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About this series
How to be a Christian Without Being Religious
Is it possible to be a Christian without being religious? More than a list of activities, behaviors, and rules, this series will show you that the Christian life is, at its core, an ongoing relationship with the living God. You will discover how to live a life of faith; how to portray Christ's love and character in your everyday activities; how to know if you are growing spiritually; and how to develop a dynamic, intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.More from this series
Why would God let our most difficult problems go from bad to impossible if He really loves us? Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Why is it there are times when there are difficulties in your life, there’s pain in your life, there’s a relationship that’s shredded, there’s something wrong with your body, you need some money, you need a job, you’ve got a kid who is in trouble, and you say, “God, help! Help! Help!”
And instead of it getting better, it doesn’t get bad, it doesn’t get worse. It goes to impossible. And then it raises this issue like, “Does Jesus really care?”
I want you to ponder a story with me. Probably more than preach I want to tell a story and I want you to meditate and think and ponder and let your mind wander about what God is doing in your life and in your relationships and in your heart.
As you ponder this thought of: “Why is it there are some things in your life that you bring to Jesus and it seems like, instead of them getting better, they’re getting a lot worse?” What could God ever be up to when He does that in your life or how about when He does that in a church now and then?
John chapter 11. It opens up with a problem brought to Jesus in verses 1 to 3. “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped His feet with her hair.) So, the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one that you love is sick.’”
The problem: There are two sisters that love Jesus. We know from other passages that He spent a lot of time in their house. We know that Martha fixed one meal and probably quite a few. We know that in all the different relationships there was a special relationship between Lazarus where Jesus could kick back and this was the R&R place and He and Lazarus would talk and they were close friends.
These two sisters know that Jesus loves Lazarus, they’re close friends, they’ve seen Him do miraculous works, and they have a big problem. And so, they do what good followers of Jesus do when you have a problem. They bring the problem to Jesus.
The first three verses also tell us something about the people. They’re among His closest friends. They’re among the most devoted followers. We don’t know, yet, what’s going to happen in this story but what we know for sure is the author is making it very clear.
Remember, this is Martha, and this is the friend, and this is Mary. This is the kind of follower that abandons her awe and pours perfume on the Lord’s feet and then just, no self-consciousness, takes her hair and wipes His feet.
And so these aren’t just followers or needy people. These are people that have demonstrated that Jesus is enough for them. He is their all in all. They are believers. They care. And they know He cares for them.
And so the solution is: They take their problem to Jesus. Now, so far, I think this is a pretty good story and this is how it ought to work. So, what’s Jesus’ response? How does Jesus respond to His most devoted followers who are His closest and intimate friends?
Well, we’ll find out in verses 4 to 6. “When He heard this, 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.’”
Then notice this little commentary: “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. Yet, when He heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days.”
Now, well, what, wait, wait, wait, wait, time out. Time out. This doesn’t make sense. Now we know He loves them, it’s said it now two or three different ways and times. And when He hears about their need, He makes a pronouncement. He’s an all-knowing God. He says, “This sickness will not result in death.”
This is a God-ordained, God-timed, God-orchestrated sickness. It will not end in death. In fact, it has a very specific purpose so that the Son may be glorified. The word “glorified” has the idea of a reputation enhanced.
The idea He’s saying is, “This situation, this sickness that these two women whom I love, with one of my closest friends: Number one, it will not end in death. Number two, the purpose behind it, God ordained, is that when we get to the end of this, people will see and know Jesus for who He is like never before.”
And the disciples are overhearing this conversation and wondering what’s going on. Did you notice again because, how many verses do you have in the Bible where we know that God loves the whole world and we know the rich young ruler, God looked at him with love but did you notice this one, little line? “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.”
The author wants you to know that however Jesus is going to treat these three people, He’s doing it out of love. Because the very last line seems to communicate that He doesn’t care.
How would you like this response? “I need help! I need help! 9-1-1! Come right away!” And the guy on the other end goes, “I’ll be there in a couple days.”
How would you like to call on the fire department and say, “My house is burning! It’s just started! I can’t get it done; please come,” and you call the fire department. “I’ll be there in a couple days.”
That’s what happened here.
How many of you have gotten a little bit nervous and said, “Lord, Lord, You don’t understand! We need a new teaching pastor! We need him now!” And God said, “Not ready to give you one yet.”
How many of you need a job? How many of you need money? How many of you need a relationship restored? How many have a problem, an addiction, some struggle you’re saying, God, God, God! I love You. Fix this problem now.
And as best you can tell, He just doesn’t seem to hear or He’s off doing other things. What’s it make you think? Doesn’t it make you wonder, “Does He really love me?” Doesn’t it?
Well, after this situation, we pick it up in verse 7 to 16 and Jesus announces His plan to solve the problem. He didn’t do it in their time, He didn’t say, “Oh, I’ll be right there, Mary,” or, you know what? We’ve got enough evidence about Jesus. Did He have to go anywhere? Remember this story? Remember the one story where the guy comes and says, “My servant is sick and I’m unworthy.” And Jesus said, “Tell you what, I’ll take care of this. He’s well.” Remember that one?
Could not He do that on this one? Could not Jesus just have said, “Oh, Mary, Lazarus, no problem. Ready? Lazarus,” bing, he gets up and says, “Hey! When did this happen?” You know, we talked, and it was exactly this hour.
The issue is not His power. And the text is telling us the issue is not whether He loves or not. But something is going on here. And pay attention to it because it might be the very thing He’s doing in your life.
I know it’s what He’s doing in mine. I’ve been living in John 11 for about the last three weeks. I read other places just because I think I should but I just can’t get out of this one.
Now Jesus shifts gears and He’s going to tell us what He’s up to. “And then He said to His disciples, ‘Let’s go back to Judea.’ ‘But Rabbi,’” that word for “You’re the teacher, You’re the one with authority, You’re the one that has wisdom.” And he’s calling Him Rabbi for a reason. “What you’re about to suggest is not very smart, in fact, it’s downright dumb.”
Well, why? They said, “A short while ago the Jews tried to stone You there, and now You are going back there?” Notice he didn’t say, “We’re going to go back.”
I love these disciples. Tell it like it is. “Jesus answered,” and He does one of these Jesus things, I call them. He says this little story about something, and you know there’s a big point, but you kind of wonder what it is.
So, here these guys go, Jesus says, He waits two days, and then out of the blue the guys are around and we haven’t heard any more about Lazarus. “Fellows, we’re going to go back through Judea and I’ve got a plan,” and we’re going to learn from the context the plan was about taking care of Lazarus.
And one of them goes, “Excuse me. Excuse me. They tried to kill You last time. You don’t really want to go there, Teacher, O wise One, do you? I can’t imagine You going there, Jesus, it’s going to be a rough trip.”
And then Jesus gives a little metaphor – a quick picture. And He answers, instead of with a really direct answer, He goes, “‘Are there not twelve hours of daylight?’” to which they nod their head and go, “Well, yeah.” “A man who walks by day will not stumble, for he sees this world’s light.” Okay. “‘It’s when he walks by night that he stumbles, for there is no light.’ After He said this, He went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.’”
And then they reply, “Well, Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” In other words, “Hey, we don’t have to go. Like, if he’s just taking a nap, he’s getting better. Great! We won’t go back there because we don’t want to die!”
“Jesus had been speaking of his death, but His disciples thought He meant natural sleep. So, He told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead.’” Now notice the purpose again, “And for your sake I am glad that I was not there.” What do You mean You were glad You weren’t there? You didn’t go on purpose. Why? “So that you may believe.”
Now, Thomas says to the other guys, moment of bravado, “Let’s also go, that we may die with Him.” Now, we know from Thomas’ great history that he’s a real believer when things get tight, right?
Now, let’s just look at this carefully, okay? Just take a minute and ponder. Jesus doesn’t respond to the loving request of people we know He cares about. He purposefully stays away. And so, the situation went from not bad to worse. What happened? It went from bad to impossible.
If you’re sick, a doctor can give you some help. A couple drugs can give you help. Some answer to prayers can give you help. When you’re dead, you’re dead. We don’t have a difficult situation anymore; we have an impossible situation. Could we agree on that?
So now Jesus says, “Okay,” this is all orchestrated we learned from earlier, so He says, “now, let’s go back,” and the response in the beginning is fear: “We don’t want to go back there. We don’t want to follow You back there. I don’t care who You want to help, we don’t want to go there right now.” Why? Because it’s dangerous and it sounds kind of stupid.
And then Jesus uses a metaphor and He says, “Look, when people are walking normally, there are twelve hours in a physical day, and if you walk in the light you don’t stumble, but if you walk at night you will fall down.”
He just told them earlier, “I’m the light of the world,” and what He’s telling them: No matter when I ask you to do anything, when you’re in the will of God, no matter how illogical it may appear, if you are with Me walking in the light, you’re always safe. I’m not going to be with you forever. Whatever I say for you to do, believe what I say. In fact, guys, I’m glad I wasn’t there, I’m glad I wasn’t there when Lazarus was sick because it’s created a situation that will be for your benefit so that you might believe. That’s what I want you to learn.
And so, you have the two false responses to genuine faith. The first response, when God asks you to do something, when He asks me to do something, when He says, Trust Me with your finances, trust Me in this relationship, trust Me right now with this job. Don’t be anxious, don’t let your stomach turn into knots, don’t fight back, don’t, don’t spread bad things about the boss because he did difficult things to you. You trust Me.
Response number one is fear because it sounds so scary at what He asks us to do. “You want me to give the first portion of my time when I don’t have enough time? You want me to give the first portion of my money when I don’t have enough money?” Yes, I do, it’ll demonstrate that you trust Me. “Oh.” So, people don’t do that out of fear.
The opposite response is pseudo-bravado and that is, “Yes! I’ll be a martyr for Jesus! I’ll go anywhere, I’ll do anything!” And it’s not rooted in faith. It’s rooted in emotion, it’s rooted in, “Yes, we are the super spiritual.” And then when they take the step then they go flat on their face. And Jesus is going to tell them neither response is the response of faith.
And so we’ve got a situation where people He loves are asking for help and Jesus’ response is, “I’m not going to help you. Not now.” Then His response to His disciples, “Now is the time.” And they say, “We don’t want to go because it’s scary,” or, “we’re superstars. We’ll go with you.”
Well, Jesus now goes back, verses 17 to 37, and we’re going to find that He gives a better gift to Martha and Mary. Remember? What was the gift they wanted? “Make my brother better.” He says, “No, I got something better for you.”
“On His arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had been already in the tomb for four days.” You think the author is trying to give us some real, clear identity markers about some historical facts that have occurred? He waited two days. Now He tells us four days. So he’s been dead. He waits two days and then there’s some time of travel.
“Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, but Mary stayed at home.”
And this is what Jesus gets greeted with. “‘Lord,’ Martha said to Him, ‘if You had been here, my brother would not have died.’”
“You could have solved the problem! If You cared, if You loved me, if You would have been responsive, I thought You cared. What about all those meals I fixed for You? What about all that time You hung out in our house? What about all those sermons about: ‘Love your brother, love your neighbor, love your enemies?’ What’s the deal? If You would have been here, You could have solved my problem. And You didn’t come!”
“But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.” I know that You’re the genie in the bottle, I know You’re the great problem solver, I know that You can fix anything. And maybe this one is too late but I still have confidence in you that You can fix whatever I bring to You because, see, that’s Your role. I want You to solve my problem. I want You to make my life work out. I want You to restore my marriage. I want my kid to come back to the Lord. I want a new job, I want a better job! I want to get back in shape, I want to get on a diet and try and stay on it. Fix my life! Right? Make it work! I read into the text a shade there, I must confess.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” And she reads in, “Oh, we’re going to have a theology class? Oh yeah. I believe that.”
“Martha answered, ‘I know He will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’”
“I’ve been, man, I’ve been listening to You teach, I believe in You. I’m one of Your followers.” And I hope when you read this next line, it’s a familiar one, but before we just read it together, I want you to imagine Martha and I want you to imagine where she’s been. I want you to try and focus on where her emotional life has been.
Her brother is dying, she knows Jesus, she’s seen Him do multiple miracles, she sends word, she gets back, “He’s got the message! Great!” “So is He coming?” “No.” “Why?” “He didn’t say.” “Oh.” “Well, Lazarus is much worse.” And then from the text we can infer he probably died that day or the next day.
And now they’ve buried him. And he’s been in the grave for four days and she did what any good Jew or any person who is hurting, she wept and she cried and she was mourning and she was in grief. And in her emotion, what was she feeling?
She was feeling a big mixture of, one, “I lost my brother and I love him,” and at the same time, “I hoped so much in Jesus. I thought He was so different. I thought He really cared. It seemed like when He was at our home that He really loved us and I hung on every word and He said if I trusted, He said if I believed, and I did! But He doesn’t love me. How could He, how could He not come? I adore Him. I’ve publicly humiliated myself. My sister was there and I fixed the meals and she’s down on the floor wiping His feet with her hair.”
And she’s been through all these emotions and then she hears He comes, and she runs to Him, and they’ve had the little conversation and she’s been very bold to say, “If you would have been here, You could have fixed the problem and You didn’t come. But I know, I know God will do great things because You’re very, very special.”
And Jesus says, “Well, your brother will rise again.” “Oh, yeah, I know. I got that down, I remember that. It was sermon number thirty-two wasn’t it, out on the beach? About resurrection, when it happens, the last day? Yeah. I believe that.”
And then I believe Jesus looked right into Martha’s eyes. And I believe what He is about to say to her was why He allowed Lazarus to die. And I want you to imagine Jesus looking into Martha’s eyes and with emotion and with tenderness and with a sense of ringing, riveting, truth that went, not just into her mind, but down into her soul.
Picture it, when Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Martha, do you believe this?”
And she answers, “‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christos, the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come into the world.’ And after she said this, she went back and she called her sister Mary and she said, ‘The Teacher is here,’ and she said, ‘come quickly, He’s asking for you.’” Jesus wants her to come. “When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and she went to Him. Now Jesus was not yet in the village, but He was still at the place where Martha had met Him.
“And when the Jews saw Mary get up quickly, who were there comforting her, and noticed how quickly she got up they followed her, supposing she was going to go to the tomb and mourn. “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell at His feet and said, ‘Lord, if You would have been here, my brother would not have died.’” But she doesn’t have a lot of intellectual reasons; she’s Mary. And she just holds on to His feet and she weeps, and she sobs, and she weeps, and she sobs.
But she’s got the same question. “If You really cared, if You really loved me, You would have come. I had a big problem and I brought my problem to You and You blew me off. And, yet, where do I go?” And she’s got her arms wrapped around His feet and she’s sobbing and heaving and weeping.
“And as the Jews that were with her observed her, they wept also.” And Jesus is watching these people weep and He has this woman sobbing at His feet. Notice the response. A response you would never see if Lazarus would have been healed by Him speaking a word. A response you would have never seen if He would have walked back that day and healed Him and restored Him like everybody wanted. A response we would have never seen if God would have fixed the problem.
Instead, He gives a better gift. “He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” Something happened in the heart of the Son of God. Some emotion was evoked in God, in Jesus, that He was deeply moved. He was troubled, it was bothersome to Him. Someone He loved was in pain and something about God, whenever He sees pain, and especially when He sees pain, and hurt, and struggle, and confusion in the life of one of His children, His response is never neglect.
Sometimes it’s wait and sometimes we don’t understand. But the response of God to your situation, in your pain, in your difficulty, in what you don’t understand is He is deeply moved when He sees you so desperate that you are weeping. And He’s troubled in spirit.
“‘Where have you laid him?’ He asked? ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. And Jesus wept.” He couldn’t hold it in any longer. He knew what was going to happen, He knew it was for the glory of God, it was orchestrated, it was ordained.
But when He saw the human suffering and the pain, He just was overcome with emotion. He wept with Mary, He wept with the Jews, He wept with Martha, and He weeps for you. He understands.
But some of them said, first, “See how He loved him!” Interesting two groups. They’re watching Him weep and some Jews off to the side are saying, “Wow, that Jesus really loved Lazarus.”
Why? Because he saw the response. But notice the second group, “But some of them said, ‘Could not He who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’”
Martha’s first question when she sees Jesus, “If You would have come, Lord,” translation: “Why didn’t You fix my problem?” Mary’s first question, “Lord, if You would have been here, on my time schedule, on my agenda, You could have fixed my problem but You didn’t.” Now we’ve got the Jews and what do they say? “Now wait a second. Yeah, it seems like He really loves her now but, my lands, if He really cared, He would have got here earlier and taken care of this problem.”
Does everyone here now understand the dynamics of what’s occurring in this passage? People whom Jesus loved, and people who love Jesus deeply, have a big problem and they bring the problem to Jesus, and Jesus doesn’t make it better, He doesn’t even make it worse, He lets it go from bad to impossible.
Why? Why does He do that? Why did He do it here and why does He do it in our life? And I would suggest that the key is going to be found in a very interesting word. And before we see the end of the story, which you know, I want you to begin, in your mind, to be thinking about what He said to the disciples. Why was He glad? Why was He glad the disciples weren’t there? So that they may – what? So they may believe.
Well, what do you mean “believe?” They already follow Him, right? “I’m glad I wasn’t there so you believe.” When He responded to Martha He said, “Martha, if anyone does,” what? “in Me, he’ll never see death.” If you believe. He has given us clues. Let’s turn the page and let’s find out what happens. Jesus solves the problem.
And I want to suggest that the better gift that He gave to Martha and Mary and the one He wants to give you, I don’t want to miss it, is this: so often we want God to solve the big problems in our life and what God is saying is, “I want to give you a better gift.
And that problem, when it won’t go away, when it goes from being hard and difficult, to worse, to impossible. There are a lot of you, like the guy talking, who never get desperate, and you never seek Me, and you never weep, and you never get afraid, and you never cry out to Me and say I am all you really want, until it goes from bad to impossible.
And you’ve gotten so used to Me fixing things, because I do because I love you, and taking care of things, and answering prayers, and doing this, and doing that, you have subtly fallen into thinking that I am here to fix your life, to make it work out your way for you, and that is too small, and too limited, and that’s not what I’m about. I don’t want to fix your problems. I want you to know Me as a person.
I want to revolutionize your life. I don’t want you to know some facts about resurrection. I want you to look into My eyes and see the face of the living resurrection. I want to be with you, I want me and you to have intimate relationship. I want you to understand it’s not Me plus a good marriage is life. It’s not Me plus kids that is life. It’s not Me when I get a mate someday it’s life. It’s not Me plus a good job is life. It’s not Me plus when your body works right is life.
I am all you need. I am the resurrection and the life. And I will orchestrate circumstances in your life and I will purposefully put you in impossible situations to get you to the point where you come to Me with a level of desperation, where what you really need is Me, instead of just what I can do for you.
Does it make sense? It’s what He did for them. Now, it’s only until, this is a theory, but the theory is: It’s hard to resurrect people until they die. You just think that over, deeply. It’s very hard to resurrect people until they die.
Until it’s impossible, you can get bailed out and you can get help but when it is impossible. Not a day dead, not two days dead, not three days dead. Four days dead. And, by the way, after the second day, he’s about as dead as he’s going to be.
Some of you are saying, “If God would just wait four days, I could take a four-day delay.” Well, He might have a four-month delay with you. He might have a four-year delay with you. I don’t know.
But what I know is, He loves you. And what I know is, He will allow some things to go from bad to impossible until you die to yourself, until you die to your agenda, until you and I die to our demands, until we get where if we could just be with Jesus and if He would look us in the eye, and if His Spirit, through His Word and through His family would speak life into our soul that would say, “He’s the resurrection and He is life.” He will take you through some times like that.
And then after you die, He will do what can only happen when you die. Now, by the way, the process of dying spiritually is painful. Just like the process of dying physically is painful. But until you die, you never experience resurrection.
And Jesus does a miraculous thing because He allows Lazarus’ situation to go from bad to impossible.
We pick it up, “Jesus, once more deeply moved,” verse 38, “came to the tomb. And it was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ He said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha,” always the practical one, “the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’
“Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you,’” what’s our word? “‘if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I know that You always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe.’”
Are you getting the message? Are you beginning to understand that the organ through which life with God, through Christ, is experienced is faith? And God will take your bad situations and make them impossible so that you learn to believe. That’s what He’s up to in your life. That’s what He’s up to in my life. He’s up to that more than fixing the problem.
And so here He does it. So, they took away the stone and Jesus prayed the prayer. “When He said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linin, and a cloth around his face. And Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’”
Whoo. Isn’t that just a little bit better than Jesus saying, “You know what? We’re on this ministry trip. Excuse me, guys, we got a close friend, he’s back in Bethany, why don’t you hold My place right here. In fact, Pete, you’re doing pretty good at the preaching. You do a couple sermons. John, why don’t you pray? Thomas, watch him, you’re going to need help later. Okay? I’m going to go back. Lazarus, Martha, Mary, good to see you, everybody. Lazarus? Feeling kind of bad? Oooh, unconscious. Okay. Lord, Father, heal him. Thank you. He’s better. Okay, see you a little bit later.”
That would have had a significant impact in Mary, Martha, and Lazarus’ life, wouldn’t it? Would it have this impact? Huh-uh. It would have been a loving act but because He didn’t do the good thing and didn’t fix the problem, instead He waited to do something, He made the impossible possible in people’s personal experience where others could see it. And guess who they really got to see. They got to see who Jesus was.
And that’s the goal. By the way, that’s what faith is all about. Faith isn’t about trying harder and mustering up emotions. Faith is seeing Jesus for who He is to the point that whatever He says, you do because of who He is.
And, by the way, it’s faith in His Word. Did you notice He didn’t say, “Open the tomb,” and did He go in and touch him? How did He, how did He resurrect Lazarus? This is not a trick question. He spoke! He spoke! What’s behind this? How did the world come into existence, Hebrews 11? He spoke the world into existence. You have the very Word of God. God breathed. It is life unto your soul. Faith is that you may believe.
And when He says, “Do relationships this way, that you might believe.” When He says, “Prioritize your money, that you may believe.” When He says, “This is how to handle your sexual life, that you may believe, that it might be well with you.”
Even when the culture is going this way, even when the stock market is going down, that you may believe. And it’s that step of action that demonstrates you believe.
And so sometimes, to teach you that He does miracles and that He loves you, He won’t fix your problem and He won’t fix mine. He’ll let it get impossible.
Now, by the way, as it gets impossible, some people don’t go back. They get mad. They turn inward. They can’t stand the pain; they go into denial. They start smoking stuff, and drinking stuff, and eating stuff, and watching stuff, and turning stuff on, and then they get busy, and it’s impossible, and they get disillusioned. And they don’t cry, they’re not like Martha and Mary. They don’t weep, and cry, and cry out.
See, a lot of people when there’s a difficult situation, they say, “I’m afraid! You want to go back there, Jesus? I’m not, You go! I’m not going.” But Christians everywhere, God says, I’m going here. You come with Me. I want you to come that you might believe. I’m going to take you to a place that is scary! I’m going to scare the daylights out of you. “But there are twelve hours in the day, aren’t there? And when you walk in the physical daylight of light, you don’t stumble. But if you try and walk in the night, you fall and get hurt.”
As long as you’re with Me, you’re in the light. When I call you to walk by faith and to follow Me and you say, ‘I’m afraid and won’t go there,’ you’re in darkness. It is safer with Me. That you might believe.
What happens when we believe? The epilogue, verses 45 to 48, “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in Him.” Are we getting an idea of what this whole thing was about?
Now, notice, this is classic. Notice what happens. “But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” Can you, would you, wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall and hear that conversation?
“You’ll never believe what He’s doing now! You’ll never believe what He’s doing now. Mr. Jesus is a bad guy who is taking away all of our power and all the people are…you know what He did, you know what He did? You know? Hey, you think that feeding the five thousand and four thousand, oh, it’s getting worse, it’s getting worse. And that one lady He healed with the issue of blood? Well, you know, that got a lot of press. You know Lazarus? Four days dead, he’s back!” Is that unbelievable? [applause]
How do you respond when God does the supernatural? Do you come up with one more reason why not to follow Him with your life, your heart, your relationships, your future? Or do you put your faith in Him?
There may be some here tonight and you know what? God brought you, you came with a friend, whatever reason, you’ve never placed your faith in Christ. You don’t know Him personally. You’re in your sins. You have violated a holy God like all the rest of us here.
Jesus died on the cross to pay for your sin and He loves you and He brought you here tonight to tell you, “If you’ll repent,” that means have a change of mind, turn around, and if you’ll come to Jesus and say, “I need You. I’m sorry. Forgive me of my sin. I believe when You died on the cross You paid for my sin and rose from the dead. I turn from my sin, I want to be Your son, I want to be Your daughter. Come into my life, I put my faith in You, and Your work and resurrection.”
And He’ll save you. And He brought you here tonight so that in the chair that you’re sitting in, you can bow your head and call out to the God of the universe. And His promise is that He is the resurrection and the life and if you believe in Him, you’ll never die.
If you don’t believe in Him, you are judged already because you have rejected the grace of God. And you’ll die in your sins. We all get exactly what we deserve, unless we cry to God and ask Him for mercy and grace, freely available.
And we make up reasons why. Did you ever wonder why people don’t believe? The text will tell us. “When they went to the chief priests and the Pharisees,” verse 47, “they called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked.” What do you mean? What are we accomplishing? How do we get rid of this guy?
“Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let Him go on like this,” we could have a big problem, right? “everyone will” – what? “believe in Him.”
Why are they saying this? The evidence is overwhelming. The evidence is so overwhelming they realize everyone will believe in Him, but they won’t. Why don’t people believe? Why don’t people come to Christ, number one? And those who are already Christians, the majority in this room, why won’t you believe God? Why won’t you believe Him?
The answer is in the next verse. You want to know what it is? Very, very simple. “If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe Him, and then the Romans will come and take both our place and our nation.”
Our place is position; our nation is power. To believe in Jesus, you have to give up your position, and step off the throne of your life, and give Jesus the throne, and you bow the knee, and you surrender, and you say, “From now on, Your Word, breathed, that created the world will be my guide, and if You say it, I believe it to the point of acting on it. If it says to be sexually pure, I’ll be sexually pure. If it says to only put good things in my mind, things that are wonderful, beautiful, and praiseworthy, that’s what I’m going to do. If it says give the first portion of my money because it all belongs to You, I will do that. If it says that You long for my heart, that I will spend each day in Your Word and talk to You. If it says that I need to tell the truth, even if I lose the sale, I’m going to tell the truth.”
And the reason we don’t do it is we lose our position and our place. And you know what those two things have to do? It’s called pride. It’s called ego. It’s called, “We want to be little gods who run our world.” And you can’t have faith and pride. You can have one. You can have your position and your place, or He can have His position and His place, and yours under Him.
And we have a generation of American Christians who think because they intellectually believe in God, and because they’ve prayed a prayer, and they come to church now and then – but their lives don’t match up, because why? They don’t want their place, and their position, and we receive unbelievable consequences of a life that is in passive rebellion.
And so, you know what He’ll do in your life when you’re like that? He’ll take your hard situation and He’ll make it impossible. And you’ll come to the point where, in that hard situation, you’ll either turn away or it will get so impossible, you’ll start to cry. And I don’t mean theoretically cry. I don’t mean – I mean cry. I mean weep. I mean, Oh God, save me! Help me! I can’t make it. I can’t make it another day.
And as you cry out, He will have compassion on you. And He’ll do things in you first, and then he’ll do things through you that you never imagined. And He’ll resurrect you because you’ll end up dead. You’ll get to where you think, “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. I can’t work this out. I can’t make this work.” And He’ll meet you.
The conclusion is sometimes God lets our problems go from bad to impossible so that we might believe. My question, are you ready for this? Do you believe? Do you really believe? Do you believe in Jesus? I don’t mean just as your Savior. Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe in Jesus to the point that what He says, you will do?
What are the two things that we learned? He wants us to believe. He wants us to learn to trust, first, the depth of His compassion. If things wouldn’t have gotten impossible, guess what. We would never have seen Jesus weep. We would never have seen Him emote, at a level that we see nowhere else in all of Scripture.
Until your situation gets impossible and you cry out, and you weep, and you fall at His feet, both figuratively and literally, you will never experience the great compassion of God. He loves you. He will weep over your problem when you come desperate. He’ll never turn you away.
His timing won’t be your timing, it may not happen the way you want it to happen, He may not answer it all in the way you want Him to. But it’s so that you might believe. And part of what He wants you to believe is that He loves you, and that He’s for you, and that He wants to meet you.
The second thing He wants you to believe is in the extent of His power available to you.
When things are dead, He can make them alive! He can make relationships alive again, He can make people alive again, He can make organizations alive again, He can take any situation – emotional, spiritual, or physical – and when it gets to the point where it’s completely impossible, He has the power to make it alive. He wants us to believe that! Believing it to the point of acting on it.