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The Voice that Wakes the Dead

John 11:1-46

Jesus has the power over death and is the master of every situation. We see that in our text today as Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.

In the opening scene, Mary and Martha sent for Jesus to come (1-6). Lazarus was sick unto death and Jesus was one of their closest friends. The sisters informed Christ of the sickness without demanding action. But Jesus delayed going to them (4-6). You might expect to read, “And so he made haste and arrived at Bethany” but he waited two days after receiving the message and then took a day to travel to them. Jesus was following the Father’s directions and timetable, not anyone else’s. Because Jesus postponed His coming to them, He was able to perform His most notable miracle. But it perplexed His disciples. Love and allow sickness? Love and death? God’s love is not a pampering love, but a perfecting love. Love does not mean we are sheltered from problems. Love and suffering are not incompatible as we see in Christ’s life. When confronted by disease, disappointment, divorce, delays, even death, remember, Jesus is Master of every situation. Take encouragement from His Word!

Then Jesus reasoned with His followers (7-32). He said to them, “Let us go to Judea.” The disciples understood that as suicide because the religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus! But Jesus told them to “Walk in the light,” meaning if he was doing God’s will he would be protected until the appointed time. Then He told the disciples that Lazarus was “asleep,” which they misunderstood, demonstrating their continued inability to grasp spiritual truth. So Jesus spoke plainly, “He’s dead.” Jesus indicated that death does not need to be feared by Christians! It is our gateway to glory.

We also see, surprisingly, the faith of Thomas Didymus (16). Thomas is famously called Doubting Thomas, but on this occasion, he shows his willingness to die with Christ. Courage does not mean never being afraid; courage is fulfilling our duties regardless of our fears!

Jews believed that for three days the soul hovered over the body hoping to reenter but Lazarus was dead four days and decomposing and so all hope was gone. When Martha saw Jesus she exclaimed, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” What trust! But also, the word ‘if’ is a big little word. It is futile to imagine what might have been. Many Christians live in the past, struggling with mental impossibilities–remember Jesus is Master of every situation!

Jesus then speaks his fifth I AM statement. “I AM the resurrection and life” (v. 25). And Martha confesses that Jesus is the Christ. What a beautiful picture of trust! She then goes to Mary, “The Teacher is calling for you” (v. 28). Jesus mourned with Mary. What crisis are you facing? Let Jesus work in it and through it.

Then we see Jesus raise Lazarus (33 – 46)! But first Jesus wept (v 35). He groaned with indignation, angered and saddened at the results of sin–death (Rom 6:23). Verse 35 is the shortest verse in the Bible but one of deepest. Christ identifies with sinners. Isaiah 53:3 says he was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” Hebrews 4:15, he was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” And John 11:36, “Behold how He loved him!” Love requires the communication of affection. The Greek gods’ primary characteristic was apatheia, an inability to feel emotion: joy, sorrow or love. The Greeks thought to have emotions meant someone could have power over them. The Greeks had distant passionless gods. Jesus cares!

But now we see His power (38 – 46). He asked them to remove the stone (38-44). Martha reminded Jesus of the stench of decomposition (v 39). Jesus prayed (v 41), not a petition but a prayer of thanksgiving, knowing this act would glorify the Father and strengthen the disciples. Then Jesus’ cried, “Lazarus, come forth” (v 43). An old Puritan said, If Jesus had not named Lazarus, everyone in the cemetery would have come forth! Jesus had men roll the stone away and remove the grave clothes, but only God could give him life!

What were the results of this miracle (45-46)? We see that many reverenced Jesus and believed! This tragedy turned into triumph revealed God’s grace. But there was also rejection; the Pharisees were so biased no miracle could convince them. They were so near the kingdom yet they remained in unbelief. If a heart will not yield to truth there is no hope of salvation. There are no hopeless situations, only those who grow hopeless in them. God’s timing and love for us is perfect–we can trust Him.