Sunday 24 October 2010 : John 11: 1-6
Today we move into what, even for Jesus, is radical territory. John 11 tells of Lazarus being raised from the dead. That’s not something we see every day of the week. Church notice boards do not proclaim : Service on Sundays at 10.30, raising from the dead on Wednesdays at 7.45. Even Jesus Himself practised this ministry sparingly.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. It will take a few bites for us to digest this chapter fully, and I want this morning mainly to set the scene. First, who is Lazarus? He is a personal friend of Jesus and the disciples. When they’re in town, they stay with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha in the village of Bethany, a suburb of Jerusalem.
There is a strong bond between Jesus and this family. Lazarus and his sisters have seen, first-hand, the life-changing ministry of Jesus. V.5 states plainly : Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. And, if for no other reason than that, you might have imagined that when Jesus heard the news that Lazarus was “gey hard-up”, he would have high-tailed it back to Bethany to lay on healing hands pronto. But v.6 reads : Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
Very odd. So what’s going on in the mind of Jesus here? The clue lies in v.4 : Jesus said, This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it. Let me first of all tell you what this does NOT mean. It does NOT mean that the illness of Lazarus, in and of itself, was for God’s glory.
Some people, who should know better, have stood in pulpits over the years and stated that God is glorified by human suffering. Rubbish. That is not what the Bible teaches, and those who have talked such tripe should know perfectly well that’s not what the Bible teaches. Do you want to know what the Bible says about illness? If you want me to tell you, you’d better fasten your seat-belt, because this stiff dose of Scripture will blast all sorts of religious demons out of your head once and for all … if you let it!
Right. Here goes. Question – how does the Bible describe disease? Answer – it is a curse, the consequence of human disobedience. In Deuteronomy 28, there is a long and blood-curdling list of curses specifically including : fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses ; all the diseases of Egypt that you dreaded ; every kind of sickness and disaster not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed.
Those curses are said to fall upon those who disobey the Law given to Moses. That’s in the Old Testament. But what does the New Testament say, after Jesus? Galatians 3.13 : Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree. In other words, if you are a born-again follower of Jesus Christ, those curses do not apply to you. How does that work? 1 Peter 2.24 : Christ himself carried our sins in his body to the cross, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness. It is by his wounds that you have been healed.
Let’s just stop right there for a moment, and hammer this point home, because this is very, very important, so listen carefully to your Uncle Frank this morning, OK? If you get your head around what I’m sharing with you from the Word of God, your whole life can change forever. When Adam and Eve blew it in the Garden of Eden, they opened the door for the devil to march into the life of every human being, stick his muddy feet up on our sofa, and unpack his suitcase of horrors, including illness.
That was never God’s best will for His people, but it was part of the sin-package that His people have repeatedly and foolishly chosen ever since. If you haven’t made the conscious decision to put Jesus Christ at the centre of your life, you are giving the devil free rein to trash your life with disease of every sort. But the minute you do make the conscious decision to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour, everything changes.
At the cross Jesus paid the price to set you free. He released, historically, 2,000 years ago, forgiveness for all sin for all people for all time, and healing for all disease and all disability, for all people for all time. That is what the Bible teaches. The sacrifice Jesus made on the cross makes freely available to you, by the grace of God, total forgiveness and total healing and a complete new life. How do you appropriate that? By faith.
You make the decision today to give your life 100% to Jesus, what we call being born again, and that glorious new life, in abundance, to the full, till it overflows, for eternity – no longer subject to guilt or condemnation, sickness or disease – is available to you. You will be able to sing, with the Psalmist : Let all that I am praise the Lord. With my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the Lord. May I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sin and heals all my diseases.
Now that’s a better song to sing than anything Simon Cowell or Cheryl Cole are trying to push on X-Factor. That’s a song that will lift your heart and give you hope even in the most difficult situations. God’s will for your life, according to Isaiah 54.17, is that no weapon forged against you will prevail – anyone agree that disease is a weapon forged against you? If you belong to Christ, it will not prevail.
That verse from Isaiah goes on to say that : you will refute every tongue that accuses you. When people speak their negative, fear-filled, scripturally-illiterate garbage over your life, such as : what’s for you won’t go past you ; if your name’s on it, you’ll get it ; you’ve just got to put up with it ; God must be giving you this illness for a reason ; you need to stand up and speak out boldly and refuse to accept that demon-inspired dross.
You need to declare the promise of Scripture over your life : You’re a liar, devil. Scripture says that the Lord is my healer, and by the wounds of Jesus I have been healed. Disease is a curse for unbelievers, but I belong to Christ and He has cancelled the curse, so I refuse illness and I, as a born-again believer, receive and walk in the promise of 3 John 2 that God’s will is for me to prosper and be in good health, even as my soul prospers. I believe it, I receive it, I live by it. Symptoms GO, in Jesus’ name!
You need to do that. No-one else can make that confession of faith for you. You need to accept your God-given responsibility and declare what Jesus has done for you at the cross as the foundation of all that you are, all that you have, and all that you live by. Furthermore, you don’t need to wait till the first aches, pains and sniffles before you take your stand. You can deliver a pre-emptive strike against illness every single day.
You can declare the promises of Psalm 91 over your life : I live under the protection of God Most High and stay in the shadow of God All-Powerful. Then I will say to the LORD : “You are my fortress, my place of safety ; you are my God, and I trust you.” The Lord will keep me safe from secret traps and deadly diseases. He will spread his wings over me and keep me secure. His faithfulness, the fact that He always keeps His Word, is like a shield or a city wall. I won’t need to worry about dangers at night or arrows during the day. And I won’t fear diseases that strike in the dark or sudden disaster at noon. I will not be harmed, though thousands fall all around me.
So far as the devil and his dirty tricks department is concerned, you get your retaliation in first! If you put your faith and trust in Jesus, the devil is under your feet, as it says in Romans 16.20, so you don’t need to be afraid of him, or let him mess with your head. Just write the message : Get lost, loser : on the sole of your shoe and stand on him.
When Jesus says that what was happening to Lazarus was for God’s glory, He certainly wasn’t referring to the illness itself. He was talking about the awesome miracle that was about to take place – but that’s for next time. Meanwhile, I encourage you – if you have never made a commitment of faith in Jesus – do yourself a favour and make one now. And please do pick up, if you don’t already have it, the wee booklet about the healing ministry of the church – there’s copies on the table at the door, and it’s free!!