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18. WHEN THE DEAD MAN GETS UP, THE FUNERAL IS OVER
John 11:1-7, 11-15, 57


Before reading the Passage.

I borrowed the title from a black preacher that Jeff told me about. He was preaching on our Lord raising Lazarus from the dead. He got to the part where Jesus stood before Lazarus' tomb and said with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth...and he came forth!” Then the preacher said, “when the dead man gets up, the funeral is over!” And he's right!

I want us to look at this very familiar passage and learn some spiritual lessons.

Read the Passage.

Four things I want to point out to you as we look at these verses:

I. The Plea From the Sisters 11:1-3

Bad things do happen to those Jesus loves!

• Do you think that because something bad happens to you that Jesus doesn't love you or your family? Perhaps that's why this passage repeats again and again that each member of the family is loved by Jesus.

• Lazarus was sick and Mary and Martha were desperate.

I don't know what the sickness was or how long Lazarus was sick, but I think that from the first day of his sickness, his sisters gave him the tenderest care.

• I wonder how many times the sisters said, “If Jesus would just come by...”

• As he grew sicker and worse, it wasn't enough to just hope that Jesus would stop by. They sent a messenger with this message, “He whom Thou lovest is sick.” That's all they said. That's all they felt they needed to say. They didn't tell Jesus what to do. They didn't tell Jesus to hurry to his bedside. They felt like the message was enough.

• Testing days followed. They looked out the window to see if they could see Jesus. They opened the door and looked down the road, hoping to see Jesus coming. They watched, waited and hoped.

Notice 11:4. If Mary and Martha could have heard Jesus' response when He was told of Lazarus' sickness, they might have really been confused as to why Jesus didn't come quickly.

But death came to Lazarus before Jesus came to Lazarus.

They had hoped that Jesus would have at least been there for the funeral, but the sisters went to the

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grave alone and they went back home alone.

Notice again verse 14 – “Lazarus is dead.”

• For most of us that is the last word. There is nothing else to be said. The worst possibility has already happened. The grimmest of all grim tragedies has already been experienced.

• Lazarus is dead! The nurses can go home. The physician can return to his office. Medicines and ministering hands are no longer needed. Disease has done its grim work. Lazarus is dead!

Death is commonplace until it comes to one of your loved ones. A hearse passes you and you hardly turn your head. It is soon forgotten. It's so usual. It's so ordinary. Yet, when it comes to you it is fresh pain and heartache. That's the way it was for Mary and Martha.

Why was this tragedy allowed? Why must Lazarus suffer?

• It was not ignorance – Jesus knew all things.

• It was not powerlessness – He could have prevented it.

• It was not lack of love or concern. The message from the sisters was, “he whom Thou lovest is sick.”

Jesus loved them; yet, He allowed sickness, suffering and death to come to Lazarus.

He loved them; yet, He delayed His coming to them.

Love sometimes sees that it is best to let us suffer!

Paul said, “He loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Notice the “therefore” of verse 6.

• Jesus loved them, “therefore” He delayed – stayed away – let him die. We expected Jesus to rush to his bedside when He got the message, but He didn't.

• God loves you – “therefore” – sometimes He puts His hands of affliction on you or takes you unexpectedly to glory, even if you are one of His special saints and could do so much good in His Kingdom instead if taking some sorry, good for nothing who seems to be just wasting space by staying on the earth.

So, why did Jesus delay? Why didn't He rush to Lazarus' bedside?

• Unknown to the sisters, God the Father was orchestrating an incredible moment and needed time to set the stage.

• Since a corpse must be center stage before the drama could begin, Jesus must wait until Lazarus died before He could make His entrance.

• Mary and Martha couldn't see back stage in heaven. All they could see was the black curtain of death drawn across their lives. It had been four days since their brother had died – now Jesus comes to Bethany.

II. The Proclamation of the Savior 11:20-26

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I've heard the words of Jesus many times at a funeral service – “I am the resurrection and the life,” but rarely have I heard it asked, “Do you believe this?” What did Jesus mean by that question?

A. Do you believe Jesus conquered death?

Perhaps Martha nodded her head in agreement when Jesus said that her brother would rise again. But then Jesus said that He was the resurrection and the life. He didn't say, “I raise people from the dead” or even, “I will rise from the dead.” His words were much more forceful than that, for He not only raises folks from the dead, He gives life to those He raises!

B. Do you believe death is not final?

• We often look at death as the end of life. Death doesn't have to be the last word. Death is still a reality, but Jesus transcends death.

• I heard a preacher say something about a lady at a funeral. He said, “She isn't dead. She didn't really die.” Jesus said of Lazarus, “He is dead.” Jesus didn't deny the reality of death, but He did offer hope beyond it. Instead of claiming the lady wasn't really dead, the preacher could have said, “She is dead physically, but her real person continues to live in heaven with Jesus and at His second coming He will open the grave and restore even her body to life at the resurrection.”

• A tombstone of a man named Peas bears this inscription:

Here lies the body of old man Peas

Beneath the daises and the trees

But Peas ain't here, only the pod

For Peas shelled out and is gone to God.

C. Do you believe that faith in Christ divides humanity?

Jesus doesn't promise everyone life beyond the grave. He offers hope only to the people “who believe in Me.”

D. Do you believe Christians need not fear death?

• Verse 26 – “Shall never die” means “in no way will die.”

• This should not be understood in the physical sense, for Christians die everyday; rather, Christians will live spiritually and eternally with Him in heaven.

• People who have not trusted Jesus for salvation have good reason to fear death. They are only one heartbeat away from hell. Once people go there, they cannot return. They will be in a place of eternal misery, pain, darkness, despair, separation, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

• Scripture describes the Christian's experience of death in much different terms – carried by the angels (Luke 16:22), a trip to Paradise (Luke 23:43), a move into the heavenly Father's house (John 14:1-3), a gain (Philippians 1:21), a departure to a much better place (Philippians 1:23).

III. The Prayer of the Savior 11:17-26, 34-35, 38-42

This prayer (verses 41-42) was not the usual prayer one hears prayed in the cemetery. What is usually prayed at the cemetery is a committal of the body to the grave, but this prayer was for the release of the body from the grave.

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• After the prayer Lazarus came forth! That was the thing most needed. He was dead and needed life.

• In the midst of doubt and skepticism, He prayed, “Lazarus, come forth!”

• Look how forceful it was: “with a loud voice.”

• Then divine power caused the dead to come forth – 11:44.

IV. The Performance of the Savior 11:44

How would you have like to have been the one to unwrap Lazarus?

Lazarus, back from beyond! What stories he must have told! What must it have felt like to hear the voice of Jesus calling him back from the grave!

This is all a picture of the rapture. Revelation 4:1.

The real message is that Jesus brought death to death.

Peter Marshall told a story of a lady who was in his congregation. This lady had a boy who was incurably ill and in some near distant time would die. She ministered to him as best she could, but she watched him week after week and day by day and soon saw that her son that she loved so much get weaker and weaker and she knew that the time would soon come.

One night as she sat with her son, he was more quiet than usual and she knew something was on his mind, so she said, “Son, what's the matter?” He looked up into his mother's eyes and he said, “Mother, what is it going to be like to die? Will it hurt?”

For a moment, she said that she couldn't speak. Then it was as if God gave her a revelation and she began to share this thought with her son. She said, “Lister. Remember those times when you came in from playing, and you've played all day and you are so tired that you fall on the couch and go to sleep? Remember those times?”

She said, “You know that's not where you belong, that's not your bed, and you're not dressed right, but you go to sleep there. And then you wake up in the morning and low and behold, you are in your own bed and you have your own PJ's on and you are in your own room, just where you are suppose to be! The reason that happens is because somebody loves you and cares for you and the big strong arms of your father has picked you up and taken you to your bed and has fixed you the way you ought to be.”

She said, “Son, that's what death is going to be like. Someday you will go to sleep and you will wake up in the other room – the place where you are supposed to be. And it will be because somebody loves you and cares for you and the strong arms of God have taken you there.”