“God Will Help”
March 26th, 2023
Rev. Kimberly Braxton
Lectionary Passage: John 11:1-45
Focus Scripture: John 11:
Father, thank you for this opportunity to stand in front of your people and deliver Your word. Keep my hands clean and my heart pure as we endeavor to walk through your holy text. I pray that the Word will reach its intended target. And I pray Father that lives will be changed. Hide me behind the cross and allow me to decrease as you increase. In Jesus’ mighty and matchless name, I pray. – Amen
Does anyone remember Cliff Notes? For those of us that are either under the Gen X age break or were super diligent students and took the time to actually read all of Tolstoy’s War and Peace let me explain. A “Cliff Note” was a summary pamphlet written about particular books, usually classic literature that was assigned to high school and college students. So if you didn’t have time (or the desire) to read through King Lear or A Tale of Two Cities you could buy the Cliff Notes and it would give you a high level summary of the book, a few discussion points, and basically make you conversant enough to hold your own in a class discussion.
From this week’s lectionary reading I was reminded of Cliff Notes as I read the headings on each section of this passage – the death of Lazarus; Jesus comforts the sisters of Lazarus, and Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead.
This was a long passage of scripture so if you wanted to take a short cut and read the headings only for each section you would get the general idea of what’s going on in the text - - Lazarus dies, Jesus comforts his mourning sisters and finally he raises Lazarus from the dead. The End.
However, in the same way that any good English teacher can spot a term paper written from Cliff Notes and not the author’s source material you would be doing yourself a grave disservice if you didn’t take the time to work through each section of the text for the very important details that have been preserved for thousands of years. And remember Hebrews 4:12 states, “ For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” So even though the passage is a bit dense it is worth wrestling through.
Section 1: The Death of Lazarus
In this portion of the text is where we first learn that Lazarus is sick. His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus and let him know of the situation stating in Verse 3, “Lord, the one you love is sick”. I believe they had the expectation that once they notified Jesus of Lazarus’ illness Jesus would immediately return to Bethany and heal their brother. Especially since He loved him.
However, when Jesus heard the news about Lazarus’ condition, he said in Verse 4, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified in it.” And He stayed where he was TWO MORE DAYS. In our minds when someone is sick, especially a loved one, you drop everything and run to be by their side, especially if it is in your ability to help. However, Isaiah 55 verses 8-9 state, “8For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
There was a divine purpose for this delay that Jesus makes clear to his disciples in Verse 15, “and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” The disciples needed to know and fully understand, “that Jesus, the Word of God wrapped in flesh, the One through whom all things were made (John 1:3), is in absolute control of all things even life and death.” (Klink. Pg 500) Lazarus died so that Jesus’ power over death could be shown to the disciples, Lazarus’ sisters and the community. And here’s an interesting note: Jesus said, “Let us go to him” not “let us go to his sisters”; “let us go pay our respects to our brother”. Also Lazarus’ name means, “God will help”.
Section 2: Jesus Comforts Lazarus’ Mourning Sisters
In Section 2 Jesus makes the bold declaration to Martha, “I AM the resurrection and the Life the one who believes in me will live even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Jesus is claiming for himself the authority over life and death given to him by the Father.
As stated in John 5:21-23: 21 “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.”
The I AM is the same I AM that Jesus proclaimed in John 8:58, “58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I AM!”
So when we get to the final section of the passage when Jesus Raisis Lazarus from the dead the foundation has been set. Lazarus is fully dead, the disciples are present, Martha has confessed that she believes Jesus, that He is the Messiah, the Son of God who has come into the world (v27) and there are other witness present as well. When He asks for the Stone to be rolled away He Martha reminds him of the ordor because of the time that has elapsed and Jesus corrects her by saying, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God”.
When Jesus prays in verse 41 He reviews that this was done for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Do you see the extent that God will do in order to extend a opportunity for you to believe in Him? And when Lazaurs came out of the tomb fully healed. He had to be.
When Lazarus came out of the tomb the meaning of his name was a reminder that we all needed “God will help.”
Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Even though Lazarus died and it appears as if Jesus was too late to assist. Even this is working out for the greater good.
In order to receive the promise you have to believe. Hebrews 11:6, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
Lazarus = God will help
Bethany = House of Affliction
Mary = bitterness/beloved
Martha = Mistress (feminine of “Master”)
1. Sickness, Death and the Love of God. John 3:16, “For God so loved the World that He gave his only begotten son.” God’s delay doesn’t mean that he doesn’t care, it doesn’t mean that he does not love us or is ignoring our situation. Look for the glory of God in every circumstance even if the result does not appear to meet our demands. Christians are encouraged by this pericope to claim the life Christ offers over their own standards for life. Isaiah 55:8-9 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
2. The Life(And Death) of the Christian: I Corinthians 15:55: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”Jesus is life. So the life that a Christian has is in Christ
3. The God Who Weeps. Hebrews 4:15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
4. The Plan of God: Romans 8:28: And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
5. Do You Believe: Deuteronomy 30:19. “This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”