Awake My Soul, John 12:1-18, 31 March 2013

Big Idea: God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

Happy Resurrection Sunday! Many refer to it, appropriately, as Easter, though others find the pagan roots of the name disturbing. Whatever you call it, it’s a great day…and a great time of year. For many of you, today signifies the end of lent and you can go back to eating meat or watching TV or whatever you gave up for the season. Today signals that it’s time to be spring, whether it feels like it or not!

“Our Lord has written the promise of the resurrection, not in books alone, but in every leaf in spring-time.” - Martin Luther

You may not know it, but today is actually the unofficial first day of spring, also known as baseball’s Opening Day (though the Tigers don’t start until tomorrow). Of course, the real celebration is that of the resurrection of Jesus. This is the Super Bowl, Academy Awards, 4th of July and New Year’s Day all wrapped up in one celebration, a celebration that comes once a year but is actually celebrated every day for followers of Christ.

We’re in the middle of a series studying the Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His best friends, John. Last week we were in chapter 12. Today we are skipping ahead to chapter 20. The seven chapters in between tell the account of the week beginning with Palm Sunday that included the Last Supper, the crown of thorns, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. In future weeks we’ll go back to them, but following our remembrance of Christ’s death on Good Friday, we jump to the resurrection account.

Let me state up front that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we are wasting our time—not only now but every time we gather, every moment we pray, and every minute we spend reading the Bible. The resurrection is the pivotal moment in human history, the day in which everything changed, literally.

Paul, once one of the greatest enemies of the movement of Jesus Christ, became one of His most ardent followers and said

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

Put another way, if Jesus is dead, our faith is dead. Our hope is dead. Our life is dead.

But for more than 2000 years people have been searching for the dead body of Jesus and what have they discovered?

Nothing! Nada! Zip!

What a difference nothing makes!

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” (1-2)

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) (20:3-9)

Peter and John raced. John says he won!

No thief would’ve taken the time to fold the grave cloths!

Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. (10-12)

They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?”

“They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”

Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (16)

He knows your name, too!

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. (17-18)

I think it’s great that women are the first people that see the resurrected Jesus. He did so much to liberate women and this is no exception. They are the ones who get to tell the eleven disciples that Jesus is alive!

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

Jesus is not the only example.

Last week in John 12 we looked at the story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead. Jesus was not the first—nor the last—person to come back from the dead. There are elements of The Walking Dead that are real!

Matthew’s biography of Jesus includes one of my favorite images in the entire Bible.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:50-54)

Matthew’s Jewish readers would recognize this bizarre episode of the Walking Dead as similar to yet another example of God resurrecting the dead. The account is found in the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. The context is the people of Israel, an exiled nation longing to return to their homeland.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the LORD was upon me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the LORD and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”

I said, “O Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.’” (4-6)

So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them. (7-8)

Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet — a vast army. (9-10)

Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: O my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the LORD have spoken, and I have done it, declares the LORD.’”

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

But your dead will live; their bodies will rise. You who dwell in the dust, wake up and shout for joy. Your dew is like the dew of the morning; the earth will give birth to her dead. (Isaiah 26:19)

“At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people — everyone whose name is found written in the book — will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:1-3)

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

Jesus’ death and resurrection have a strong theological meaning for Matthew...and for us. God is restoring Israel, and on the back of Israel, He is restoring the nations, the! Jesus’ death and resurrection were not isolated events in ancient history, but the most powerful and vivid reminder that our God is the God of salvation and restoration.

It’s easy to dismiss the resurrection of Jesus as merely an historical event. He came back from the dead, but He’s God, right?

Yes, but God has a habit of resurrecting the dead—not only Lazarus and Jesus and these dry bones, but also us today. As a pastor, I’ve had a front row seat watching God at work, resurrecting the dead. Here are a few examples:

  1. My friend who was on the verge of hopelessness and despair, lonely and broken. Since she surrendered her life to the risen Christ, she has come alive. Her soul has been awakened and she’s a new creation.

  1. Several years ago some dear friends approached my wife and I and said their marriage was a wreck. Lies and infidelity had invaded their relationship. After years of hard work and the risen Christ, their marriage has come alive. Their relationship has been awakened and they are not only together but now helping other seemingly hopeless marriages.

  1. In 2009 a family I know had more than $300,000 in medical bills that were not covered by insurance. Aside from their mortgage, they ended the year debt-free as God awakened their finances.

What about you?
What is dead that only God can resurrect? A relationship? Your career? Your broken body?

Don’t misunderstand me. God is not a cosmic genie waiting to obey our every command. He is, however, the author of life (Acts 3:15). He is life. As we saw a few weeks ago, Jesus said

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

Did you catch that? Jesus
is life—the way, the truth, the life. He is the only way to the Father. He is the only way to life.

Jesus did not die on the cross just so we could live comfortable, well-adjusted lives. His purpose is far deeper: He wants to make us like himself before he takes us to heaven. This is our greatest privilege, our immediate responsibility and our ultimate destiny. - Rick Warren

God has a habit of resurrecting the dead.

He wants to offer you life—eternal life…and rich, wild, and abundant life now (John 10:10). He wants to awaken your soul. He wants you to live a life of freedom, faith, hope and love. Jesus died so that you might have life!

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Lovers, Haters & Consumers, John 12:1-19, 24 March 2013

Big Idea: Jesus’ critics and crowds grow increasingly passionate. Which are you?


We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:30-31)

The first eleven chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

March Madness

This is one of the most exciting times of the year for sports fans—March Madness. This is the season of brackets, of picking winners and losers in college basketball’s championship tournament. 63 games are played over the course of a few weeks until a national champion is crowned in two weeks.

One fascinating feature of March Madness is the emotion involved, both among the players and the fans. There are certain teams the some people love and other despise. There are also fair-weather fans that root for a team one year and root against them the next. On April 8, many in our nation will be divided between two teams. Hopefully it will be Michigan against Ohio State!

The Setting

In many ways this is similar to our place in the Gospel of John. There are people that love Jesus and those that hate Him. Tension surrounds Him. Actually, there are three types of people: the type that hate Him, the type that truly love Him, and the type that love Him if He will do what they desire. Let’s call them haters, lovers, and consumers.

Last week we looked at Jesus’ miraculous healing of Lazarus from the dead. You would think everyone would rejoice over this incredible event, yet John 11 says

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. (44-46)

A few verses later we read

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him. (11:55-57)

Do you feel the tension?

Extravagant Love

Six days before the Passover, Jesus arrived at Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. Here a dinner was given in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, while Lazarus was among those reclining at the table with him. Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (1-3)

This was extravagant love! In the midst of a special dinner in Jesus’ honor, the three siblings—Mary, Martha and Lazarus—are present, possibly at Martha’s house. Nard was a precious spice from northern India that smelled like gladiolus (gladiola). Matthew tells us it was worth one year’s wages for a day-laborer (20:1-16) so today that would be around $15,000 or more! Furthermore, by letting her hair down in public—something done only in the private presence of one’s husband—she was acting with reckless abandon.

When is the last time your worship was extravagant? When is the last time worshipping Jesus really cost you anything more than an hour of sleep on Sunday morning or a few bucks in the offering plate? Seriously. How often have you truly demonstrated your love and devotion to Jesus?

Of course, the aroma filled the house.


But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.” He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied. “ [It was intended] that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial. You will always have the poor among you, but you will not always have me.”

Jesus welcomed the love He was receiving, not because He had an ego, but because He knew His days were numbered. He also recognized the sincere faith of Mary, something that was rare among His fickle followers.

Some have taken this response of Jesus to mean that we should do nothing about the poor since there will always be poor among us. Nothing could be farther from the truth!

I read a story this week about a minister in Cleveland, Ohio who spent decades in the inner city. Throughout his years, a series of associate pastors would work with him, only to quit after a year or two, discouraged by the great need and limited resources. When asked about his perseverance, he said referenced this passage, saying, “What I understand Jesus to say is that I will never be able to eliminate poverty. Therefore, when I cam here, I had no expectation that I was going to solve all these problems. I never thought I would eliminate poverty or get rid of the drug traffic or end unemployment among my parishioners. I realize that for every person that is brought out of the ghetto, more are brought in. If we get one person off of drugs, five more get hooked here. My mission isn’t to get rid of the poor or to get rid of all these problems y mission is to minister to people who are suffering from these things while they are here and while I’m here.”

I’ve struggled with stewardship. While resources are limited, I’m rich compared to most of the world. In fact, as I once mentioned before, I’m the 1% that Occupy Wall Street talked about—well, I’m not among the wealthiest 1% in the USA, but I am among the top 1% in the world. Should I give money to Scio, the Salvation Army, Starbucks, or my savings account? Yes! As a church, should we use our income to serve the poor, fix our parking lot, or support international workers? Yes!

I don’t know about you, but I definitely would’ve questioned the wisdom of dumping that expensive perfume on Jesus, but that’s just exposing my wicked, judgmental heart. It was so impractical and wasteful—not unlike God’s grace which is lavishly given to unworthy sinners like Mary, you and me.

Today, Jesus is not here, but the poor are. How is your love for Jesus reflected in your concern for the poor?

Mary loved Jesus. He was not only a friend, He had just brought back her brother from the dead! Like John the Baptist who was not worthy of Jesus or even untying His sandals, Mary knew she was in the presence of One worthy of total surrender.

I often lose that sense of wonder and throw only money in the offering plate when I need to put my soul and body in, too.

Now it was Jesus who would soon be buried, and there might not be time for proper anointing of His body as was the custom. Whether Mary knew it or not, she was preparing Jesus for the tomb. It was enough to embalm. It is possible that there was so much nard on Jesus’ hair and body that it could still be smelled as He hung on the cross days later.


Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him. (9-11)

The only way they can control Jesus and this story about Lazarus is to kill them both!


The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the King of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat upon it, as it is written, “Do not be afraid, O Daughter of Zion; see, your king is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” (12-15)

This large crowd, most say, was at least 100,000, but possibly as large as two million or more. This is the famous palm Sunday scene, but this is an odd scene. You might not realize it, but there are many things out of place in this scene. Palm branches were a part of Hanukkah, the celebration of Judas Maccabaeus defeating the pagan invaders in 164 BC. Palm branches don’t fit the springtime. Later, in fact, the Jews would revolt against the Romans and mint their own coins with the image of a palm branch, their national symbol of victory.

Then there is the issue of the word “hosanna.” The Hebrew origin means, “save now.” It can be found in Psalm 113-118. The cry is literally one of rescue and deliverance.

Also, Jesus was welcomed as king. Kings ride on horses, not donkeys. Although the donkey was prophesied in Zechariah 9:9 centuries earlier, this form of transportation was odd and unexpected. This wasn’t a donkey like we often see, a small horse. Donkeys in the Holy Land are much smaller. In fact, grown men have to bend their knees when they ride so they don’t drag on the ground!

At first his disciples did not understand all this. Only after Jesus was glorified did they realize that these things had been written about him and that they had done these things to him. (16)

Now the crowd that was with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to spread the word. Many people, because they had heard that he had given this miraculous sign, went out to meet him. So the Pharisees said to one another, “See, this is getting us nowhere. Look how the whole world has gone after him!” (17-19)

Jesus is no longer a local or national celebrity. He has gone global! Indeed the whole world went after Him because He came for the whole world—for God so loved the whole world that He gave His one and only Son (John 3:16).

The same people who cheered on Palm Sunday yelled for Jesus’ blood days later when He didn’t meet their expectations of governmental overthrow. They wanted a political leader and, instead, got a humble Messiah. It is ironic, however, that as they shouted “save now” He was preparing to do just that—on the cross.

So What?

There are three types of people today—those that love Jesus, those that hate Jesus, and those consumers that want to use Jesus. We could add a fourth category—those that don’t know Jesus at all, a tragic reality that provides us with an incredible privilege and opportunity in letting the whole world know about our amazing God and King.

Chances are, you are not a person that hates Jesus. You certainly aren’t out to kill Him since He’s already “been there and done that!” If you knew nothing about Jesus an hour ago, you now know a bit about Him. That leaves two categories—lovers and consumers.

Are you with the shameless Mary, passionately worshipping Jesus with everything you’ve got, your heart, soul, mind, and strength? Are you extravagant in the giving of your time, talents and treasures? Are you willing to look foolish for a God who gave everything—even His own life—for you?

Or are you cautious and prudent like Judas and many in the crowds on Palm Sunday, using Jesus for your own purposes, following Him as long as He makes you happy, answers your prayers instantly, and keeps you safe and comfortable?

Do you truly love and trust Jesus or do you approach Him with an agenda?

Are you a lover or a consumer?

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The Walking Dead, John 11:38-57, 17 March 2013

Big Idea: Jesus specializes in raising the dead. He is life!


For reasons unknown to me, zombies are all the rage in our culture today. There are books, films, walks, and even festivals! Have you noticed? There are various definitions of zombies, but for our purposes let’s define them as dead people that come to life. It sounds crazy doesn’t it? It’s clearly the stuff of movies and TV shows like The Night of the Living Dead and The Walking Dead. Some are even preparing for a Zombie Apocalypse! Are you a fan of zombies?

Perhaps one of the attractions of zombies is that we are afraid of death, but zombies is such a ridiculous notion that we can get creeped out but not truly afraid since we all know zombies are fiction and dead people don’t come back to life…right?

If you’re easily offended, don’t read the Bible! There are some very disturbing images in the pages of Scripture, including today’s text. The Bible is not Rated G!

We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:30-31)

The first ten chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

It’s easy to skim through familiar stories, but as we read the narrative, imagine you had never heard it previously. Imagine that you have no idea what follows and each word is a choice mortal in your ears.

Last Week

The first part of John 11 describes Jesus being told that His friend, Lazarus, is sick. Instead of healing Him, Jesus hangs out for two days only to learn that He has died. Mary and Martha understandably question Jesus, saying that if only He had gone to their brother, He could’ve been healed and they would’ve been spared the tremendous grief and loss of this deeply-loved man. They said, “If only…” and the challenge last week was whether we love and trust God because of what He does for us or simply for who He is. Is your faith dependent upon answered prayer?

Jesus’ friend Lazarus is dead. His sisters can’t understand why Jesus didn’t heal him. But the story’s not over!

Scene Four

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 odor, for he has been there four days.” (38-39)

Jesus is “once more deeply moved,” though the Greek verb mentioned last week is used again here, meaning outraged. Jesus is life, and here He is facing His opponent, death.

This was a “rolling stone” tomb that could be rolled, like a giant stone wheel.

We said last week that four days in the tomb was significant because the rabbinic teachings believed that when a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for three days so if the body was resuscitated, the spirit would return to it. After three days, the spirit was gone and there was no hope for the body.

In an early medieval Jewish tradition, Jews would actually go to the cemetery three days after burial to see if the person was living (I wonder how often they were surprised!).

Martha rightly cautions Jesus about the smell. Dead things stink, especially after four days! John wants us to know that Lazarus was clearly dead.

Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” (40)

As we have noted so many times previously, God’s timing is never late but rarely early. His glory is far more important than our temporary happiness.

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 this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (41-42)

It is obvious that Jesus has already been praying for Lazarus. It’s not an impulsive request.

He looked up. This was common posture for Jewish prayer, looking up and likely with hands raised. He prays aloud not to impress, but to allow those around to hear His conversation with the Father. He says, “Father” rather than “our father” to show the intimacy in their relationship. Jesus was constantly following the mission and will of the Father.

When he had said this, Jesus called 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 uses an authoritative shout to call Lazarus.

Dead Man Walking! Here is one of the first zombies in the Bible! I love the phrase, “The dead man came out.” Wow!

Can you imagine being a character in this story? An eyewitness?

Dead bodies were considered unclean and untouchable in Jewish law, but Jesus had a reputation for touching the untouchable and most likely gave Lazarus an embrace that some would’ve found offensive.


There are many biblical stories that I wish were captured on video! This is certainly one of them. What was the reaction of Martha? Mary?

What was Lazarus’ reaction! What did he think about all of this? Would you want to return to this planet after four days of “sleeping?” I’m sure his sisters were delighted, but I wonder if Lazarus wanted to return! Of course, he did eventually. They say that death and taxes are the only certainties in life. Lazarus was given a second life—bonus time—but he eventually died. As we noted last week, death is merely sleeping for the believer. Jesus offers real, eternal life to those who respond to His invitation. He created us and is able to recreate us, providing freedom from both sin and death.

I often wonder how anyone can live without Jesus. Death surrounds us. You are one day closer to the grave than you were yesterday! You can be one day closer to eternal life with Jesus, though, which is far greater than anything this life can offer.

“Death is but a gateway to further life and fellowship with God.” - L. Morris

One More Thing…

You might think that anyone who witnessed this scene followed Jesus, but tragically that was not the case.

Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

This is Jesus’ last public appearance before His death. His public ministry ends here. Some saw the dead raised but they still didn’t believe. Instead, they tattled on Jesus to the religious leaders who would have Him crucified.

The problem is not with the evidence but the unbelief of man. Many say they will belief if they see Jesus or a miracle, but many saw dead Lazarus raised from the dead and still refused to believe. Signs alone cannot prompt faith. Experience alone is not enough to persuade the human heart. This is why we need words to accompany our deeds.

Not only did eyewitnesses not believe in Jesus, this beautiful miracle or resurrection actually led to Jesus’ death!

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.

What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.
(John 11:47-57)

So what?

There are many people today that are zombies. They are the walking dead. They were at one point dead in their sin, yet they have come alive in Jesus Christ. Jesus is life! He is The way, The truth, and The life (John 14:6).

Sometimes God answers our prayers instantly. Sometimes He takes His time! Hebrews 11 tells us that many of us will live our entire lives seeking to understand God’s responses to our prayers, but Daddy knows best. His timing is perfect. His will and plans never fail. He can be trusted.

No matter where you find yourself today, no matter what is dead in your life, Jesus is life. He conquered sin and death. He caused the dead to rise. He did so Himself, in case you haven’t heard! We’ll talk about that in two weeks! We worship the God of miracles. He is alive today and wants you to experience life—abundant life (John 10:10), eternal life, supernatural life.

What is dead in your life that Jesus can resurrect?

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Enough, John 11:1-37, 10 March 2013

Big Idea: Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is Jesus enough…or is your love for Him conditional?

Song: I Give You My Heart by Rueben Morgan

Do you trust God? Completely?

LORD, I give You my heart
I give You my soul
I live for You alone
With every breath that I take
Every moment I’m awake
LORD have Your way in me

What would lead You to so fully surrender your life?

Is it because Jesus died for you?
Is it because God created you?
Is it because you have experienced His presence and power?
Is it because you have witnessed answered prayer?
Is it because someone told you it’s the proper thing to do?

Or is it simply because you love and want Jesus for who He is?


We continue our series on the Gospel of John, a biography written by one of Jesus’ best friends. His purpose in writing can be found in chapter 20:

Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (20:30-31)

The first ten chapters have presented Jesus as a controversial figure, attracting great crowds through miracles and teachings while creating great hatred among the envious, legalistic, judgmental religious leaders.

It’s easy to skim through familiar stories, but as we read the narrative, imagine you had never heard it previously. Imagine that you have no idea what follows and each word is a choice morsel in your ears. I’ll warn you: we are not going to finish the story today. You may know the ending, but suspend that information and absorb just today’s Scripture with me.

Much like a stage play, this story has several scenes.

Scene One: The Death of Lazarus (1-16)

Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus 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.” (1-3)

There are three siblings. They are not especially wealthy as Beth-any means “house of the poor.” Martha was a busybody who we’re told in Luke 10 worked around the house while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet. Jesus loved Lazarus their brother and he was sick.

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. (4-6)

The Father is glorified through the glory of the Son.

I’m sure they were relieved to know that Lazarus’ sickness would not end in death. Still, if Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus, why did He linger for two days? Most likely He was praying, praying for Lazarus and wisdom. Remember, everything Jesus said and did had tremendous consequences from both the crowds and critics. He was a wanted man, in two different ways.

Then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (7)

“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?” (8)

Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.” (9-10)

Jesus is the light of the world.

After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” (11)

His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. (12-13)

Death has a new name for the believer: sleep. Only the body dies. The soul does not. Resurrection always refers to the body. Our bodies do not have souls. Rather, our souls have bodies.

So then he told them plainly, “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.” (14-15)

Jesus was glad? Jesus had spent time with the Father and obeyed His plan. God would redeem this tragic death and use it for His glory.

Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (16)

Thomas was hardly an optimist but at least he was willing to die. If you recall, Jesus is a wanted man and His followers would also be a threat to the religious authorities.

Jesus rarely follows conventional wisdom. When Lazarus was sick, He stayed away. When He said sleep, He meant dead. He said to go in the daytime to avoid tripping in the dark. N.T. Wright notes,

“If you try to steer your course by your own understanding, you’ll trip up, because you’ll be in the dark. But if you stick close to him, and see the situation from his point of view, then, even if it means days and perhaps years of puzzlement, wondering why nothing seems to be happening, you will come out at the right place in the end.”

Scene Two: The Resurrection and the Life (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. (17-20)

There is a small crowd here. Many Jews were there to comfort the sisters.

Four days in the tomb was significant because the rabbinic teachings believed that when a person died, their spirit hovered over the body for three days so if the body was resuscitated, the spirit would return to it. After three days, the spirit was gone and there was no hope for the body.

“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.” (21-22)

Martha says,
“If only…”

Perhaps the tone (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

Have you ever felt like that? God, if only…then…

Why didn’t you intervene? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why did I have to experience…? Why didn’t you do a miracle for me? Why didn’t I get chosen to win the lottery?

Notice her faith, though. She knew the Father would do whatever Jesus asked. She held out hope for a miracle. Jesus tells her to look forward to the future rather than remaining stuck in the present moment.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” (23)

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (24)

There were two popular religious tribe, the Pharisees who believed in the resurrection and the Sadducees who did not.

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?” (25-26)

This is a great declaration! It is the fifth of seven “I am” statements Jesus will make in John. When He says He is the resurrection and the life, He is saying that He is the very power of God unto life. He is life for all of His people. If you believe in Him, you will never die. He doesn’t say He can perform resurrections, He says that He
is the resurrection…and the life. Jesus is life (John 10:10)!

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

This was the testimony of Simon Peter, too.

Scene Three: Jesus Goes To The Tomb (28-37)

And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

There is something powerful about the presence of friends in the midst of grief. It can be frustrating when we comfort others. What do we say? What do we do? I have learned that often words are unnecessary. “I’m sorry for your loss” and possibly a hug are enough.

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (32)

Mary says,
“If only…”

Perhaps the tone again (we don’t know) was, “You’re too late.”

It’s better for us to have the Holy Spirit than to have Jesus in the flesh.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

There are two words here that need to be clarified. In the Greek, the word translated “weeping” is better stated as “loud wailing and crying.” The word “troubled” in the original Greek was more accurately translated “irate.”

When Jesus saw her wailing, and the Jews who had come along with her also wailing, he was outraged and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
(33-34; edited)

Jesus saw everyone around Him weeping and He groaned in anger. Why? The sisters’ lack of faith? I believe it was the reality of death. He created our beautiful universe and sin has been slowly destroying it. This world is not the way it’s supposed to be. Sometimes I get angry at death, at cancer, at disease, at injustice. In Jesus’ case, He knew that in a few days
He would encounter death.

Jesus wept. (35)

There it is—the shortest verse in the Bible!

Jesus, the Son of God, the eternal Word of God, cried. Why? He lost a dear friend, but knew that loss would be reversed. Was it because of their unbelief? Most likely He cried as He grieved with Mary and Martha and their great loss. He could’ve said, “Hey! Stop crying! Watch this!” Instead, He has empathy and shares their heartache and pain.

Death is a horrible reality in our broken world and we need to grieve. Jesus grieved. Perhaps you’ve been told to ignore grief and sadness since “all things work together for the good” but that is to deny the emotions given to us by God and experienced by God. Romans 12:15 tells us to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.”

Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (36-37)

It was obvious that Jesus loved Lazarus. The Jews asked a fair question, and of course Jesus could’ve kept Lazarus from dying, but God’s ways are higher than our ways. His plans and purposes and timing far exceed our imagination. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to ask, “Why, LORD?” The Scriptures are filled with God-fearing men and women that asked questions of God.

Ultimately the question is
do you trust God?

It’s rather audacious for us to think that we know better than God. Last Sunday night we watched the first episode of The Bible on The History Channel. It was a violent, bloody show depicting many Old Testament scenes that caused many to question how God could endorse the slaughter of first-born Egyptians, the destruction of Sodom, and let’s not forget the complete annihilation of every living creature that failed to get on Noah’s ark.

Doubt and questions expressed with humility and respect are one thing. Shaking your fist at God, judging
Him, is quite another. After Job’s life was all but destroyed, God provided some perspective beginning with the 38th chapter.

Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job 38:3-5)

“Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it? (Job 38:12-13)

“Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane? Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting? (Job 39:19-20)

The LORD said to Job: “Will the one who contends with the Almighty correct him? Let him who accuses God answer him!”

Then Job answered the LORD: “I am unworthy — how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer — twice, but I will say no more.” (Job 40:1-5)

If you judge God, remember that God himself got out of His judgment seat to become the chief of sinners and be judged with you and by you. God feels our pain more than we can imagine because He suffered and died…for us and for our sin. Nobody knows and understands pain like Jesus.

God is sovereign and in control.
God is omnipotent and all-powerful.
God is omniscient and knows all.
God is omnipresent and everywhere.

Again, I think it’s appropriate to ask questions of God, but making demands of Him is ludicrous. He’s God and we’re not. We can rejoice that He is not only all of those “omnis” but also that He is slow to anger and abounding in love, gracious, merciful and compassionate. We can celebrate that we
don’t get what we deserve, for we have all offended the Holy God and fall short of His standards of righteousness.

This does not mean that we should turn funerals into parties and dance for joy in the midst of tragedy. It does mean, however, that God has a plan. He always has a plan. His timing can be trusted. His ways can be trusted. Yet knowing He is sovereign and in control and watching Him ignore or delay our cries for help necessitates and even increases our grief, but it is a hopeful grief—a very, very bitter but hopeful grief. The bottom line is not happiness, but His glory. LORD, be glorified!

I’m in the midst of one of the most urgent seasons of prayer in my life, begging God to heal my girl. The medical experts thought she should improve after three weeks of intense treatments, yet more than six months later she remains unable to walk.

What is your plan, LORD? What are You waiting for? I know You can heal her. Show Your power. The doctors gave up so now You can get all of the glory. We’ll even post her healing on Facebook for all of the world to see!

I believe with all of my heart that she will walk again. For months I have been wrestling with God about the timing! This week I cried, “Uncle!” and surrendered it to Him. Until I start to worry and get impatient again!

The story is not over. Your story is not over. There is more to come. An exciting future awaits us. In the meantime, we must trust God and wait patiently (Psalm 40).

One of my favorite musical artists, Kirk Franklin, posted this on Tuesday:

So if God has my problem already worked out, why do I still go through it? Because what He DOESN'T have worked out yet is your attitude...That's what the problem is for. Go.

Do you trust God because of what He does or for who He is? Is your love for Him conditional...or is Jesus enough?

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe to our podcast here.

Son of God, John 10:19-24

Big Idea: We are sheep in desperate need of the Good Shepherd, the Son of God.


We are continuing our series, The Gospel of John, a biography of Jesus written by one of His closest friends, John. Two week ago the scene had Jesus offending the religious leaders by healing a blind man on the Sabbath, something that was considered work by the scholars who knew the letter of the law but had no clue about the spirit of the law. They were envious of Jesus, His miracles, His teachings, and most of all the crowds He was attracting. Their insecurity continually rises from jealousy to rage as we will see yet again in a moment.

Last week we began John 10 where Jesus uses the common metaphor of a shepherd and sheep to illustrate Himself and His followers. The sheep of the Good Shepherd—mentioned in Psalm 23—know, listen and obey to the voice of their Shepherd.

It’s critical to understand a sheep before we move into today’s Scripture. Sheep are not the sharpest tool in the shed. They’re not the most brilliant animal on the farm. They aren’t the wisest beast in the field. They aren’t the smartest creature at the zoo. You get the idea!

Beyond their lack of intelligence, a sheep is weak and vulnerable. They cannot run fast. They don’t have poisonous venom, sharp teeth, or even dangerous claws. In other words, without the shepherd, they are one thing…dinner for a hungry animal!

In the first half of John 10, Jesus speaks of His Father—God the Father—and the authority given to Jesus by the Father. This infuriates the religious Jews all the more. It is here that we begin.

At these words the Jews were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (19-21)

Jesus is the most divisive Person that has ever walked the face of the earth. He is the most controversial Figure in history. Some thought He was a demon and others divine.

When Paul went to Athens, some believe and some do not believe.

Jesus explained why a few verses earlier from last week’s text.

When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (4-5)

These religious leaders do not hear the voice of the Good Shepherd even though He’s right in front of them!

Blue Like Jazz Author Donald Miller notes several things about these people.

1. “They have a strong pre-conceived notion as to what the Christ will look and like like, and Jesus isn’t fitting that notion at all.” Jesus isn’t a member of their club. He dresses differently, talks differently. He’s doesn’t interpret the Scriptures the way they do, likely with a self-serving agenda.

  1. 2. “He threatens their power.” This is obvious. It’s also relevant to us. It was Jesus that said the first shall be last, to save your life you must lose it, and a host of other radical, uncomfortable things.

  1. 3. “These are zealous men.” All law, no grace…to the death…literally!

  1. 4. “…they would likely be threatened with physical retribution from their own community if they followed Christ.” How often do people succumb to peer pressure?!

  1. 5. “They are people who want clarity.” As Miller says, “They don’t like all this vague hippie talk coming from Jesus.” Everything is black and white to them.

6. “Jesus likes their enemies.” He loves sinners. They love Him! There are two common ways groups can form and unite—the first is to demonize a common enemy and the second is to take on a victim mentality, causing everyone to feel like the world is against them. If Jesus is a friend of sinners, He certainly cannot join their tribe.

Then came the Feast of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple area walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (22-24)

Winter in Jerusalem is cold! It is 3000 feet above sea level.

This feast is also called the Festival of Lights. It is not found in the Old Testament because it celebrates the victory of the Maccabees over the Seleucids in the second century BC. It is known today as Hanukkah! Jesus celebrated Hanukkah.

They ask, “Jesus, who are you?”

Who do you say that I am?

For hundreds of years the people were awaiting a liberating king. They were expecting God’s Anointed to free them from the tyranny of the Roman Empire. The people were awaiting a Messiah.

Jesus often revealed Himself to others in private settings but He resisted publicly proclaiming Himself the Messiah because the people were expecting the Messiah to come as a warrior and overthrow the government. They couldn’t imagine Him coming to suffer and die. The Messiah will, actually, come and rule as the King of kings, but that remains in the future!

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (25-27)

Jesus says His works prove His identity. Actions speak louder than words.

The brand on the sheep is obedience.

Sheep hear His voice.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (28-30)

Did you catch that promise? No one can snatch them out of God’s hand. That’s great news! Remember, though, who Jesus is talking about. It’s not just anyone but those who follow Him (verse 27).

Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

I love this question! Jesus is playing with them. He knows the source of their rage. It’s His claim to be God that made them hysterical, and even though He dances around the issue and doesn’t explicitly say, “I am God,” the message is clear and affirmed by His audience.

“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (33)

God became man, yet they accuse Jesus of being a man who made Himself God.

There are many liberal Bible scholars that deny that Jesus was God, or that He ever claimed to be God. They can accept that a man named Jesus was a good teacher and perhaps could even do a miracle every now and then, but they fail to see Jesus as God. It was, of course, this very claim that put Jesus on the cross. Jesus claimed to be God, and then proved that He is God by conquering sin and death, resurrecting from the dead.

Jesus responds…

Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came — and the Scripture cannot be broken — what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. (34-39)

Verse 34 quotes Psalm 82:6, a reference to judges that act on behalf of God as His representatives.

Verse 35 notes that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” He is affirming the authority of the Bible.

Jesus is in full control. Repeatedly in his Gospel, John describes Jesus’ ability to escape from the raging Jews that want to kill Him. It was not yet hIs time.

God is sovereign. That means He is in control. Even at His trial He was in control. He created everything so it stands to reason that He is sovereign over creation, time, and space. He was on a mission to die for us, but it was not yet time.

Our passage ends rather simply.

Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here he stayed and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a miraculous sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus. (40-42)

Jesus just shows up and people believe. In many circles it was popular to believe, but that was always subject to change. We read that many followed, but many later deserted Jesus, too…especially as He died.

Yet many died for their belief. Throughout history millions of men, women and children have willingly surrendered their lives simply because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

What about you? Who do you say Jesus is? Do you live it or just believe it in your head? Maybe you’re like the religious leaders, finding it easier to judge others rather than examining your own life. Perhaps you have mental belief about Jesus, but your mouth remains closed for fear of rocking the boat and losing friends.

I’m humbled by the thought that one of Jesus’ best friends betrayed Him, another denied Him three times, and others doubted He was raised from the dead.


Whether you know it or not, we are all stinky sheep. We are weak, vulnerable, and very limited in the wisdom department. Left to our own devices, we will die. That’s where Jesus come in. Where religious is spelled “D-O,” what you do, Christianity is all about “D-O-N-E” and what Jesus has done for you. He died on the cross in your place and my place. Like a good shepherd, He sacrificed everything for dumb sheep like us. Today we celebrate that sacrifice. We celebrate not only His words, but His actions. Unlike celebrities in our culture, He didn’t gain fame and notoriety for His own sake, but rather to willingly be butchered in one of history’s most horrifying forms of torture so that we could experience grace, forgiveness, hope, purpose, and joy.

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