It's interesting to see the emphasis placed on who Jesus is depending on the country you're in.
- Most of the world focuses on Jesus as a baby in a crib at Christmas time.
- Mexico has its great religious feast with Jesus in a tomb.
- In Spain they have parades carrying Jesus dead on a cross. Some even re-enact the crucifixion with real nails etc.
I think a more important question than how is Jesus represented in public hearts, is who is Jesus to you in your private life? He can be a variety of things to us and in the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead we see what He became to each one of these people. Perhaps we can see what He needs to be for us when we understand what He meant to people who knew Him personally.
The Raising of Lazarus - John 11:1-5, 17-29
Lazarus, Mary and his sister Martha all knew Jesus.
- Mary was the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume before His death, an act which Judas resented (John 12:3-4).
- Martha was the woman who fussed with the dinner preparations when Jesus visited their home. She was upset with her sister Mary for not helping her (Luke 10:38).
- We know little of Lazarus except that he was a friend of Jesus and that the Lord was very fond of him (John 11:3).
- We also find out that after he was raised, he was marked for death by the Jewish leaders (John 12:10).
These were ordinary people living in that region during the time of Jesus but each one saw Him in a very personal way when confronted with the illness and death of their brother.
1. He was Their Friend
1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, "Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick." 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, "This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it." 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
- John 11:1-5
We see in these first few verses that there was a reciprocal love that existed between them. He had been in their home to eat and visit and teach. John goes out of his way to mention that Jesus loved these people.
Jesus was not only a friend but a friend of weak and sinful people. He loved them not because they were weak and sinful but despite their human frailty, He cultivated a friendship with them.
Jesus is not just an unseen spirit or a memory or a symbol - He is a true being, capable of friendship with man - with you and me. We cultivate friendship with Him the same way that they did:
- They welcomed Him into their home. We do the same by welcoming Him into our homes and hearts through prayer and obedience.
- They honored Him (anointed with oil). We honor Him by not being ashamed of His name, giving Him our best, offering Him our praise and worship.
- They went to Him for help when Lazarus was sick. We do the same by trusting Him and going to Him with our needs in every area.
This is not a one-sided friendship either, Jesus demonstrates His true friendship by laying down His life for us - even while we were enemies. (Romans 5:6-8). There's never been anyone who wanted to be our friend so much that He was willing to die for us.
2. He was Their Lord
17 So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. 20 Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world."
28 When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." 29 And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.
- John 11:17-29
The word Lord when it is used of someone denotes that this person is our master. In certain contexts the word Lord substitutes for the word God. Matthew 28:18 establishes the boundaries of Jesus' Lordship and authority - He says all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him.There is no other authority, there is no greater authority. He is Lord of all - whether they accept it or not.
Of course only claiming authority is not proof of authority. Jesus, however, proves His authority with His miracles and His resurrection. He also uses His authority to promise eternal life to all of His disciples - who but Lord and God could promise and deliver on such a promise? Martha and Mary both accepted Jesus not only as friend but also as Lord and submitted to Him as such.
- In vs. 27 Martha declares to Him "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God..."
- In vs. 32 Mary calls Him Lord and in chapter 12 she anointed Him with oil and dries His feet with her hair.
Many people want Jesus to be their friend but they refuse to have Him as their Lord.
- They like to celebrate the religious holidays of the baby Jesus or the Jesus in the tomb at Easter.
- They like Jesus to preside at their weddings and funerals.
- They even want Him to be a friend in need when the going gets tough.
But they don't want to obey Him as their personal Lord and Master - they want to be their own Lord and have the Lord Jesus as a friend. Jesus can only be your friend if He is your Lord - if He is not your Lord then Satan is your friend.
We can't have Jesus only one way, He must be Lord of our hearts, mouths, body, time, money, home, career, and everything else in our lives if we want Him to be our friend. When we see the kind of friend that He is we want Him to be our Lord, when we experience His Lordship in our lives we realize that He is by far our best friend.
3. He was Their Savior
38 So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, "Remove the stone." Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, "Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days." 40 Jesus said to her, "Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?" 41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, "Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me." 43 When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth." 44 The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Unbind him, and let him go."
- John 11:38-44
They probably didn't give this aspect of their relationship much thought but when Lazarus died and lay wrapped in his tomb for four days, this became the most important aspect of their connection with Jesus. In vs. 43 Jesus said, "Lazarus, come forth," and Lazarus indeed came back from the dead and was restored to his sisters and his friend the Lord Jesus. This was Jesus' greatest public miracle and it produced several things:
- It confirmed beyond any doubt that He was who He claimed to be, the Lord and Savior of the world.
- It was the act that led to His own death because after witnessing this miracle the Jewish leaders became determined that the only way to stop Him was to put Him to death. How ironic that to save themselves and their position they tried to kill the one who had just demonstrated that He had the power over death.
- It was an act that pre-figured His own resurrection as well as the potential resurrection of every believer - because Lazarus was a believer.
Now I say pre-figure because Lazarus had to suffer again the pain of physical death. His resurrection at this point was only to demonstrate Jesus' power over death. The resurrection of Jesus, however, is the proof that one day all believers will resurrect never to die again. There were many "saviors" throughout history who have made all kinds of promises. Jesus is the only savior who has demonstrated what He can save us from - that is eternal death and suffering.
In the story of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, we see real people who are experiencing real relationships with Jesus. He was their friend, their Lord and in the end their savior. As we close out this morning I think it would be profitable for us spiritually to examine what kind of relationship we have with Jesus Christ.
- Is He a public figure, a famous religious person that we know about?
- Is He the object of our religion? Some have Buddha, some Mohammad, we have Jesus - our church stuff is about Jesus.
- Is He a friend for bad times? When we're in trouble we go to the "good Lord" for help.
- Is He the owner of our favorite hangout? Some go to bars, some hang out at the bowling alley, we have the church of Christ as our main place to see our friends and socialize - we have to put up with that religion stuff but eventually we get to see our buddies.
If Jesus was any one of these for Lazarus, he'd never come out of the grave then and would have nothing to look forward to now. Only when Jesus becomes our Lord and our friend will He become our savior. You can't treat Him like an object, or a public figure, or a genie, or a social director - and expect Him to save your soul. After all, you wouldn't expect any of these kinds of people to die for you - would you?
We need to begin treating Jesus as the Lord and Master of our lives, trusting Him like a friend in order to guarantee His role in our lives as savior of our souls. I would encourage you, if you haven't already done so, to make Jesus your Lord and friend:
- The first step in accepting Him as Lord is to repent of your sins, acknowledging your belief in Him and being baptized in His name.
- Your friendship with Him also begins here and continues as you learn from Him and serve Him.
- There may be times when you are separated from Him as your friend and you can renew that friendship through prayer and forgiveness.
I pray that everyone will experience the surpassing joy of having Jesus as Lord and friend - and because of this experience the glorious resurrection that He will produce in our lives as our Savior.