Do you believe in miracles? Big and small? Do you believe that God can alter the course of history and the course of your life? I do. He does it all the time. Every day people are being physically healed. Everyday food and money show up at just the right moment. Every day, all over the world, people’s lives are being transformed – addictions are being broken, marriages are being restored, rebellious children are coming home.
Think about the miracles performed by Jesus. Water was turned into wine. He healed the sick. He healed an invalid. He fed the 5,000 with a boy’s lunch. He walked on water and He calmed the storm. A man born blind was given sight. A man who had been dead for four days was brought back to life! And then, in John 14:12 Jesus declared, “The one who believes in me will also do the works that I do. And he will do even greater works than these because I am going to the Father.”
The miracles of Jesus are more than historical facts. Every miracle not only reveals what Jesus did, past tense. They reveal what He wants to do in your life, present tense. What He’s done before, He wants to do again. And if we live like the Scriptures define, God will do what He did.
For the Glory of God
Most of the miracles recorded in Scripture require a catalyst – someone willing to be used by God to usher in the miraculous. That’s where you and I come in. God wants to use us to usher in the miraculous. But there are certain requirements that you and I must meet. First, we need to place all that we are, and all that we have into the hands of Jesus. Second, I shared that God is in the business of connecting His followers with those in need of a miracle through divine appointments. Followers of Jesus must be in tune with the Spirit of God. Next, I shared with you that the people God uses for His glory and the good of others believe beyond a shadow of doubt that God is able to do far more than we could ever ask for or dream of!
John 11:1-44 – The Raising of Lazarus From the Dead
John begins our story by identifying Lazarus, by declaring that he was from Bethany of Judea and that he was the brother of Mary and Martha. You remember them, don’t you? The two sisters who were complete opposites? One was a worker bee – the other, much more relational – the one who wanted to sit at the feet of Jesus. We discover that Lazarus is sick; so sick that his sisters send someone to tell Jesus. We don’t know what’s wrong with him, only that he was near death. Their message was simple, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” They believed that Jesus was not only capable of healing their brother, but that His love for Lazarus would compel Him to heal him.
Jesus hears their message and declares in verse 4, “This sickness will not end in death, but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified in it.” Jesus wasn’t saying that Lazarus wouldn’t die. Most likely he was already dead. What He was saying was that the end result, the final outcome, would not be death, but rather, the glory of God! Sometimes sickness and even death may be the will of God because it brings Him glory. In this case, Lazarus’s circumstances would bring glory to God.
When Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed two more days in the place that He was (Verse 6). Now that sounds a little unloving to me. What about you? Why would Jesus not heal Him on the spot? He has already proven that He didn’t have to be present to heal someone. Why didn’t Jesus leave immediately and travel the day’s journey to Bethany? I have a few suggestions. First, God’s delays strengthen our faith. They force us to trust Him. Second, the delay actually affirmed that Lazarus was dead. An important key to God’s future glory. And finally, His delay reminds us that Jesus worked on the Father’s timetable, not man’s.
After two days had passed, Jesus informs His disciples that they were headed to Bethany which was close to Jerusalem. The disciples were quick to point out that the religious leaders were determined to kill him! Jesus replies in verse 9, “Aren’t there twelve hours in a day?” Just as no one can lengthen or shorten a day, Jesus was saying that no one can lengthen or shorten His ministry and life on earth. God is sovereign and He has an appointed time for all things; including Jesus’ death and departure.
Jesus then declares to His disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am on my way to wake him.” Lazarus was dead but Jesus was going to raise him from the dead! The delay served a purpose. Verse 15 tells us that the delay would strengthen the faith of the disciples. The resurrection of Lazarus from the dead would do far more to strengthen the disciples’ faith than a healing alone would have done. Jesus was pointing out that the disciples needed a powerful miracle to strengthen their faith.
When they arrived in Bethany they discovered that Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. The Jews believed that the soul of a dead person hovered around the body for three days hoping to reenter it and that on the fourth day after the body had begun to decompose, it departed. Only then was a death irreversible. Lazarus had begun to decompose. He was dead.
When Mary and Martha heard that Jesus was coming into the village, Martha, the busy one, ran to meet Jesus. When she saw Him, she declared in verse 21, “Lord, had you been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” Obviously, she was heartbroken over his death but I don’t think she was rebuking Jesus. I believe that she was declaring her belief in His ability to heal the sick. I am sure that the idea of Jesus raising her brother from the dead had never crossed her mind! Jesus responds, “Your brother will rise again.”
She acknowledges that Lazarus would rise from the dead in the future on the last day. Jesus points out that He is the resurrection and the life, challenging her to trust Him as the one who had power over death. Boy, was she in for a surprise!
Martha departs and Mary returns for a similar conversation. When Jesus saw her crying, and the crowd with her, He became angry. Why? To be honest, I am not sure, but I believe that it has something to do with the fact that death and sorrow were not part of the Father’s original plan. Man had chosen to sin and in doing so, brought suffering into the world. That makes Him angry.
“Where have you put him?” He asks. As they led Jesus to the grave, scripture says that Jesus wept. Jesus didn’t burst into tears and start wailing like the mourners but rather, He burst into tears quietly. His love for Lazarus was real and the terrible impact of sin upon the world was enough to break His heart. When they got to the cave where Lazarus was buried He commands them to remove the stone. Now that’s not a good idea. As a matter of fact, Martha reminds Jesus, “Lord, he already stinks. It’s been four days.”
Jesus responds with a mild rebuke, “Did I not say that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” Jesus is challenging Martha and Mary to stop focusing on their problem, the death of their brother, and to focus on Him. We do that as well. When things go wrong we tend to focus on the problem and not upon the greatness of our God. Reassured by Jesus’ words, she gives her consent to move the stone.
After the stone was rolled away, Jesus raised His eyes to heaven and spoke to the Father, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe You sent me.” Concluding His prayer Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” And at the exact moment, Lazarus came out of the tomb. Alive!
Okay, let me give it to you straight. Lazarus didn’t walk out of the tomb, he came out doing the bunny hop! When the Jews buried someone they first tied their ankles together. And then, they tied their arms to the side of their body. Then they wrapped the deceased in strips of linen cloth. Lots of it! (About 100 pounds of them) Some scholars believe that they paid special attention to the head, wrapping it with cloth until it measured more than a foot in diameter. I bet you’re thinking like me – sounds like a mummy! Right? I thought so.
Based on what I just told you about Jewish burial customs, it seems to me that that two miracles happened that day, not one. First, Lazarus was brought back to life. The man with the stinking flesh came back to life and his decaying body was restored! But how did Lazarus get out of the tomb? He was in something like a full body cast! That’s the second miracle. Lazarus didn’t walk out of the tomb. He hopped out. Now that’s funny!
Do you believe this?
At the end of verse 26, after declaring that He was the resurrection and the life, Jesus asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” Martha’s response was simple but life-altering, “Yes Lord, I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” That’s the question God is asking you and me today, “Do you believe?” The answer determines your eternal destiny. In Romans 10:9 God declares, “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.” Saved from what? Saved from the punishment you deserve for your sin. Saved from death. Saved from a broken relationship with God. Saved from spending an eternity in the lake of fire, separated from God. If you believe.
God raises the dead from the grave. He raises broken dreams from the dead. He resurrects bad relationships. And, He raises marriages from the ashes. He is a God of second chances and like Lazarus, God wants to give you a second chance. If you will let Him, He will give you your life back. If you believe.
You can receive God’s free gift of salvation by praying a prayer like the one below. Although praying the prayer doesn’t save you, it should reflect the desire of your heart. And, if it is your desire, the Bible states that you are saved from your sin:
Dear God, I’m a sinner and know that my sins have destroyed our relationship. I acknowledge that I deserve death, separation from you for eternity. I’m sorry for my sins. I want to turn from my sins but cannot do so in my own power. I believe Jesus Christ is your Son. I believe He died on a cross for my sin and that You raised Him to life. I trust Him as my Savior and desire to follow Him as Lord from this day forward. Jesus, I put my trust in You and I submit my life to You. Holy Spirit, come into my life and be my guide. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.