Morning Devotions: John 11 – Power over the Grave
I greet you in the wonderful name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Today is Day 12 of lockdown. I'm still on chapter 11 of John's gospel. God willing, today we will catch up. But what I'm going to do is read chapter 11 of the Gospel of John, briefly explain its meaning, apply it to our lives and then close in a word of prayer.
Let me read to you from John chapter 11 beginning at verse 1
John 11 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)
11 Now a man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. 3 So the sisters sent a message to him: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was. 7 Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.” 8 “Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re going there again?” 9 “Aren’t there twelve hours in a day?” Jesus answered. “If anyone walks during the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks during the night, he does stumble, because the light is not in him.” 11 He said this, and then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.” 12 Then the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.” 13 Jesus, however, was speaking about his death, but they thought he was speaking about natural sleep. 14 So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. 15 I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.” 17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem (less than two miles away). 19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her. 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.” 28 Having said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw that Mary got up quickly and went out. They followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to cry there. 32 As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!” 33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked. “Lord,” they told him, “come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Couldn’t he who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?” 38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said. Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.” 45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what he did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and were saying, “What are we going to do since this man is doing many signs? 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God. 53 So from that day on they plotted to kill him. 54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and he stayed there with the disciples. 55 Now the Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56 They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should report it so that they could arrest him.
Even as we take a look at this chapter, I got to say this has to be one of my favourite chapters in God's Word. Mainly, not just for the sign, even though this is the most remarkable son in Jesus ministry, the raising of dead Lazarus, four days in the tomb, but because of how we see Jesus in this chapter. We see his Humanity on display and we see his Deity on display. His Humanity in his compassion for those that he loved, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. For his weeping, he's been moved in his gut and in his very soul. And but also, he's deity as he shouts across their great Chasm, that separates the living and the dead and calls Lazarus to come forth. It's a surprising story. It starts often in chapter 11:3, where Jesus gets this this note, thus beginning of kind of a conflict. “The one that you love is sick.”
What would you do if you heard that somebody that you loved was sick? I would move mountains to get to my wife or my children and I'm sure you would too. Jesus decides to stay an extra two days in the place that he was. It is surprising. It's an unusual response to the news that Lazarus was ill. And it's compounded because both Mary and Martha as they confront Jesus, say to him as the tension mounts in the narrative, say to him, Lord, “if you were here, my brother would not have died.” They know that Jesus has power over disease and over sickness and they knew that if he was there, Lazarus would not have passed away. But Jesus stays. He tells his disciples, although they are somewhat dim-witted and don’t understand that, this is for God's glory. This is so that you might believe! His disciples, the key one in this narrative being Thomas.
Let's go up to Jerusalem, to Judea, with him, if he's going to die, Let's die with him. They’re convinced that the Jews want to kill Jesus and this will become the opportunity to do. So, Jesus says these most incredible words in verse 25, “I am the resurrection and the life. If a man dies and he dies in me, he will live.” it's just an astounding claim for any person to make. But God affirms and confirms who Jesus is and what Jesus can do in the verses that come. Jesus as he sees the pantomime of the funeral on display, as he sees the people weeping in grief for Lazarus’ passing, as he is cause to think of all the deaths, throughout all time from Adam, even to our day. Jesus is moved and he weeps. It's the shortest verse in the Bible but it packs a punch. There's so much that we can learn about Christ just from verse 35 alone. And maybe in a separate video, we’ll take a look at that.
But after weeping, Jesus gets taken to the tomb. There's a heavy Stone. He says roll it away and what one of Lazarus’ to says, no, no, don't do that! Four days in that stifling Israeli heat and the body has begun to decompose. The King James probably captures the words the best. It's “stinketh”. It's just like there's a stench about Lazarus’ right now as his body begins to dissolve back into dust. Jesus with a loud voice that stretches across that dark chasm separating the living from the dead, calls Lazarus back and he comes. He's raised from the dead! The sign is absolutely astounding. One which cannot be not be ignored, even Jesus’ detractors acknowledge this miracle. But instead of worshipping him, they plot to kill him because they can see that his powers something which they cannot rival, and which ultimately would bring the authorities of their age down on them and they would lose what little power in this world they had.
Caiaphas, the high priest that year, says something prophetic and John really is bringing the narrative to this point. Everything that came before, is so that you can hear that Jesus died as a substitute, one man for many. The perfect, spotless Lamb of God died, for the sins of the world.
Well, how do we go about applying this chapter?
Let me say if you are an unbeliever, and you are reading this for the first time, hear the strong voice of Jesus Christ crying out with absolute certainty of the eventuality to Lazarus.” Come forth!” Hear in Jesus words, the power that he has over death. And hear the Jesus Christ can make you alive, even in your dead and state as you are separated from a holy God because of your sin. Even as you are dead in your trespasses and sin, Jesus Christ can make you alive. The call on your life is to respond to the voice of the shepherd, to put your faith and trust in him that you might believe. His death was for you and for your sins as a substitute. His resurrection was to prove that God approved of the sacrifice that was made. You are to believe upon him, to trust upon his finished work that you might be redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.
If you are a seeker, someone who is looking for God and you are reading John chapter 11, may I encourage you to read verse 25 where Jesus says, “I am”, the echo from Exodus, YHWH, “I am who I am.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” In Jesus Christ is life and that life is an abundant life. It's the life that only God can give, because Jesus Christ is the Son of God. If you are looking for God, find him in the person of Jesus Christ and live.
If you are a new convert and you’re reading John Chapter 11, read with me verse 4, when Jesus says “this sickness will not end in death, but is for the glory of God so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus Christ will be glorified in all things new convert. He will be glorified in your life and he will be glorified in your death. And you can take certain confidence in this, “all things work together for the good of those who love God”, for your good and ultimately, for his glory.
In this case, even Lazarus, the one Jesus loved, even his death was ultimately for God's glory, that Jesus Christ might be revealed to a watching world.
If you're a believer this morning and you’re reading John chapter 11, let me point you to one of the most important passages in scripture. John chapter 11:35. “Jesus wept.” In it, I want you to see all the humanity of Jesus Christ, pouring, weeping out of the page. We don’t serve some God who sits in the clouds on high, peering down at the Earth and moving us like pawns. We serve a God who came into this world, the fullness of deity revealed to man, tabernacle amongst us, lived a perfect, sunless life amongst us, who was tempted in every way, and experienced human emotions just like you and I. Jesus Christ wept. He wept because of Sin. He wept because of death. You and I are to weep for these things too. We wouldn't weep with the tears of Jesus Christ, the tears of a Creator, who looks on his fallen creation, and yet has a plan to redeem them. We weep as a church, looking at a world which is dark and which is lost. And yet, we have been tasked take the gospel message into it. We are to proclaim from the mountaintops, that Jesus died for Sinners, that he rose from the grave, and that all men are to repent for the forgiveness of sins.
Friends even today, there are many in South Africa who are in fear. There are many in South Africa who are thinking about deaths, disease, corruption, bigger things of life. Even as you think about your family, your friends, and your co-worker, recognise that you have a responsibility to take the good news of the gospel to a waiting world, that they might hear of a Redeemer that can save them from their sins, and save them to eternal life, both in this left and then forever in the life to come.
Let's close in a word of prayer.
Father God, in heaven I do pray for our country. Lord I recognised that right now there are so many who are faithful. There are so many LORD God who are struggling with the bigger questions of life. At this time LORD God, would you allow your church to rise? Might we proclaim the good news of the gospel to waiting world, a watching world that they might hear of Jesus Christ? That we might hear testimonies of men and women, turning away from their sins and putting their faith in their trust in him, that they might live. This I ask in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ, amen.
May the Lord be with you!