August 14, 2002
NTRODUCTION – Romans 8:29 says, “For whom He (that is God the Father) foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren (and I think I can safely add sistren)”
In other words – God saved us and called us not just to give us a ticket to heaven, but also that we might become more and more like Jesus in every way while we live this life on earth. He wants and expects us to carry on the same kind of life and ministry that Jesus did while He was on earth.
One of the primary reasons we are studying the gospel of John together is because we have discovered that we cannot become like Jesus if we do not know what He was and is like. And we will not make that discovery unless we devote some serious time to that quest.
This morning we are ready to jump into chapter 11 – a chapter that revolves around one main event – the raising from the dead of a guy named Lazarus.
Let’s get familiar with the setting of this story. I. The Setting of the Story – the Main Characters vs. 1-3 (read it) A. Lazarus the man 1.his relationship to Mary & Martha = brother 2. his sickness (no details except obviously serious) 3. his relationship to Jesus “he whom you love” (only said about one other person = apostle John in John 21:20 “the disciple whom Jesus loved”) Jesus loved everyone, but there were some He had deeper affection for and enjoyed a more intimate relationship with. 4. Not mentioned anywhere else in scripture except for the next chapter where after He is raised from the dead – some days later Jesus is in his home again – and the text says, “Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.”
B. Bethany – the place – about a day’s trip from Jerusalem
C. Mary vs. 2 1. “who annointed the Lord with ointment & wiped His feet with her hair” cf. John 12:3
2. Luke 7: Mary (a sinner/prostitute) who annointed Jesus’s feet in the home of the Pharisee – most scholars believe not the same Mary
3. Luke 10:39,42 Mary, was listening to the Lord’s word, seated at His feet. “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”
D. Martha – the Martha who sometimes let her passion to serve get the best of her; cf. Luke 10:38 “Martha was distracted with all her preparations.” Please note Jesus did not say, “Get a grip Martha – you big worry wart!! Loosen up” tenderness of Jesus toward her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only a few things are necessary, really only one.”
E. They “sent to Him” vs. 3 They didn’t request Him to come and heal Lazarus. They just informed Him of Lazarus’s sickness, because they knew He would want to know. And I think they knew He would do something in response to this disturbing news about His dear friend.
Lesson: Jesus Christ as the perfect man – was totally dependent upon and obedient to God the Father and the Holy Spirit, constantly enjoying their unbroken fellowship – and yet He experienced and enjoyed, and dare I say needed intimate friendship with at least four people. Mary, Martha, Lazarus & John the apostle. The sense I get is that He found Mary, Martha and Lazarus’s home to be a place of refuge, a place of encouragement, a place where He was among like hearted people who genuinely cared for his welfare, and shared His values and priorities. We never get to a place in our spiritual growth and maturity where this is not needed.
David & Jonothan are one of the more obvious examples of this. Their friendship was surely one of the key ingredients in David’s early ability to not give up, but to pursue His destiny against overwhelming odds. I can’t prove this, not sure I would even fight for it, but I have to wonder if Jonothan’s role in David’s life was ever replaced. I don’t believe it was.
Prov. 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times,….” A true friend is more loyal and committed to us than the average person we might say is a friend of ours. All of us here today I’m sure have friends. But I wonder how many of us have this kind of friend?
Prov. 18:24 “A man of many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Now I’ve heard people quote this verse and say it refers to Jesus, but there is nothing in the context that supports that. I believe this verse is saying, in this life, there is the possibility of having a friend or perhaps a few friends – that become one of your greatest assets and most valuable resources to becoming all that God wants you to be.
Someone once said of friendship, “A true friend is one who hears and understands when you share your deepest feelings. He supports you when you are struggling; he corrects you gently and with love, when you err; and he forgives you when you fail. A true friend prods you to personal growth, stretches you to your full potential. And most amazing of all, he celebrates your successes as if they were his own.”
All of us are called to love one another. But I do believe that one of the gifts of God to those who truly want to follow Jesus and be like Jesus in every way is the gift of true , genuine friendship with a few. This may take years to develop. But it is something we should pray for, look for and strive for. I’m not sure we can really fulfill our destiny in God without it.
How do we do that?
Well, I find it interesting that the people Jesus developed this intimate friendship with were all people who worshipped Him, listened to Him and followed Him. In other words they were people who feared God, and whose main objective and priority in life was to live for Him.
You say, but I thought the Bible said Jesus was a friend of tax gatherers and sinners! Well actually it was the Pharisees – Jesus’s enemies – who said “Behold a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax gatherers and sinners.” Was Jesus willing to go to an occasional dinner party with such people? Yes. Were they His intimate friends – no. There is no evidence whatsoever in the gospel accounts of Jesus’s life and ministry that He spent regular time with these folks for the purpose of friendship.
Am I saying we should not spend time with our non Christian friends? No, I am not saying that. But I am saying that our purpose in spending time with them should be to help them come to Christ – not to find our God given need for intimate friendship met in those relationships. They do not share our values. They do not fear God. They could care less whether His kingdom comes and His will is done. Nor will they pray for you, rebuke you or correct you if you begin to stray from a life of single hearted devotion to the Lord.
What comes first, an intimate walk with the Lord or an intimate friendship with one or a few of our brothers and sisters in Christ? My guess would be they develop simultaneously, but I can’t really say for sure.
Perhaps another observation I should make here regarding why Jesus drew so close to Mary, Martha & Lazarus is – I believe Jesus found their home a very safe and refreshing place to be. I smell hospitality all over this threesome. And my guess is when Jesus knocked on their door, He knew He would be welcome there. He knew that this was a God fearing family – one that shared His heart – and one that He could share His heart with. He knew there was a basic God centered harmony and unity in their home that enabled an outsider to quickly feel at home.
So my point is this: One of the ways the Father has called us to become like His Son is by working at developing true friendship with a few people that He has placed in our lives. If this is not something you are praying for and looking for, perhaps now is the time to start.
II. Jesus’s Read on the Situation – vs. 4 A. Jesus immediately knew the nature and purpose for this sickness vs. 4 1. He knew what it was not for “This sickness is not unto death” cf. II Kings 13:14 Elisha “became sick with the illness of which he was to die.”
2. He knew what it was for “but for the glory of God – that the Son of God might be glorified by it.” Similar to John 9:2,3 (turn to it) His disciples totally misread it.
The second way in which we need to become more like Jesus is by exercising discernment in our dealings with the people we are ministering to.
Discernment enables us to pray on target; it enables us to see what God is doing with a person; and it keeps us from presumption about why a person is in the condition they are in. Discernment helps us to pray with boldness because we know we are in step with the Holy Spirit.
Well how do you get discernment? Or how can we better hear the voice of God and see what He is doing?
As we get in to this, let me say that I realize there are those who have the spiritual gift of discernment of spirits. That is not what I am talking about here.
I am talking about the need and responsibility each of us has in our every day life and interaction with people to better see what God is doing, to more accurately follow His lead or hear His voice in how we minister to them, and to more accurately discern the root causes or reasons for the situation they find themselves in.
Jesus had total objectivity because He didn’t have His own agenda; He never had a need to look good or look smart or look spiritual. He was totally secure because of His relationship with the Father. He never had a need for people to feel a certain way about Him.
We need this kind of objectivity and security. It only comes one way and that is by learning to cling to Abba Father, Daddy – – so that every day throughout the day all my needs are met in Him. So the first step in acquiring discernment is through pursuing your relationship with Father, learn to walk in the security that He provides.
The second step in acquiring discernment is to recognize it is a skill or characteristic that you must aggressively pursue. Prov. 2:1-10
2 clear things about Jesus‘s amazing discernment;
1. His commitment to meditate day and night on the word of God “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
2. His commitment to spend as much time alone with the Father in prayer as possible. Luke says in chapter 5 of his gospel, “He would often slip into the wilderness to pray.”
Obsession with self is the main obstacle we face to increasing usefulness in the Master’s hand.
Security is the main gateway to usefulness because when we are secure, we only care about what Father wants and what Father is doing with the people He puts in our life.
One of the reasons we spend an hour together worshipping and praying before we minister in our healing room ministry on Monday nights is because we often come there a bit battered by the events and circumstances and challenges of the day. We have learned that it is crucial when we meet with the people God brings to us – that we are able to totally focus on them and what God is seeking to do for them.
If we want to become more like Jesus and minister with the power and effectiveness He ministered with, we need to cry out for the ability to hear His voice, follow His lead, and see what He is doing at all times without any interference of our own insecurity and need for affirmation or attention. And we need to learn to discern the root causes of people’s sickness and problems by acquiring the skill or attribute of discernment.
III. Zeal for God’s glory A. I mentioned earlier that one of the reasons Jesus was so secure and selfless was because of His relationship with the Father. There is another reason somewhat akin to this that keeps coming up in this gospel and that is Jesus’s zeal for God’s glory.
B. As much as Jesus loved Lazarus, His main concern was the glory of God. vs. 4 1. “for the glory of God” John 7:18 “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the one who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.” John 8:49, 50 Will see this theme continue throughout the book.
Principle: To be like Jesus we have to share His passion for the glory of God. Nothing should ever get in the way of this. Everything should point to this. Everything is for this!
I have to wonder how I would do if God used me to raise someone from the dead. Would God get the glory? Would I be ecstatic that this would bring glory to my God? Or would I secretly enjoy the attention I would get from being part of such an amazing miracle?
2. “that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” cf. John 12:23 speaks of His crucifixion
One of the most amazing things about the life and ministry of Christ is that He knew way ahead of time that He was headed for the cross; and He specifically knew that raising Lazarus from the dead would be the last straw for his enemies – as they saw the impact it would have on the crowds. And yet He did not hesitate to speak life into his friend’s decaying body. Because He knew God would be greatly glorified by this great miracle; but even more glorified by His sacrificial death and subsequent resurrection.