There are few stories more riveting than those about people coming back from the dead:
- person underwater for hours but saved because of the coldness of the water
- person who had a heart attack and was revived
- Person saved through CPR
The riveting nature of these stories explains the popularity of the TV show Rescue 911.
But the account of resuscitation that we have before us today is more incredible than anything you have ever seen, experienced or heard about.
Imagine having buried a loved one, had a visitation service, the funeral, the burial. Then Jesus comes to your home and asks if you would take him to where your loved one was buried. You travel to the cemetery and the freshly filled grave. Jesus commands that the casket be removed from the ground and opened! What would you think? Then Jesus calls your loved one by name and they sit up and get out of the casket and go home with you to live many more years of life. Let’s admit . . . that would be unforgettable.
There are two other occasions in the New Testament where Jesus brought someone back to life. Luke 7:11-15…..The widow’s son from Nain; Luke 8:40-56 (Matt. 9:18-26; Mark 5:41,42) The daughter of Jairus.
Each of these incidents is staggering but none more so than the account of Lazarus. In the first two accounts there was very little fanfare. Jesus spoke simply and it was done. This situation is different. This leads us to the conclusions that this was more than a cool story about a dead guy coming back to life.
What was the purpose of this miracle? Why did He delay? Why the fanfare? I’d like to suggest three things the raising of Lazarus does (other than restore Lazarus to his sisters). I can only suggest that these may have been the reasons Jesus healed Lazarus the way He did.
A Powerful Proclamation of Deity
What better evidence that someone is God than to raise someone who had been dead for four days? There was no doubt what Jesus was attempting to do . . . . no room for error . . . no excuse possible. He had them remove the stone so that everyone could see the lifeless body raise to life.
But we also see in v. 41,42 that Jesus’ public prayer was designed to testify to His divine commission. Through this public statement Jesus asserted: 1) that He was one with God and not a Son of Satan (as was an accusation). 2) That He was always heard by the Father because their wills were one.
There is no doubt who Jesus is claiming to be . . . . the Messiah, God in human form.
- Jesus was more than a great man
- Jesus was more than a superb teacher
- He was God in human flesh
But Why is it important?
- Because if Jesus is recognized as God then His Word carries more authority
No longer can we view His words as the words of a wise man we can take or leave . . . . they are the very oracles of God!
The reason people can sidestep the clear instruction from the Lord is that they have a faulty view of Jesus. Because they see Him as “less than God” they have no trouble rationalizing His direction about
-the importance of a humble/servant heart
-the importance of using possessions not being enslaved by them
- If Jesus is seen as God His actions are more compelling
A good man dying for a cause is laudatory. A good man dying for us is moving and gratifying but God becoming man to bring us to Himself? That’s astounding! That’s life-changing!
- If Jesus is seen as God then life is more meaningful
Our life is not vain and empty because Jesus has shown us that there is life eternal. Life is not all for nothing . . . there is a goal, there is a purpose, there will be justice. We are not a cosmic accident but creatures intentionally created by God. How do we know? Because Jesus said so.
Ask yourself honestly: When you talk about Jesus, which Jesus are you talking about?
A Vivid Demonstration of Sufficiency
When Jesus commanded the tomb to be opened Martha’s reacted quickly: “Lord, by this time the tomb will stink! The body would certainly have begun to decay. Jesus, this isn’t a very good idea.”
The Lord responds firmly, yet lovingly: “Martha didn’t I tell you that if you would only believe, you would see the Glory of God?”
Let me diagram what Martha had done:
Resurrection Power Lazarus’ Tomb
Martha believed in resurrection power but saw it existing in a certain realm only (in the box). Since Lazarus’ dead body lay outside that box, Martha concluded that there was nothing Jesus could do. When Lazarus walked out of the grave Jesus exploded Martha’s Box and she saw that His power extends to EVERY situation.
Tell me, what in your life, have you concluded is beyond the Lord’s power? What seems “hopeless”. What is it that seems irreparable? A disease, a relationship, a business crisis? Consider: (Gen. 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27) – “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Ephesians 3:20) “he is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine” God’s hands are NOT tied.
Why is this important?
- Because God’s sufficiency is your basis for hope.
no matter how dark the sky . . . . . God can bring you through. No matter how hopeless. . . . .God can bring a miracle.
Do you believe this truth? Have you ever said:
“There’s nothing left to do but pray . . . . .” (This is a bad thing?) OR….
“They are in God’s Hands now…” (Implying they are not always in God’s hands. But even more importantly . . . . that’s not a DEMOTION.
Jesus tells Martha, “Only believe”. Jesus is saying, “Martha, trust me.”
Things may not be as you wished (Martha wanted Lazarus to not die). But things will (if you trust Him) lead you to see God’s hand in your life.
- Because some of you need to hear God’s summons to faith
Is anyone here NOT “stressed” by something? The Bible says, “Be anxious for NOTHING but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. In Paul’s time of trial, the Lord said to Paul . . . .”My grace is sufficient for you” That’s what we need to believe . . . . His grace is sufficient for ANY need. You are not in free fall . . . .the Lord knows what He is about.
Do you remember taking your toddler to swimming lessons? You were to play with them in the water and your child thought it was great fun. But then parents were asked to do something horrible. You were told to dunk your child under water. Now can you imagine what was going through the mind of that child? They were thinking, “Hey! Why are you trying to drown me?” But there was a purpose in the exercise . . . I don’t remember what it was but I do know there was a reason.
We are like the baby and God is like the parent. Life brings us things that seem like God is trying to drown us BUT that’s only our perspective. He knows what He is doing. His grace is sufficient for our every need.
An Unforgettable Illustration of Salvation
In Ephesians. 2:1 we read: “as for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to life when you followed the ways of this world…” then is verse 4 we read, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions.” Do you see a parallel?
We were spiritually dead. In a spiritual sense we were just as dead a Lazarus. Now other people can do things for us (move the stone). They can witness, give us a good example, invite us to church, pray for us . . . . but only one can breath life back into our dead bodies. That someone is Jesus. This account is a poignant illustration of what happens when we are brought to salvation.
Why is this important?
Because we forget how precious our salvation is.
- We forget where we have come from: we were dead, decaying
- We forget that by all indicators we were hopeless. When Christ found us we had no spiritual pulse at all.
- We forget that God by an act of magnificent grace made us alive again.
Don’t you wonder what it was like for Lazarus? I wonder if he was saddened to be summoned back from glory. Maybe he was. But can you imagine the relief and joy someone who was on Hell’s doorstep would feel? They would be new people. They would appreciate their family more, see the beauty of life more, re-orient their priorities. Why? Because they had been dead and now made alive again.
Remember in the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE when George Bailey is given his old life back? There’s a great scene where he runs back to town and praises the wonderful theater, 5 and dime, the Building and Loan. He rejoices at the sight of his “drafty” old house. He even celebrates the ball on the top of the banister that is always loose that just hours before made him furious. He looks for the children he was yelling at earlier, the frowns are replaced with smiles, the problems that made him crazy just hours before are now secondary to the joy of life.
What made the change in George Bailey. He saw what it was like not to live . . . and therefore cherished life. Say, friend, shouldn’t we who were once dead also show a similar enthusiasm?
- Some who are dead need to be called to life
Some of you feel completely lost. Some of you feel that there is little hope for your life. If it was up to you . . . you wouldn’t even bother with this church stuff. Why? Because you know who you are. You see the failure, and the sin with great clarity. You know you could never do enough good things to erase the past. What you don’t know is what a great benefit you possess: you know how rotten you are.
Do you see yourself in this account? Do you feel buried under a load of sin? Do you feel helpless in a bad situation. Do you feel lost?
Maybe that which you had despaired about is the very thing that was necessary to lead you to grace. As the Bible says, “the healthy don’t need a Doctor, the sick do.” Jesus came to call “sinners” to repentance. The Lord does not raise up those who don’t acknowledge that they are dead. You’re already halfway out of the tomb, my friend. Listen close . . . .I think He might be calling your name. It’s time to hear His voice and come to life.