This is a transcript of a sermon by Pastor Doyle Williams from March 24, 2013. Being transcribed by human hands makes this an edited account of the words spoken by Pastor Williams. To hear the audio of that sermon, click HERE.
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We’re going back over to John, chapter 11, but we are not going to go through all of this. We are just going to hit the high points to get to John, chapter 11. This was all going on, Lazarus had passed away. Jesus fooled around until he died. He told his apostles that Lazarus was asleep, and they said ‘well, maybe he’s getting better.’ He said no, that means he passed away. They were heading up that way. Where they were: Bethany was about two miles out of Jerusalem, as the crow flies. So there are a lot of Jews who had come to see them. Now Lazarus, Mary, and Martha evidently were from a prominent family. Also the father’s name was Simon, and Simon was a Pharisee, and like I said, there were only 5,000 to 6,000 Pharisees. A very powerful group, but not very many of them. And they were supportive financially because they did nothing except fulfill the word of God and His requirements, the law of God, meticulously. So these were highly respected people.
Many people were there, which was a convenient situation because all of these people were going to witness what Jesus was about to do. All these people, these mourners, these seniors had come. For all you that weren’t here Sunday night, a senior is a person who weeps and wails and makes sounds of wailing and weeping, usually professionally. They are hired in Israel and at that time you could still hire them. It was by all this lamenting that everybody would know how greatly this person was going to be missed. So, they had the mourners and people that had come out of Jerusalem, who were going to see it.
Now interestingly enough if you read on past what I read, if you get down into that you will find out that after Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead it says many believed but some went back to Jerusalem and ratted him out. Now they sat there,they knew Lazarus was dead, he was raised from the dead, they saw this happen, and while many people were saying He must be the Christ, this group of people looked at Him and said He raised that guy from the dead, let’s go rat him out.
There was at that time a strong argument and can be made. I still believe a very strong argument is that the people who were in control at that time knew that He was the messiah, but if they permitted this man Jesus to continue their position was in jeopardy including that of the high priest. They knew when the Messiah came the high priest that was in control at this point would be set aside and the new high priest, which would be Jesus, would be put in.
Now later if you continue reading into this story in the next chapter you will find that they were at a gathering, a meal,and Lazarus was there and a lot of people were coming to see the man who was raised from the dead, not so much Jesus, but the man they knew who was raised from the dead. I have heard rumors, which I can’t rattle off right now, that there were people wanting to kill Lazarus because if he was dead they would say he was never really raised, but that is beside the point. The point is that there were a lot of people there to see this.
Previous to this there had been two other people who had been revived and, technically speaking, we should speak of it that way. There is a person who is revived and Jesus is the first person who is truly resurrected. A person who is resurrected is raised by God and transformed never to die again. I’m getting technical there. A person who is revived is a person who has passed away, expired, and through a miracle and now through modern science with those electrical things the person is brought back to life and they are revived.
Now, this was unheard of at the time, but we have three of them mentioned in the scriptures. Lazarus was the last one, we have Jairus’ daughter, and we have the widow of Nain’s son. With Jairus’ daughter, they had approached Jesus to come and heal her and on the way they said don’t bother the rabbi because she has already passed away. He said don’t waver in your faith, let’s go, He raised her from the dead and so she hadn’t passed away very long.
So, the second time we have this other one, the widow of Nain. Nain is a town. He is going by the town and they were carrying this man out, the pallbearers were carrying him, and the widow is mourning. This is her only son. Her husband has already passed away. She was in a tough position and He had mercy, He was moved with compassion. By the way, 94 times the word compassion is used in the New Testament. Our God is not a God that rebuffs people, but He has compassion. Jesus saw the situation, He touched the bier, He touched it and the man was raised from the dead and was reunited with his mother.
Now, on those two things what we want to keep in mind is that by Jewish tradition and that even today when an orthodox Jewish person passes away they must be buried within 24 hours. Any Jewish person who is observant and passes away, they have 24 hours to place them. Now, what they would do in that Jerusalem area was put them in the tomb but they would leave the tomb unsealed for three days, because they weren’t sure they were dead. Catatonic and all that kind of stuff, maybe the person just passed out and was not breathing but they might revive so they would put them in there and go in and check on them every little bit to make sure they had not revived. By the third day there had been enough physical change going on that they would know with certainty that this person was dead. That is why it was sealed on the fourth day and then you weren’t supposed to break the seal after that because the person was declared as truly passed away.
That is why Jesus waited until this time, so that way you could argue well, that girl really didn’t die, why you could argue well his 24 hours was up and they were getting ready to plant him and he was revived, he didn’t really die. With Lazarus it was like they were thinking are going to hold the clock on this one. We are going to wait until it runs out and we are going to wait until the tomb is sealed so that they know that they know that he has passed away. They wrapped the body, they put a napkin over the face and that way they could go in and lift the napkin to see if the guy was breathing, just feel it, and then put it back, then lift it and put it back. So anyway we have that.
Now, Mary and Martha, I should emphasize Martha because she is the dominant figure in this story, Martha had an understanding, and we have this kind of an understanding too, we understand and grasp the idea of the greatness of God. We believe that God parted the sea. We believe that He brought manna from heaven. We believe in the prophet where he actually caused an iron axe head to float up into the waters. We understand and believe that God fought the battle for Israel on more than one occasion, not just with the Jericho walls falling down but also other battles where they were completely outnumbered with Gideon and other situations.
We believe that. We know this to be true. As a matter of fact, this is just an aside, the whole Gideon story talks about where he is and how he has a dream of a barley cake rolling down a hill and fighting the enemy and then it talks about him scaling a mountain and going into camp and hearing the people talk. In the modern wars of Israel somebody remembered that passage and the Jewish people sent army patrols up that same cliff because it said in the Bible that this was done and it was way up and they went up again. The people were passing them in modern times using the biblical story as the source on how to get over that hill without being seen.
Anyway, the other part that they believed is because, as we know, he asked do you believe your brother will live and she said yes, I believe in the resurrection. I believe. We believe in the future, we believe in the resurrection, we believe in the rapture, we believe in 1000 years of peace where Christ is going to reign and rule, we believe that when we get to heaven God is going to wipe away all of our tears. Yes. She was just like us. She knows that God performed these great things in the the past and we know that He will perform these great things in the future, but what’s missing in the lineup? We’ve got the past, we’ve got the future, but where is the present? Where is the present? In verse 21 Martha said unto Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would have lived.” She believed that things happened but it was in the past.
In verse John 11:24, “I know that he will rise again on the resurrection, on the last day.” Martha understood that there was a past and that God could have done something and if Jesus had been there something could have been done. She also understood that there is a future. Yes he will rise from the dead. Jesus had said in verse 23 I am the resurrection and when He said that I Am the resurrection she pushed it back and said I know that he will raise in the last day. That’s verse 25. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me shall live, and everyone who believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She didn’t respond. She said yes, I have believed that you are the Christ. She didn’t answer the question that He asked. Yes, I believe that you are the Christ, you are the son of God, and He who comes into the world, but His question is I am the resurrection. She took what he said and lumped it off into that future. Yes, I know that Lazarus will rise from the dead. She believed in the past that He could have done something, she believed in the future that He will do something, but what about the here and the now?
She believed in the past, she believed in the future. She desired that the past could be changed, and she believed in a bright hope was coming in the future. But once again, she was standing on shaky ground in the here and the now. You see the names of God, we covered some of them Sunday night, there is the Jehovah name of God, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Rapha, and these are like God the banner, God our healer, God the provider. There are different names of God, but one of the names of God when Moses went to see the children of Israel in Egypt he said who am I supposed to say sent me, and He said, God’s response, “Tell them I am, that I am.” I Am, that I Am; meaning this, I Am the timeless one, I exist, I Am right now. I Am existing now. I Am existing. I Am without time. I have no need of anything or anyone. I exist without help. I Am here. Life is within me and that’s just the way it is. I have existed. I will exist. I am existing. The timelessness of God. Past, present and future. I have, I Am, and I will. And Jesus at different times, He is asked questions and when He responds and says “I AM” (as you read your New Testament remember that He is reflecting on that name and those people who heard him say, “I AM” realize He was saying I am God). I Am the divine one. I Am the one that talks to Moses. I Am that I Am. Jesus is timeless. God is timeless. With Him there is no past, there is no future. With God everything is now. Right now.
When Jesus was talking and they said ‘blah blah blah’ and He goes ‘yeah, well, before Abraham was, I Am.’ Notice He used the past tense word before Abraham was, I Am. Right there, right then Jesus said I Am God and I Am experiencing. Before Abraham was, I Am. This God that we worship is a God of the past, present, and the future; but like Martha, a lot of times, we get iffy on the present. We do believe that God pulled off all of these miracles in the Bible because we have read about them. We’ve talked about them and, at times, we have found proof that these things happened; archaeological proof that these things happened. But we also believe what it says about the future, that one of these days the “dead in Christ” will rise. And we which remain shall be caught up; and we shall all go together and meet the Lord in the air and thus we will ever be with the Lord. We believe that he is going to wipe away the tears, not just because it sounds so neat but, because we really believe these things that He has told us. But where is the present?
One time, more than one time, I was talking to ministers and to teachers and I said but what about the present? What about now? Most of them came out with the idea, they classed it up a lot, but it was basically we endure until the end. That’s it. We just grind it out. We just hold steady. No matter how miserable it gets you just hang in there because it will all pay off in the future. It’s all future. Based on a glorious past we have a glorious future, but right now you just have to grind it out and I was like then what’s the point of praying? Because they would say, these are not exact quotes, but because prayer will keep you and let you work it out in your own mind but you just have to accept the miserableness of the situation that you are in. God rarely if ever answers prayer in this modern age. It just doesn’t happen anymore. It just doesn’t happen anymore. What they were basing their answer to me on was this, their experience.
They didn’t quote Bible to me. They based it on their experience. I know someone, they don’t even realize they are this way, but if it doesn’t happen to them, it doesn’t happen. It does not exist. It has never existed. It will never exist. But, once it happens to them, mind change. Somebody has hurt themselves, their ankle, and they are in pain and that person says to me they didn’t really hurt their ankle. What happened is they look like they hurt their ankle, they might have sprained it a little bit. but they are just carrying on hoping to get insurance, hoping to draw workers compensation, hoping to make some money off of this and the person kept saying no, I’m hurt. I am going to the doctor. I might have to have surgery. Oh no, this didn’t really happen, they have ulterior motives. A few years later the person who did not believe hurt their ankle exactly the same way, went to the doctor and came back a true believer! Oh yes, that can happen. Oh yes, you can have those very pains. Oh yes, you need to go, and they became very compassionate towards that person who was still suffering from their ankle pain.
They were having ankle pain and together they would talk about the misery of their ankle pain because now it was a reality, it was within the first person’s experience that this must be so because they had experienced it. When they told me they hurt their ankle I was like oh, too bad. Better you than me, but wow, and I hope you get better. You see what I am saying? A lot of people understand our Christian situation not based upon the Bible, but based upon our experiences and what other people have told us, but Jesus Christ said to her I am the resurrection, the truth, the light. The light is within me, I’ll not get it quite right, and He said your brother will rise again, and she said I know shoving it off into the future. He said I am the resurrection and the light, and he who believes in me shall not die, and then as you read down through it He goes eventually to the tomb, He is moved with compassion, He hears all of this, He goes through all through this, He raises the guy from the dead.
He is the resurrection. He is that God of the I Am, right then, right there. There was the possibility, you say, but where at? Well, if we back it up, she said in verse 22, “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” There is that little mustard seed of faith. She wished the past would change. She believed the past. She believed in the future with the resurrection. She made that one statement. She believed that God would hear her pray, but she really didn’t see a hope, a possibility in between what she wished would happen and what she sees off into the future, but Jesus used that little bit of faith as the opportunity to say okay, that is enough. You believe that God hears my prayer, and as you read down through this it says that Jesus approaches that tomb and He said God, I know that you have heard Me, but I say this now, I pray this now, so that those people around Me will hear.
Remember she said I believe that God will hear You when you pray and He will answer your prayer so He said fine, I know that you can accept that and you have that faith so there is the opportunity. I am making this prayer out loud so these people will hear and know that You are the ever present help right now, right here. The hope is there, the faith is there, and the opportunity is there.
We need to think outside the experience box. Most of us have not seen people healed. I’ve never seen anyone raised from the dead. I would like to, but I have never seen this stuff happen. There are a lot of stories that go around and one of them, and I know the lady that it happened to, I know her sister. Her mother had passed away. I know the lady and the sister, and I know about the mother is what I am trying to say. There was a situation and the mother was very gravely ill. They were at the hospital. She passed away. This lady and her sister could not imagine their lives going on without the mother so as they stood there by that bed they started praying and asking God to bring her back, to bring her back, and she said after about thirty minutes my mother’s eyes opened up and she was back and she said this. I know you girls prayed me back, but had you known, had you understood where I was at and what I was seeing and what I was hearing you would have left me alone. Don’t ever do this to me again.
But, they believed that God could do it. They had never seen this, but they had thought outside of their box of experience and they started standing on the truth of the I am God, the God who hears and answers prayers and is concerned about them right here, right now. I believe that God today is willing to intervene into our lives, into our presence, not just hear the stories of the past, not talk about the glorious future that is out there, but he is willing to intervene right here, right now but remember this. The moral of the story is this. That lady said, if you had seen where I was and known what I was experiencing and hearing and all, if you had seen that you would have left me alone, and that lady said I will never again pray that somebody will be revived because if they are a Christian they are going to be in such a wonderful place I will choose to rejoice that I know where they are and they are in the presence of God. So, be careful what you ask for. I am just saying don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be afraid to trust that God can intervene in our lives here, and here and now.
We need to learn to trust in the I am God, the God who is now, and we need to trust that that God is a God of now possibilities. It is not past, it is not all future. God can, God does, and God has answered prayers in my life. Some of you have spoken to me about God hearing and answering prayers in your life. Be encouraged. Don’t think that this has passed away and you just have to learn to accept things. Learn to trust this God and give Him the right of way to deal with the situation as what’s best. Go to Him and say here is the problem I am needing solved and I am going to trust You to figure out how to solve it and to lead me in the right way.
Think of the possibilities and let God select from all those great possibilities what is best for that situation and then say whatever You deem best I will go with. Let that person stay in the presence of God if that is the best. I will tell you another story. These are fine Christian people that I have known for years. They were at a prayer meeting and this person said, this happened in Fairfield, God just gave me a name and said this lady is down in Fairfield and she is dying and we have to go pray for her. They did not know the lady. They went to Fairfield to the emergency room and said do you have a so and so in here and they said yes. Well, can we pray for her and the family said sure. They went over and they prayed for the lady. The lady started to shake and then boom she came out of the coma. They checked her from head to toe. She was completely healed. She was not a Christian. They witnessed to her and she got saved.
The second time years down the road a lady passed away finally which is another story but an interesting story too, but the lady passed away and they didn’t pray this time that she would be revived but rather they accepted the fact that now she could go into the presence of God and they could trust that she was there and everything was okay. Before they prayed that she was revived because they weren’t for sure. God said this lady should be saved and you go down and pray for her so that she will be revived so that you can witness to her so she will get saved and she did and she became a great witness for God for years and years and years to come after that and she was a great prayer warrior. She believed in God and God answered her prayers because her experience taught her that God is in the here and now. Our God is in the here and the now. Our God can, does, and will answer our prayers but we have to have at least enough faith-opening opportunity to let Him do it. Like she said, I know God hears your prayers and He will answer your prayers.
In Hebrews Chapter 7, it talks about Jesus living to make intercession for us. If nothing else we should be able to pray and agree with what Martha said, I know that God heard your prayer Christ, and there are two different places. One is the Holy Spirit and here in Hebrews it is about Jesus Christ being the high priest and that he is in the presence of God interceding for us so we should have enough faith-opening opportunity to say God, I don’t quite get it myself, but Jesus I know the Father hears your prayer, say a prayer for me and this situation, and I am going to trust in you to deal with it. Think of the possibility of the here and now God. He is willing to answer prayer now. Now.
Shall we pray. Father, in the name of Jesus I ask that You be with us. I ask that you hear our prayers in the future, hear our faith. Jesus, we know that You are interceding for us and we trust You to pray the best prayer for us. Lead us to pray and agree with You in prayer and help us to understand that You are willing, and compassionate, and able to hear our prayers and to answer those prayers in a way that is just awesome. All glory and honor to You through Jesus. Amen.
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