Jesus and the Resurrection

Jesus Close Up

John 11.1-44

Why does God allow bad things to happen when he can stop it?

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” C.S. Lewis, Grief Observed.

To give you some background and context:

• John 20.30, John says that, “these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life.”

• End of John 10: Jesus makes some claims to deity during the Feast of Dedication.

• In John 10.30, right after affirming the security of those who believe (his sheep), he says, “I and the Father are one.”

• The Jews pick up stones to stone him because they clearly understand that Jesus is making a claim to be God…they even say so in 10.33, “we are going to stone you for blasphemy because you, being a man, make yourself God.”

• Jesus doesn’t argue because, they’re right. Jesus claims to be and is God Almighty, Yahweh in human flesh. So, when we see Jesus we . Jesus perfectly manifests the character of who God is…Chris is Godlike, but in a very real sense, God is Christlike.

1-16 When tragedy comes

He whom you love is ill.

A message comes that Jesus’ friend Lazarus is ill. He is the brother of Mary and Martha, all disciples or believers in Jesus. As had happened many times before, these are not strangers coming to make a request. They are friends informing Jesus so that he’ll come and heal their brother. But, as we witnessed in John 4, Jesus doesn’t actually have to go anywhere. With a word…he could heal him. But he chooses not to.

The illness is for the glory of God

Jesus tells the messenger that that Lazarus’s sickness “will not lead to death.” Obviously, the illness kills him, so what he means is that this death is not the final death or end for Lazarus—resurrection is. Jesus says quite plainly, that he died for the glory of God…to glorify the Son. Jesus statement sounds similar to what he says in John 9 with the blind man whose blindness occurred so the “the works of God might be displayed in him.”

I’m not certain how satisfying it is for those of us who suffer, and those who love them, to hear that pain is often used to bring God glory. It sounds nice and “churchy.” My guess is that many of us will simply say, no thanks, don’t care, the pain is not worth it. I would rather not. At the root of this attitude is a misunderstanding of God’s plan for His people…we are supposed to be like, look like, sound like, and act like Jesus.

Now, Jesus lived a life of perfection; a life completely sinless, a life that more than any other brought honour and praise to God…and yet he didn’t hang on the cross and say “I DON’T DESERVE THIS…” rather, as Hebrews 12 records, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Even in suffering, Jesus recognises God’s excellence, God’s primacy in his Life, God as the source of His Joy…not His undeserved suffering.

If our view of a meaningful life does not include suffering, then we just exclude the life of Jesus as meaningful. But if God can be glorified in our suffering, then the cross is much more than a cruel murder of an innocent man, it is the example of how excellence, power, and joy can result from tragedy.

It’s not that God wants these things to happen, but we have to admit, there appear to be those things which can only be accomplished through suffering even, or perhaps especially with those he loves.. After all, the Father loves His Son: and yet the Father permitted His beloved Son to drink the cup of sorrow and experience the shame and pain of the Cross. We must never think that love and suffering are incompatible

If we can start there, as hard as it is to believe, Lazarus’ death, the mourning that will take place, the grief that will be shared, the expense paid out for the funeral, and the eventual resurrection that follows are not only to glorify both the Father and the Son, but also for the good of Lazarus, and his sisters.

Questioning the Love of God: Does Jesus even care?

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus…So…

John here says, Now Jesus LOVED Martha and Mary. Let’s be honest. Even though that is stated, Jesus doesn’t act in a way that we would probably describe as “loving.”

• If Jesus loved Lazarus so much, why did He permit him to get sick?

• Why did He delay to go to the sisters?

• Did he give them a false hope by saying, “This won’t lead to death”

• Why didn’t he say, “I’m coming soon.”

• Could He not have healed Lazarus at a distance, as He did the official’s son? (John 4)

A different form of love is used than in verse 3. In verse 3 it was PHILEO love…a love of affection. In this is AGAPE love, describing a love that seeks the best for it’s object. God’s love for His own is not a pampering love; it is a perfecting love.

17-28 Why is this happening? Our inadequate view of suffering.

“Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother..”

What to say to the suffering:

If we’re honest, we know that it’s not easy to be around suffering people. There is really very few, if any, things you can SAY to help suffering people. But we try, don’t we? We desperately try to come up with the final, all encompassing, perfect formula answer their need to now WHY… Of course, we’ll never really end up with a final answer, and usually give up with a proverbial “Call me if you need anything? I’m praying for you.”

1. Counsellor: (Church Leader who feels responsible) “Surely something in your life must displease God.” What is he telling you? God uses circumstances to warn us, and to punish us.

2. Cheerleader: (Rally leader for the sick if they don’t know who they are) Brings flowers, sings hymns, reads happy Psalms about brooks running and mountains clapping their hands. Any discussion of illness, pain, or despair is quickly overpowered by changing the subject, combating/ignoring the suffering with loud cheers.

3. Faith Healer: (Claim God’s blessing) Sickness is never God’s will! We are not meant to suffer, we’re mean to be whole. God’s plan to have financial and physical victory! Haven’t you read your Bible? Faith can move mountains—just name your promise in faith and claim victory over it.

4. Crazy Charismatic: We need to praise God for everything—to embrace the good and the bad. You need to come to a place where you can say, thank you! I love you God for making me suffer like this! It is your will, and you know what is best for me. I am so thankful that you love me enough to let me experience this horrible terrible traumatic thing.

5. Martyr: You have been appointed to suffer for God, and he will reward you. God chose you because you are so strong, just like Job, and he is going to use you as an example for all others. What we see as adversity, God sees as an opportunity!

Phillip Yancey’s, Where is God When it Hurts

Jesus shows up and Martha’s Questions: “Lord if you had been here…”

Martha, and later Mary, asks some very honest questions of Jesus. She does not speak out of anger, but simply out of confusion. She is a disciple of Jesus, and has seen him heal strangers of innumerable maladies. But her brother, one that Jesus has a special relationship with, he let die.

• Why did this happen?

• Why weren’t you here?

• Why didn’t you stop this?

She asks the question of WHY by stating that he could have stopped it. It is not much different than something we might ask. “You could have stopped the death of my friend, my spouse, my sibling. You could have saved my baby from dying from SIDS. You could have ended the abuse before it started. You could have prevented the accident that killed my father. Why Jesus, did you let this happen?”

Jesus Response: I AM…the Resurrection and the Life

Perhaps Martha does have some faith…she does say just like Job, “But I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus doesn’t give any explanation for his tardiness or absence. He doesn’t even give any words of comfort other than to speak of himself…He reminds her of WHO HE IS. “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die; yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me, shall never die.”

Jesus Question to Martha: “Do you believe this?”

Jesus is not asking her whether or not she believes he will raise her brother, but He is asking her if she believes JESUS is who he says He is.

• Do you believe that Jesus is THE RESURRECTION Do you believe that Jesus can really bring life to that which is dead? Are you that dependent upon him? So much so, that you HAVE to TRUST him?

• Do you believe that Jesus is THE Life…is Jesus that central to your being?

29-35 What does God really think about suffering?

Martha runs to get Mary who comes runs to see Jesus. Mary is a bit more emotional and falls at Jesus’ feet as she states, “Lord if you had been here…” Then…when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept.”

Anger over the power of Sin, Satan, and Death: Jesus is deeply moved and troubled

Our God is angered by what sin has done to his creation. Don’t for a minute believe that God enjoys suffering. He is not some sort of cosmic masochist who plays around with humans like toys. Even though God allows it, even though God can use it to bring about good, suffering is a result of a broken world cursed because of our own rebellion against our creator. ALL SUFFERING is a result of sin.

Grief over the consequences of Sin: Jesus Wept

When Jesus weeps, that is God weeping. And for a moment, we see how much God loves us in a very real way. Quite simply, God would not allow himself to be grieved without a very good reason. By grace, He allows His Creation to suffer that they might see God for who He truly is.

36-44 Suffering brings us closer to Jesus

“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains…it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” C.S. Lewis

Somehow through our desperation we are brought closer to God than we ever could have been without it.

• The essence of Salvation is crying out to God to tell him that I need you …I don’t have it all together, I don’t understand, I’m not as strong as I thought.

• Salvation is admitting I am lost, I am hurting; finally seeing that my sins and the sins of others have really screwed things up for me so much that I can’t fix it.

It’s in those moments that we might feel like God is so far away but in fact, he is actually closer to us than we think. Maybe it’s when we’re in these situations, where everything seems to be falling apart, that God gets an opportunity to remind us of how much he really loves us AND, for the first time, we hear him…

And he says, “Lazarus Come Out.”…dead man…come alive!


Jesus, the Son of God, embodied all that I anyone might want to say about pain. In fact, He himself called out from the cross “Why, Why.…..” and heard nothing but the silence of God. Even so, he responded with faithfulness, turning his attention to the good that his suffering would produce… “

Psalm 22.1-5

1      My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? 
          Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?

2      O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, 
          and by night, but I find no rest.

3      Yet you are holy, 
     enthroned on the praises of Israel.

4      In you our fathers trusted; 
          they trusted, and you delivered them.

5      To you they cried and were rescued; 
          in you they trusted and were not put to shame.