A Greater Miracle
In the village of Bethany there lives a man named Lazarus as, you can read in John 11:1-6
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
Lazarus lives with his two sisters Mary and Martha. They have a special friend named Jesus, who loves to come to their home whenever He has the opportunity. One day, Lazarus gets ill, and what is the first thing his two sisters do? They send a message to Jesus, informing Him of the illness of their brother. The question is; why do they want Jesus to know that their brother is ill? Is it because He is such a caring friend and would, therefore, want to know of their brother’s condition? No doubt, this is so. However, that is not the main reason the sisters want Jesus to know of Lazarus’ illness. They want Jesus to know about Lazarus’ condition because they know He is the only One who can do something about it. You may want to say, “Ok, that is all very well. But on what basis do these sisters know that Jesus can actually do something about the condition of Lazarus? Is He perhaps a medical doctor who has studied at the best Medical College?” If the sisters were here today, they would say to you that their friend Jesus was so much more than just a kind and caring man, and even so much more than a medical doctor, because He had healed many people, not by prescribing the right kind of medication, but by speaking words of healing over these people. They would tell you that He could do so because he was the Son of God, who had been sent by God. That is quite a statement to make, is it not, to call someone not just a good and caring person, but to call Him the Son of God? Going back to the story, let’s read John 11:4-7 to find out Jesus’ response to the sister’s message
When He heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days. Then He said to His disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
No doubt, the sisters expect Jesus to come and see them right away but that is not what He does. Instead, he stays on for two more days. You may well want to say to Jesus, “Jesus, how can you do that? Is that how You show Your love for Your friends? You must know they are expecting You to come as soon as possible. What if Lazarus dies because You have delayed Your departure for Bethany?”
Eventually, Jesus arrives in Bethany, as you can read in John 11:17-27
On His arrival Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know He will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
The unthinkable has happened; Jesus has not come in time, so Lazarus has died and has had to be buried. Then, four days after his funeral, who appears on the scene? None other than Jesus. Martha is the first sister to seek Him out for she just needs to let Him know how she feels about His delay, as you can know from her words “If You had been here, my brother would not have died.” To her, Jesus could have prevented the death of her brother and she does not understand why He did not come when He was needed.
Jesus’ answer to her was very interesting, “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE.” What did He mean by these words? Let me explain.
In fact, Jesus said, “Martha, you believe that I am not only a man but that I am the Son of God. And Martha, I have come to give life to all who believe in Me.”
Why would Jesus want to say that? Because He knew that, just as Lazarus has died, so all people everywhere have died and will die, including you, and He had come to bring change into that situation. For people were not meant to die but to live. Now, you may want to say, “If people are not meant to die, then why does it happen?”
To help you understand that I will need to take you back to some events that took place a long time ago. In fact, I need to take you back to the time when the world was created by God. At that time, He created a man and a woman, as you can read in Genesis 1:26-28
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, in Our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Life was wonderful for them. They had a great relationship with each other and a very close relationship with God. They had been placed in a Garden to take care of you, as you can read in in Genesis 2:15-17
The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the Garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will die.”
But then one day something happened that changed everything: they disobeyed God, they sinned, as you can read in Genesis 3:6-8
When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the Garden.
One day, they did eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and, because of their disobedience, their close relationship with each other, and their close relationship with God, was broken, and a separation between each other and between them and God took place. Their sin has affected all people everywhere, including you, for everyone comes into this world with a sinful nature, and is separated from God, not just now, but after death, as you can read in Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.
For God is a Holy God. Therefore, your sinfulness makes it impossible for you to have a close relationship with Him, no matter how hard you may try by doing good things and being kind to others. For your good things are never up to God’s standards.
But God is a God of Love too and in His love He designed a way whereby you can have a close relationship with Him. He did that by sending His Son into the world to die on a cross for all people everywhere, including you, as you can read in John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.
This happened 2000 years when His Son came to earth as a Baby, as you can read in Luke 2:7
And she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a Son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
The name of this Baby is Jesus and He lived on earth for 33 years. In the last three years of His life, He taught people about God, healed sick people, and afterwards He was crucified, as you can read in John 19:18
Here they crucified Him, and with Him two others – one on each side and Jesus in the middle.
When He hung on the cross He bore the sins of the world, including your sins so that you can be forgiven of all of your sins and be made right with God as, you can read in II Corinthians 5:21
God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
And when you receive forgiveness of all of your sins you become a child of God and you receive real life, not just for now but for eternity, as you can read in John 1:12
Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God.
So when Jesus said that He was the Resurrection and the Life, He was referring to the fact that He had come to die for all people and that includes you.
Now, when Martha is talking to Him, He has not yet been crucified, but it did happen soon after. She understands that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, but she does not know that she is about to see a demonstration of the fact that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. However, she is so comforted by the words of Jesus, that she goes home to encourage her sister Mary to go and see Jesus. And Mary does just that. When she sees Jesus, she falls at His feet and uses the same words her sister has used, for she too says to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” However, her words are spoken in a very different tone from her sister for they are a sign of her grief. She next breaks down in weeping, and her weeping moves Jesus into action, for He asks them to take Him to Lazarus’ tomb.
Let’s read John 11:38-44 to see what happens at the tomb.
Jesus, once more deeply moved came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” He said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me, but I said his for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that You sent Me.”
When He had said this, Jesus called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Jesus has come to do an even greater miracle than the sisters expect. They expect Him to heal their brother, and have become very distressed when that has not happened. But Jesus has something much greater in mind for them to experience, to help them have an even greater understanding of who He is. So He asks them to take Him to the grave. That will not have made much sense to them, apart from the fact that they may have thought He wants to go there to mourn the loss of His friend Lazarus. But that is not what Jesus has in mind, is it now? For it is not the time to mourn the death of Lazarus, quite the opposite, in fact. As soon as they get to the cave in which Lazarus’ body is laid, Jesus tells them to do something that cannot have made sense to anyone; He tells them to remove the grave stone. And the ever-practical Martha makes a comment, which others may have wanted to say too. “Lord, it is not a good idea to remove the stone for You may not realise it, but Lazarus has been dead for four days already. You were not there at his funeral. But I was there and I know it took place four days ago. So by now his body is in the process of decay, and that will mean a very bad odour.”
But Jesus insists that the stone be removed and that is what happens. He then simply speaks three words. They are like a command. “Lazarus come out.” The people must have held their breath to see what will happen next. But Jesus knows what is going to happen and yes, that is exactly what happens. First, the people hear some noise coming from the inside of the tomb, and soon thereafter a figure appears They can’t really make out who it is, for this figure is all wrapped up in grave clothes, but it can only be Lazarus, for they had witnessed him being placed in that tomb just a few days ago. And this figure is obviously very much alive, even though he is hindered in his walking by the grave clothes. So Jesus tells the people to remove these grave clothes from Lazarus, for he does not need them any longer. In fact they are a hindrance to him.
Now, Jesus is no longer walking the earth. After His crucifixion and death, He came back to life and then went back to heaven. However, He sent someone in His place, the Spirit of God and you may sense the Spirit of God saying to you as you read this Jesus says of Himself, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through Me”. “Jesus died on the Cross 2000 years ago so that your sins can be forgiven and you can be made right with God, so that you can become a child of God and receive true life which will be for ever and ever.”
Jesus is calling you out of your tomb of spiritual and emotional death, just as He called Lazarus out of his tomb of physical death. And He wants you to respond to His words of hope and life.
How can you do that? By recognising that you are a sinner and that you cannot get yourself right with God, no matter how hard you try. And then, by faith, accepting the fact that Jesus died for all of your sins, so you can become a child of God. God will then help you to live right, as you make Jesus the Lord and Saviour of your life. Why don’t you say the following prayer:
I know that I am a sinner and I cannot save myself.
Thank You for sending Your Son to die on the Cross so I can be forgiven of my sins.
By faith I now receive Your forgiveness.
I now accept Your Son Jesus as my Lord and my Saviour.
Please help me to live in a way that is pleasing to You.
You have now become a child of God and are now a part of the family of God. However, you will need a lot of help to know how to live right. That is why I would like you to join a church, for they will be like a family to you to help you learn more about God.
And remember, Lazarus, after he had come out of the tomb, was still wrapped in grave clothes, and Jesus told the people around him to help him get rid of these grave clothes. You too, will have some “grave clothes.” These are wrong habits that you may have formed, as well as painful and challenging things that have happened to you in your life, and you will need others to help you deal with these issues, so you can be set free from the affects of them. It is, therefore, very important for you to join a church fellowship, so you can grow in your faith. And, one day, you will be able to share with other people your faith in Jesus, and help them be set free from whatever prevents them from living life as God means for them to live it.