Let us pray: Dear Savior, as we think about Your friend Lazarus, we’re amazed and awed at Your love for him and the compassion You have on his family. In raising him from the dead, you comfort his sisters, increase their faith, and turn Lazarus into an even more powerful witness to Your divinity. Today, comfort us. Remind us that we, too, shall arise from the dead. Teach us not to fear anything and so, turn us into powerful witnesses of Your grace, as well.
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE MIRACLE WORKER!
TEXT: John 11: 11-27, 38-44
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
Do you have a target painted upon your back? If you carefully study people in a crowd, you’ll see exactly what I mean. For example, if you’re well-dressed and wearing expensive jewelry, people on the street will notice. And no doubt a mugger will conclude: “If I accost that person, they’ll probably have more money to steal than that shabbily dressed college student.” What you wear, the kind of car you drive, how you’re groomed, even your speech will betray, or confess, things about you. Depending on the temperment and interest of those watching, any or all of those things will turn you into a marked man, or woman.
Today we see such a marked man in the person of Lazarus. And what a mark he wore on his back!—He was the famous fellow that Christ raised from the dead! It all happened as a result of Jesus’ love for him and his family, because of his living faith in His Savior and friend, and because Jesus wanted to once again announce to the world that: “I am the resurrection and the life.” Lazarus is good company. You can do no better in life than to be in his company. So, let’s consider:
THE FELLOWSHIP OF MARKED MEN, LAZARUS AND YOU
So, just who was Lazarus? Well, if we carefully study and Bible, we glean some interesting facts about him. First off, he lived with his sisters, Mary and Martha, in Bethany—a town about 2 miles outside Jerusalem. We’d call it a suburb today. They were early followers of Christ. Some postulate that they might have been about the same age as Jesus. Martha, because she exhibits some bossy traits is usually thought of as the eldest. Where Lazarus falls in line no one knows. But Mary appears to be the youngest due to her deference toward the other two.
Very often their home in Bethany served as a mini-hotel for Christ and His disciples when they visited the city. That means they had a large house and the money necessary to feed a crew. Before Christ’s death, it is Mary who anoints her Lord with that famous perfume in the alabaster jar. The perfume that was worth about $50,000 and that Judas wanted to confiscate, sell, and “give to the poor.”—Right after he lined his own pocket! So, put that all together and you discover that they were well off. Since Lazarus’ name is derived from the Jewish name, Eleazar; and since “the Jews” came out to comfort them after Lazarus’ death; and since that title “the Jews” meant the religious leadership of the nation; some believe that these three were relatives of a former high priest called: Eleazar. In any case, it fits the narrative quite well, doesn’t it?
We really don’t hear much about Lazarus up until this time, about 2 weeks before Christ died. Lazarus must have been more laid back, or perhaps he was busy working most of the time. In any case, Jesus receives word that Lazarus is on his deathbed. The sisters send word: “Come quickly.” His help and the comfort of His presence is needed. Note well, they knew where Jesus was (to the north in Galilee) in order to send a messenger. Since Christ arrived 4 days after Lazarus’ death, He must have been a distance. All this implies that they were very close in order to keep such tabs on Jesus.
Martha is the leader. She goes out to meet Christ and bluntly tells Him: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Obviously Martha was a devote believer. She trusted in Christ as her Savior. Even in the face of Lazarus’ death, weighed down by human grief, she knows that Jesus is the Son of God.—No doubt is found in her words. Christ responds in an interesting fashion: “Your brother will rise again.” To which Martha confesses her faith in the coming resurrection on judgment day. Jesus uses that confession to give her and us those wonderful words of promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.”
Martha then confesses once more, marking her as a Christian: “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” You and I confessed that same truth this morning. We confess it whenever we go to church. We confess it by how we talk, how we act, and how we comfort friends, co-workers, and relatives in need. We love Christ because He first loved us and now we share that love by always pointing them to God’s goodness found in Jesus.
Jesus is deeply moved by all this. After all, He has the heart of the Savior, literally. Mary is back at the house with various church leaders, some of whom are obviously enemies of Jesus. They have come out to “pay their respects” as it were. He talks with Mary, and even weeps over her loss. We’re told that some of those “leaders” were impressed by how much Jesus loved Lazarus, while others said: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” So, He goes to the tomb (again, to have a tomb with a stone meant this family had money and status) and tells some of the gathering crowd including those religious “leaders” to: “Take away the stone.” Blunt Martha blurts out the obvious: “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Christ is undeterred. He prays to His heavenly Father and asks that those about to see this miracle of glory may believe because of it. Then, “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out”—still wrapped in the grave clothes.
The story doesn’t end there. Next we hear that many of “the Jews” (religious leaders) who had come to visit Mary saw this miracle and put their faith in Christ. Meanwhile, others sought out the Pharisees and chief priests and tattled the tale. As a result, the Sanhedrin met and agreed to find a way to kill Jesus. A few days later, when Mary anoints Christ with that perfume, and the day before Palm Sunday, Jesus is again at their home. We’re told this: “A large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and putting their faith in him.”
Jesus was a marked Man. As a result of this amazing miracle, now Lazarus was a marked man. Anyone who confesses their faith in Christ is also a marked man! But, we’re not just marked for scorn, hatred, and death, even though the world sees it that way. No, as believers in the Savior who died for our sins and was raised for our justification (forgiveness before the Almighty) we’re really marked for resurrection and eternal life! Indeed, what higher honor can any human achieve than to belong to: the fellowship of marked men? And even better, by giving you the gift of faith, the Spirit has made it so. Amen