Thursday, June 23, 2016
"Seeing the Glory of God" Sermon: John 11:38-44
“Seeing the Glory of God”
June 19, 2016 Second Reformed Church
We continue our look at the history of the death of Lazarus this morning, and let us remember what has happened thus far: Jesus was very close friends with Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Jesus received word that Lazarus was critically ill, so He told His disciples they would wait two days before going to see him. After two days, Jesus and the disciples received word that Lazarus was dead, and they set out to see him, arriving on the fourth day after his death.
When Jesus and the disciples arrived at the outskirts of the city, Martha met Him and expressed her frustration that Jesus had not kept her brother from dying. Jesus told her that He is the resurrection and the life, and she confessed that she believed in the physical resurrection and that Jesus is God the Son and Savior.
Then Martha went and got Mary – and all the mourners followed Mary – and Mary made a similar confession and expressed a similar frustration to Jesus, and Jesus was stirred both to anger and compassion, weeping at the death of a friend that He truly loved and being angered at human sin which caused death and the lack of belief of the mourners.
And we see, first, Martha still did not understand that Jesus is sovereign over life and death.
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’
Jesus and the disciples and Martha and Mary and the Jews arrived at the tomb where Lazarus was buried. Lazarus was buried in a cave and a stone was rolled across the entrance.
Upon arriving, Jesus mourned again – not because He was unable to do anything, but because He truly mourned His friend’s death. Jesus wept when He spoke with Mary and Martha because Lazarus was dead, and now that He came to the tomb, He wept again – as we do. We weep with our friends when a friend dies, and when we arrive at the place their body is laid to rest, we mourn anew. It is right and good to mourn the death of a loved one.
As we saw last week, the word that is used for “moved” also indicates anger. When Jesus arrived at the tomb, He was angry with the fruits of sin and unbelief. Jesus is the life – and life abundantly – so physical death and spiritual death anger Him.
Our first parents were created and set in the Garden to live in perfect fellowship with God. God met with them and told them that everything would go well for them in the Garden as they cared for it and cared for all the animals on His behalf. The only requirement was that they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
And the devil came along and said, “God is keeping something from you that you deserve.” “If God says not to do something, it’s because it is something wonderful that you would benefit from. God cannot be trusted. God does not care for you. God does not love you.”
And they ate the fruit – plunging all of humanity into sin. And God cried and God was angry. And God carried out His plan.
Jesus wept at the tomb because His friend had died – he died because humanity rebelled against God – and because they did not understand or believe in Jesus and the plan God set forth in His Word.
And then Jesus asked that the tomb be opened, but practical Martha countered Him: “Jesus, you could have seen his body if you have come when he first died, but now he has been dead for four days. He has been decomposing for four days. There is nothing left to be done. There is nothing You can do. His body will smell at this point. You don’t want that memory. You don’t want us all to be struck by the odor of his decomposing body.”
She still didn’t understand – she still didn’t believe. She believed that Jesus could have done something while Lazarus was alive, but now he was dead – four days dead – very dead – what could Jesus possibly do now?
Where is the cut-off line for God? When is a request too much for God to handle? When are our prayers too difficult for God to answer?
When the angel came to Mary and told her that she would bear Jesus, the angel said to her, “For nothing will be impossible with God” (Luke 1:37, ESV).
And Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14, ESV).
And Jesus responded to the disciples saying, “He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you’”
(Matthew 17:20, ESV).
God can and will do everything that is according to His Will. And if we pray according to God’s Will, He will do what we ask. And if we ask for God’s Will, He will enable us to do what we ask.
It was not too much to heal Lazarus from afar, but it was not the Will of God. It was not too much for Jesus to do something now that Lazarus was four days dead – and it was the Will of God.
Jesus is sovereign over life and death, and He asked that Lazarus’ tomb be opened.
Second, Jesus told Martha she would see the Glory of God.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone.”
Earlier in this account, Jesus told Martha several things:
Jesus told Martha that her brother’s illness did not lead to death.
Jesus told Martha that her brother would physically rise from the dead.
Jesus told Martha that He is the resurrection and the life.
Jesus told Martha that everyone who believes in Him will live and never die.
Martha understood that Jesus was telling her that He is the Sovereign God Who has authority over life and death; He is the Promised Savior Who acts in accordance with His Father’s Will.
Jesus told Martha that if she believed, she would see the Glory of God.
What is the Glory of God?
John Piper puts it this way, “The public display of the infinite beauty and worth of God is what I mean by ‘glory,’" (http://www.desiringgod.org/interviews/what-is-gods-glory).
So, when we see with our hearts and minds that God is infinitely beautiful – when seeing God is the greatest sight we can ever see – when we are fixed on God – because there is nothing greater to see in all the world – we have seen the Glory of God. When we understand that God is more worthy and worth more than anything else in all of Creation – when we can gladly part with everything if we have God – we have seen the Glory of God.
When we see Who Jesus is and what He did in the Scripture and we see God mediated through His flesh and know of nothing more beautiful, nothing more worthy, nothing more wonderful – when He is all in all to us – when everything else fades away in insignificance – then we have beheld the Glory of God.
And Jesus told Martha, “You will see the Glory of God through Me – through Who I am and what I do in this place – you will see that nothing transfixes us more that the sight of God and nothing is more valuable to us that having God. Roll away the stone.”
Third, Jesus prayed for the sake of the crowd.
“And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’
Jesus prayed a provocative prayer – aloud:
Jesus called out to God in prayer, calling Him, “Father,” which was right for Him to do, but was scandalous to the Jews. It was too personal, too common a way to consider God. But Jesus, the Son of God – He Who is One God with the One God – was right to call God Father, because their relationship was one of eternal love and communion. And the Father had sent the Son on behalf of the Godhead to make the way of salvation for all those God had chosen and given to be brothers and sisters of Jesus. And now we call God, our Father.
Jesus prayed thanking God for hearing Him – not because He doubted that God heard Him – God hears each of our prayers – and He answers “yes” to each one that is in accordance with His Will. Jesus thanked the Father for hearing Him. For when He did what He was about to do, the crowd would have to agree that God the Father heard Jesus and sent Jesus to do all that He accomplished.
Jesus was sent by God the Father to do the Will of God the Father, and everything that Jesus did was according to the Will of the Father, and everything Jesus did was exactly what God in Trinity planned to do from before the creation.
Fourth, Jesus physically raised Lazarus from the dead.
“When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”
Why did Jesus physically raise Lazarus from the dead?
First, so the people there at the tomb would believe that Jesus was sent by God the Father.
Second, so Martha – and others – would see the Glory of God.
Third, to show that Jesus is the Servant of the Father.
And fourth, to display Jesus’ Omnipotent Power.
Jesus merely spoke the words, “Lazarus, come out,” and Lazarus was physically raised from the dead – and he obediently came out of the tomb.
Can we imagine the eyes of the crowd going from Lazarus to Jesus to Lazarus to Jesus?
Lazarus had been physically raised from the dead. For those who believe – there was the Glory of God to be seen. Who else but the most beautiful and valuable Being could physically raise someone from the dead?
Those who believed saw that Jesus truly is the Servant of the Father. He had been sent by God to accomplish God’s Will for His people – that each one of us who believes would come to faith and see Him and know Him – now mediated through the Scripture.
Those who believed saw Jesus to be God the Omnipotent – He is the Almighty God. Who but the Almighty God could physically raise someone from the dead – especially after four days. (It was widely held that after three days in the tomb, there was no hope for resurrection in this life.) But Jesus spoke the word and it was done. Lazarus was alive in the flesh.
And that is our hope, is it not? Do we not hope and long for the day when we will be raised by Jesus – also being perfected and glorified and welcomed into the fullness of His Kingdom? Isn’t our hope that this is not the end – that the greatest things in this world pale compared with what is coming?
Paul tells us, “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’
“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:51-57, ESV).
Those who were there at the resurrection of Lazarus saw the Glory of God through Jesus. As Lazarus physically rose from the dead, those who believed saw how beautiful and worthy God is – they saw His Glory through Jesus.
Now we see the Glory of God through reading the Scripture and through hearing it read and preached and through the Sacraments – in all of these ways, God reveals Himself to be beautiful beyond comprehension and worthy beyond all understanding.
And so, let us long to see the Glory of God. Let us seek it where it may be found. Let us pray that God the Holy Spirit will lead us and help us to see, that we would be lost in wonder, love, and thanks.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we ask that You would show Yourself to us – we long to see Your Glory. Send the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and hearts and minds, so Your Word reveals Your Glory to us. Make us hungry for Your Word and do not let us be satisfied until we long only for You. Draw us, confound us with Your Glory that we would be still and be amazed at Who You are and what You have done. For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.