Pastor Nelson Bonilla: 3-26-23 Sermon – “Lazarus, A planned miracle”

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John 11:32-44; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:6-11 

          The miracle described by John in his Gospel is unique in many ways. Just to give you an example, this is I believe the only miracle planned by Jesus in advance. Let me explain. I do not think Jesus woke up every morning saying, I will heal a leper or ten lepers today, or I will heal a man who was born blind. He just healed those who came to him. However, Lazarus’ resurrection was different. Our Lord carefully planned this miracle. Chapter 10 ends telling us that Jesus went beyond the river Jordan near the place where John was first baptizing and stayed there awhile. And while He was there, Lazarus, his friend got sick. His two sisters Martha and Mary, sent Jesus a message saying, “your dear friend is sick.” Jesus sent a message back, “Lazarus’ sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God. So, the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 

I believe that when Martha and Mary heard these words, they hoped their brother was going to be ok. But it was not like that; a few days later, Lazarus died, and I believe Martha and Mary resented Jesus’ absent, why I believe that? Because they did not send anyone to tell Jesus about Lazarus’ death. When Martha and Mary sent the message to Jesus about Lazarus’ sickness, they were expecting Jesus to come and help; they were expecting Jesus to come soon and heal his friend, the same way he did with hundreds, if not thousands during His ministry. But no, it was until a few days later that Jesus told his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples did not understand, then he told them, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now, you will believe. Come, let’s go see him.” 

“I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now, you will believe. Come, let’s go see him.” Jesus waited all this time on purpose; He planned this miracle; He waited until Lazarus was dead to go back. To the casual eye, it seems like Jesus did not care; that he failed his friends, but no, this is the way He planned it. This event from John’s Gospel shows how great Jesus’ compassion is. Jesus kept himself away from Bethany and Lazarus, because if he is near his friend, He was going to heal him as soon as he got sick, He could not see his friend suffer and died. And with heavy heart He stayed away. He did all this, so his disciples and everybody else would be able to see God’s glory through one of the greatest miracles He performed.

John recounts that after Jesus got to see Mary and Martha, he asked them to take him where Lazarus was and then he stood before the cave and loudly said, “Lazarus come out,” and he did; Lazarus came out, and from that moment on, the sorrow caused by his death became happiness; crying became praises; death became life, and many unbelievers became believers. That is what God’s glory is all about.

Even when the gospel does not say what happened with Lazarus after this, it is obvious I believe that Lazarus was not the same anymore; something changed for good. I believe Martha and Mary were not the same, and I believe that those who saw Lazarus returning from the dead were not the same anymore. Radical changes happened. I want to believe that their priorities changed, the way Lazarus treated his sisters, and the way his sisters treated him was not the same.

I would like to believe that every morning after Lazarus woke up, he appreciated the new day in a way he did not before. Lazarus did not argue for little things as before. He did not let the trivialities of life steal his peace. After Jesus brought him back from the dead, Lazarus learned to enjoy the relationship with his friends. And because of what happened to him, little things taken for granted were not little anymore because he knew what it was to be dead. And that is what Jesus pretended with this miracle; he wanted people to believe because by believing in him people would be saved.

When we look carefully at this miracle, we see that it was Jesus last intent to convince people that even when he was going to end on a cross, He had come from God. Jesus’ prayer before calling Lazarus out confirms it, “I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” (v 42). In verse 4 when Jesus received the news about Lazarus illness, he 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.”

The gospel of John does not call miracles, the miracles Jesus performed. The other three do. John calls them signs. Signs because they point beyond the event itself to something else or more precisely, they point to someone else. Lazarus resurrection besides pointing to Jesus as the Resurrection and Life, as he told Mary in verse 25 and 26, also points to his own glorification through his death and resurrection.

Lazarus’ resurrection is a sign; a sign that points to Jesus as Lord of death and life. Here is the great news from this event, Jesus breaks and goes beyond every barrier! With this sign, Christ shows he is the Lord of death; Paul says in Colossians that in Jesus dwells the fullness of God, who is life, eternal life. For this reason, a few days later, he will show us that death did not have power over him; and Lazarus’ resurrection is the sign, a reminder to us of Jesus’ complete dominion over physical death.

To us this morning, Lazarus and Jesus’ resurrection has two lessons, one is a reminder of our own resurrection, John 14:19, “Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” John 14:3 says, And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

For those who believe in Jesus, brothers, and sisters, death is only a transition to a better life, why? Because when we come to the end of this life, Jesus, the one who has power over death; the one who defeated death when God raised him from the tomb will be waiting for us with a place ready for us to dwell.

Lesson two comes from the next chapter which is also about Lazarus resurrection. Chapter 12:9-11, “Meanwhile 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. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well, 11 for on account of him many of the Jews were going over to Jesus and believing in him.”

According to Ephesians 2: 1-6, we all have gone through the same experience Lazarus went through. We have also gone from death to life. This is what Paul says in Ephesians 2:1-6, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,”

We were dead in our transgressions and God made us alive with Christ. The chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus because the people saw him and knew God brought him from death back to life and they believed in Jesus, just by looking at him. Lazarus was a testimony of who Jesus was. God is expecting the same; he is expecting people to look at us and say, she or he is different since Jesus came to him or her. He or she is as different as life and death, and they will come to believe for what they see in us. If Lazarus was proof of Jesus’ power over death; we are proof of God’s transforming power. Let us with our life testify about the love and power of God.

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