven with a shout," isn't that interesting? A shout, like he did at the tomb of Lazarus, "And with a voice of an archangel, and with a trump of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. And then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we will always be with the Lord." So when Jesus comes in the future to collect the church, it's going to be with a shout. And I've always wondered, well, what do you mean a shout, what's that about? It might be simply as he comes down He'll say, "Come forth!" And that will be resurrection day.
Talk about an extreme makeover. Everyday, when you look in the mirror, just think about what's coming. Your resurrected body, revised, renewed, upgraded physical body, reconstituted from the old you. Now, I got a question, I get a lot of questions about the Bible and one was from a dear lady who said, "Why on earth would God Jesus ever want to resurrect our bodies? Who at that time are in various forms of decay and some of the molecules are scattered all over the place and why would he even want to gather the dust and the ashes, and the molecules and bring us back together?" It's a good question. Here's the answer.
The resurrection of your body is important to complete your salvation. Now, hear me when I say this, salvation has three different aspects to it. There is a past aspect, a present aspect and a future aspect. You have been saved, past tense, from the penalty of sin. That's past tense. That's called justification salvation.
You've been saved from the penalty of sin, past tense. You -- present tense -- are being saved from the power or grip of sin. That's sanctification salvation. One day in the future, you will be saved from the very presence of sin itself that's called glorification salvation, so past, present and future.
The Lord designed us as body and soul, and as plans on redeeming both and renewing both. Just a final note before we close up. Why did Jesus tell those guys to roll the stone away? I mean if he has resurrection power, if he can say "Lazarus come forth," can he just go like this to the stone? Or spin it up and cast it like to the moon? And He could have spun that thing around and thrown it in the ocean. Why did he say, "Hey you guys, roll the stone away. You do it, not me. You do it." And then why did he say, "Loose him and let him go." I mean, again, couldn't he just go, "Lazarus, hold still." He pulled those bandages up and there he goes.
You know why? Because only God can raise the dead, man could move a stone. You do what you do and I'll do what only I can do. And what I love about this is there's the partnership in this miracle, right? And I see that as ministry. None of us can change a life. None of us can save us all. I don't save anybody but I sure love tossing away gravestones and taking off grave clothes, don't you? It's about all we can do. Only he can change a life, only he can do stuff like that, we can do these stuff and it never gets old to see him doing it.
Unfortunately, the story ends here and we see the reaction that we'll look at next time, but it sort of -- how will I say this? It leaves me with a longing. I wish there were more details. I wish John would have said, "And here's what Lazarus looked like", "And here's what Lazarus said, 'Wow!'" And then, Mary and Martha embraced Lazarus." We're not told those details. It would be nice to know. I can guarantee you this. That mourning funeral was turned into a party. The tears that they had were dried up and it was eclipsed by a joy they never imagined. And again, it's a preview of coming attractions. Revelation 21, "And God will wipe away every tear and there will be no more death and no more sorrow."
So the bottom line is, we conclude and we say, death is not the final word, Jesus Christ is the final word because in him is life. And he is the resurrection and the life and he proves it.
Let's pray. Father in heaven, we have seen a very small snip at a periscope, a portrait of what's going to happen one day when our own physical being is reconstituted in a glorified manner. Not like Lazarus who was in the physical world again and have to die, but in physical body that is designed for eternal purposes that will never grow old, that will never die, that is like the resurrected body of Jesus to complete the promises that he so often made. We look forward Lord to that as we get old and we groan our own kind of groanings as human beings. We know that you have a great plan in store for us and we submit ourselves to it.
Father, I pray for anybody who has lost loved ones in the past weeks, months, years. I pray Father that you'd comfort them in a special and unique way. Give us hope in the midst of this life, in Jesus' name, Amen.