John 11

Hello,

I hope you are all adapting to this unprecedented time in our lives.

Obviously, if anyone needs anything, please don’t hesitate in reaching out and asking.

It is quite scary the current situation we are in, but keep in your mind that our God, is the comforter, the councillor and the Saviour. He loves you and will provide for you.

Keep in your mind the words of GOD and what Steve highlighted to us last weekend, during a beautiful outdoor autumn morning, the words Do not be afraid.

Did you know, these words are mentioned over 80 times in the Bible. It’s obvious it is a message God wants and needs us to listen to and be reminded of often.  

Just quickly, read these few verses and think about how they make you feel.

Isaiah 41: So do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed for I am your God.

Mark 5:36 “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”

Mark 4:40Why are you still afraid? Do you still have no faith.”

Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be Strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” 

Now before we read on, its important to acknowledge that just because we are Christians, it doesn’t automatically mean we don’t feel or entertain fear. Fear is a natural instinct for us. And the biggest fear for many would have to be the one of death.

Charles Spurgeon, captures this beautifully when he says, “It is a very natural thing that man should fear death, for man was not originally created to die”

And guess what, the Prince of this world, (The devil) knows it. Just like Sin and it’s temptations, Satan uses the temptation of fear to help separate us from Gods love and place our humans concerns above all else. We have seen this on display recently with people panic buying for no reason alone, except for their own selfish desire to have more.  Let alone the actions they display, fighting in shopping isles over toilet paper.

We have seen people disobeying quarantine laws established, because, we as a human race, don’t understand how to work together for a greater good, again putting our own wants before others.

Just briefly I can’t go on without highlighting only a few months ago, how people were donating money and helping fire crews fighting fires and providing for the needy who had lost loved ones and homes due to the fires.

Now, there are minimal stories of people helping each other or donating things. Just acts of selfishness and the ever intruding present fear of death from the COVID19.

I wonder if it’s because of pride.

With a fire, everyone could effectively be a hero and receive self-gratification from donating money or physically assisting fire fighters for an event that would not likely affect them or bring them death. But now with this virus, COVID19 that currently, has no cure. There is no available spot for glory or a hero.

As you see this time, it affects all of us, individually, we are all no matter what walk of life, at risk and contracting the virus and dying. As such, the fear has played to the selfish desires of many and, the fear of death.

It’s therefore, important that we be aware of the effects of fear, as fear decreases hope and feeds of our human concerns.

Fear decreases our hope and causes us to doubt and in turn affects our relationship with our God. King Solomon’s experience with fear, and its causes, caused him in his wisdom to write, a pre warning to us.   

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trust in the lord is kept safe.” Proverbs 29:25. A snare has to be placed by someone. I wonder who sets the snare?

You see fear attacks our hope and our trust in God and ultimately our faith. It helps us to doubt and turn away from our relationship with God and focus on ourselves and human concerns, effectively breeding selfishness, jealousy, hate, anger.

Solomon’s words in proverbs, call to us to seek and look to God. Look to Jesus. As when we do, we hear the calling of God, reminding us to listen to him and trust him.

You see the word of God is filled with an energy, the energy of the Holy spirit, that strengthens our hope, our faith and our comfort through the confidence in him who says, I am, is in control and all that’s happens is for his glory.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7 

I didn’t plan for all this to be my lead into my sermon today which is on John 11, and the Death of Lazarus. I had another avenue, but the seed was planted last Sunday and with all the fear and panic around, it was easy to use as it fits perfectly.

The reading for today and I encourage you to read it with an open bible, is John 11 verses 1 – 7. The reason for the open bible is to enable the holy spirit to read along with you and allow it to guide you where it wishes to take you and hopefully create a thirst in you for more. What better time than now. It will also be handy as after verse7 we continue on and it would be great for you at home to stop and reflect on what you are reading and what it means it you.

…….

It is a familiar event to many of us and if its your first time reading it, welcome to the beginning of the final Public act of Jesus before his crucifixion. A public display of authority and a statement to show how to have life after death.

We have just read that Jesus received word from Martha and Mary that their brother and close friend of Jesus, being Lazarus, was sick. We read that Jesus instead of leaving where he was to visit Lazarus and heal him, as we all know he could do. Jesus chose to stay 2 more days where he was, stating, “This sickness will not end in death.” “No, it is for God’s Glory, so Gods son may be glorified through it.”

Why, how come… that last sentence is a huge hint.

We read on and see that Jesus leaves 2 days later to return, much to the apprehension of his disciples as only a short time previously the Jews in Judea tried to stone Jesus.  They remind Jesus of this, who in reply, speaks to them and makes reference of him being a light for people, so that will not stumble in a world of darkness. He continues to speak, informing his Disciples, “Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going to wake him up.” They like us, have human concerns and a fear of death not just for Jesus but themselves, which affects their faith and trust. As they were still not happy with the idea of returning to Judea.

They even try to use Jesus words against him, when they said, Lord if he sleeps, he will get better.

Jesus at this time plainly tells them, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”

Interestingly the first person to speak up and say lets go, was doubting Thomas. All be it, with a hint of doubt in his words.

When Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been dead 4 days and placed in a stone tomb, sealed with a rock.

On his arrival, Martha went out to meet Jesus but Mary stayed home.  

Martha on seeing Jesus said, “Lord 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 replied, “Your brother will rise again” Martha answers with faith and understanding, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection, at the last day.”

Some believe Martha is referencing her knowledge of the Hebrew bible and specifically Ezekiel 37. Regardless her answer was one based off scripture and of an acceptance and faith in God.

Mary on the other hand, was still inside. Seated, I presume still in mourning for her brother. Martha had to go back to the house and call Mary aside and tell her Jesus is here asking for you. Mary on this got up from her mourning and ran to Jesus. The way Mary got up and ran, the mourners with her, thought she was going back to the tomb of Lazarus. This is important as it gives a great clue in how emotional and unpredictable Mary was.

Mary ran to Jesus, fell at his feet and said the exact same words as Martha had said, “Lord If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The exact same phrase but delivered so differently.

Martha had a conversation with Jesus and encouraged answers and further conversation. Mary made a statement.

A statement mixed with emotion and tears. She didn’t wait for an answer. She didn’t even answer Jesus when he asked, “where have you laid him.”

She is described as an emotional wreck, weeping, falling, I dare say she would have been emotionally exhausted. Was she letting it all off her chest.  

Now please, I am in no way picking on Mary. Quite the opposite, her reaction is real. It is so human, so easily relatable.

Regardless, whatever, she was intending to do, she and the fellow mourners caused Jesus to be moved deeply in spirit and troubled. And he wept.

Wow.

Now Jesus was showing raw human emotion. Why do you think Jesus cried?

Lazarus was a friend he loved. And its also written he loved Martha and Mary. Seeing them crying and aware your friend lay dead would be emotional. It would make any one of us cry. But Jesus Knew he was going to raise Lazarus. It was not a fluke or a quick favour asked of God. It was part of his plan.

I asked the girls this questioned during home school on Thursday which is, as we know, Scripture day. It’s allocated in their home lesson plan. I thought great I’ll test out my Lazarus talk.

Scarlet said, I think he cried as he felt sorry for Mary and Martha and their friends which made him sad.

Abbie said, he probably cried as he wanted to help them.

You know, I don’t believe they are too far from the mark. Obviously only Jesus knows why he cried.

But me, I believe Jesus cried, as he understood the reality that death is so final for those that choose not to come to him. He knew and knows some will not, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love them, to loose them to death would break his heart as he loves each and every one of us. Yes, even current non-Christians.

As we continue to read on, we see Jesus walk to the tomb and asks the stone to be removed. Martha, now has her turn to doubt and says, “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.” Jesus reminds Martha, “Did I not tell you, that if you believed, you will see the glory of God.”  Jesus looked heavenly and openly prayed a loud for the benefit of the people around him. Thanking God for hearing him. Jesus then calls out. “Lazarus get up.”

And as we know, Lazarus walks out in his grave clothes. Alive again and well.

Many people there that day, believed because they saw. We believe because of our trust and faith.

This is what I am getting at.

Firstly Death is but sleep for believers and like Lazarus we will rise again after death because of our faith and trust in Jesus. The comfort that Christ offers is seen by the strength of Martha when speaking to Jesus, even though she lost a brother, she was able to think clearly and continue on, knowing the love and hope God provides is real and eternal with full confidence knowing she will see her brother again. Solid faith.

For those that choose self, over Jesus, Death is, what it is and there is no eternal life. It is sad to think about but take comfort that God is a good God and he Loves us all, He knows our hearts.

Secondly, Just because we ask God for things and pray about it.  God does what he needs to do for his Glory. This may mean your prayer or request or expectation of something may not come to fruition straight away or dare I say ever. As God has a plan for us and a will. Mathew 6 -10 the Lords prayer, as Jesus told us how we should pray.

Second line. “Your Kingdom come, Your Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”  

How do you think Mary and Martha felt after sending word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick. Yet Jesus didn’t come straight away, and Lazarus died. Sometimes, no matter how important they are to us, our requests to God are met with silence. Understand, that, this is okay as God has a plan and he is in control. Trust in him. Believe in him.

Thirdly, Lazarus was raised from the dead for the glory of God because he believed in Jesus, like Martha and Mary and US. He says it so directly to Martha, “Did I not tell you, that if you believe, you will see the glory of God.”

How awesomely comforting is that. Death is never happy to talk about, However, it is a reality and it will happen to all of us.

But how warming to the heart and satisfying to our minds that our death will not be the end and that we will see each other and our loved ones again in a place of joy, love and happiness, together there altogether for eternity.

Fourthly, Another common theme in the bible is Jesus repeating himself as we sometimes, just don’t get it. We get to consumed with Human concerns for our self that we miss the simple take home points. Trust him, Have faith in him. Listen to him, look to him. Do not be afraid.

Now as we head off into another week of the unknown with lock downs and self-isolation, do it knowing that, In all things, God works for the good of those who love him. Romans 8:28

To pinch a quote from Rev Stephen Nichols from All souls church in London, “Like a needle guides string through stitch work, in one side and out the other, let Jesus guide you, pulling you through life’s challengers”, pulling us, you, through to the side life.

Faith is the answer to fear. There is no room for fear when you have faith.

1 John 4:18, Perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.

What have we to be afraid of, Our sins have been forgiven, There is no punishment for us because of God’s Grace, the God of Love. The God inside of us, his holy spirit. Allow him to cast out your fears by simply trusting him like king David Psalm 56:3, When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

Don’t isolate yourselves from GOD caught up in your own mourning like Mary in her house and which is so easy to do.  

Look to Jesus in everything you do and trust him. Converse with him like Martha, believe and you will see and experience his glory Like Lazarus and the crowd.

Did you notice Lazarus didn’t say one word in this story about him? He didn’t even ask Jesus to come and help save him. You could argue he was an unwilling participant. Yet, Jesus raised him. Lazarus didn’t need to say anything,

He wasn’t raised for Mary or Martha. He was raised because Lazarus simply believed while alive.

Remember, Jesus has a place for you at his table in the Kingdom of heaven. Trust in his goodness and glory.

To end, please use this as the beginning of your own personal prayer, Philippians 4:6

Dear Lord, Help me not to be anxious about anything, and in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, help me present to you, the requests of my heart. Please surround me with your peace and comfort, guarding my heart and my mind in Jesus Christ……