The Great Gift Giver (John 11:1-44)

The Great Gift Giver (John 11:1-44)


MPS: God is the source of the greatest Christmas gift which is Himself. In Christ we are part of His divine plan and receive the resurrection of life. 

I. God gave Martha & Mary the gift of a divine plan for Lazarus. (1-16)

Jesus had already been under the skeptical eye of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. Up to this point Jesus turned water into wine, walked on water, calmed the seas, and performed multiple healings. Jesus has also flipped tables in the temple courts, healed on the Sabbath, and taught that He Himself is the Son of God. He has gained a sizeable following and the last three items were against the traditions of the Pharisees. These religious leaders were looking to put Jesus under their thumb. 

Going into Bethany would then be risky for Jesus because it was so close to Jerusalem. Entering the town would have drawn the attention of the Pharisees and further scrutiny.

Mary & Martha sent for Jesus so that He’d heal their brother. Martha is often presented as the worker bee while Mary is presented in other places as the worshipful one. Nevertheless, these two sisters sought Christ for the purpose of helping in their greatest hour of need. The solution to their problem is to have God heal their brother.

God’s plan however, was to send Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, thus revealing Him to be God. In the previous chapter Jesus healed a man born blind. His disciples begged to know why the man was blind. They assumed it was either because the man or his parents had sinned. Instead, Jesus says, ““It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (Jn. 9:3) God’s glory would literally be revealed and on full display in the resurrection of Lazarus.

Often in the troubles and tragedies of life we lose perspective. Our lives belong to the Lord and as such our pain and adversity are opportunities for God to display His glory. How wonderful it must have been for Martha & Mary to turn to their Lord as the one who would care for them in their time of need. Their plan was different from God’s, but nevertheless they still turned to God. He would reward their faithfulness by restoring their brother to life but more importantly God would reveal the true nature of Jesus.

II. God gave Martha & Mary the gift of comfort. (17-37)

Both Martha & Mary disappointingly claim that Jesus could have healed their brother prior to his death had He been present. They sent for Jesus and Jesus decided to delay Himself two days. So when He arrives on scene Lazarus had already been dead for four days. The sisters believed their Lord capable of healing their brother, but what He’d do next would be beyond their expectations.

The sisters were in mourning and Jesus would provide for them the ministry of presence. Jesus comforted Martha & Mary as He mourned alongside them. In the midst of this ministry He offers words of comfort as He pointed them to the future resurrection.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (25-26) He probably had in mind the resurrection that would come at His Second Coming in the New Heavens and New Earth. However, Jesus was just as equally looking towards what He was about to do in raising their beloved brother from the dead.

This part of the story reminds us of the centrality of our future resurrection in the life and hope of the Christian. This is a cherished gift from God. It reminds us that no matter our physical limitations here on earth, no matter the restraint of death, all who are in Christ will be raised again. Paul encourages us in his words to the Thessalonians, “we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.” (1Ths. 4:13) 

We can grieve because we will miss the people we lose to death. However, if those people are in Christ then we will see them again in the resurrection. When we see that we are coming to the end of our life or we are incapacitated and limted in our physical abilites, we can look towards the soon return of Christ and the restoration of all things.

III. God alone has the power to give the gift of life to the dead. (38-44)

As mentioned earlier, Jesus waited two days before heading to Bethany. Why might He wait? Popular superstition held that someone could be raised from the dead within 3 days of their death because their soul would hover around the body before departing. By day four Lazarus’ organs will have decomposed and bloating will have set in. It’s no wonder that Martha would caution Jesus that an odor of physical decay emanated from the tomb.

I love how the King James puts it, “Lord, by this time he stinketh”. (11:39) God desired that there be no question as to Lazarus’ state. Lazarus is dead, so dead that he stinketh. So dead that no one on earth would question what was about to happen in the little town of Bethany. 

The purpose of Lazarus’ resurrection is to reveal that God sent Jesus into the world to raise them from death to life. That’s ultimately why Lazarus had to die. But it’s also a reflection of our spiritual deadness. We are quite literally spiritually dead. Each of us has been laid in a tomb, our souls rotting from the afflictions of this world, our sin ruining us from the inside out. We were dead and then out of nowhere, Jesus calls out to us, “Lazarus, come out” (11:43)

This is the radical grace of God. Lazarus had done nothing to warrant such a miracle. His sisters petitioned on his behalf, believing that their Savior would heal their brother. But instead their Savior chose to reveal His glory in full by performing a sign that far surpassed their wildest dreams. That’s what has happened to us. God has given us His Son to display His glory through His people. He has raised is from death to life. He has given us Himself.


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