Death is our enemy. God didn't want it and He told us how we could avoid it. But the story of Lazarus teaches us that while it is a reality, death in God's eyes is merely an eternally fixed beginning. Our death, like that of Lazarus, will result ultimately in resurrection. But we must understand that the choice is ours as to what kind of eternity we will be resurrected to.
No Mean Love
The Sovereignty of God in the Sabotage of Judas
When Jesus Took Up the Towel and Loved us to the Uttermost
Israel and You: A Good Example or a Horrible Warning
For This Purpose He Came: Unveiling God's Glory in His Humiliation
John: Where We've Been and Our Intention Moving Forward
A Perfect Message if you "Wish to see Jesus"
King Jesus: Why the Leaders Missed Him, Why You Must Not
Albert: A Living Picture of Lazarus a Man Once Dead
Lazarus: A Dead Man Who Becomes a Picture of Life
The Pivot Point That Is Personal Belief and The Rightness of Radical Response
What Should and Shouldn't Matter To You
Jesus versus the Ultimate Predator
The Reason for Everything and How We are to Respond to It
The Identity of the Good Shepherd and the Attributes of His Sheep
The Good Shepherd: What He is Doing, Why He is Doing It, and How it's Going to Get Done
A Blind Man You'd Better See Yourself In
Sons, Slaves and Freedom Indeed
I'm about to give the favorite message I've ever given at Watermark. That's a fact. That is a fact. Open your Bible up to John 11. I have a new favorite chapter in the Bible. I told you my favorite book of the Bible changes every time I start teaching one. My favorite chapter doesn't always change. It did this week.
Two weeks ago, we went through John 11. I gave you eight to ten major truths that you can hang your hat on that will change your life. If you missed that, I beg you to burn 45 minutes going back and checking that out. But this is one you'll want to go back and listen to again. Not because of me, but because of the content in it. This is the chapter that John has been building to. This is a crescendo (if you're into music). This is what we've been building to throughout the entire orchestration, and you're about to have Jesus do a real unveiling.
This is when Jesus comes up against this monster called death. Is there anything scarier than death? I mean, really. Some of you guys go, "Well, not for me, Todd. I'm a follower of Jesus, so death is…" Good. You've already heard the message. You've read it. I'm glad you're thrilled, but let's just be honest for a second. Death is the enemy. It was not to be here from the very beginning. God didn't want it. He warned us how to avoid it, but it is now here. It is unknowable. It is unavoidable. It is inevitable. It is heartbreaking. It is scary.
This week I went back, and I was thinking about how to really communicate to y'all this chapter. One of my favorite movies of all time… I knew nothing about it when I went to see it. Then when I understood the riddle in the movie or what happened in the movie, I went back and went, "That was genius."
At first, when that movie came out, I wasn't going to go see it because I thought it was this paranormal psychic thriller that just talked about ghosts and spirits and all this different stuff. I didn't want to go there. I didn't need to mess with that stuff. Somebody said, "Wagner, you need to see this movie. I'm not going to tell you anything else. Avoid anybody who wants to but see the movie." Do you know what the movie is that I'm talking about?
The Sixth Sense. It was made in 1999. I decided to go back and watch it this week. There is one line in this movie that is the most chilling. It's chilling because a child says it. It's when little Cole looks at his doctor friend, and he says, "I'm about to tell you my secret." He says, "I see dead people." He does it a lot better than me. Watch this.
Cole: I see dead people.
[End of Video]
Oh! It's just awesome. That freaks me out every time I see it. You just get little chills. This little boy looking at you. Watch and listen to Cole one more time. He's talking to you by his bed. He wants you to hear something.
Cole: I see dead people.
[End of Video]
That makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up if you're in the moment. You're like, "Oh, man. This child is freaking me out. What is he talking about? I came to read you a story about knights and princesses and redemption and heroes." ("I see dead people.") The reason I show you that is because if you're really in that moment in that movie and it wigs you out and makes you uncomfortable and all this different stuff…
You're not getting John 11 if you don't get that response. When Jesus basically walks up to you, and he says it this way. He goes, "Come here. I raise dead people." Do you have any idea how incredibly crazy and radical that statement is? It's so over the top. There's never been anything like that in human history. There never will be again. If you read John 11, and you don't come away from it going, "This guy is a loon. This guy is crazy. This guy is dangerous," or, "This is God…"
Anybody can say, "I raise dead people," but let's get it on. Let's see it happen, and then we'll talk. One more crazy illustration to set this thing up. This is the moment. We're about to figure out if John was right. He said he wrote this book in order that you might know what Christ has done, in order that you might believe in him and know that in him you can have life. That's either true, or it's not. He either is who he says he is… "I raise dead people. Death isn't scary. Death is my dog. I whistle. It obeys." That's who he is or not.
This is the main event. This is the way. If you want to title John 11, title it this way. Write it in your Bible. Are you ready? Here we go.
Announcer: Let's get ready to rumble!
[End of Video]
"The main event," is what it says right there. Now you're going, "What's he doing? Why is Wagner…" because I am jacked up about this passage. Have you noticed that? This is the main event. I had no idea. Just a little question. How many people do you think had lived and died by the time of Christ? No one knows. Lock it in your head. How many people do you think were alive at the time of Christ? Who had already lived and died by the time of Christ? By AD 1.
The Population Research Bureau (who even knew there was such a thing) said this. "By all accounts… We're speculating too." There was some guy in the 1970s who said, "Right now, 75 percent of the people who have ever lived on the history of the earth are alive right now." He just pulled that out of the wind. He had no substantiation for it, and nobody really agrees with that. The guy who said it probably doesn't even agree with it.
Just to let you know, they estimate that as of today, 108 billion people have lived and died or are alive. There's about 7 billion alive today, so roughly 100 billion people before us. At the time of Christ, these guys estimate, even with what I would call a young earth view…if you start with roughly 2 people about 50,000 years before Christ, which isn't the youngest of young-earth dates…there were 47 billion people that had come and gone by the time that Christ showed up.
Were you close? I'd have missed it by 40 billion, at least. I would have missed it by probably 46 billion. Probably 46.5 billion. I just had no idea. But how about this? Can you imagine the main event? Here is this johnny-come-lately, this little guy from a fishing village up north, who walks up against the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, 47,000,000,000–0.
This isn't Rocky Marciano. This is 47,000,000,000–0. Melchizedek, we don't really know. Enoch, the Lord took him. Elijah, caught up in a chariot. So 47,000,000,000–3…maybe. We're not sure. But here's what I want to just tell you. This is an impressive champion. Here comes Jesus. He goes, "Let's go."
My favorite passage in the Scripture. I love gentle Jesus, meek and mild. I do. I like the fact that he's tender towards sinners. I need that Jesus. But do you know what I really like? I like it when he reveals himself in Revelation 19, and he's coming on a white horse to war. That is arrogant. You go to war on a dark horse. You whup your enemy and go riding back home with your plunder as a king who reigns on a white horse. Jesus goes to war on a white horse. Read your book of Revelation.
He has a big ol' thigh…think steroid-injected, 70s Arnold Schwarzenegger thigh…thrown over that steed, and there is a tattoo on it: King of Kings and Lord of Lords. You watch the NBA Eastern Conference finals, and you'll see guys tatted up with all kinds of tattoos. You will not see anybody with King of Kings and Lord of Lords on their thigh. That is a tattoo. I love that about my Jesus.
This is one of those passages. I'd better get teaching it, or all I'm going to do is talk about how excited I am. Here we go. Are you ready? John 11. They wanted to kill him. They ran him out of town. He's east of the Jordan. A certain man was sick. This man we're going to know more about. His name was Lazarus. He was from Bethany. He was a buddy of Jesus. Martha and Mary were his sisters. They love him. We talked about this last time we were together. This is the one who Mary wiped his feet, anointed him for burial.
This is the one we find three times in the very first set of verses here in verses 1-6. Look here in verse 3. "The one who you love is sick." Verse 5. "Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus." Verse 6. "So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was." He had a long way to walk to get there anyway. He made sure that the one who he loved died.
So after his time had passed, letting happen what he wanted to happen because he was about to show you who he was, it says right there in verse 7, "'Let us go to Judea again.' The disciples said to Him, 'Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?'" They were saying, "You're going to walk right into the teeth?"They weren't even thinking about taking on 47,000,000,000–0.
Had he said, "I'm going to go and overcome death right now, which is undefeated and the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, they would've said, "Oh, come on. We've watched you do a lot of things, but that's a bit over the top." He just said, "I'm going to go back to Jerusalem." They go, "They're trying to kill you there. You don't want to jack with the fleeting political powers of the day."
Look what he says in verses 9-11. "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. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." If you're following Jesus at that point, you go, "What?" That's what you do. You go, "What? What does that mean?" I'll tell you what it means. Are you ready?
He's just basically saying this. "Are you guys scared when you're traipsing around in the middle of the day? No, you're never scared in the middle of the day. You're scared at night when robbers and thieves come to get you. If you walk in the day, you're not going to walk off a cliff. If you go traipsing around the hills of Judea and Jerusalem and Israel during the night, you're going to go off cliffs, and you're going to die. During the day, you see the dangers, and you have nothing to worry about."
Jesus is saying, "I am walking in the light. I have nothing to worry about. This is not their show. This is my Father's show. I am in the Father's will. I walk where my Father wants me to walk, and where my Father wants me to walk is in the light. What do I have to fear?" That's what he's saying. That's exactly what you should say. As you go through life, you go, "Who am I going to fear? I have nothing to worry about. I'm walking with the Lord."
This is exactly the mindset that I, frankly, carry with me through everything. A number of years ago, when we were headed over to certain regions of Africa that were unstable, to say the least, for one of the very first times, I wrote my kids a little note before I left. I'm going to share with you the note that I sent them.
It comes with this mindset out of John 11:9-11, where Jesus is basically saying, "I have nothing to worry about. I'm doing what I think God wants me to do, and it doesn't matter what happens to me." Jesus knew that he was going where the Father sent him, and so he didn't have to worry about what was going to go down. He was absolutely at peace because the Sovereign God had his back.
So here was my letter. I call my kids arrows sometimes when I'm writing them corporately. It's out of Psalm 127. "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth." These are the ones who I have to aim, who I am responsible for, who will be a source of life and protection and a future hope for me.
This was a number of years ago, but I just said, "Arrows, I love you very much. I know I sent you the prayer sheet [so you can pray about where we're going to be and when we're going to be], but I also wanted to share this with you before I left. Until I get back, do this. Remember that you are a mortal until your work is done.
If the Lord has more witness for you to bear, you will live to bear it. Who is he who can break the vessel which the Lord intends to, again, use? If there is no more work for you to do for your master, it cannot distress you that he's about to take you home and put you where you will be beyond the reach of adversaries. Your witness-bearing for Jesus is your chief concern, and you cannot be stopped until it is finished.
Therefore, be at peace. Jump on that plane that you're scared to fly on. Go to that part of the world that God is calling you to go to if there's a specific reason for you to go there. Cruel slander, wicked misrepresentation, desertion of friends, betrayal by the most trusted friends in your life, and whatever else may come cannot hinder the Lord's purpose concerning you. He stands by you in the night of your sorrow."
Then I just told them this. "This is not your well-spoken father. This one is from a guy named David Livingstone, who went to Africa when nobody went to Africa." Friends told David Livingstone that he was crazy. He just said, "I am immortal until the Lord is done with me, and I feel compelled to go there."
There were reasons we were going to certain regions that were highly unstable that everybody said, "You can't go in there." When we go there, they go, "What are you doing here? Nobody comes here." I just told them, "Look. You guys don't need to worry. Nothing can happen to me until God is done with me. That doesn't mean I'm stupid. It doesn't mean I go up to the height of the temple and throw myself off."
Jesus was saying right here in John 11, "I'm immortal until the Lord is done with me, and he isn't done with me yet. Let's go. I'm walking in the light." That is the confidence that you need to have when you have a relationship with the Sovereign One. This is exactly what the mindset of Paul was in Philippians 1. This is a great little text for you to know. Look at Philippians 1:21-30.
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." I'm not worried about death. Real quick. I think a long time ago, I shared this story. The first time I went skydiving, I did what's called a static jump, which is what they do in the military where they put a little cord on you, and when you jump out of the plane, it pulls your chute in a matter of seconds.
If it goes into all different things that it can malfunction, you have to clear that first chute and pull your second (reserve) chute and hope that deploys, and then you're going to be okay. So they have to run you through a series of tests that you might know exactly what to do if your chute doesn't deploy the first time you're training to do this.
I'm with this guy who is an ex-Vietnam vet. He had not jumped out of a plan since he had done it in the war, and he was trying to face some of his fears. It was just him and me, just the two of us. We're in these harnesses. What happens is the instructor will throw at you different problems, and then it's your job to basically do the right thing.
This guy to my left who hadn't been real talkative all day is in this harness. So the guy says, "Horseshoe," which is, for instance, if the chute, when it comes out, wraps around your leg, and you're basically upside down, and you have to untangle it and get it. You're supposed to do what you're supposed to do. That guy just completely locked up. He just went into a death stare and didn't move.
The instructor got in his face, and he goes, "What are you doing? You have to act at that moment. You have a matter of seconds before impact. You have to…" That guy just looked at him. When that instructor got done being in his face, he said, "That which does not kill me only makes me stronger. Nietzsche." The instructor took a step back and goes, "Okay. Let's just go ahead and run through this again." It was really the first words the guy had said the whole day.
The next time through this thing, I had done something wrong. The guy got on me a little bit, so I looked at him and said, "For me to live is Christ. To die is gain. Paul." We all laughed, and it ended up turning into some really good conversation about which philosophy you want to embrace in life. Watch what Paul was basically saying here. Paul goes through this whole thing, and he says this.
"But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this [that either way I'm okay] , know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith…"
Paul said, "I'm walking in the light even though I'm in prison. Even though folks think I'm going down, I'm not going down yet. I'm walking where God wants me to walk." He says, "So that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again." See also David Livingstone's letter and mine. "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…"
I wrote this to my kids at the very end of that thing. "Until I return, make your chief concern two things: seeking the will of God and loving one another." That's the way I ended my letter to my kids. That's really the only two things you need to do in life. That's all God wants you to do. Love God and love others. Seek first his kingdom and his righteous and care for those who are on the journey with you. I told my kids, "Make this your chief concern until I come back. If I don't come back, make it your chief concern until you come to me." Love God and love others. Paul says this.
"Only conduct yourselves [until I come back] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; in no way alarmed by your opponents…"
In other words, "Be free." This is Jesus. Do you see why I'm showing you this? Paul was not smart. Paul knew Jesus. "What do you mean you've gone to Jerusalem? They want to kill you." Jesus goes, "I'm not alarmed by my opponents. God is sovereign over even my opponents. In no way alarmed by them. It's a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you that you have faith in the one God, that you have your act together."
This is such an important chapter. If you get John 11, it will send chills up your spine. Better yet, it will transform your heart, and you will live differently. You will be the craziest of all creatures. You will sing at funerals. I have done funerals for children. I have done funerals for fathers with young children. I have done funerals with every imaginable scenario, and when there are believers in the room in the context of faith in God, we are crazy.
We don't mourn. We don't weep uncontrollably. We might shed a tear because we are sad. I'm going to show you that's completely appropriate in a moment. But we sing because death has lost its victory, death has lost its sting. It is no longer the undisputed, undefeated heavyweight champion of the world because we know the resurrection and the life, and it changes everything.
This is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. Watch this. This is not a small section of Scripture. "But we do not want you to be uninformed…" You're going to hear me say a little bit later. Martha freaking out about death, upset with God, when she meets with Jesus, I love this little statement. She goes and gets Mary, and she says, "The Teacher is here. The one who can calm our fears. The one who can make sense out of death. The one who can help us have a perspective that the world just cocks its head and goes, 'Who are you people?'"
We are people who know the God, who is the resurrection and the life. Paul said, "I don't want you to be uninformed. The teacher is here." He goes onto say this. "…brethren, about those who are asleep…" This is a point. You're going to see this a little bit later. Jesus is going to say (I'm going to read it to you) Lazarus is asleep.
They're going to go, "Why don't you just call his cell phone and wake him up? Why are we going to walk all the way there if he's just taking a nap?" Death to Jesus is like us waking up somebody from a light sleep. It is his dog. "Here, boy. Let's go." Paul uses those same words.
" … brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive…"
It's talking about the bodily resurrection here. It doesn't mean you are in a soul sleep until then. That's not what's taught here. It's the ultimate resurrection of the body is what he's speaking of right here. "…and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord." This is why I love this chapter. Verse 18. "Therefore comfort one another with these words."
This is what's going on. You are going to run into two women who are a wreck. They are a wreck. I have dealt with parents who are a wreck because they just buried their little one. I have talked to widows who were a wreck because they just buried their husband, and I have comforted them with these words. It's all I can do. It's all I need to do. It's all you should do.
I'm going to show you how you should act at funerals. I'm going to show you why we sing at them, why we are the most absurd of all creatures. This is also why Jesus told these guys a little bit later, "You just button up and get ready." Thomas was already there. You're going to find that in a minute. Thomas was like, "Let's just go die with him. If he's going to go there, let's go with him. We'll die with him." He had heard what Jesus said earlier.
Matthew 10:28-31 is one of my favorite passages. Jesus is talking to his disciples. He's giving him the whole sheep/wolf thing. These guys weren't shepherds. Most of them were fishermen, but they had friends who were shepherds. They knew what happened when wolves and sheep get together. So he said, "Hey boys, come here. Be on my team. We're going to be the sheep, and we're in a league with the wolves. So I'm going to send you out like sheep amongst the wolves."
You typically lose people at that moment. But Jesus just then comes. He goes, "Hey, boys. Focus on me. I don't want you to fear the wolves. I don't want you to fear those who kill the body of the sheep but cannot mess with the soul. Look at me. You fear the one who can kill the body and send the soul in the hole forever." That's what he said. This is Jesus. He's either nuts, and you shouldn't follow him, or you ought to get on board.
Oh man, verse 12. Watch this. "The disciples then said to Him, 'Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.' Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He was speaking of literal sleep." You're going to find out that the disciples, that Martha, that Mary were clueless. They didn't get it. This faith of ours is called Christianity for a reason.
Judaism is not called, "Mosaism," because Moses didn't come up with it. This is not an idea that men have pontificated, that men have speculated on. This is pure revelation from God. These guys didn't get it. In the Old Testament, God went to Moses. "How are you going to do this?" "I don't know. Who are you? What's this about?"
God said, "This is who I am. I am the great I Am. You follow me. You trust me. You represent me. You aren't going to invent a religion. I'm going to reveal to you truth. That's what happened with Moses. It's what happens with Peter. It's what happens with Paul. It's what happens with Mary. They're all clueless. The teacher, Christ, the Revealer, the visible image of the invisible God, who showed up where Moses was said, "Take off your sandals and listen."
They don't have a clue. They keep missing everything that he is saying. He says this. "Let me spell it out. Lazarus is dead. Real dead. Scary, permanent dead. I'm glad for your sakes that I was not there so that you might believe. That is what it's about. I want you to believe, because in believing you're going to have life."
That is God's greatness, kindness, and goodness: that you would believe. Not that he would spare you sorrow. Not even that he would spare you death. He lets you experience the consequences of sin so that you'll hate sin. He is telegraphing this. Death is coming. It is unavoidable, and you would be wise to pay attention to it. Some guy who is speculating these things said this, "Ninety-five percent of people who died today had expected to live a lot longer." Don't be surprised.
One great king, King Philip of Macedon, charged one particular servant in his household to wake him up every day the exact same way. He would come in. He would be gently stirred out of his sleep, and he would say, "King Philip. I am here to remind you that you must die one day." In other words, live well because you will stand before the Lord and give an account.
Even if you're Enoch, even if you're Melchizedek, even if you're Elijah, we must all stand before the Lord and give an account. Woody Allen said this. "I'm not afraid of death; I just don't want to be there when it happens." I have news, Woody. You're going to be there. It's coming. Don't be surprised. Be ready. Death is here because we have left the God of life, and the God of life has come to us to rescue us from sin and death.
Verse 16. I love this. "Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus…" A fun little thing just to insert right here. What English word sounds like Didymus? Can you think of one? Ditto. We get the word Ditto from it. The reason we get the word Ditto from it is because Didymus means twin. Thomas was a twin.
In fact, if you go look at many of the listings of the disciples, you have Peter and Andrew (brothers), James and John (brothers), and you'll see in several of the lists Thomas and Matthew. Who was Matthew? The tax collector. A lot of folks think that Thomas was Matthew's twin. Whether he was Matthew's twin or not, we know he was a twin. They called him Ditto as his nickname. They called him Didymus, which is a funny name.
What are people who are not juniors, but they are the thirds? We call them Trips, right? "Hey, Trip. Come here." What they called twins a lot of times was Didymus, Ditto. "You look just like the other guy." How would you like to have two sons? Death and taxes. Those are your sons. Matthew the tax collector and Thomas, "Let's go die." That would've been a great family to have Thanksgiving with.
So we have Thomas saying, "Let's just go. We might die." He's really pragmatic Thomas. He's not doubting Thomas. "This is what's going to happen, but else are we going to do?" Verse 17. "So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days." He was very dead. "Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off; and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming…"
Watch this. This is what you should do when you run into trouble. Do what Martha did. Run to him when you have questions. She heard that Jesus was near. She wasn't happy that he wasn't there yet to heal her brother while he was alive. But she ran to him when she heard he was near. "…went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house. Martha then said to Jesus…"
Watch this. I love the Bible. It's so honest. What's the very first thing you would say to a guy who you thought could've helped you and chose not to help you? "What were you doing? Do you know what's happened to us? Have you forgotten what we're in the middle of? If only you would have… If only this would've changed. If only we would've delayed by five minutes, we would have been the car that got T-boned. If only we would've gone to the doctor the first time we saw blood, we would've caught that cancer a little sooner, and we wouldn't be…"
Can I just tell you something? Do you know what word is never in God's vocabulary? The word accident. It's not in God's vocabulary. Puzzling, frustrating, confusing. Absolutely. But this is what you should do when you are puzzled, confused, and overwhelmed. Run to him, and go, "Lord." He gets it. He understands why we say, "God, what were you doing? Why were you thinking that way? Why were you not acting in a timely manner?"
I love what Isaiah 40 says. Isaiah 40 says, "Why do you assert, O Jacob, why do you say, Israel, that your God has forgotten you, and that your way is hidden from him. Do you not know? Have you not heard? His understanding is inscrutable." That's what it says in Isaiah 40. "All the ways of the Lord are right."
That's Ezekiel 18. All things work together for good to those who love God and who are called to his purposes. You can't drop that on those who don't love God and are not called according to their purposes because they don't all work for good. But if you know God, and you love him, you can step back, and you can do what Joseph did. Listen. What you intended for evil, God can do for good. What I did in rebellion, God can still restore. There are no mistakes.
There's a story of a couple who had nine children. A real, true story. It happened just over 10 years ago. They were driving in a van. There was a truck that had a bunch of metal sheets on it. One of them came over. A chunk went up under it. There was no way to avoid it. A piece of metal went up under their passenger van.
It sparked, hit that gas tank in the back, and the van incinerated six of the kids who were traveling with them. Gone. The fire blew up in the back. The mom and dad opened their doors, and before they could even get around to open it, they watched all six of the children that were them die. "If only we had left the house a little sooner. If only, Lord, that thing would've skipped that way. If only they had put another plate of steel underneath there."
Do you know what that guy said? He was a pastor. He stood there. He held his wife, and he said this right there while his children were incinerated in front of him. He said, "This is the day that we have been prepared for." First words out of his mouth. That's crazy.
Dawson Trotman, the founder of Navigators, who spent his whole life lifting people up, trying to disciple them and help them walk with Christ. When they went to his wife, and they said, "Dawson has drowned," do you know what she said? The first words out of her mouth were Psalm 115:3. "Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.He is good. This is not an accident. God wasn't asleep. He wasn't unaware." That is crazy unless you know John 11.
I'm just telling you. This is Jesus. He said, "It's good that Lazarus has died. I'm right in the middle of it. I delayed on purpose that you might know who I am." Martha had no idea. "If, God, you hadn't been so irresponsible, my brother would not have died." Have you ever said that? Watch Jesus' response.
Because Martha comes back with a little bit more. "'Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.'" She's still clued out. She says, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day." But, meanwhile, he's very dead.
We're two sisters not married, and that was the guy who loved us and kept us. He was our provision. You loved him, Lord. You love us. What are you doing? You've healed people everywhere we've been. Okay, you don't like me because I'm a busybody, but Mary. Maybe you don't like Mary because she's always wanted to… But you played poker with Lazarus. This is your best friend."
Many people think Lazarus was in the very, very, very inner circle. She just didn't get it. I love this. Watch. This is it. This is the big moment. "Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection [meaning I'm going to take care of the body] and the life." There are lots of guys who would come back and talk about how there's going to be a reincarnation, there's going to be another moment where you could…
But Jesus is the only one who says this. Watch. I think he has two things in mind here. "I can take care of the physical body, and the physical body matters. We believe in a bodily resurrection. We're not just spirits floating around without corporal beings. I'm the life. I'm going to give you life in all the fullness. I'm not just going to take care of your physical body."
That's why every time that Jesus was involved in a physical healing, he always drove it to a much bigger need, which is a spiritual need. That's why when he came to Israel, he wasn't really concerned that they were oppressed by some overbearing lord called Caesar. He goes, "Your bigger problem is you're oppressed by an overbearing lord called sin. Sin is what leads to death. Caesar can kill your body, but if you give yourself over to another master, that's going to give way to death. You need me. I've come to bring you to life."
He says, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies…" Watch. I'm going to say this. John never separates these two. When he's talking about a resurrection. He's always talking about a resurrection for those who already are alive. If you are not alive now, if God has not put a deposit in you which is a deposit of the Spirit of life, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, if that doesn't reside in you and there isn't a transformation in the body of death which is dying, you hit about 25, and you are on the decline, physically, but you hit Jesus, and you ought to be on an incline spiritually.
If there is not spiritual renewal, if there is not life, if there is not increasing love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, functionality in your home, love for your wife, reconciling with your enemy, eternally-focused living… If that's not happening, you should not have much confidence that there's going to be a bodily resurrection, because that which is responsible for the bodily resurrection, intimacy with the Spirit, may not be in your life. Do you see that?
Let me say that again. Jesus says to Martha, "He who believes in me will live even if he dies. If you believe in me now, even though he's dead, he'll live. I'm about to do something to show you who I am. You need to know this. The point is…Do you know who I am? Because Martha, if you don't know who I am, when you do die, you're not going to live. But if you know who I am, even though you're in a world of death, and sin and death are in the world and in your flesh and in the enemy and in the current of the culture, you will live."
If you have just said some nominal prayer, but you are not living, abiding with Christ, if his Spirit is not in you, then I don't know that you are ready to have great hope that you're going to live when your body physically dies. The spiritual living today is what gives you evidence that you will physically be resurrected, because you are now being spiritually resurrected though you are physically dying. Is that clear? You cannot separate those two.
If you are here this morning, and you believe Jesus is the resurrection, but you have not found him to be the life, wake up, O sinner. There ought to be in you a renewal where you love what God says you should love, and you do what God says you should because you have figured this out. I don't know who I'm going to jack with today, but it's not Jesus, because death… 47,000,000,000–0…maybe 3. Death).
He just kicked his butt. The strong man who intimidated me has been taken down by the stronger one. If you're going to be the best, you have to beat the best. If death was the best, but the stronger one just showed up, I'm going to follow him. If you read John 11, and it doesn't make you step back and go, "Who is this? Not that the wind and the waves listen to. But who is this that death listens to?" you aren't paying attention. If you aren't following him with all your heart and seeking him and developing intimacy with him, you are nuts.
He says to her, "…and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." Here's the question, Martha. "Do you believe this?" Now, watch this. "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.'" She was still very confused, very overwhelmed, but watch what she said.
There are three things here you have to say if you believe the Christ, which is to say, "You are the great Deliverer. You're the Savior of the world. You are the anticipated Rescuer. You are the Promised One. You are the Son of God, which means you're divine. You are God. You have come into the world, which means you have identified with sinful humanity." Do you get that? "You are divine. You are human. You are God, Messiah, Eternal Father, Mighty God, Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace, Hope of the World.
Do you believe this? If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Martha was still very overwhelmed, but watch. She walked away, and I love this. She goes to her sister, Mary, saying, "The Teacher is here and is calling for you." Can I say this to you? I don't know where you're at, but the Teacher is here, and he is calling for you.
"And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him." See if you don't find this familiar. "Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him [still far away] . "Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to [wail] …" To uncontrollably, in distraught and loud grief, do what humans do at funerals.
There are two Greek words you're going to find out here. It says, "Jesus wept," in John 11:35. That's a different word than they thought that Mary was going to go and cry like a baby, cry like one with no understanding, cry like one who was human and finite. Jesus never cried with emotional sobbing…except once.
There is one time in Christ's life when he was overwhelmed, and he wept like a baby, like a human with no understanding mourns beside a dead corpse. Do you know when it was? You can go to Jerusalem, and you can stand on the Mount of Olives, just east of the temple mount. There is a church there that was built, and it's shaped like a teardrop. Dominus Flevit. The tears of the Lord.
That church is where they think that Jesus stood in Luke 19:41 when he looked over unbelieving, unrepented, destined for eternal separation from him, Israel, and he wept like a baby because he said, "Trouble is brewing. Y'all won't come to me. I've longed to gather you to me, but you aren't coming." He wept like a baby, like there was no hope for Israel.
Guess why? There was no hope for Israel because Israel had rejected him. Ezekiel 18 says, "God takes no delight in the death of the wicked. None. Not Hitler, not child molesters, not heterosexual perverts, not immoral people, not abortion doctors. He weeps because he loves you. It kills him. But he's going to let you choose what you choose. He's not a rapist.
They thought Mary was going to go and have some big public show of love by, "I'm overwhelmed. I don't know what to do. I'm distraught." So they went. "Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet…" That's the second thing you ought to do. Run to Jesus. Fall at his feet. And she said, "Lord, if You…"
How would you like to run into two Jewish sisters who had a little bit of a problem with you? "What were you doing? Why were you up there? Didn't you know? Didn't you get the message? Didn't you have time to come? Were you so busy with everybody else that you couldn't come here and hang out with us? We are Martha and Mary, after all. I did all these things for you. Martha's always baking. I'm always listening. What else do you want? My brother wouldn't have died."
Verse 33. "When Jesus therefore saw…" Watch this. "…the deep, broken distress. The emotional hopelessness and despair of the Jews who came with her, also deeply, emotionally distressed…" I love this. "…he was embrimaomai." That's exactly the word. I love this. Somebody said it's like a horse that's spurred on, getting ready to go to battle. It's almost like an onomatopoeia. It's a word that sounds like what it is. Embrimaomai. The word means groan.
He groaned. He gave a deep, intense, strong utterance with indignation. He looked at the pain of his people, and he went, "Embrimaomai."That's what he did. He got mad. Especially when you tag it to what's there. It says, "He was troubled. He was stirred." It's the word used for causing a riot. Do you know what it literally says there? It says he troubled himself. It's like he spurred himself. I'm going to say it. He says, "This pisses me off." That's what he says. I love that.
He got mad. He was sick and tired of friends who he loved being conquered by sin and death. So what did he do next? He got mad, and then, "Jesus wept." It's a different word there. It means he teared up. It was just a little tear that came up. It wasn't uncontrollable. He was just moved. Here's the reason he was moved right there in verse 36. "So the Jews were saying, 'See how He loved him!'"
I have some news for you. This is not, "See how he 'agaped' him. See how unconditional God is." That's not the word here. This is, "See how he phileo." Think about the context. To the Greek, the gods were totally unemotional and detached from the needs of mere mortals. This is God. He is ticked off that you're hurting. He is moved because he loves you. He is completely invested in you. You are his children. His creation.
We're going to go right here. This is the moment. Think about it. God has been building a ring. He has been constructing, right there in Caesar's Palace, a ring. Here we go. This is what you ought to hear right when you get to this spot in John 11:38. There's only one song that should on your mind right here. Here it comes.
[Theme from Rocky]
I love it. That's Clubber Lang. That's the Russian. That's death…47,000,000,000–0, and he says, "Let's go." There it is from verse 38. "Jesus…being deeply moved…" Have you ever seen a guy in a corner where that guy gets in his face? He just goes, "You get in there." I love it because Jesus says, "I'm going to slap you naked and hide your clothes." That's what he's about to say.
This is David. I love David with Goliath. This is Goliath, and David says, "Who are you, you uncircumcised Philistine? I'm going to chop your head off, and I'm going to take the entire army of the Philistines. We're going to feed them to the birds. We're going to feed them to the animals, that the world might know that there is God in Israel." Do you get that?
This is little David. "Oh, Jesus. He's dead. He stinks." That's what they say. "It's been four days." He says, "Roll away the stone. We're going to church. You're going to see who I am." So he says this. "Lazarus. Heel, boy." One person said, "It's a good thing he said 'Lazarus,' or everybody would've been clawing on the stone all around, because this is God. When he says, "You're no longer dead. Come on. Let's go, it's over…"
Let me just tell you this. Here's my big crescendo, my big point. Are you ready? You are all going to die, just like Lazarus. Everybody in this room. It will be terrible. Death is terrible. God hates death. It's been his enemy from the beginning. God says, "Don't leave me. I am life. If you leave me, you're going to die. Spiritually your marriage is going to be a wreck. Your kids are going to hate you. You're going to put ladders against the wrong walls.
Physically, you're going to die. It's going to lead to something so awful and so opposite of Eden that you can't even imagine it forever. It's going to be a physical reality that's going to be almost timed by grace so you can see how awful this physical death is, so when I come with a great rescue plan, you might trust in me, and you might come back to me believing you might have life later by having life now because you know who I am. Therefore, you're reconciled to me, and I've made provision."
A little bit later, Jesus himself goes to death. He takes our sin on the cross that he might set us free. Do you get this text? I'm telling you, this is it. So you go to war while you're here. You live nobly for him. You're going to die just like Lazarus, and it will be terrible. Can I tell you something else? You are going to be resurrected. Just like Lazarus. Every one of you.
Whether or not it's terrible or whether it is the beginning of incredible clarity about the wonder of God pivots on the question that he asked Martha when she walked through this very moment in history that I've just tried to help you walk through this morning. "I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus said. "Do you believe this? Martha, look at me. It's me. The Christ. There is no hope in anything else. Believe me. Trust in me, the Son of God who came to the earth to save sinful men. The Christ."
You're going to die. It's going to be terrible. We're going to have maybe just a little emotional tear because we're going to miss you. But I'm not going to wail over you like I'm distraught. I know exactly what's going on. There will be a deeper kind of wailing when the finality of your death has come if you are not like Lazarus and Martha and Mary and me, who have believed in Jesus. I love you. Listen to the teacher. Do you believe this?
Father, I pray for my friends. I pray that they would walk into this incredible moment in history, and they would see you in all your glory. This is the seventh sēmeion. This is the seventh revealing attestation of who you are that you have overcome sin and death. O Father, thank you that we can believe in you. And because we believe in you right away, resurrection living comes into our life.
Marriages are healed. Stories like Ryan's in today's Watermark News. Lives are changed. Mom is just a wretch. Mom is lost. Mom is imprisoned to the ways of the world, and she herself won't follow in those steps, and she can even be a means that maybe life can rush to her mom. Marriages can be reconciled. Sin can be overcome.
Habits that define us now don't need to define us, but your saving transforming grace, which leads to what is good and acceptable and perfect in our life, that testament that we are reconciled to you, that we will anticipate the great reconciling. I pray it would be true in the body of Christ at Watermark. I pray it would be true in all believers, Lord, that we would believe and live. That we would live as evidence that we believe.
Lord, if there's anybody here this morning who has some weak, tepid, Bible study, grew up in church understanding of who you are, you'd shake them out of it. That you would just look at them and say, "You have to walk with me. You have to know me. You have to run to me. It's okay that you're confused about the way I'm working this whole thing out, but trust me. I am God."
You want them to come. You want them to be reconciled. You want them to acknowledge the sin that leads to death and ask that you would be the one who goes to their death for them. As you have been resurrected by the power of God, that you lived to offer life to them. That this morning, as real as you were to Martha and Mary, that you would read to somebody in this room. They would come to you with a death of their sinful nature, their addicted, self-willed, enslaved, in-bondage self, and say, "Jesus, I believe. Just tell the stone to roll away. Let your Spirit come in. Get rid of my hard heart and make me new."
Lord, would you do that? I pray that we wouldn't be like the massive hired hands who just weep because it's the thing to do. That we would not be people who are here because it's the thing to do, but we would meet the resurrection and the life this morning, and it would change us. We'd run with you. We'd be like Mary in the weeks ahead who longed to sit at your feet and understand you more. We'd be like Martha. We'd live to serve you. It would change us. Everything would change. For your glory and our good, I pray. Amen.
Have a great week of worship.