March 29, 2020
Pastor John Hering
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. 19 Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha replied, “I know that he will rise in the resurrection on the Last Day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even if he dies. 26 And whoever lives and believes in me will never perish. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
32 When Mary came to 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.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Jesus was deeply moved again as he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, because it has been four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone.
Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
44 The man who had died came out with his feet and his hands bound with strips of linen and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus told them, “Loose him and let him go.”John 11:17-27, 32-45
There’s an old saying that goes like this: A friend in need is a friend indeed. How do you spell “indeed?” Indeed or In deed? We’re going to let Jesus settle this argument for us today. You see, he had some friends with a huge issue, and right in the middle of his huge work to save the world, Jesus was there to help them. In fact, the miracle described here ranks as one of his greatest—besides raising himself from the dead. And this leads us to declare:
What a Friend We Have In Jesus
A friend indeed!
The Bible paints a picture of the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus from various accounts. They opened their home for Jesus and his followers on more than one occasion—so it must have been a sizable home. Feeding 12 hungry disciples would take some work and finances. On Palm Sunday they hosted the Sabbath Supper at their home, and on that occasion Mary poured that expensive jar of perfume on Jesus’ feet. They must have had some wealth to afford the lavish banquet and expensive perfume? Was Lazarus the six-figure money earner for the household? Or maybe Martha and her husband, Mr. Stewart, ran a little cooking class from their kitchen. Or maybe Mary and her husband, Mr. Kay, ran a little perfume and cosmetic gig? LOL! We just don’t know. But, today we know this: Lazarus had become seriously ill.
Deathly ill! “3 So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick!” 4 When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness is not going to result in death, but it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed in the place where he was two more days.” (John 11:3-6). They needed Jesus NOW! But, Jesus delayed and the sisters must have wondered why? St John lets in on Jesus’ plan. Jesus planned to be a friend indeed! He waited until their need grew larger so he could display how much greater a friend he was.
Lazarus died. Grief and sorrow took stage. Mary and Martha had broken hearts. They needed comfort from a true friend. Apparently, they had plenty of friends. You can always tell how influential a person is by the number of people that show up at their funeral. “19 Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, while Mary was sitting in the house.” After their conversation she called for Mary. “32 When Mary came to 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.” In all of Scripture we can hardly find a more touching scene. “33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept.” Isn’t this amazing? When we talk about Jesus, we are talking about true God—the one who existed before the beginning of the world; who created all things, crushed the Egyptians, split the water, walked on the water, calmed the water. We are also talking about true man. Jesus knows Calvary’s cross is only about two miles away and two weeks away. It’s mind boggling for us to imagine Jesus thinking about anything else. He had enemies to face, disciples to teach and prepare himself! Yet, he took time to talk with Martha and be with Mary. Jesus was there! Jesus is a true friend indeed! Yes, What a Friend They Had in Jesus!
Several members and friends of Divine Peace know what it means to have a true friend, indeed! We all have been ordered to “Shelter in Place,” and for all those who are doing so alone, the walls of your home can seem like they are closing in. Others have neighbors or colleagues who have tested positive for Covid 19 and realize uncertainty of the future and fear of the unknown. You have relatives or friends who have taken ill and arranged your life so you could be with them, share their burden with them, and encourage them. There are days when we feel all alone and want a true friend—students struggling with their assignments; single person trying to make it on their own; tuition costs, rent, bills and wondering if your job will last; empty nesters with kids far away; a loved one dies and leaves a hole in our hearts. You know these times and you know how nice it is to have a true friend be there.
But, what are we to do when our friends can’t be there? Like Mary and Martha, we too, know that Jesus is our friend. Like them, we want Jesus to hustle to our side and make things all better. But, the temptation looms heavy when things don’t change right away and we wonder if Jesus really cares. That’s when we need to remember the promises Jesus made to you. “And surely I am with you always until the end of the age” (Matt 28:20). Or “I will never leave you, and I will never forsake you” (Heb 13:5). “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God” (Is 41:10). Jesus did not ascend into heaven to sit at God’s right hand and twiddle his thumbs until he comes back on Judgment Day. No! We have his Word that Jesus is here! God is here! He is in control of all things and working out all things to bring his dearly loved people to live with him. What a Friend we Have in Jesus. He is your friend indeed! Because he is also our
Friend In Deed!
We know how heart-breaking it is to hear of a little child who survives a house fire or car crash, but loses their parents. We’d like to be a friend in need. It is one thing to want to be there for a friend in need, but it’s another thing to be able to do something about the problem. Our amazing, compassionate, and loving Jesus does just that. He knows our every need and he has the ability to do something about it. Yes, Jesus knows about our greatest need, and has already done something about it. He proves he has the power at the home of Mary and Martha. Jesus is our friend in action!
Yes, Mary and Martha had suffered a terrible loss. Certainly, they appreciated their friends being there. We would have, too. No doubt some brought food and took over kitchen. Other friends because hostesses to serve the guests. Maybe some of them helped to make the funeral and burial arrangements. But, what could they do for poor Lazarus? Nothing! He was dead.
But, what about Jesus? Mary and Martha trusted in Jesus as their eternal Savior. I wonder if they even entertained the thought that Jesus could even help Lazarus? Yes, they knew Jesus could heal lepers, restore the sight of the blind, heal the crippled. They may have even heard how Jesus had raised the daughter of Jairus and the young man from Nain. Those two weren’t dead very long. But, Lazarus? “36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” 38 Jesus was deeply moved again as he came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, because it has been four days.” The decaying process had already set in. Surely, it was too late!
But, that’s all the better for this special friend to show his almighty power in action. Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me.” I love this prayer! He isn’t asking for power from God the Father for this miracle, he prays the way he does because he knows this miracle is as good as done! “but I said this for the benefit of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me. 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The man who had died came out with his feet and his hands bound with strips of linen and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus told them, “Loose him and let him go.” Jesus linked his actions with his Words, “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.” Jesus did what no other friend could do. He turned the worst need of their lives into the best day of their lives! Jesus turned Lazarus physical death into physical life. What a friend they had in DEED in Jesus. Jesus is their Savior with power to perform any deed—even raise the dead!
Now, I’m thinking most of you are there listening and watching with your hearts pumping and lungs breathing. It might be hard for you to believe what I’m about to tell you. But, you were once dead, too. No one would know this, unless God himself confronted us with his Word to diagnose the problem. When we began our life in some maternity room at a hospital, we were physically alive, but we were spiritually dead. The Bible says, “Surely, I was sinful from birth. Sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (NIV Ps 51:5). Or “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Eph 2:1). Or Romans 5:12 “12 So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, so also death spread to all people because all sinned.” Our greatest need in life was to be raised from this spiritual death to spiritual life and have the eternal death sentence of hell hanging over our heads removed. Jesus did that! Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins and give us his gift of forgiveness of all our sins. Through faith in Jesus we are brought from spiritual death to spiritual life. What a Friend we Have in Jesus, In Deed!
About 150 years ago there was a young man living in Ireland named Joseph Scriven. He had a wonderful life and was engaged to be married. On the day before his wedding, his bride-to-be was in a boating accident and drowned. Shocked by the news of her death and almost driven to the point of despair, he recalled how they had agreed that in their marriage they would take all their troubles to the Lord in prayer. You guessed it. He wrote the hymn we all love, “What a Friend we have in Jesus!” Yes, the hymn focuses on our joy and privilege to take all our trouble to God in prayer, but the real comfort for Joseph were in these words, “Can we find a friend so faithful, who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness! Take it to the Lord in prayer!”
What are your sorrows, troubles, sickness, pain, job, fever, family, fear or foe? What a Friend we have in Jesus indeed who is the solution for our broken world and broken hearts. What a Friend we have in Jesus in Deed. Who conquered sin and death for us all, so that just as sure as Lazarus walked out of his tomb, some day we will all walk out of our graves to be with Jesus forever. Amen!