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January 31, 2016
“Jesus Raises Lazarus”
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Please Note: All lesson verses and titles are based on International Sunday School Lesson/Uniform Series ©2010 by the Lesson Committee, but all content/commentary written within is original to wordforlifesays.com unless properly quoted/cited. You are always encouraged to do your own personal studies as well. God bless you!
Uniform Series: “Death and Resurrection”
Have you ever watched a dramatic movie just to get that knot in your throat when the scene turns too intense? You know what’s on the screen is not real, yet unbidden tears begin to forms in the corner of your eyes. You wipe and wipe, hoping nobody else sees you crying over a movie, but they just won’t stop flowing.
Quite possibly, you have seen this movie before and you know the story will turn out for good, but your heart was just so touched at what was before you that you can’t help but to let the emotions of the scene get to you.
In today’s lesson we happen upon a scene that takes a dramatic turn and puts a knot in the throat of our Savior. This not only becomes a scene where He shows His undying compassion for those He loves by the shedding of His own tears, but He also shows His complete victory over death and the grave before He ever went to the cross.
John 11:38 “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.”
Jesus was out of the area when He received the summons that something terrible had happened to a very good friend of His. Lazarus was sick and the situation didn’t look good. His sisters Mary and Martha sent a messenger to the Lord, saying, “He whom thou lovest is sick,” (John 11:3).
The first response when one hears news of a dire emergency occurring with a family or friend is to hurry up and get to where that individual is and offer any support and aid that one can to help remedy the situation. This may be the reason his sisters sent for Jesus in the first place. As we learn, things didn’t work out as they had plan, but the situation was not out of the control of God. His plan would be made manifest and glory would be rendered to Him at the outcome of it all.
At receiving the news, Jesus spoke without wavering, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby,” (John 11:4). Therefore, the Bible tells us He waited and didn’t immediately run to his side.
Some may think this is heartless. Nay, but Jesus loved these people greatly (see John 11:5). God was on the verge of transitioning the faith of those who would witness this great miracle to a brand new level of belief in Jesus Christ, His Son. Lazarus’ death would be the tool to do that. So powerful was the event that is about to take place that later “the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus,” (John 12:10-11).
So, Jesus waits two more days before He made His way to where Lazarus was (see John 11:6). When He arrives, no surprise to Him, but just for narrative purposes we are told in the Bible that Lazarus has been in the grave “four days already,” (John 11:17).
Martha, upon finding out of the Lord’s arrival ran to Him and said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” (John 11:21). She knew that while Lazarus was still alive if Jesus had intervened death could have been avoided and they wouldn’t be having this conversation today.
With no great, flowery words we often hear as condolences at the passing of a loved one, Jesus simply stated, “Thy brother shall rise again,” (John 11:23). Martha knew of the resurrection and she had that kind of faith in Jesus for the “last day” (see John 11:24), but today she still stands in grief wondering why Jesus hadn’t come on time.
When Mary was called to join them she expressed the same sorrowful sentiment, “Lord, if thou hadst been here my brother had not died,” (John 11:32). Seeing His friends weeping and the whole emotion of the scene playing out before Him caused Him to “groan in the spirit” and He was “troubled,” (John 11:33). His own tears began to flow.
Looking at Him and seeing His love for the one dead, people began to question, “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died,” (John 11:37)? At this point, many of them still saw Jesus as just a “man.” And as a man, they were looking at what Jesus could’ve done while Lazarus was alive as opposed to what He can do now even in his death. They focused their human intellect on what could have prevented it instead of Jesus as the Savior who has the power to overcome it.
Arriving at the text of our lesson, verse 38 tells us, “Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave.” Here, Jesus is at the graveside of Lazarus and despite His all-knowing nature, He still groans again.
The fact of the matter is Lazarus was a friend of His and this tragic event touched Him on a personal level. Could it be that though He is fully God, that even in His humanity here on earth grief hit hard? He is surrounded by weeping friends and one lay lifeless in the grave. He was going to gain the victory over it all, but for now it still hurt.
The Bible says that Jesus was “touched with the feeling of our infirmities,” (Hebrews 4:15). What that means is He knows what this human life is all about; the good times and the sad. He feels what we feel. He understands the hardships we face in the flesh therefore, He groans.
Once I wrote, “Isn’t it nice to know that not only do we NOT carry our burdens alone, but we have a Savior that knows what those burdens feel like? Out of the depths of sorrow and pain – He knows. Through the roads of striving and the paths of hatred – He knows. During the darkness of nights, He already knows. Our weaknesses have become His; He knows them, has lived through them and has borne them. Jesus knows!” (Jesus Knows/Wordforlifesays.com).
John 11:39 “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”
“Take ye away the stone.” The scene was heart wrenching and troubling; now Jesus asked what seemed to some as an irrational request.
Irrational? No. Jesus was asking permission to gain access to the problem.
There are steps of faith and participation Jesus asks His followers to take. If you will remember back in 2 Chronicles 20:17 the people were told to get battle ready and go out against the people even though they would not need to fight in that particular battle. We have the responsibility to activate our faith in Him by following through on His requests even if it seems irrational.
By removing the stone they would not only be giving Jesus access to Lazarus, but they were giving Him access to their faith. When one opens their faith they give Jesus a chance to speak life into it and do the impossible.
“Lord, by this time he stinketh.” Martha spoke up at the thought of it all. One did not just go around opening the graves of dead people except to add more dead people to it. Little did she know Jesus wanted to free him that is dead and deliver him from that situation.
I, for one, am not surprised that Martha is the one that spoke up. She was the worrier of the family. When Mary spent time at the feet of Jesus, taking in the words He spoke and strengthening her faith, Martha was busy worrying with the things of this life (see Luke 10:38-42).
“For he hath been dead four days.” Four days gives us the impression that decay could have possibly started to set in in Lazarus’ body. For the human eye, this may look like a point of no return. But, for Jesus, it’s not too late.
John Flavel is quoted as saying, “Man’s extremity is God’s opportunity.” Don’t put limits on what Jesus can do. Lazarus’ sister wanted to confine the possibility of Jesus doing something within a certain time frame. Once that time was expired, to her, all hope expired with it.
Earlier her and her sister both expressed, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died,” (John 11:21, 32). But now, she sees the situation as past the point of remedy. She thinks it’s too late.
God has no limits to what He can do! Jesus is able to “do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesians 3:20). Jesus didn’t need her to rehearse how many days have passed. For Him, it’s never too late.
John 11:40 “Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?”
Jesus counteracted her doubt with a previous promise. Jesus assured her then, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).
Her response then was, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world,” (John 11:27). She was most likely concerned with the hereafter when she made her declaration of faith. But, Jesus was ready right now to do the impossible. He was ready now to manifest “the glory of God.”
How do we see the glory of God manifested in our own life? By believing. In an article titled, “Do More Than Pray – Believe!” I wrote:
“Sometimes in life I think we tend to downplay the importance of our faith and what we believe. We hear about it so much that I think as Christians we have become desensitized to its power in both our spiritual and our natural lives. This is not what it should be since we are told in four verses of the Bible, “The just shall live by his faith,” (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38, KJV).
Our faith, our belief should be the marker for everything in our lives. Not just for salvation, but for every action and prayer. We know all the right words to say and all the proper “Christian” motions to make, but is our faith alive and put into full force action? (Wordforlifesays.com)
What Jesus was asking her was to believe beyond what she can see now, and she will have access in witnessing something truly miraculous taking place; to put her faith “into full force action.” As Christians, we too are called to put our faith on display and let Jesus have access to the dead things so that He can raise them to life again.
Previously in John 11:4, when first called to come to Lazarus’ aid, Jesus spoke, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.” Knowing the power He would soon exhibit, He stated confidently again in verse 11, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.”
God’s glory was about to shine for the whole world to see.
John 11:41-42 “Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hears me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me.”
“Jesus lifted up his eyes.” What a beautiful picture this brings to mind; the King of all creation standing humbly with the naysayers while His whole focus is on heaven. He intercedes and approaches heaven where His Father sits in attention on the throne. A privilege, mind you, that He has given to all His children.
“And said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.” To me, this is one of the most special phrases in the Bible. Out loud, Jesus let us know that our prayers do not fall on deaf ears. Over and over again we are taught that God hears when we pray, here Jesus gives us an exact illustration of the confidence we too can have when approaching the throne of grace.
Once I wrote, “God has so many wonderful characteristics and attributes, but one of the things that always strike me as impressive is the fact that He hears my prayers, Psalm 54:2. In all lowliness of mind and heart, we come before Him freely. Sovereign of the universe becomes attentive to us, to our needs, and bows down His ear to take on our concerns and needs. He doesn’t have to but He is mindful of us, Psalm 8:4. He centers Himself to focus wholly and completely on us.” (Know that God Hears/Wordforlifesays.com).
When Jesus approached God in prayer, He went in expectation and believing; totally confident “that thou hearest me always.”
When one prays expect to receive an answer; expect to see some sort of fulfillment to come from your prayers. Look for something to happen as a result of your praying. Even if the answer doesn’t look the way you imagine it should, your prayers do not fall on deaf ears. Be confident that God hears you. God is attentive to you. God does not leave you in a state of wanting. David said, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want,” (Psalm 23:1). There will be results.
Believe in the goodness of God. Believe in your relationship with Him as a child of the heavenly Father. Believe that He always seeks to give you His best (ex. John 3:16). I often refer to God in my personal prayer as the Good Father who gives good gifts to His children. It’s something we must hold on to and depend upon. Believe that God knows how to answer our prayers.
“That they may believe that thou hast sent me.” Ministry and the miracles that come with it are not effective if it doesn’t influence the lives witnessing it. Jesus wanted to show the people through His prayer and through what was to follow that He and His Father were hooked up together in this. He wasn’t some rogue man seeking to attract crowds for self-sake. He was the Son of God, working with God and His approval, seeking to make as many possible believe on Him; believe on the mission He came to accomplish on this earth, with the end result of saving their souls, not just raising Lazarus from the dead. He spoke, “That they may believe.”
John 11:43-44 “And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.”
Jesus, before He ever went to the cross, proved His authority over death once again. On previous occasions others who tasted death were brought back to life (see Matthew 9:25 and Luke 7:15). Lazarus’ death and the miracle of life restored would be far more convincing of the power of Christ due the fact that he had been dead so long.
Jesus once spoke and said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation,” (John 5:25, 28-29).
What Jesus as doing with Lazarus now was just a small example of His power and what He will do in that day to come. Therefore, He called Lazarus by name and commanded him, “Come forth.” The Bible then tells us, “And he that was dead came forth.”
Even in death, those who were and are in Christ Jesus are secured. “Loose him, and let him go,” Jesus commanded. The one who has been raised need not be bound any further. Graveclothes are for the dead of which Lazarus was not anymore. Therefore, they were commanded to be taken off of him. Lazarus was made totally free.
Jesus showed His authority over death before the cross: as seen here in this lesson and through other death raising miracles.
He showed His authority over death during His process of going to the cross: When Pilate spoke of his power to crucify Him the Bible says, “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above,” (John 19:11, emphasis mine). Previously, when He spoke of His life to others He said, “No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again,” (John 10:18, emphasis mine).
He showed His authority over death on the cross: “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost,” (John 19:30, emphasis mine; see also Matthew 27:50 and Luke 23:46).
He showed His authority over death when He rose on the third day: “And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:4, emphasis mine).
And, He as authority over death forevermore: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death,” – Revelation 1:18, emphasis mine).
“Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?
(Click here for PDF: Jesus Raises Lazarus Sunday School Lesson, or click print button below. Enjoy!)
Below you will find activities for this lesson. Enjoy!
Draw the Scene: Jesus Raises Lazarus Draw the Scene
How Many Words?: Jesus Raises Lazarus How Many Words
“Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead” (Engaging classroom game on page 2 and an easy butterfly craft on page 5. Enjoy!)
“TP Roll Lazarus Craft” (Easy! Cheap! Quick! Although, originally for a mummy, many adapt this easy craft for Lazarus. Enjoy!)
“A Savior Who Weeps” (Printable activity sheets with group activities such as “Rock Painting” and “Rock Collage.” Enjoy!)
“Lord, If You Had Been Here” (An easy, printable craft for this lesson. Enjoy!)
“Lazarus Activities” (Toilet paper? Fun! Enjoy!)
“Another Super Easy Lazarus Craft” (Easy! Cheap! Quick! Although, originally for a mummy, many adapt this easy craft for Lazarus. Enjoy!)