Love, Waiting, and Glory — John 11:1-44

// November 29th, 2017 // Sermons

Technically, the season of Advent begins this coming Sunday, December 3rd. However, we are going to start the Advent season early in order to give us some more time to focus our minds and hearts upon the coming of Jesus Christ.

I realize that I mention this every year, but Advent has become one of my favorite times of the year. The word Advent means “coming.” When we talk about Advent, we talk about Jesus’ first and second comings. It’s important for us to remember both of these. We are very focused on Jesus’ birth (his first coming) during this time of year, but we often forget about Jesus’ second coming. It’s important for us to think about both of these during this time of year.

Also, because this season (from now to Christmas) is focused on the comings of Jesus, it’s also a season of waiting and anticipation. We wait and anticipate the celebration of his first coming, but we also wait and anticipate his second coming. Waiting is not something that we do well–especially in our culture. Actually, people start to get frustrated when you talk about waiting. I’ve been “rebuked” before for saying that this is the Advent season and not the Christmas season. Someone once said, “What are we waiting for? Jesus already came. We just need to celebrate!” Yes, that’s true–to some degree. Yet, like I’ve already mentioned, we are still waiting for him to come again. We still anticipate that day.

In this same line of thought, we can see how much our culture hates waiting for things. The stores start putting Christmas stuff and Christmas music on long before Thanksgiving. Radio stations start playing Christmas music. We are unwilling to wait. We want it right now. Yet, in reality, it only deadens the beauty and celebration of Christmas. By the time Christmas day comes, we’ve been “celebrating” for over a month and are ready to move onto the next thing.

However, if we follow the church calendar, celebrating Advent, we are in a season of waiting and anticipation. We haven’t started celebrating yet, but are getting glimpses of peace, hope, and love leading up to that celebration. We are not celebrating yet, but preparing our hearts and minds to celebrate. We are waiting and anticipating. We are teaching our hearts, minds, and bodies the joy of waiting. Then, when Christmas comes, we celebrate. According to the church calendar, we celebrate Christmas for twelve days after Christmas day. That’s the time to party. This is the season for waiting.

As we continue our journey through the gospel of John, we will be talking about what it looks like to wait. [Read John 11:1-44]

Remember what happened in our last message. Jesus had angered the Jewish leaders, they tried to kill him, and Jesus took off to a place far away in the desert. In that place, people see him, remember John’s message, and believe in Jesus. We don’t know how long he was there, but after he had been there a while, a messenger comes and says, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” (John 11:3, ESV). Jesus responds by saying, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4, ESV). Now, get the picture of what is happening. Lazarus, one Jesus loves, a close friend, is sick. So, Lazarus’ sisters send a messenger to Jesus, not just to inform him, but requesting Jesus to come and heal him. We know that was their intent from how they respond later in the passage. Jesus responds in an interesting way. He already knows what is going to happen and what he is going to do. He says that the end result of this illness will not be death. It will be for the glory of God and the glory of the Son of God.

Then there’s this line that should make everyone pause. It says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” (John 11:5–6, ESV). John reminds us how much Jesus loves this family. He loves them very much. Then it says, “So,” or “Therefore.” Because he love them so much, he stayed two days longer before leaving. He waited. Does that make sense to you? People whom Jesus loves cry out to him for help to save their brother and Jesus waits. He doesn’t immediately rush to remedy the situation. He waits for two days before leaving on a four day journey.

Calvin says, “As Christ is the only mirror of the grace of God, we are taught by this delay on his part, that we ought not to judge of the love of God from the condition which we see before our eyes” (427). Can you imagine the scene? Martha and Mary send a messenger to Jesus, eight days later he returns to them. They ask, “Where’s Jesus?” The messenger replies, “I don’t know. He didn’t come back with me. He stayed there.” Can you imagine what went through their mind? What!?! I thought he loved us. I thought he loved Lazarus. Why didn’t he come right away?

I know many of you have experienced something like this. You have prayed to God, cried out to God, for something. You begged and pleaded with him to come and save you or someone you loved. You begged and pleaded with him to change your situation in life. You begged and pleaded with him for something urgent. He waited. Maybe he’s still waiting. In your mind you’re saying, “Lord, I need you to come right now. I need you answer me right now. I need you to take care of this right now. Why aren’t you here yet? Why haven’t you taken care of this yet? Why haven’t you changed it yet? Don’t you love me?” This passage answers your question. He loves you. Like Calvin says, what we see before our eyes, what we think in our minds, what we feel in our hearts, is not determinator of Christ’s love for us. We are not good judges in that regard. This passage tells us something extremely powerful. Jesus loves you. Therefore, he is waiting. Do you believe it?

When Jesus finally arrives in Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days already. Martha meets Jesus outside of the village and voices her sorrow, her grief, and her faith. “Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”” (John 11:21–22, ESV). You can hear Martha’s groaning. If you had only been here Jesus, my brother would be alive. If you would have come right away, he would be alive. If you wouldn’t have waited, he would be alive. In this she exhibits some faith–trusting that Jesus has the power to heal–but her faith is limited. She didn’t believe that Jesus could have healed Lazarus from where he was. Why not? He had healed people without being present before.

Then, Jesus and Martha have an interesting conversation. She tells her that Lazarus will rise again. She says, “Yeah, I know he will rise again at the last resurrection.” There’s a tint of dissatisfaction here. She wants him alive now. Then Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, ESV). Jesus takes her understanding of future events and promises and places them in himself. Yes, there will be a resurrection in the future, but Jesus IS the resurrection and the life now. All who want to have life need to find it in him. All who want to conquer death, need to conquer death in him. They do this through belief, faith, trust in him. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. Then Jesus asks her, “Do you believe this?” Martha answers in faith, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” (John 11:27, ESV). She understands that Jesus is the Messiah, the one who is coming into the world to conquer sin and death. Although, she only understands a glimpse of it.

Then Jesus has an interaction with Mary. It’s very similar. She meets him outside the village–with a bunch of people following her–and says that same thing, “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”” (John 11:32, ESV). This time Jesus responds differently. It says, “When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” (John 11:33, ESV). Now, this translation is not great. When it says “he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” D.A. Carson says a better translation would be, “he was outraged and grief-stricken.” That changes things quite a bit. When Jesus saw Mary weeping and the Jews weeping, he was outraged and grief-stricken. It raises the question: What was he outraged about? There are many different thoughts on this. Some have said that he is outraged at the sorrow he was surrounded by and grieved by their unbelief. They take this to mean that Christians should not be sorrowful when people die. They believe it only shows our unbelief. I think this is ridiculous. Paul, himself, says, “Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.” (Philippians 2:27, ESV). So, Paul even talks about being very sorrowful at someone’s death. We can be sad. We can mourn. We can weep. Yet, we must also do these things as Christians, not as those who have no hope.

So, what is Jesus outraged and grief-stricken about? It’s pretty simple. Lazarus’ death. Now, many would understand his grief at Lazarus’ death, but why the outrage. He is outraged at death itself. This is not the way this is supposed to be! Death was not part of God’s created order. Death is an enemy of God. Death is the enemy Christ was sent to defeat. “For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:25–26, ESV). So, Christ, in the presence of his enemy, is outraged. Calvin says, “Christ does not come to the sepulchre as an idle spectator, but like a wrestler preparing for the contest. Therefore no wonder that he groans again, for the violent tyranny of death that He had to overcome stands before His eyes” (442).

In the midst of this, he comes to the tomb–outraged again. He says, “Take away the stone.” (John 11:39, ESV). Ridderbos says that he almost explodes as he says this–a tension is released, saying, “Enough now of tears and wailing! Enough honor has been bestowed on death! Against the power of death God’s glory will now enter the arena!” (404). Martha argues with him for a bit, but eventually agrees to roll the stone away. Jesus looks to heaven and thanks God for hearing his prayers. He does this to let people know that he does nothing apart from the will of the Father in heaven. Jesus and the Father are one. They have the same power and purpose in this world. So, when Jesus cries out for Lazarus’ life, it is perfectly in line with the Father’s will. After he prays, it says, “When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”” (John 11:43–44, ESV). Jesus raises a rotting corpse back to life, simply by speaking, and God’s glory shone so brightly that either people saw or were blinded. He did all of this because, as he said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25–26, ESV). That’s the question for you to wrestle with. Do you believe this?

Around Christmas time–the Advent season–people ask the question: Why didn’t Christ come sooner? Why wasn’t he born sooner? Why did God wait? The answer from this passage is: because he loves us. The answer from this passage is: so that God’s glory would shine brighter–so that light would break into the darkness. Here’s what I want you to remember from this passage: Christ’s waiting only leads to greater glory.

That applies to this season. Why did Christ wait so long to come the first time? Christ’s waiting only leads to greater glory. Why is Christ waiting so long to come back again? Christ’s waiting only leads to greater glory. If only we could get that. The longer Christ waits to return, the greater the glory will be. Let us remember that as we use this Advent season to teach us how to wait. The waiting for Christmas, will only make the glory greater.

This also applies to your situation. What are you waiting for? Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, ESV). Christ’s waiting only leads to greater glory. Why hasn’t God answered your prayer yet? Christ’s waiting only leads to greater glory. Tying it all together: Jesus loves you. Therefore, he is waiting, and Christ’s waiting only leads to greater glory.

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