How do life’s circumstances increase our faith? is the topic that will be discussed today on RIOT Podcast, a Christian Discipleship Podcast.
This week we will begin to unpack John 11 and the raising of Lazarus from the dead. This incredible miracle was Jesus’s greatest and the one that aroused the most response from both His friends and His enemies. John selected this miracle as the seventh in the series he recorded in his book because it was really the climactic miracle of Jesus’s earthly ministry. He had raised others from the dead, but Lazarus had been in the grave for 4 days. It was a miracle that could not be denied or avoided by the Jewish leaders.
If Jesus can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing is what John’s point is in this chapter. 1 Cor 15:19 “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
Death is man’s last enemy, but Jesus has defeated this horrible enemy totally and permanently. The emphasis we will see in John 11 is faith. We will see the word “believe” at least 8 times throughout this chapter. Another theme that we will see is the “glory of God”. In everything that Jesus said and did, He sought to strengthen the faith of His disciples, Mary and Martha, and lastly the Jews.
Read John 11:1-16 and unpack how He sought to strengthen His disciple’s faith
We sometimes think of the disciples as “super saints”, but such was not the case. They often failed Jesus and wandered off. He was constantly seeking to increase their faith. He knew that His time on earth was coming to an end and that they would have the responsibility of carrying on the ministry. If their faith was weak then their work could never be strong.
The setting of these verses is that Jesus was in the city of Bethabara when the news about Lazarus was given. This city is about 20 miles from Bethany, so for the messenger to get there, if he was moving quickly, would take him at least a day to do so. If you notice Jesus sent him back the next day with the message in vs 4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it. Then Jesus waited 2 more days before He left for Bethany and by the time He arrived, Lazarus has been dead for 4 days. This means that Lazarus died the same day the messenger started his journey.
Jesus could have prevented all of this but saw the opportunity to glorify the Lord. It is not important that we Christians are comfortable, but it is important that we glorify God in all that we do.
Let’s talk about why there was a delay. Jesus was not waiting for Lazarus to die, for he was already dead. We must remember, that Jesus lived on a divine timetable and he was waiting for the Father to tell Him when to go to Bethany. The fact that the man had been dead for 4 days gave greater authenticity to the miracle and greater opportunity for people to believe, including His own disciples.
In vs 7, Jesus said ok let’s go to Judea again. His disciples were alarmed because they knew how dangerous it would be for them. Bethany is about 2 miles from Jerusalem, but Jesus was willing to lay down His life for His friends. He knew that His return to Judea and the miracle of raising Lazarus would bring about His own arrest and death.
In vs 11, Jesus said that Lazarus was sleeping and His disciples took that as he will get better, but in vs 14 Jesus, after rolling His eyes, said Lazarus is dead. They once again lacked seeing things with spiritual understanding. In vs 15, Jesus did not say He was glad that His friend died, but that He was glad He had not been there, for now, He could reveal to His disciples His mighty power.
Vs 16 talks about Thomas who might have been a doubting man, but from this verse, he was a devoted man. He was willing to go with Jesus into danger and risk his own life. We can admire Thomas’s faith, but more importantly, we can applaud His loyalty and courage. This brings us to our next reading of John 11. The two people that were very loyal to Jesus were Mary and Martha.
Read John 11:17-27 and unpack their story of How God strengthened their faith
Jesus was concerned not only about the faith of His own disciples but also about the faith of Mary and Martha. Each experience of suffering and trial ought to increase our faith, but this kind of spiritual growth is not automatic.
Jesus responded to Martha that Lazarus would rise again. He was thinking immediately, but she was thinking future by referencing Daniel 12:2-3. She, like the disciples, lacked spiritual understanding. Jesus responded to her with His fifth “I am” statement by saying “I am the resurrection and the life”. It’s important to note that Jesus did not deny what Martha said about the future resurrection. But Jesus’s “I am” statement completely transformed the doctrine of the resurrection and in so doing brought great comfort to Martha’s heart.
He transformed this doctrine in a second way: He took it out of a book and put it into a person, Himself. While we thank God for what the bible teaches, we realize that we are saved by the Redeemer, Jesus, and not by a doctrine written in a book.
But perhaps the greatest transformation Jesus performed was to move the doctrine of the resurrection out of the future and into the present. Martha was looking to the future, knowing that Lazarus would rise again and that she would see him. Her friends were looking to the past saying He could have prevented Lazarus from dying. But Jesus was looking at the present.
Martha did not hesitate to affirm her faith. She used three different titles for Jesus. Lord, Christ, and Son of God. The words I believe are in perfect tense, indicating a fixed and settled faith. I have believed and I will continue to believe.
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