Skip Heitzig - John 11:33-12:11
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So there were three sisters, elderly sisters, who live together. Their ages were 92, 94, and 96, respectively. They were old gals. They had survived, and they were sharing a home. And as they were getting older, they were getting more frail. And the 96-year-old was upstairs. She was running a bath. And she put her foot over one side of the tub, and then she cried out, she yelled out to her sisters downstairs, now was I getting in the tub or was I getting out of the tub. And the 94-year-old sister answered, and she said, I don't know. I'll come up, and I'll see.
So she was going up the stairs, she paused, and she said, now, was I going up the stairs or coming down the stairs, she yelled out. And her other sister, the 92-year-old was sitting at the kitchen table downstairs, and she shook her head. And she said, man, I hope my mind doesn't go like that when I get older. And she said, and then she went like this. Knock on wood, you know, just reassurance. And then she said, I'll be up to help you gals in a minute. But first, let me see who's at the door.
So these things happen to the best of us. We have been looking at a household in Bethany of two sisters and a brother, Mary and Martha and Lazarus, adult children all sharing the same home. Don't know what their situation was, presumably all unmarried, all living in that home, probably a family plot of land passed on to that generation. They were all sharing that home.
They were friends of Jesus, not just friends but close friends. It was Jesus' home away from home when he was in Jerusalem, Bethany being just on the other side of the Mount of Olives, facing the east. They would have had a commanding view of the Dead Sea in the Jordan Valley.
But Lazarus came down with an illness. And Mary and Martha, knowing that Jesus had a special love for Lazarus, sent him a message, "the one that you love is sick," expecting that Jesus would show up and prevent him from getting sick any further, certainly from death, didn't happen. He waited until Lazarus was dead, and then he went up to Bethany. Lazarus was a man that Jesus loved, but he was still a man. And being a man, even if Jesus loves you as a man or a woman, men and women that Jesus loves get sick, and they die. Just because you are loved by God doesn't mean that you won't experience the lot that everyone experiences in this earth.
You say, can't God heal. Yes, God can heal, no question, never an issue. Will God heal? Sometimes He will, sometimes He won't. He will answer all your prayers, sometimes yes, sometimes no. Last time I checked, that's an answer. So they were expecting a yes answer. They got a no answer. But they were about to get something better. But I want to frame it so that you realize, once again, that we're dealing with humanity, and humans get sick. As Eliphaz said in the book of Job, chapter 5, "Man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward."
So trouble has entered this home. Lazarus now has died of the disease, whatever it was, we're not sure. Jesus comes as the funeral is taking place.
In those days and at that time because of the warm climate, Mediterranean climate in the region, and because the Jews never embalmed their dead, they buried them immediately. They buried them the same day they died. It was their practice. So Lazarus, by this time, has been dead four days. By the time Jesus hits town, he's been in the grave four days. According to Jewish custom, mourning took place for a full month.
I'll never forget a tour guide that I had in Israel, when his father died down in South America, he was off the grid for a month because the Jewish mourning is 30 days. The first seven days of those 30 days are intense mourning, intense grieving. And that's typically, if you were to go to a Jewish home, you would see that they look disheveled. They don't shave. They don't wear shoes. They let, you know, they just sort of let themselves go for seven days. They kind of hover around the house as a sign of mourning and grief. Jesus steps in to this situation.
Oh, something else, a Jewish funeral, unlike an American funeral, you go to an American funeral, it's hello. I'm glad you could come. It's hushed tones and weird music. And I've always thought, I told you last week, I've always been spooked out by funerals. I just, I would do them a little bit differently, you know. And I try to but the family wants what the family wants, and so it's usually spooky.
But in those days, it was very demonstrative. They thought that if you love someone and they're dead, you should show it. And so they would give full vent to their feelings, loud mourning, the ripping of clothes, the wearing of sackcloth, the throwing up of dust, and putting ashes on their head, and I mean, just a demonstration.
In fact, in those days, they would hire professional mourners who would, just in case you were in a mood not to really get loud, you're just in a very, very sorrowful depressing mood, they would keep the atmosphere going by loud mourning and wailing. Oh! You know, it was put on. They were hired to do it. But they wanted the neighbors to know, sort of like running the house alarm all day long. You know, it's like, OK, they're still in grief over there. You can hear those professional mourners out there who are getting paid a bundle. And they did it for that reason.
Now there were some superstitions about death. And I have discovered that superstitions about death still persist to this day. And oddly, people who are Christian people, who go to churches, and who read Bibles, and who you would think would know better, have some of the oddest superstitions. I've been at enough funerals, I've conducted enough funerals to listen to eulogies given. And so I've heard people at funerals say of their beloved, well, now we know they're angels in heaven. That's where, they've turned into an angel. I guess God needed another angel.
And I remember when I first heard that, I'd look at him and go, I wonder if they really think that's what happened to their loved one, they became an angel. But apparently, judging by what he or she is saying, they actually believe that that happens. That does not happen, does not happen. I've been at funerals where somebody gets up, a buddy died who loved to play golf, and he'll stand up here, and he'll say, you know, George is up in that big great fairway in the sky right now, teeing off, shooting it straight down the fairway, as if heaven is a golf course. Boy, would I be disappointed. And I grew up playing golf.
But I'm telling you, if that's heaven, there's going to be a lot of disappointed people. Or you know, she's up there playing cards right now. She loved to play cards. She's up in heaven playing cards. And some of the goofiest things, or they'll eventually be in heaven, but they have to go to a place called purgatory and burn off their sins for, all of these superstitions about death that are not Biblical teachings at all. But I find them at church funerals. And it's quite disparaging.
There were superstitions in that day and age. One of them is that the spirit of the departed or the spirit of the dead hovered over the grave, hovered over the tomb of the person who died for three days, seeking to re-enter the body. On the fourth day when composition had begun in full swing, at full measure, the process was now considered irreversible. So the spirit would flee for good. All of that were superstitious.
Now, I'm not saying that Mary and Martha believed that. But I'll bet you there were a bunch of people who did. So I say that because the fourth day was considered irreversible. Jesus shows up on the fourth day. He's been dead four days. Now he's going to rise that person, raised Lazarus from the dead, it's going to be unmistakable that it's a Resurrection, not the fulfillment of some superstition. So that's just sort of a little bit of a background to this.
Let's pick it up in verse 33. "Therefore when Jesus saw her weeping", Mary, at this point, "and the Jews who came with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled." We commented on that last time. "And he said, "Where have you laid him? They said to Him, "Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, see how He loved him."
Now notice that it says Mary was weeping, and the crowd was weeping. Then it says, Jesus wept, two different words. When the crowd wept, the Greek word is a wail of grief, an audible wail. "Klaio" is the word, "to cry out." When it says, "Jesus wept," it was a silent weeping. You need to picture here Jesus standing there, and tears welling up in His eyes. And He's standing there silently as tears flood down His cheeks. Jesus wept.
Does that strike you as odd? Is Jesus weeping because Lazarus is dead? I mean, He knows He's going to raise him in a few minutes. 10 minutes, it's party time, right. I don't think He's weeping because Lazarus has died necessarily. I don't think it's, like, I'm missing him right now. You would think Jesus would come in passing out the Kleenex. He's about to raise Lazarus up, and He knows it.
So why is He standing there weeping? It's a touching scene. It's one of the two shortest verses in the Bible. The other one is I Thessalonians, chapter 5, "rejoice always." This is just, "Jesus wept."
First of all, Jesus was entering into the experience of humanity fully. He was deity, but He was also humanity, fully God but fully man. And as our great high priest, what does the writer of Hebrews say, "We do not have a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities but was in all points tempted like we are yet without sin." So He fully immersed Himself to show Himself relatable by weeping, like they were weeping.
"Weep with those that weep," the Bible tells us, "rejoice with those that rejoice." Yes, Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. But don't you think it'd be weird if He came and went, ah, ha, ha, ha, ha. I'm rejoicing because I know what's going to happen. No, He fully enters into it, I love this, our great high priest.
Well, they interpreted that as Jesus loved him. And they said, "see how He loved him." And some of them said, "could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind also have kept this man from dying." It's an interesting thing to say. It seems like the crowd at the funeral has picked up the attitude of Martha and Mary. Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn't have died, both of them said that.
It seems like this crowd has picked up this attitude, saying, you know, I'm remembering what happened back in chapter 9 of this book. And of course, they're not thinking that. But they would be thinking, I know what happened a few months ago at the feast of dedication in Jerusalem. Jesus healed a blind man.
That made an impact on the people of Jerusalem. They're still remembering that. And they're thinking, if He could do that, why couldn't He keep a man from dying.
Now, parents, you answer that because you know the answer to that. How many times growing up did your kids misinterpret one of your actions for your lack of love? You don't love me. Well, why would you say that? Because you spanked me. Oh, yeah, I did because I love you. The discipline proves that I love you. It's not because I don't love you.
Well, I don't feel it today. Well, it's not what you feel today. See me in 18 years, and let's see how you feel then. Or they'll weep and they'll wail, and they'll accuse you of not loving them because you deny them something they want. So they're not being gratified immediately, or they're being disciplined immediately, and they misinterpret that as a lack of love. Well, couldn't this one, if He loved him, kept him from dying? Yes, but He's about to demonstrate how much He loves him by raising him up from the dead and giving him back to these sisters. "Jesus, again, groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, 'take away the stone.'"
Now at first, our Lord simply said, take Me to where you've laid him. Why is that? Because graveyards in those days typically unmarked, owned by families, were outside of town. You don't have them inside of town because to be in a cemetery defiles a person. Touching a dead person defiles a person. So cemeteries were in caves in those days where they were cut out of rock hills. And go to Jerusalem and you'll see, they're everywhere. There's rocks everywhere. There's rock hills everywhere.
So Jesus first says, take Me to where you've laid him. But what surprises Martha is Jesus says, take the stone away. Why would that surprise Martha? Funeral's over, he's been dead four days, no embalming fluid. That means one thing, stank, big time stank. Well, "Martha, the sister of him who is dead, said, 'Lord, by this time, there's a stench." I love the King James, I mentioned to you last week. "By now, he stinketh for it has been four days. And Jesus said to her, 'did I not say to you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God.'"
I wish I could right now march you into a tomb in the Middle East so you could see it for yourself. But just imagine going up to the side of a rock hill, there's a cave, natural cave that has been further huned out into a common area where several people could stand. And then you would look around in different places, and you would notice that there is a burial place, a little shelf where you could lay a body and then another niche where you could lay a body.
Typically, a family tomb had about eight of these little ledges where you could put eight human bodies. Then there was a shelf where after the decomposition ran its course after about a year, you would enter the tomb again. By that time, the flesh has been dissolved, and you just have a skeleton.
They would collect all the bones of their loved one and put them into this little box called an ossuary. The ossuary meant a stone box or a bone box, that's what an ossuary was. You would put the bones, lay it down, the skull on top, close the lid.
And there's Uncle George. And there's Aunt Frieda. And you would have the family, and then now you have made room for more people to die and be buried in their place. And pretty soon, you can collect a whole family in there, very convenient.
Then the tomb was sealed with a stone. It was a large two to three-ton stone. Again, I wish I could show you one.
Right by the King David Hotel, if you go out the back door, turn right by the garden, and go down to the park, you'll see one of them. So just remember that next time you're there. And you'll see one of these stones at the mouth of the tomb they'd found. It's a 2,000-year-old tomb.
The stone was rolled into, like a wheel, rolled into a little ledge that was carved into the stone. And it was rolled downward. Why was it rolled downward? To keep grave robbers out and to keep animals out for obvious reasons.
To move a stone out of the way took several people, and it took leverage. It took tools to be able to do it. So Jesus says, get the guys out here. Take the stone away. Probably Martha was thinking, oh my goodness, He wants to view the body because He loves him so much.
By the way, this is why there are open caskets. It's so, I know it seems creepy and gross to some people to actually look at a dead corpse, but the idea is that it's the last point of contact to see your departed one. And probably Martha's thinking that's what Jesus wants.
But at the same time, she's repulsed because she knows it's going to stink. I don't know if you've ever smelt a decaying corpse. But if you have, you'll never forget it.
When I was in radiology training in the early days at San Bernardino County Medical Center, we worked with the county coroner who would bring in corpses, or parts of corpses, legs, torsos, heads, arms, and have us X-ray them to find the cause of death. Well, if you bring in a corpse or a body part that's been decaying for a couple months, the entire department, radiology, emergency room, the whole bottom floor just, it's an unforgettable smell. It's horrible, decomposing flesh. Sorry to get into that.
But I do want you to get the full, we read through this, and we have our coffee, and it's not the same. Jesus said to her, "Did I not save to you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God. Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying." And you know they just held their noses and turned away.
Jesus lifted His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You will always hear Me. But because of the people who are standing by, I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me. Now when He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. And Jesus said to them, loose him, and let him go."
Question, why did Jesus have to pray out loud and say what He said to Lazarus out loud? Did He do it, first of all, so God could hear Him? No, He did it so they could hear Him. He wanted them to listen to what was going on because He's authenticating the relationship He has with His Father. So He prays aloud, and then He cries out with a loud voice. He didn't have to. He could have whispered it. He could have thought it in His mind. But He vocalized it loud for a few reasons. Number one, He was about to do a mighty act. And you want to use mighty speech when you're about to do a mighty act. The speech corresponds to the act.
Second reason he did it. Wizards and mediums whispered and muttered when they gave their incantations and their spells. Jesus, to counteract any thought of that, spoke loudly. And third, He wanted to get their attention. This is, what they're about to see is utterly amazing, something that they will not forget ever. So He calls him out.
Now notice something in verse 43. He says, "Lazarus, come forth." Why did He address him? Why didn't He just say, come forth? To limit the response, right. We're talking, we're talking a graveyard setting. If He would have just said, come forth, He would have had an army come forth. Go to the Mount of Olives, and you'll understand. The entire Mount of Olives is to this day a necropolis. It's a place where thousands upon thousands of dead are buried. He would have more dead people than, it would be the Walking Dead.
So to limit the response, Lazarus, only Lazarus, nobody else, come forth. "And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth." That gives you a little insight into New Testament burial practices.
OK, you have here, aside from the Resurrection, aside from the miraculous, you have a picture of salvation. We were born what the Bible says dead in trespasses and sins. So you were born dead. You were born DOA, dead on arrival.
You can't improve your condition. You know, the idiocy of saying, I'm going to work hard to get saved is like a dead person saying, I'm going to improve my deadness. I'm going to work really hard and get undead one day. And I'm going to get myself alive. Dead people cannot improve their condition.
It's a picture of salvation. You were dead in trespasses and sins. And the Bible says, He quickened you. He made you alive. It's His act. It's His grace. It's His work that did it.
Something else, what you have here is what they would call in movie jargon, a trailer. You know what a trailer is, right, when you go see a movie? In the first 30 minutes of the movie you're seeing will show you what's coming next month and next month and next month. And the trailer is the best part usually.
A lot of times, you see the trailer. I've seen the movie, don't need to see it because why pay $150 to see that movie when I can see the best parts. And sometimes, it's even better than the movie.
But it's a preview of coming attractions, I digress. It's a preview of coming attractions. This Resurrection of Lazarus was a preview of coming attractions. What Jesus did to Lazarus that day, listen carefully, He's going to do to you one day.
Now I want you to hear this unmistakably. He's going to, so to speak, walk up to your grave and say come forth. When is that going to happen, at the rapture of the church.
1 Thessalonians chapter 4, it says, "The Lord will descend from heaven", listen, "with a shout, with the voice of the archangel. And the dead in Christ will rise", that's Resurrection, "rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air."
What happened with Lazarus will happen to you. If you're alive, you'll be caught up instantly. If you're dead, you will be raised in resurrected life, like Lazarus, on that day.
"The Lord will descend from heaven with a shout." What will He say? What will His shout be? Don't know.
But it might be, "come forth." Or it might be like Revelation, chapter 4, "come up here" or "come forth up here." Remember Revelation 4, there was a trumpet, and suddenly John heard that voice come up here, and he was in the presence of God instantaneously.
So this is a preview of coming attractions. What He did to Lazarus, He's going to do to you and to your loved ones who know Christ. That's why death never has the final word. Jesus always has the final word, and His final word is "come forth, you will live again."
Now people will ask, I hope they will ask. I hope that they're inquisitive enough to say, and I got a note one time when we were teaching on this. Why would the Lord want to resurrect the dead body of a Christian?
See, some people get the idea that that's our body, no big deal. It dies, it perishes. Then we get a whole new body. No, you don't. The body that went in the ground is the body that gets raised up. I think it's going to look dramatically different, so just relax.
Because you don't want to be 92, 94, and 98, like those, or 96 like those gals. It's like, uh, could I have died like when I'm 20 then? But that's a whole other study, which we have taught in depth. We did a whole series on the Resurrection of the body for the Christian.
What you will be able to do, what it will look like, et cetera, et cetera, done that already. But why would the Lord feel it necessary to resurrect the body. And by the way, it truly is an extreme make-over.
I want you to just go home and look in the mirror and take comfort in the fact that it gets better, not in the short term. But in the long run, it gets better. And the older we get, the more we need to remind ourselves of that. All the makeup, all the stretching, all the whatever you do to fix it up, the extreme make-over is coming.
Why would the Lord need to resurrect the Christian body? How about if I leave that for homework for you? And you can chase that down so we can get through this.
Then verse 45 and verse 46, I have to say, is one of the hardest parts of the story for me to believe, not the Resurrection but this. And I'll show you why. Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things that Jesus did.
Verse 45 is placed there by John because that is his theme. The theme of John is faith, is believe. 98 times he uses the word "believe" in this book. That is his theme. He's telling you this so that you would believe. He's showing you why and how people believed. So he closes his book saying many other things Jesus did in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book.
But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and believing, have life in His name. That's the theme of His book. So it's natural that we would find this verse, when they saw a dead dude get out of the ground, they believed. The hard part for me is the word "many."
It should read "everyone" who saw the dead dude get out of the ground, all of them believed, every stinking last one of them believed. That would make sense to me. But it says, "many of them believed," which infers some did not believe. And indeed, the very next verse bears that out. "But some of them went" and tattletaled, "went away to the Pharisees." And they told them, can I, you want to know what Jesus did?
Listen, if this were a crusade, an evangelistic crusade, I would understand if it said and some believed, and some didn't. I get that. If this was a church service, and an altar call happened, it always happens, some believe, some don't. But a Resurrection of a dead dude from the ground? It should say, they all believed. But here's what I want you to see. This shows you the hardness of the human heart.
And people say, well, if I could have a miracle, I'd believe. Not necessarily. A dead dude got out of the ground. A lot of people didn't believe it. In the Old Testament, miracles happened in the wilderness, in the desert. Water came out of a rock. Manna came out of the sky. A Red Sea opened up. A lot of people had hardened hearts and did not believe.
In John, chapter 6, Jesus fed the multitudes. And yet after Jesus' sermon, because it was so tough to hear, it says, "and many of His disciples turned away and walked no longer with Him." Really, after seeing a miracle like that? But that is the human heart. Some believe, and some don't. Then verse 47, "The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, what shall we do, for this Man works many signs. If we let him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him. And the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation."
Now what's wrong with this? I'll tell you what's wrong with it. You have two groups of people that hate each other, but they agree that they hate Jesus more than any of their differences. Did you see the words in verse 47, "chief priests"? Chief priests belonged to a group called the Sadducees. You've heard of them, yes, Sadducees. And then under that is the group called the Pharisees.
So you have chief priests, Sadducees, and Pharisees, they're having a meeting together. That's weird. They never met together. They hated each other. The Sadducees were the theological liberals of the day. They really weren't religious. They were political. They wanted to appease Rome so that they could maintain their wealthy positions, paid for by the Jewish nation and the Roman government.
They did not believe in a Resurrection. They did not believe in the supernatural world. They did not believe in life after death. They did not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, that the Bible was the word of God. They only held to loosely the first five books of Moses, the Pentateuch. That's the Sadducee party.
The Pharisees, on the other hand, believed in miracles, believed in a Resurrection, believed in the afterlife, believed in spirits and demons, believed all of the Old Testament, the Tanakh was the inspired word of God. And they also believed that the oral law was to be considered almost on a par with scripture itself. Not so the Sadducees, so they fought.
One was a highly legalistic religious group. One was very liberal and more political in nature. They didn't get along. They hated each other with a passion but they hated Jesus more. And their hatred for Jesus was the only thing they had in common, and that was the mutual element that brought them together.
So they have a little conference here. In the midst of their discussion comes an interesting prediction. Verse 49, "And one of them, Caiaphas", he's the son-in-law of Annas. He's the high priest that year.
I won't go through all the history of that. I've done it before. "Said to them, you know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish. No, he said this, not on his own authority, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad."
Now what did Caiaphas mean by this? He was really a pragmatist. He was simply saying, look, it's better that He dies than we die.
We better curtail this. We better think of a way to kill Him because He's going to cause a riot. And if He causes a riot and an insurrection, they're going to come after us and kill us. So it's better that He dies instead of us. That's what He meant by it.
But John says, he did not know, he was unwitting to the fact that he was actually prophesying that year, that God used his position as the high priest to give one of the clearest predictions of vicarious or substitutionary atonement. One death is sufficient for all. That's what John means by this.
Now he did know he was speaking truth. But God used him to speak truth, which is interesting to me. Because some people say I can't believe that, you know, God could speak through anybody except a pre-millenial dispensational theological this or that. Everybody else is wrong.
Listen, listen, God can speak through a donkey. Balaam was riding a donkey, and the donkey spoke because he wouldn't listen to God. So God said, he'll listen to a donkey talking.
So I just want you to hear that because God in heaven is able to give truth. It always has to be compared with scripture. But He's able to give truth through a number of sources. I've been to university. I've been to colleges. There have been some fabulous donkeys that have given me truth.
Much of what they say is wrong. But there'll be that nugget, it's like, yeah, that was awesome. That was true. So just because they don't believe everything you believe, God can still use them to speak truth. So here's Caiaphas, unbeliever, unregenerate, and he speaks God's word as being in the position of a high priest that year, a clear declaration of substitutionary atonement.
"Then from that day on," verse 53, "they plotted to put Him to death. Therefore, Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but He went from there into the country near the wilderness to a city called Ephraim," 15 miles to the north in the hills of the area. "And there He remained with His disciples.
And the Passover of the Jews was near. And many went up from the country up to Jerusalem for the Passover to purify themselves. Then they sought Jesus and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple.
What do you think? That He will not come to the feast? Both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command that if anyone knew where He was, they should report it that they might seize Him."
So now the gears, the machinery of the crucifixion are put in place. Let's find him, let's seize him, let's kill him. Why? To save our nation. It's better that one man die than we die. Let's save our nation.
All of the steps they made, says William Barclay, to save the nation would ensure that they destroy the nation. Jesus predicted what would happen if they rejected Him, that the Romans would come and destroy that place. And in 70 AD, that's exactly what happened.
In seeking to save their own lives they destroyed their whole nation. But the machinery is set in place. This is now the final week of Jesus on the earth. And we'll only be able to read a portion of it, but it really belongs in this.
In chapter 12, verse 1, "Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany." So He was up in Bethany, went to a little village 15 miles to the north, now He's back in Bethany. It's Passover.
"Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany where Lazarus, who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made him a supper", now, watch this, "and Martha served." Don't be surprised at that, right, 'cause like, yep, that's Martha.
"But Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. And then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil."
Now let me piece something together for you. We know what happens in Bethany. We know that Mary and Martha and Lazarus are there. We know that Jesus is there with His disciples.
The other gospel writers add an element that John does not. They say that this meal took place in Bethany, but it was at the home of not Lazarus. And it doesn't say it's at the home of Lazarus here. It just says there's a supper.
It was at the home of a leper who was healed, a guy by the name of Simon who was a guy with leprosy, and Jesus cured him. So it was a thank you meal from Simon and probably Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, just a show of appreciation. Bring Jesus and the gang over, the disciples over.
Now I try to imagine what the conversation around the table was like. I mean, Simon was a leper. He could have said, you know, I just got to tell you, being a leper was extremely painful. But then there came that day when I lost all feeling, and I didn't feel the pain any longer. I didn't feel my fingertips, and fingers fell off. And I was wasting away. But then one day, Jesus healed me.
And I can't describe what it was like to suddenly have fingers again and feeling and reach up and feel that I had eyebrows. And I could be with my family. And then, of course, he would be saying this, and Lazarus is sitting there. And Lazarus just says, dude, that's a good story, but I was dead.
I saw Abraham, and I saw David, and then I get called back here. It must've been wonderful conversation. Martha is serving. Please don't fault her for that.
Please don't say, oh, there she goes again. She's always on her feet. I love people who volunteer to serve the Lord.
This is her love language, folks. She loved to do that. She was one who works of service was the way she showed love. And here's what I like about it. She's serving, but this time, she's not complaining. Back in Luke, chapter 10, that famous story of Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus, and Martha serving.
Martha was complaining. Lord, tell my sister to help me. Here, there are about 20 people in that house. There's Jesus, all of His disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Simon, probably a few family members or friends. There's probably about 20 people. She's feeding them all, not complaining. She's learned her lesson. She's grown in grace.
It's interesting, Lazarus is there at the table. Martha is serving. Lazarus is witnessing. You go witnessing? He's not saying a word. Yeah, that's a very interesting fact. You will never find in any of the four gospels Lazarus uttering a single word. But he was witnessing. You say, well, how was he witnessing? Look at verse 9.
"A great many of the Jews knew that He was there, and they came not only for Jesus' sake but that they might also see Lazarus whom He had raised from the dead." Jesus was doing all the talking less. Lazarus was just sitting there. He was exhibit A. He didn't have to say a word. He was witnessing by his life. Listen, listen, witnessing isn't something you do. It's something you are.
And if you say something, that's great, you should. But it first must begin with who you are. Jesus didn't say, and I will have you go witnessing in Jerusalem, Judea. He said, you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, to the ends of the earth, Acts, chapter 1.
So Lazarus is witnessing, just sitting there smiling. I'm the dead dude. I'm alive. Hi guys. Woo hoo. "Then Mary," verse 3, "Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil." Martha's love language was serving, or if I can alliterate this a little bit, Martha's love language was perspiring. Mary's love language was perfume, giving a gift.
She must, I don't know how she acquired this, because if you go by Judas' calculation in the next few verses of how much this was worth, it's about $10,000 worth of ointment, $10,000. Oil of spikenard came from India, north India. It was the fruit of a fibrous plant. The fibrous roots were between three and 12 inches that anchored it to the ground.
It shot up between 30 and 40 of these spikes out into the air, from which was extruded a very earthy, spicy, scented oil. And because of it coming from such a distance and being so rare, it was of great value. She wanted to just show Jesus how much she loved Him. Jesus will say, this is for My burial. I want you to see this. Verse 4, it says, "but one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, who would betray Him, said, 'Why was this fragrant oil not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?'"
The other gospel authors do not tell us who it was. It just says the disciples complained. John rats him out. John tells you it was Judas. What Judas said sounds so good. He has a good mouth and a bad heart. It sounds so spiritual, and he wanted it to make it sound so spiritual. You know, I'm concerned about the expenses around this place. I think that this money could have been given to missions or to poor this or that. Why are you wasting it on this?
Judas' view was bitter because his heart was bitter. A man sees with his eyes what is in his heart. That is in his heart, his heart is wicked, and so he misinterprets. Every act is wicked. You know what it's like. If somebody likes another person, they can do no wrong. If somebody hates a person, they can do no right. It's just, they've made the decision.
Verse 6 tells us, "This he said," ratting him out further, "not that he cared for the poor but because he was a thief, and he had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. Jesus said, leave her alone." I love that about Jesus. It's a good memory verse, "leave her alone." Just quote that one. My life verse is John 12, verse 7, leave them alone. No, I'm not saying it is my life verse.
"She has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you will have with you always. With me, you do not always have." Leave her alone, she is showing me kindness before I die. In other words, she's giving the roses before the funeral. There are some wives that never get flowers from their husband until they're dead. Then it's oh, this is, well, this is a display of roses. Dude, that would have been really cool if you'd have given that many flowers to her before that happened. She's giving the flowers before the funeral, not at the funeral.
Now don't misunderstand what Jesus said when he says, "the poor you have with you always." He is not advocating poverty. He is not being aloof from poverty. He is simply quoting Deuteronomy, chapter 15. And in quoting that, He is applying that to say, generous activity is one thing, and it's good, but the priority is personal worship. You have an opportunity here with Me, I'm here, to show kindness and to show love. And this extravagant love is poured out.
You have a personal opportunity for intimate fellowship with Me. "But Me you do not always have. Now a great many of the Jews knew that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews who went away, many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus." So these guys are unreal. They saw Christ as a threat to their power. They saw Christ as a threat to their nation.
The high priest said, it's expedient for one man to die instead of all of us to die. But now they think it's expedient for two men to die. They've become the mafia at this point, the Jerusalem mafia. Let's kill them both. Let's kill Jesus and exhibit A.
I want to close. But you know, poor Lazarus, he not only died once, he had to die again. There is a Resurrection, but he didn't keep living. I mean, he will have a final Resurrection. But he had to go through it again. So I imagine at the table, he's saying, yeah, I'm glad I'm alive and stuff. But I just know what it was like to die, and I know I'm going to have to face that all over again.
So here you have an exception to the rule. It's appointed for every man to die once and after this, the judgment. This is the exception because he died twice. Every Resurrection is an exception to the rule, but the rule still stands. It is appointed for every man to die once and after this, the judgment. What we are celebrating is the glorious truth that Jesus took our judgment. And so when we die, we never really die, we just move into heaven, into glory, because our punishment has been taken.
So we're going to take these elements as we close this service tonight. Would you take your communion cup? It's tricky sometimes to get the first layer off but try to peel just the clear off and get to the bread portion, and let's bow for prayer.
Father, we remember that the night Jesus was betrayed at the Passover, He took bread and He broke it, telling His followers that it represented His body, which would be broken soon for them. That spikes would break through His flesh. That His body would be abused by men, treated shamefully by humanity, the very ones He came to save. But it was in that breaking, it was in that death, that life would come. For Jesus said, "Unless a grain of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone." Lord, we're holding in our hands a piece of bread. But the piece of bread to us symbolizes our connection with each other and our connection with You. And that we by faith believe, we who take this, that Jesus is our Messiah, our Lord, the one who bought our sins. So we take this, Lord, in remembrance of Him.
Let's take together. And then peel the second layer till you get the juice exposed.
And Father, here we hold a symbol of blood shed, dark, red. In Jesus' setting, it was wine, the Passover wine, the fourth cup of redemption. In our setting, it's the fruit of the vine, the juice of the grape. But it's a symbol that blood had to be spilled in order for sins to be forgiven. Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission for sins. Lord, before we drink this, some of us are holding onto our failures. We feel ashamed. We feel unworthy when all the while we stand forgiven. Once the gavel has gone down in heaven, as it has, and once You have declared us non-guilty, who are we to say that we still are guilty? Who are we to say that the blood of Jesus Christ is not enough and not sufficient? We would do You a grave injustice. And so Father, we simply by faith take this, making the declaration that our sins, though they might stain like scarlet, are as white as snow. That we are totally, absolutely, and utterly forgiven by one act of one person in history, and that is Jesus, for us on our behalf. Indeed, it is expedient that one man die for the nation, for the world. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And we who are a part of that world, who have added our fair share of sin to the bunch, we take this, saying, we're forgiven. The past is the past. You see us white. You see us brand new. Let's take this by faith in Jesus' name.