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John 11:1-16; 42-44
THE CASE OF THE DEAD BROTHER
Intro: The school system in a large city had a program to help children keep up with their school work during stays in the city's hospitals. One day a teacher who was assigned to the program received a routine call asking her to visit a particular child.
She took the child's name and room number and talked briefly with the child's regular class teacher. We're studying nouns and adverbs in his class now, the regular teacher said, and I'd be grateful if you could help him understand them so he doesn't fall too far behind.
The hospital program teacher went to see the boy that afternoon. No one had mentioned to her that the boy had been badly burned and was in great pain.
Upset at the sight of the boy, she stammered as she told him, Ive been sent by your school to help you with nouns and adverbs. When she left she felt she hadn't accomplished much.
But the next day, a nurse asked her, What did you do to that boy?
The teacher felt she must have done something wrong and began to apologize.
No, no, said the nurse. You don't know what I mean. We've been worried about that little boy, but ever since yesterday, his whole attitude has changed. He's fighting back, responding to treatment. It's as though he's decided to live.
Two weeks later the boy explained that he had completely given up hope until the teacher arrived. Everything changed when he came to a simple realization.
He expressed it this way: They wouldn't send a teacher to work on nouns and adverbs with a dying boy, would they?_
Hope is defined as the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best. Hope is something we all want, and it is something we all need._
Hope is a powerful thing, even for non-humans. A number of years ago researchers performed an experiment to see the effect hope has on those undergoing hardship.
Two sets of laboratory rats were placed in separate tubs of water. The researchers left one set in the water and found that within an hour they had all drowned. The other rats were periodically lifted out of the water and then returned.
When that happened, the second set of rats swam for over 24 hours. Why? Not because they were given a rest, but because they suddenly had hope!
Those animals apparently hoped that if they could stay afloat just a little longer, someone would reach down and rescue them._
The power of hope cannot be underestimated. When hope fails, dreams shatter and people give up.
John 11 describes one of the greatest hopeless cases in the Bible. Anyone looking in on the death of Lazarus would conclude that he was dead, and that there as no hope. Yet, even in the face of absolute hopelessness, the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrates His power to step into any situation and transform that situation into a time of blessing; this even includes situations that appear hopeless.
As we continue to survey some of the hopeless cases of the Bible, lets consider The Case Of The Dead Brother. I want to point out the specifics of this case that teach us there is Hope For Hard Cases.
I. INSURMOUNTABLE PROBLEMS
There were several problems in The Case Of The Dead Brother that declared this case to be hopeless. Let me share a few of those problems with you. It may be that you are looking at what you think is a hopeless case today. Lets see if there are any parallels with your hopeless case.
A. V. 1-3 The Problem Of Disease - Jesus receives word that His friend Lazarus is sick. That means Lazarus was weak, diseased, totally lacking in strength. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, are concerned about their brother, so they send word to Jesus to come and heal Lazarus. Their request says a lot about how they viewed the Lord.
They recognized His compassion. They believed that He cared about their family, and that He cared about Lazarus. So, it was logical to conclude that He would come and help them in their time of need.
They also recognized His identity. In verse 27, Martha declares that she believes Jesus is the Son of God. These sisters had probably seen Jesus heal others, now they look to Him, and the Son of God, to come and heal their brother.
The request made by Mary and Martha speaks to us as well. Their request reminds us that Jesus Christ is to be the first resort in any time of trouble. When difficulties arise in life, we are to turn to Him for the help we need. When we do, we are to have faith in Him, that He will be able to do what we ask Him to do. That is what the Bible teaches, And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive, Matt. 21:22.
B. V. 4-10 The Problem Of Delays - When Jesus hears their urgent request, He reacts in a surprising manner. Instead of getting up and walking the five miles to get to Lazarus, Jesus stays where He is for two more days. He tells the disciples in verse 4, that under ordinary circumstances, Lazarus would recover. But, He also indicates that these are not normal circumstances. He hints in verse 4 that Lazarus will die, which is exactly what happened, verses 11-14.
Could Jesus have healed Lazarus? Of course He could have! He could have spoken the word where He was and Lazarus would have been made perfectly well. But, He didnt! Jesus remained where He was, and He did not heal Lazarus, because He actually wanted Lazarus to die. Why? He waited until Lazarus was dead because God would get greater glory from the resurrection of Lazarus that He would from him being healed, v. 4.
Regardless of the Lords reasons for His delays, Mary and Martha were forced to watch Lazarus waste away and die. They were forced to wash his body, prepare it for burial, and lay it in a tomb. They were forced to feel pain, heartbreak, sorrow and doubt. They were forced into an impossible situation.
Thats how it goes sometimes, isnt it? You bring you problem to the Lord, and what you receive in return is silence. You call on Him, expecting HIm to answer your prayers and meet your need, and all you get in return is nothing. In fact, sometimes the problems just get worse. Sometimes situations turn desperate. Sometimes you need an answer today, but that answer doesnt come today, or even tomorrow.
Here is what we need to remember in the times of divine silence: The Lord was able to see what the sisters and the disciples could not see. He was able to see beyond the crisis of the moment to the glory God would receive through the crisis. He knew what was on the other side of the pain, the problems and the pressure. He knew the outcome before the crisis even reached its peak.
God knows more about our situation than we do.
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good, Pro. 15:3.
Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do, Heb. 4:13.
Our duty is to learn to trust Him, even when we cannot figure out what He is doing and why He is doing it. The Lord knows the outcome of our crisis before our crisis is even born. Our sole duty in regard to waiting on the Lord is summed up in the words of Jesus in Mark 11:22, when He said, Have faith in God. In John 14:1, He said it this way, Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. The Psalmist said in Psalm 62:8, Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
C. V. 11-16 The Problem Of Death - As I said, because Jesus waited, Lazarus died. Matters went from bad to worse. The situation returned from desperate to impossible. Lazarus is dead, and Jesus did nothing to stop it. This was an insurmountable problem.
D. V. 21-22; 32 The Problem Of Doubt - Their pleas had been unanswered and they were defeated, discouraged and distressed. When they did talk to Jesus face to face, they both brought up the problem that plagued their minds. When they said, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died, they were simply asking, Why didnt you come? We thought you loved us! Where were you when we needed you the most. I understand a little of what they felt, dont you? It is easy to get discouraged when the Lord doesnt do things in our way, in our time.
Many believers lose the battle right here! They will get mad at God when He doesnt do as they say, and they will get on the outs with Him; some will even quit on Him. When people give up on God, they usually miss the greatest of His miracles! Its always too soon to quit!
I. Insurmountable Problems
II. INCONCEIVABLE PROMISES
When Jesus arrives in Bethany, He comes upon a scene of utter despair. He finds the community mourning the death of Lazarus. He finds two very brokenhearted sisters. He finds, what most would consider to be, a hopeless case. Jesus walks into that tragic scene with words of comfort, hope and blessing. He enters that place of Insurmountable Problems and gives them some Inconceivable Promises. Lets consider His promises for a moment.
A. V. 23-25 There Were Promises About Death - Martha meets Jesus and tells her that her brother will rise again. She says that she believes that he will live again in the resurrection. Jesus then gives her one of the greatest promises in the New Testament. He basically says to her, The resurrection of Lazarus does not have to wait until a future event. I am the resurrection and the life. Jesus tells her that He is the resurrection, and that knowing Him in a faith relationship brings a person face to face with death-defeating, life-giving power.
B. V. 26 There Were Promises About Deliverance - Jesus goes on to promise Martha that every person who places true faith in Jesus will never experience death. He promises to deliver His people from the death experience altogether. That does not mean that believers dont lay down their mortal bodies, because they do. It means that they dont experience what the Bible refers to as the second death, Rev. 20:11-15; Rom. 6:23. It means that when believers lay down their mortal bodies, they leave this world of pain, sorrow and suffering and go to a new land of peace, love, joy and there they enter the presence of God, 2 Cor. 5:1-8.
C. V. 25-26 There Were Promises About Dependence - As Jesus closes His words to Martha, He asks her a very important question: Believest thou this? In other words, Martha, is your faith in me and in what I can do? Martha, are you trusting me with everything, even with your soul? Jesus is telling Martha that faith in Him translates into the believer seeing and experiencing great things in this life, and in the life to come.
The Lord has always been able to walk into our hopeless cases and give us hope through His promises. The promises made to Martha here deal with the hopeless case of death, and they offer hope to all those who know the Lord. Thankfully. The Lords promises are not limited to the realm of death. His promises encompass all of life and give us hope regardless of what we face. Notice a few of His precious promises for our hopeless cases.
There are promises about salvation - John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom. 10:9, 13.
There are promises about sin - Psa. 103:12; 1 John 1:9.
There are promises about the future - Rev. 21:4; John 14:1-3.
There are promises about trouble - Phil. 4:6-7; 1 Pet. 5:7
There are promises about loneliness - Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20.
There are promises about peace - John 14:27; Phil. 4:6.
There are promises about needs - Matt. 6:25-33; Phil. 4:19.
There are promises about prayer - Jer. 33:3; Matt. 21:22.
There are thousands of promises that relate to every conceivable area of our lives. Everything God has promises, God is able to do. He will honor His promises to you, and He will never fail to do what He says He will do. That is our God, and that is His guarantee to His people.
The question today is this: Do you know Him? If you are saved by His grace. That is, if you have been convicted of your sins, and you have turned to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith, believing that He died for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day, you are saved, and the promises of God are yours! If you have not believed the Gospel, there is really only one promise you can lay claim to. Here it is: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out, John 6:37.
I. Insurmountable Problems
II. Inconceivable Promises
III. INCREDIBLE POWER
When Jesus entered that scene of hopeless sorrow, He did not just come in with soothing words. Jesus entered that hopeless case and demonstrated His sovereign power. He didnt just make promises, He did something about the problem. The power He wielded on that occasion is the same power He can and will bring to bear in your hopeless case.
A. V. 33-38 It Was Manifested In His Compassion - Having spoke to both sisters about the death of their brother, Jesus is moved by the scene before Him. Imagine, for a moment, what was happening there. Martha and Mary are there. They are weeping for their brother. They are heartbroken, devastated and emotionally shattered. They are visibly grief-stricken. Other friends and family are there, they are also weeping a the tomb of Lazarus, v. 33. As was customary in those days, the family had brought in hired mourners who were wailing as only they can do in that part of the world. If you have seen images of a middle eastern funeral, you have some idea of what was going on there that day.
Jesus sees all this grief, and it touches Him. The Bible says in verse 33 that He groaned in the spirit. That same verse says that He was troubled. Verse 35, the shortest verse in the Bible, says, Jesus wept. Verse 38 describes Jesus as groaning in himself.
The word groaning literally means to snort like a horse. It is the image of indignation and anger. Perhaps Jesus is angry over the unbelief of those weeping at the tomb. Perhaps He is angry about the effects of sin that brought death and sorrow into the world.
The word troubled means to be agitated. It carries the idea of being restless; of being shaken, of experiencing shock. Jesus is deeply shaken by the death of Lazarus and by the grief of the sisters.
The word wept means to shed tears. Jesus knew what He was going to do. For Him, it would be a time of joy as He glorified His Father by raising Lazarus from the dead. Yet, He was touched by the grief and pain all around Him. He felt the pain of His friends, and it touched Him deeply. It literally wrung the tears from His eyes.
Whats the point? The point is this: Jesus cares! He is not some remote deity, removed from the plight and pain of His people. He is a present Lord, Who feels the pain of those He loves, Heb. 4:15-16. He cares for you, 1 Pet. 5:7. Thus, He enters into your hopeless cases with a heart of compassion. He understands where you are and He enters into your sorrow, helping you by giving you His grace, 2 Cor. 12:9; His peace, Phil. 4:6-7; His strength, Isa. 41:10. Folk, He cares! You do not have to carry your burdens alone!
B. V. 41-42 It Was Manifested In His Connection - While He was here in this world, the Lord Jesus did nothing for Himself, or by Himself. Everything He did was determined by the Father. He looked to His Father for the power and permission for everything He accomplished in this life, John 5:19. On this occasion, Jesus lifted His voice to His Father in prayer. He looked to the Father for the power needed to raise Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus tells us in this prayer that He really had no need to talk to the Father out loud. The Father always hears the Son when He calls. Jesus could have talked to the Father from His heart, and the answer would have been the same. Jesus called on the Father for all to hear so that they would know, so that we would know, that He has power to help us when we face the hopeless cases in lives.
When Jesus ascended back to Heaven after His resurrection, He sat down at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. What is He doing there? The Bible is very clear about this matter: He is making intercession for His people, Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25. This just means that Jesus still has the ear of the Father. We are in Him, and He is in us. The Father is in Him, and thus, the Father is in us. 2 Pet. 1:4 tells us that we are partakers of the divine nature. There is a heavenly connection that should comfort us when we face the hopeless cases of our lives.
The prayer Jesus prayed that day gave hope to all who heard it. The fact that there is a divine connection should give us hope as well. It means that we are not in this world alone. We are not just wandering aimlessly about hoping things will work out. We are in the Fathers hand, John 10:28-29. He knows the path we walk, Job 23:10. He has planned every step we will take in life, Psa. 37:23. That divine connection reminds us that God is in control of all of life, even of the hopeless cases you are staring at today!
C. V. 39-40; 43-44 It Was Manifested In His Control - Jesus groaned. Jesus wept. Jesus was troubled. Then, Jesus commanded the stone to be rolled away from the door of the tomb. This command is met with immediate unbelief by Martha, v. 39. Jesus soothes her fears, v. 40. He prays, v. 41-42. Then, Jesus does the unthinkable! He walks up to the tomb of Lazarus and cries with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth! Jesus commands a dead man to obey a command that he cannot hear, and that he cannot possibly obey. Dead men dont hear commands. Dead men dont respond to commands. Dead men dont obey commands. Yet, Lazarus did! How? He was no longer dead! At the command of Jesus, Lazarus was made alive, and he came out of the tomb. Jesus says, Loose him, and let him go.
What a marvelous scene this is! One simple phrase from Jesus, and the same power that brought about the creation of the universe, caused a dead man to live! That is the power of the God we serve today. This is the picture of a sovereign Lord. It is the image of One Who is in absolute control of all things! (Ill. Luke 1:37; Eph. 3:20; Eph. 1:11; Matt. 28:18)
Think about it!
If He can speak and worlds appear, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can speak and trillions of stars begin their ceaseless orbits through space, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can speak and the waters teem with fish, the heavens fill with birds, and the earth is covered with animal life, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can breath into a pile of dust and create the human race, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can speak and calm the stormy waves, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can touch a leper and make Him clean, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can open the eyes of the blind, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He walk on the water, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can feed the multitudes with 5 loaves and 2 fish, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can speak and bring the dead to life, He can take care of your hopeless case.
If He can conquer sin on a borrowed cross, and defeat death in a borrowed tomb, He can take care of your hopeless case.
What do you say to that, except Hallelujah?
This was not a scene of uncontrolled chaos. This was a scene of perfect divine control. This was a scene of absolute divine power!
Conc: Thats Him! Thats just what Jesus does. He walks into hopeless situations and He brings hope. He is still doing that today.
I am speaking to some people who are looking at hopeless cases.
It may be some physical ailment that has you filled with fear.
It may the fact that you know you are lost, and you dont want to die in that condition and go to Hell.
It may be lost children, or other family, and you fear for their salvation.
It may be some financial need thats not being met.
It may be the pain of betrayal, and of a broken heart.
It may be one of ten thousand different things, but whatever it is, the Lord we serve is able to handle your hopeless case today.
Bring it to Him. If it is a person, bring them to Him. Whatever it is, bring it to the Lord and watch Him work it out for His glory and your good. He knows what He is doing, and you can trust Him.
A man approached a little league baseball game one afternoon. He asked a boy in the dugout what the score was. The boy responded, Eighteen to nothing--we're behind.
Boy, said the spectator, Ill bet you're discouraged.
Why should I be discouraged? replied the little boy. We haven't even gotten up to bat yet!_
It may appear that you are in a hopeless situation today. Thats merely how it appears! If you could see the Lord today, you would see that He is just warming up. When He takes His turn at bat, everything will change.
1 http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/h/hope.htm_2 http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/hope?s=t_3 http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/h/hope.htm_4 IBID_