- Sermon Notes
Believe and Have Life
After the confrontation with the Pharisees in John 10 Jesus went away beyond the Jordan and was staying there. At some point, a messenger comes to Him, sent by Mary and Martha, with the message that their brother, Lazarus, was sick.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were much loved by Jesus; they were friends. There were many times He visited them in their home and shared a meal with them. It was a risky thing to have such a personal relationship with Jesus because the Jewish leaders made it clear that if anyone declared Him to be the Messiah, they would be put out of the synagogue.
When Jesus heard that his friend, Lazarus, was sick, He said, “This sickness will not end in death, but it is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” In other words, God will use what is happening to Lazarus to reveal His glory and to strengthen faith.
John said that he wrote this gospel so that we might believe and that in believing we would have life. This is absolutely one of those events that God will use to strengthen their faith and our faith. John wrote that it is in believing that you will have life. Over and over Jesus teaches His disciples about the significance and value of faith in their lives.
In Hebrews chapter 11, there is an important definition of faith, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it men of old gained approval.” And then later, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” The assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen; that’s faith.
Mary and Martha didn’t know how this was going to end. Their brother, Lazarus, was sick and by the time Jesus arrives, he will have been in the tomb four days.
Both of them said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They believed that He had the power to heal their brother, but now their brother is dead; their faith has reached its limit. Their faith did not reach to the possibility that their brother could be raised from the dead.
But Jesus loved Lazarus. So if He loved him, why did he die? Lazarus could not have known it, Mary and Martha could not have known it, but because Jesus loved Lazarus, because being the key word here, He will use this sickness and death to reveal something about the nature of the Son of God that the whole world needs to hear; that He is the resurrection and the life. What an amazing privilege for Lazarus to be the one through whom the world would know that Jesus has the power over death. But he had no way of knowing that and neither did Mary or Martha.
Let’s look at this story personally. If you are a disciple of his, then you are also dearly loved, yet you might be going through something yourself and you might find it difficult to understand why. You might be asking, “Lord, how does all this fit together?”
A powerful way to illustrate this could be that life is very much like a puzzle. You have the pieces, but aren’t sure how they all fit together. At first, the pieces are large enough that it’s easier to see the pieces working together, but then God gives you a box with more pieces. Then you realize you don’t have the box cover.
The moment you offer your life to God, you begin to realize that He holds the box cover in His hand and in fact is working all things together. Romans 8:28, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
We know how this story ends. Jesus is going to raise Lazarus from the dead, even though he had been in the tomb four days. Jesus wanted them to know that He is the resurrection and the life so that they might also believe when Jesus Himself is raised from the dead.
Do you know how your story will end? If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, the resurrection and the life, then you most assuredly do know the end of the story; He will be your resurrection and your life as well. Do you believe this?
I. Live the Indestructible Life
- When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed two days longer in that place. After this, He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
- This is when the disciples resisted Him, saying, “The Jews were seeking to stone You, and You are going there again?”
- The Lord may stand in our way when we are going in the wrong direction, but we shouldn’t stand in His way when He’s going in the right direction.
- Jesus responds to the disciples by saying, “Are there not 12 hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”
- In other words, it’s still daytime and there’s much work to be done. God still has much in store for you to do.
- Jesus went on to explain that if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.
- The light Jesus refers to is the presence of God in your life. When you live with God’s presence in your life, there is purpose and meaning and significance; there’s much God wants to accomplish through you.
- Jesus is saying that He lives and moves by the will of His Father. It is the indestructible life; God has set the timetable and He will accomplish God’s will.
- This is so much more than loyal fatalism. That’s what Thomas had in verse 16. It’s as though he is saying, “Jesus wants to go to Judea where the Jewish leaders want to kill Him, let’s just all go and die with Him.” He’s convinced the worst thing possible is going to happen and he has resigned himself to defeat. He lacks hope.
- Don’t assume the worst is going to happen. Exceptional things happen to people with exceptional faith. You don’t know how the pieces might fit together. Keep pressing on and being faithful to what God called you to do.
Philippians 3:13-14, Forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Keep pressing on, you don’t know, something good may yet happen.
Illus - A number of years ago I was scheduled to speak at a stockholders meeting for a company that was supporting our work in Russia. Unfortunately, I set my alarm for p.m. rather than a.m. An adventure…
- When Jesus arrived near Bethany where Lazarus was buried, Martha was the first to meet Him, while Mary stayed in the house.
- She said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
- Some suggest that Martha was correcting Jesus for not arriving in time to help her brother. But I’m convinced she is showing Jesus the faith that she does have. She’s confirming her belief that Jesus was able to heal, if He had only been there.
- In other words, she is expressing regret, not doubting His heart or His character. Martha has faith, if even a little. But Jesus wants her to have more faith.
Galatians 2:20, I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God…
- Then in verse 22 her trust in Him is revealed. This is a great verse because even though Martha has lost hope that her brother will live, she tells Jesus that she still trusts Him.
- It’s a very important aspect of faith to trust in the Lord’s heart and character, even if you do not understand what is happening or why.
Illus - I read the story of a mother whose son was dying. A friend was trying to comfort her and said something that many people say, “Perhaps God will be good and save your son.” The mother said in response, “God is good whether He heals my son or not.”
- Martha didn’t ask for her brother to be raised, because she did not believe it was possible, which we can understand.
- Many people only seek what they believe is possible.
- But Jesus wants to increase her faith.
- Our limited faith often keeps us from seeking after greater things.
Ephesians 3:20, Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.
II. He Strengthens Our Little Faith
- In verse 15 Jesus said, “I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe…”
- God knows that we have little faith, but wants to strengthen our little faith. How? By demonstrating His power and by giving His word.
- In Mark 9:24 there is a story we can relate to. A father brought his son to Jesus saying, "If You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!”
- Jesus responded, “If You can? All things are possible to him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
A. The resurrection is a person
- How important is faith? So much so that Jesus said, “He who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Verse 25-26)
- Faith is strengthened by the demonstration of God’s power when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Does God give us a demonstration of His power?
- God demonstrates His love when Jesus died on the cross and He demonstrates His power when He was raised from the dead.
Romans 5:8, God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Ephesians 1:18-19, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be opened, so that you will know… the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe; in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places.
- “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said.
- Jesus is strengthening her faith and ours by giving His word also.
Romans 10:17, Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
- When Jesus comes to the tomb He told them to remove the stone. Martha resisted Him, “Lord, he stinketh.” I love what Jesus said next, “Did I not say?” In other words, have faith in My word.
- Faith is increased when you not only hear God’s word, you take hold of it, because His word is life.
Hebrews 4:12, The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit… able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
C. His heart is with you
- “Jesus wept,” it says. Why? He knew this would end with great rejoicing, but He wept because they were weeping, their hearts were grieving and it moved Him. God has a heart of compassion.
Psalm 103:13, As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
- Faith is seen when we trust God’s heart toward us; especially when there are pieces of the puzzle we simply cannot understand how they fit.
Illus - Jesus loved Mary and Martha and yet here’s a piece of the puzzle they couldn’t understand; your brother is dead. He had said that this would not end in death. God used this for His glory and to reveal His power.
- Lazarus became a living testimony. People would come over to his house and he could show them how the pieces fit together.
John 11:1-46 NASB
1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, "Let us go to Judea again." 8 The disciples said to Him, "Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?" 9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." 11 This He said, and after that He said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep." 12 The disciples then said to Him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep. 14 So Jesus then said to them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15 and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him." 16 Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, so that we may die with Him."
28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." 29 And when she heard
it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him. 31 Then
the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that
she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if
You had been here, my brother would not have died." 33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply
moved in spirit and was troubled, 34 and said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews were
saying, "See how He loved him!" 37 But some of them said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?"
38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, "Remove the stone."
Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days."