Signs & Wonders (John 11)

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A paradigm shift is a significant change that happens when the usual way of thinking/doing is replaced by a new and different way; this discovery brings about a paradigm shift.

–        Tools expanded human work

–        Printing press for books & writing… influenced Protestant Reformation

–        Machines & assembly lines

–        1928 Combination of Chocolate & Peanut Butter[1]

–        Computers and the Internet

o   Email

o   Amazon

–        Like the Copernican Revolution where humanity discovers the earth revolves around the sun; we are not the center of the universe and creation.

o   Christian faith is not Jesus orbiting around our life to meet our every need, but instead is us aligning our life desires and dreams around Christ and His kingdom.

o   Likewise, because of Jesus Christ, no one has to fear death because of His resurrection.

 

Today we want to examine how Christianity is a paradigm shift for suffering and death. Let’s look at 3 shifts:

logo-signs-and-wonders-john

EXAMINE       John 11                                  Healing Death

Suffering does not remove God’s seeing you (John 11:1-6, 11-15). –> Sovereignty

Jesus receives word that Lazarus, a beloved friend, was ill. In essence, Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha were requesting Jesus to come and heal. Surely, if Jesus was caring for and healing strangers then He would come and heal a close friend.

However, John says that Jesus waits two days before He goes in route to see Lazarus. The conversation is something like, Martha: “Lord, I need you right now!” Jesus: “Yea, yea, I’ll be there in a couple days.” But, John also says that Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus (11:5) not that he was loathsome to her request.

Jesus had been traveling and involved in public ministry for about 3 years now. These years had been the hardest of His life collecting only a few close friends/followers, experiencing physical and emotional exhaustion, opposition and threat on His life, and even spiritual warfare. A family member, (cousin) John the Baptizer, had recently been murdered. And this weighed on Jesus. So, what was Jesus doing when He was requested to save Lazarus? Rather than coming to cure he would come to a corpse. Did Jesus realize the urgency? Was Jesus stressed, over-worked, or simply unable to heal Lazarus? How did Jesus’ waiting showing love?

Certainly, the point is that Jesus waits intentionally. Jesus knew and saw Lazarus’ illness and pending death. Throughout the Gospel of John we read that Jesus sees people that others ignore, and He sees them more clearly than they view themselves: Nicodemus, Samaritan Woman, Disciples, Religious Leaders, etc.

So, what is the purpose for Jesus’ waiting – not just for Lazarus but also in our own lives today? Why is it that we can pray about something for months seemingly without any response from God?

Jesus loves us by waiting; with God, a waiting stretch is never a wasted season.[2] There’s something about waiting that is instructive. God is seldom in a hurry. When you are in a waiting season of life, God is very likely trying to teach and speak to you truth. His silence doesn’t imply His absence. God’s delays are not deprival or denial but devotional for you to grow in faith. God’s lack of visible action does not mean His lack of affection; it simply is God’s approach – His divine method is to do something in you and not just for you. God’s goal is your growth and not your gratification.

Further, if God always met our expectations then He would never have the opportunity to exceed them. Consider several persons in the Bible who had to wait but gained abundantly more than they could imagine:

–        Abraham & Sarah past prime years for having children but God blesses with Isaac and nation of Israel.

–        Next generation of Israelites waiting 40 years to enter the promised land, flowing with milk & honey.

–        Israelites waiting centuries for their Messiah. Specific individuals of Anna & Simeon.

–        Disciples waiting 3 days of defeat from death of Jesus until resurrection hope.

–        Apostles commanded to wait for the Holy Spirit, but in that the birth of Christian church.

While our preference is instant gratification, God’s priority is enduring faith. 

◊      In suffering and divine delays, we are to pray for God to help us to trust. Psalm 25:5 “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” Isaiah 26:3 “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Lamentations 3:22-26 “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him. The Lord is good to those who wait for him to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

 

Suffering does not result in forever death (John 11:17-36).  –> Compassion

Mary and Martha are surrounded by family, friends and even professional mourners (wailers, flute players, etc.[3]). It was Jewish custom for the family to mourn and grieve for several weeks. This is known as “shiva” where the deceased’s family and visiting friends would be spent mourning together sitting on the floor for seven days. During this time there would also be no bathing, no wearing of clean clothes or shoes, and periods of fasting would be done. For the next 3 weeks the mourners would abstain from adornment and for the next year from common pleasures all to publicly signify their still grief.

If you’ve lost a loved one you know it’s a long process of sadness and sorrow. It feels like unbearable weight of 1000lbs on top and then eventually pushes all the air out of you that you’re wrung out and empty. Then after some time and you regain ability to move forward but it’s never the same. This is Mary & Martha. And we know Jesus cares and loves this family because of how He responds emotionally. He relates and counsels each of these ladies individually.

Martha is concerning and anxious. She runs to meet Jesus outside of the house. And Jesus speaks words of calm assurance:

John 11:25 “Your brother will rise again…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.”

◊      Jesus is telling Martha that earthly death is not the end. All our earthly pain and suffering has an expiration date, where God promises to reverse the curse of dying and death into eternal life.

Mary is contemplative and prayerful. She stays in the house to grieve. And Jesus weeps with compassion. John 11:33, 35-36 “When Jesus saw her weeping… he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled… Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!””

◊      Jesus is showing Martha and Mary that they do not suffer alone. The Christian faith attaches us to a Person. Jesus identifies and empathizes with us (Hebrews 4:15; Psalm 34:18). The original language suggest Jesus is outraged over death (ενεβριμησατο – to snort [as horses] with anger; deeply agitated); it’s more than grief or sadness. In addition, Jesus wept (krusen – weep audibly not silently). His anger and crying centered on the heartbreaking consequences of sin, being death, which would bring His own death! Perhaps Jesus was also aware that these people were grieving seemingly with little hope – not trusting in the resurrection.

◊      Christianity also attaches us to a community. Thom Rainer says, “God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks. He placed us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give…”[4]

è Are you guilty of extracting faith in Christ with fellowship & ministry in the church?

è Who do you know that is discouraged or depressed, that God would have you to contact through a written note, personal visit, and prayer?

 

Suffering does not refute God’s greater story of glory (John 11:37-57; 12:9-11). –> Redemptive Purpose

Jesus is unfazed and unstopped by the stymie complaints of the religious leaders or the stench of death (four day funk). Jesus orders them to remove the stone and announces that the people will see the glory of God (John 11:40). He calls Lazarus out of heaven and commands his body out of the tomb to be unbound from the grave linen strips.

The man who was feared for his decomposed rotten stench is raised in glory. Lazarus’ resurrection is a picture for how God brings glory out of our suffering.[5] The curse of sin results in suffering and the decomposition of death. However, the gospel reverses the curse from the decay of decomposition to the glory of re-composition. The gospel recomposes our suffering so that we are able to know God’s sustaining presence in the valley of the shadow of death (Jesus weeps with Mary), and to know God’s salvation to overcome suffering and sin.

The resurrection of Lazarus is the 7th sign of John’s Gospel and reveals a tipping point for the religious leaders who seek to kill Jesus. The chief priests and Pharisees gather the Council of 70 Sanhedrin members to plot to please both the public and the Romans while still accomplishing the death of Jesus. Lazarus’ resurrection would be a testimony story for even larger crowds to believe, while also annoying the religious leaders influence (John 11:53; 12:9-11, 17-19). The religious leaders knew this event would gain attention, and indeed the glory of God is most revealed in the raising of the dead. Lazarus’ resurrection would precede Jesus’ own resurrection and culminate in the faith of the Disciples, with the launch of the Christian church.

APPLY/THINK

When we consider suffering and death, we need to know that God relates to us and has resolved the human problem. The gospel is our only hope. So, let us respond in 2 ways

1)    Meditate in the Communion elements. Take in God’s weeping and working for you through the gospel. His love walks with you through the valley of the shadow of death – but death is only a shadow that we never have to fear. God’s power has overcome death for us to have victorious life.

2)    Communicate the gospel through investing-inviting-incarnating-interceding for others. A Prayer Card is in bulletin for you to write your name and the names (or initials) of individuals.

o   Pray 4:16 each day

o   Pray

[1] http://www.harryburnettreese.info/History_Book/REESES_Peanut_Butter_Cups__The_Untold_Story.html

[2] Some thoughts about “waiting” inspired by Craig Groeschel sermon series, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAUE4PC0seM

[3] Donald Carson, PNTC The Gospel of John, p.415.

[4] Thom Rainer, I Am A Church Member: Discovering The Attitude That Makes The Difference, 2013, p.6.

[5] Some thoughts inspired from J.D. Grear sermon John 11 – The Disappointed.