John 11:1-16

Sunday Morning Bible Study

July 4, 2010

Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

We will be doing a one day mission trip to Mexico on July 24. If you are interested, you may want to talk to Manuel Castro after the service. Play “Mexico” video

Today is the 4th of July. Sadly, some people don’t really understand too much about the holiday…

Play “Leno IndepenDunce” video

Some people do get it.

PlayStar Spangled Second Verse” video

The Fourth Verse of “The Star Spangled Banner”:
Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!


We are not entering the final weeks of Jesus’ ministry on earth. We begin the story about the final miracle that John records Jesus performing before His death.

11:1-16 Lazarus Dies

:1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

:1 sickastheneo – to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless; sick

:1 LazarusLazaros – “whom God helps” (a form of the Hebrew name Eleazar)

This is a different “Lazarus” than the poor man who died and went to Abraham’s bosom in Luke 16:20-25.

:1 BethanyBethania – “house of dates” or “house of misery”

Bethany is a village on the Mount of Olives, about two miles east of Jerusalem on the way to Jericho. It’s right in the neighborhood of where they were trying to kill Jesus in the last chapter. Play “Map to Bethany” video.

There is an Arab town there named Elzariya, using the name of Lazarus.

:1 Mary … Martha

Lazarus is the brother of these two sisters, Martha and Mary. These three were very, very close to Jesus.

One of the pictures we get of this family is in:

(Lk 10:38–42 NKJV) —38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” 41 And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Martha was the older sister, and she was a servant. (Luke 10)
Mary was the one known for doing that “good thing”, sitting at Jesus’ feet and listening to Him teach.

There is a possibility that these sisters and brother might have been a part of the Essene community.

This was the sect of Judaism that had a community in Qumran, and of which current scholars think that John the Baptist came out of. (and near where Jesus is at the moment)
This was a sect that was looking for the coming of the Messiah, and some have conjectured that this is why these three grown adult siblings are living together and are not married (Essenes seemed to prefer celibacy)

:2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.

:2 Mary who anointed the Lord

We’ll see the story in John 12 where Mary pours expensive perfume on the Lord and wipes the perfume off His feet with her hair.

Keep in mind that John is writing the gospel that fills in the blanks. The early church was already well aware of what Mary did. Her story is recorded in the other gospels. Even though she hasn’t done this thing yet, John’s readers already know what he’s talking about.

Jesus had said that Mary would become famous for this incident:

(Mt 26:13 NKJV) Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”

:2 fragrant oilmuron – ointment

:3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

:3 You lovephileo – to love; to like; to treat affectionately or kindly, befriend

An interesting word they use. Not the agape word we might expect and is still used in verse 5. This is the word that speaks of friendship, of “liking” someone, of being “fond” of someone.

(Jn 11:3 NLT) …“Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”

:3 sickastheneo – to be weak, feeble, to be without strength, powerless; sick

The sisters appeal to Jesus because of His love for Lazarus. We might assume that they would think that this would make Jesus respond quickly.

We know from the way Jesus healed of the nobleman’s son in Capernaum that Jesus didn’t need to even be physically present to heal. He could just speak the word and Lazarus could be healed long-distance.

:4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

:4 sicknessastheneia – want of strength, weakness, infirmity; feebleness of health or sickness

:4 not unto death – Lazarus will actually die from this disease, but he won’t stay dead.

:4 glory doxa – good opinion concerning one, resulting in praise, honor

This reminds me of what Jesus said concerning the man who had been born blind:

(Jn 9:3 NKJV) Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

Jesus will definitely receive a huge amount of attention and “glory” from what is going to happen.

:5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

:5 lovedagapao – God’s special kind of love, love that is based upon a person’s “will” and not emotions, placing value on the other person.

Jesus’ love for this family was more than just mere friendship. He was committed to them. He placed a high value on them.

The verb is an “imperfect” tense, which means that the love that Jesus had for them was a continual love. He didn’t just love them on Tuesday, He was still loving them.

Note:  The book and movie “The DaVinci Code” gave some people some crazy ideas about Jesus.  Jesus was not married to Mary.  He was not married to Martha and Mary. Jesus was never married.

Is this the “Mary” that some of those critics like “The DaVinci Code” suggested that Jesus was supposedly married to?

They will use this verse to say that Jesus “loved” Mary, but they will also confuse this Mary with Mary Magdalene who was a resident of Magdala, a city on the western coast of the Sea of Galilee.

This Mary is from Bethany, the town near Jerusalem.

There is absolutely NO evidence that Jesus was ever married.

:6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was.

:6 He stayed two more days

This seems like an odd way to respond to the news that your friend is sick.

We know that Jesus is going to allow the situation to become absolutely impossible so that He can display His power in an even greater way.

But for the people involved in the situation, it seems like an odd way to react.

:7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

(See map) Jesus has been with His disciples at a place near the Jordan River. He is now proposing to head back towards Jerusalem.

The trip from Bethany for the messenger would take a day each way. Take one day for the messenger to arrive, two days of Jesus waiting, and one day returning to Bethany.  We’re going to find that when Jesus makes it back to Bethany, that Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. That means that Lazarus probably died the day that the messenger left to ask Jesus for help.

:8 The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

I think they were trying to say, “Are you crazy?”

:9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.

:10 But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

:9 stumbleproskopto – to strike against; of those who strike against a stone or other obstacle in the path, to stumble

:9 walks in the day

What does Jesus mean by this statement?

He will say something similar in:

(Jn 12:35 NKJV) Then Jesus said to them, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going.

It sounds similar to what He said before healing the blind man:

(Jn 9:4–5 NKJV) 4 I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. 5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Here’s the issue – the disciples are challenging the decision that Jesus is making. It sounds like He is doing something crazy.

Jesus is saying that it’s only people that walk in the darkness that stumble and make the really bad mistakes.

Since Jesus is the light of the world, so He’s not going to be walking in the darkness.  You can trust His decisions.

While He’s still around, it’s still daytime. There’s light enough to see.
I guess Jesus is kind of saying, “Hey guys, LIGHTEN up a little!”


Make Light Decisions

“Walking in the day” is about taking steps, making decisions.
The question is, what condition are you in when you make your decisions?
Are you in the light or in the dark? Are you faced with some decisions?
a. Darkness
John gives us a sample of darkness when he writes:

(1 Jn 2:11 NKJV) But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

Be careful about the kinds of decisions you make when you are angry or caught up in hating another person. You are walking in darkness. You are going to stumble big time.


Oscar Wilde told this story:

The devil was once crossing the Libyan desert, and he came upon a spot where a number of small fiends were tormenting a holy hermit. The sainted man easily shook off their evil suggestions. The devil watched their failure, and then he stepped forward to give them a lesson. “What you do is too crude,” he said. “Permit me for one moment.” With that he whispered to the holy man, “Your brother has just been made bishop of Alexandria.” A scowl of malignant jealousy at once clouded the serene face of the hermit. “That,” said the devil to his imps, “is the way to bring a man down …”

- Gordon MacDonald, The Life That God Blesses, Nelson, 1994, p. 143.

Hatred is only going to hurt you and those around you:

Look at what happened to the first sons of Adam and Eve.

Cain hated his brother, being jealous of how his offering was acceptable to God while his own wasn't.

God warned Cain:

(Ge 4:6–7 NKJV) 6 So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? 7 If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”

But instead of heading the warning, Cain went and killed his brother.

Hatred, like sin, only causes more trouble than it's worth.


Roscoe Crawford of Jonesboro, Ga., came home from church with his wife to find that a bird had flown into his daughter’s bedroom. He tried to get it out, but the bird “attacked” him. So he went and got his 9mm pistol and shot the bird dead. But the bullet didn’t stop there. It went through the wall, through the dining room and into the kitchen, where Crawford’s wife Rita was doing the dishes. It skipped off the top of her head, causing minor injury, then headed outside. Police did not charge Crawford with any crime, but granted his request that they take his gun away from him. (AP)

If you are walking in the darkness of hatred, be careful about the decisions you make, you're going to stumble.
b. Light
When we are walking with the Lord, we are walking “in the light”.
(1 Jn 1:5–7 NKJV) —5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.
Two aspects of walking in the light mentioned here -
1. Fellowship

When we’re following God’s path for us, one of the things it includes is a relationship with others along the way.

There must be a sense of “being a part of one another”.


Paul Simon of Simon & Garfunkle wrote the following lyrics:

Don’t talk of love, I’ve heard the word before;

It’s sleeping in my memory of feelings that have died.

I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain.

If I never loved, I never would have cried.

I am a rock; I am an island.

If that’s the way you feel, it’s a pity. You may feel safer by being alone. You won’t experience the kind of pain that other people will bring into your life.

You will also be in the dark.

Be careful about making decisions when you are cut off from others.

When we learn to cultivate fellowship with godly people, we gain the value of the wisdom that God has given to others.

2. Cleansing

Walking in the light means that light will from time to time expose problems and sin in our life.

And because we’re in God’s light, we come to Him and ask His forgiveness, and He washes us and cleanses us from our sin.

It doesn’t mean that I’m perfect. It means that I’m dealing with my sin instead of ignoring it.

This requires humility on my part.  I need to recognize my need for God’s help.  I need to recognize my need for God’s cleansing.

What state am I in when I “walk”?  Am I making decisions in the light or in the dark?  My best decisions are those made in the “light”.


Safety and light

The important thing is to stay in the light.
Jesus said,

(Jn 8:12 NKJV) Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”

That doesn’t mean that we won’t make mistakes. But it means that we’re probably going to make lesser and fewer mistakes than if we were walking in the darkness.

Sometimes the right decision seems like the dangerous one and doesn’t seem to be the “safe” one.
Jesus is not making what seems to be the “safe” decision.
Sometimes we are a little too concerned about safety.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying we should all take up bungee jumping.
But sometimes we simply play life a little too safe.

Jesus was doing what God wanted, when God wanted it.

The process of Jesus’ own arrest and subsequent death will get started by this decision that He is making, going to Bethany.

Raising Lazarus from the dead will get Jesus too much attention as far as the chief priests were concerned.

But Jesus is making the right decision.

:11 These things He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

:11 sleepskoimao (“cemetery”) – to cause to sleep, put to sleep; to die

There are two different Greek words used to talk about “sleep”. One wordappears sixteen times (katheudo), and always is used to describe actual, literal sleep. The other word is the one used here, is more often used symbolically to describe death.

(used eighteen times in the NT, and all but three are used to describe death)

:12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.”

:12 get wellsozo – to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction; to make well, heal, restore to health

:13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

:13 thoughtdokeo – to be of opinion, think, suppose

What’s interesting is that the form of the verb here is edoxan, which looks pretty close to the word for “glorify”, which is based on this word.

:13 taking restkoimesis – a reposing, taking rest; a lying, reclining

:13 sleephupnos – sleep

:14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.

:14 plainlyparrhesia – freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; openly, frankly, i.e without concealment

:15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

:15 I am gladchairo – to rejoice, be glad

:15 that you may believe – the language carries the idea of believing more than they already do.

There’s a lesson here for the disciples.

You might think they’ve seen it all by this time. They still have things to learn and areas of faith to be stretched.

:16 Then Thomas, who is called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

:16 ThomasThomas – “a twin”

Apparently Thomas had a twin brother or sister.

:16 TwinDidumos – Didymus = “two fold”

This is the fellow that some call “Doubting Thomas”

He got that nickname after the resurrection. The other apostles had been present when Jesus appeared to them the first time, except for Thomas. Thomas said he wouldn’t believe that Jesus was alive until he saw him with his own eyes and put his fingers in Jesus’ wounds.

:16 “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.”

Thomas may have struggles with his faith like we do, but he is no coward. He was ready to die with Jesus.

:6 He stayed two more days


Difficulty Lessons

What do you do when things go bad in your life? What do you do when you’ve sent word to Jesus, and He doesn’t show up? Or worse, He not only doesn’t show, but Lazarus dies!
There are some principles we can learn from in this passage about difficult times.
a. He still loves me
Some of us act like spoiled children when life gets tough.

As the crowded airliner is about to take off, the peace is shattered by a five-year-old boy who picks that moment to throw a wild temper tantrum. No matter what his frustrated, embarrassed mother does to try to calm him down, the boy continues to scream furiously and kick the seats around him. Suddenly, from the rear of the plane, an older man in a Marine uniform is seen slowly walking forward up the aisle. Stopping the flustered mother with an upraised hand, the white-haired, courtly, soft-spoken Marine leans down and, motioning toward his chest, whispers something into the boy’s ear. Instantly, the boy calms down, gently takes his mother’s hand, and quietly fastens his seat belt. All the other passengers burst into spontaneous applause. As the Marine slowly makes his way back to his seat, one of the cabin attendants touches his sleeve. “Excuse me, sir,” she asks quietly, “but could I ask you what magic words you used on that little boy?” The Marine smiles serenely and gently confides, “I showed him my pilot’s wings, service stars, and battle ribbons, and explained that they entitle me to throw one passenger out the plane door, on any flight I choose.”

A spoiled child will throw a tantrum when he doesn’t get his way. He will lay a guilt trip on the parent and say, “You don’t love me!”

For some of us, we’ve brought that same attitude into our relationship with God. When things don’t go our way, we get sad and begin to think that God must not love us.

Did God love Lazarus, Martha, and Mary? Yes He did. We are told clearly that He did. John made sure we got that point.

(Jn 11:5 NKJV) Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

b. I can hope
Sometimes we have to wait longer than we want.

Like Mary and Martha, we remind the Lord about His love for us.  And He still doesn’t answer.  And He shows up late.  But He still shows up.

Sometimes things have to go bad before they get better.

Lazarus is going to be healed and raised from the dead. But first he had to die.


When I was in high school, my average girl friend lasted three months.  At the end of three months I would decide that I had had enough and that this was not a person I wanted to spend my life with and I would break up with them.  In my senior year, that changed.  I began to date a gal named Karen.  We went sailing past the three month mark and kept going.  I knew this was the one.  But at eight months she broke up with me.  She did it right before we went off to a week long summer camp where I would have to spend a week with her not being my girlfriend.  I was devastated.  I remember crying with my pastor on Monday night in our cabin and thinking my life was over.  My heartbreak had me in a place where I paid a lot of attention to the speakers and the things that God was saying.  It was on Thursday night of that week that I had one of those “God-moments” and I began to see the pieces of my life come together.  It was at that week that I realized that God was calling me to be a pastor.  I don’t know if I would have heard it so clearly if I was nice and comfortable with my girlfriend.

And I wouldn’t have been open to dating Miss Debra McKay two years later.

If it weren’t for the difficult time, I would have missed two of the most important things in my life:  My call from God and my wife.

To be honest, sometimes things aren’t going to get better until we get to heaven.

The truth is there will be a day when it is all better.  That’s what heaven is about.