THE 89 DAY GOSPEL CHALLENGE
DAY SEVENTY-NINE JOHN ELEVEN
God always answers the prayers of His children. He does not always answer as we want or even like, but He always answers. Sometimes He answers “yes” and we feel blessed. We say, “God is good. He is for me” and we are happy. Sometimes He answers “no. By His grace, we are able to accept it, but often we question “why?” Satan will tell us that God has failed us and tempts us to become bitter and turn from prayer. But the Father never withholds “good things” from us. Father knows best and always has our good and His glory in mind.
Then sometimes the Father says, “Not now.” The time is not right or we are not ready. But keep asking. This is a Divine delay. We do not always understand what God is doing but we must trust Him and trust His timing.
God brought the children of Israel out of slavery in the land of Egypt. His goal was for them to return to the Land of Promise that He had given to Abraham. It should have taken only a few months to travel from Egypt to the Jordan River to cross into Canaan. But because of the unbelief of the people and their failure to follow God, they wandered in the desert for forty years.
This Divine delay was necessary to prepare the hearts of a new generation to fully trust the Lord. There was a battle ahead and it could not be entered into without a total commitment. It was a hard thing to accept. Two generations of Hebrews died in the wilderness. But when Israel went into the Promised Land under the leadership of Joshua, they were ready to conquer their enemies in the strength of the Lord.
Just before Jesus was ready to ascend back to heaven, He gathered His disciples together one last time. They did not know what was about to happen. On their minds was still the idea of Jesus taking power and establishing His throne. They asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore again the Kingdom to Israel.” Jesus said, “That is not for you to know. That’s in the Father’s hands. But you will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes and then you will take my Gospel to all the world.” The Devine delay allowed time to take the Gospel to everyone.
On a smaller scale, we often experience Divine delays. We want to move forward but the Spirit says, “Wait!” We see only what’s in front of us but God sees the “three sixty.” He knows the pitfalls and the challenges. He prepares us for victory. If we push forward in our own strength, we will fail.
The story of Lazarus is an illustration of a Divine delay. Jesus knew all along what He would do. Which is more glorious, to heal a sick man or to raise him from the dead.
When you find yourself in the middle of a Divine delay, remember the words of the prophet Isaiah who wrote, “They that wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings of eagles” (Isaiah 40:31).
1. The Death of a Friend (v. 1-16)
Do not confuse this Lazarus and the Lazarus in Luke 16. Some have tried to connect them but they are two different individuals. Both men were literal men who lived very different lives. In Luke 16, Lazarus is a diseased beggar with no family and no means of support. He lived off the scraps of a rich man. He died and was comforted in “Abraham’s bosom,” another name for Paradise.
The Lazarus we are introduced to in John 11 was a personal friend of Jesus. He lived in the city of Bethany, a village about two miles from Jerusalem. He had two sisters, Martha and Mary, who were followers of Jesus. John tells us that it was Mary who anointed Jesus feet with a fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair. John does not actually tell her story until chapter 12.
Lazarus was sick. It was a serious illness and his sisters sent word to Jesus that His “dear friend” was not well and He needed to come to him. There was urgency in their message. It was like a “family member” sending word to a relative that if they wanted to see their loved one alive, come now.
When the message arrived, Jesus told the twelve, “This sickness is not unto death but for the glory of God that the Son might be glorified through it.” They should have known something was about to happen. But there seemed to be no urgency in Jesus so they delayed for two more days.
John saw fit to emphasize again that Jesus loved this family. After two days, Jesus told His disciples, “It’s time to leave for Judea.” They were concerned because the last time they were in Jerusalem the Jews has tried to stone Jesus.
“But Lord, the Jews seek to kill you there.” Jesus said, “There are twelve hours of daylight. While it is the day, we will not stumble.” This was Jesus’ way of saying that He still had work to do. In John 9:4 Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me while it is day. Once the night comes, no man can work.” Jesus knew no harm would come to Him until it was the time. Remember, “No man could take His life.”
Jesus announced to the disciples that Lazarus was sleeping and that He must go to awake him. They thought Jesus meant he was resting and that he was getting better. Then Jesus spoke plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”
The disciples were certainly confused by it all. “If Jesus loved them, why did we delay?” Thomas was devastated. “Let us go and die with him,” he said. But Jesus had a plan and it did not include death.
2. The Resurrection and the Life (v. 17-27)
When Jesus arrived in Bethany He discovered that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. It was a small village and the death of Lazarus brought grief to the entire community. Many of the Jews gathered around Mary and Martha to comfort them.
When Martha heard that Jesus was near, she left Mary in the house with the others and went to meet Him. Martha believed in Jesus and in His power to do miracles but now her brother was dead. She greeted Jesus with her grief and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would still be alive. But it’s too late. He’s dead.”
She wasn’t blaming Jesus, she was just stating what she believed to be the facts. Jesus could have healed her brother as He had healed others but now it was too late. He had been dead four days.
Jesus spoke and said, “Your brother shall rise again.” Martha thought He spoke of the future resurrection of the righteous dead. She said, “I know he will rise again at the last day.” She knew her theology but her theology limited her faith.
Jesus responded, “Martha, I am the Resurrection and the Life. Even the dead who believe in Me shall rise again. Those who believe in Me shall never die. Martha, do you believe in Me?”
Martha made her statement of faith concerning Jesus. “I believe You are the Christ, the Son of God.” She said the right thing and the true thing. But her faith could not get past what she knew was true. Her brother was dead!
3. If You had only Been Here (v. 28-37)
Martha left Jesus and went to tell her sister. “Mary,” Martha said, “The Master has arrived and wants to see you.” Immediately, Mary arose and went to meet Jesus. Those who were with her in the house thought she went to Lazarus’ tomb to grieve. But when she saw Jesus she said the same thing Martha had said. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would still be alive.” When Jesus heard this and saw her grief and the grief of those who were with her, He was deeply troubled. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” The people responded, “Come and see.”
When Jesus came to the tomb, His spirit was troubled and John recorded what he remembered. “Jesus wept.” The people who saw it knew that Jesus loved Lazarus and said among themselves, “This Man opened the eyes of the blind. If He had been here, He could have saved him.”
4. Lazarus Raised (v. 38-44)
Jesus continued to grieve. He said to the people, “Take away the stone.” But Martha objected. “Lord, it is too late. He has been dead four days and by this time he is decaying. There will be a stench.”
He turned to Mary and said, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see God do something glorious?” Martha consented and they moved the stone that sealed the tomb.
Imagine the scene. Mary and Martha weeping. The people weeping with them. What would Jesus do? He prayed. He did not pray for His benefit but for the benefit of the people. “Father, I know you always hear Me. But the people are watching and I want them to know that You always hear Me. I do this so their faith may grow and they may know that you have sent Me.”
Then Jesus spoke so everyone could hear, “Lazarus, come forth!” Lazarus heard the voice of Jesus and arose and came out of the tomb. And all the people knew that Jesus had the power over the grave. “Get Lazarus out of those grave clothes. Set him free.”
5. The Conspiracy (v 45-57)
What a wonder! All should have been rejoicing but some, those who had conspired to have Jesus murdered, went to the High Priest to tell him what had happened in Bethany. Caiaphas, the High Priest, knew he had a problem. There was already an expectation surrounding Jesus that He would claim to be Messiah any day. Many of the people believed in Him.
Caiaphas knew that if Pilate and the Romans got wind of this that they would see Jesus as a threat. He knew that would mean the Romans would put down any hint of rebellion by violent means. It could mean the end of the nation. It would certainly mean the end of Caiaphas’ influence. Many rich members of the council could lose their wealth.
Caiaphas proposed a plan to the others. It is better that we sacrifice one man than for the entire nation to suffer and, perhaps perish.” So, they made their conspiracy and sought occasion to seize Jesus to deliver Him to the Romans. “Let them do our dirty work,” they thought. Little did the High Priest know that he had prophesied that Jesus would die for the people, just as He came to do.
The Passover was near. This would be the last Passover Jesus would observe with the disciples. The chief priests and the Pharisees gave the order for anyone who saw Jesus to report it so they could seize Him. The end was in sight!
Ironic that this is Good Friday. Hope to see everyone tonight at 7:00 PM.
Love you all,