Sermon: God’s Love is Not Our Love John 11:1-16

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God’s Love is Not Our Love

John 11:1-16

Primary Truth Taught-God’s relentless passion for His glory is manifested toward us as great love.

Introduction

What is love? The answer to that question really depends on whom you ask. For some, love is when I get all I want. Love happens when someone meets my desires for comfort or care or materialism or the physical affection. There are superficial types of love and then there are deeper forms of love. So the mindset of the person really has a lot to do with how love is conceived and demonstrated.
1 Corinthians 13:1–7 (ESV)

13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love is to patiently meet the needs of others. We express love as we do this with patience, kindness and not seeking to be rewarded.
That is how human love works…seeking to care for others.
In our text today, we’ll see there is a completely different and added dimension to God’s love. For us, love is to care for others more than we care for ourselves. For God it’s entirely different. His love is so radical that it is almost entirely confusing to us. If we get it, however, our world will be utterly changed and our lives altered.
In our text today, we are going to read some things that at first just don’t make sense. John tells us that once Jesus gets word that Lazarus is dying, because He loves him, He waits two more days before going to him. Then, Jesus is going to tell His disciples that He is glad or literally in the original language, He rejoices that He was not there.
Chapter 11, the death and resurrection of Lazarus follows Chapter 10 which highlights the fact that God keeps His own. Jesus is mightier than all and has us in His hands and God the Father is mightier than all and has us secure in His hands. This is true for all believers and it was true for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Through their suffering God had them safely within His grip and never lost them even for a second. Even in death we are still kept securely in the loving and powerful grip of God.

John 11:1–16 (ESV)

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

Strange and unusual events and conclusions…

  1. Sickness for the Glory of God

11 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

John explains who it is that is sick, where he was located, and how desperate the situation is. Lazarus is the brother of Mary and Martha. Jesus had often been to their home and it was Mary that anointed Jesus with the very expensive oil. Because John’s Gospel is seen typically as the last of the four Gospels written he can reference back to certain events that at the time of writing had already taken place, such as Mary anointing Jesus.
Jesus deeply loved all three and had a very close relationship with them. Bethany was very close to Jerusalem, only about 2 miles away and it was Jerusalem where Jesus and His disciples had fled from because the Jews there were trying to kill Him. Bethany was the home of Lazarus.
Lazarus is very sick and so the sisters send word to Jesus that Lazarus is sick.
Now the word, translated sick is a word that literally means sinking. The idea is that the sickness is so serious that unless something changes he will sink into death.

Acts 9:36–37 (ESV)

36 Now there was in Joppa a disciple named Tabitha, which, translated, means Dorcas. She was full of good works and acts of charity. 37 In those days she became ill and died, and when they had washed her, they laid her in an upper room.

Philippians 2:25–27 (ESV)

25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

The first thing we should understand is that Jesus loved Lazarus and Lazarus is deathly ill.
If Job’s friends were to visit Lazarus they might say, Lazarus you must be a horrible sinner for God to make you this sick. Lazarus if you just repent of your sin then you will get better. But that’s completely the opposite of what is really going on here isn’t it. Jesus loves Lazarus and he is dying. The crucial piece is that we also know Jesus has the power to heal Lazarus. Other Gospel accounts even show us that Jesus can heal people without even going to where they are.

John 4:47–50 (ESV)

47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.

We know because we have the account that Jesus had something amazingly greater in mind than simply healing Lazarus.
The facts so far are these…Jesus loves Lazarus…Lazarus’ sickness will be for God’s glory…Jesus has the power to heal him…Jesus decides not to go.  

I pray by grace we are past the view that says God only showing His love toward me when I’m healthy and comfortable. I pray we’re past assessing God’s love for us by temporal situations. The Bible tells us to judge nothing before the time. In other words, we don’t know the final outcome or the big picture of what God is doing. All we can see are these small little few minutes so we must cease to decide whether God loves us or not based on our current misery.
1 Corinthians 4:5 (ESV)

Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.

We do not see the ultimate plans of God in our lives or in the lives of others. We must resist passing some sort of judgment because we see through a glass dimly.

Here Jesus tells us why Lazarus is ill…

But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

This illness that leads to death that is seen as a sinking further and further into death, Jesus says will not ultimately end in death.

Much like the man born blind so too Lazarus’ sickness is a planned sickness. It’s an ordained sickness because He loves Lazarus (as already stated) and He loves His disciples…and He loves His people. God has a purpose for every aspect of our lives. Nothing happens outside of God’s ordained purposes, whether it is health or sickness all are under God’s authority and control. We will see this plainly as we move forward in this passage.

  1. Lazarus Is About to Die, So I’ll Stay Here

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

Do you see how odd this sounds? Jesus loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus so He let Lazarus die.

Why did Jesus wait? Why did He let Lazarus die? Why did He not drop everything and go once He received word of Lazarus’ dire need? Because we have the story in front of us we can see some reasons why. Chapter 10 ends by telling us that this place where Jesus is now God is producing belief within the people. The chapter ends by reporting that many believed there. So, eternal issues were pressing. We can also see through reading the rest of the account that Jesus would heighten the faith of Mary and Martha through their suffering and then through their joy at the resurrection of Lazarus. We will also learn that because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead many in Bethany believed. Probably the most important reason was that Jesus was waiting for the Father to tell Him to go. Jesus came to do the will of the Father and His love for the Father was what drove Him. He loved the three dearly but not like He loved His Father. So He waited until the time was right.
So, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus waited all waitd on the Father.
Have you ever waited on God? We must seek His timing in the events in our lives and not run ahead or lag behind but seek His timing and purposes.

Here is a wonderful verse that really illustrates what is taking place here in our text today…
Isaiah 30:18 (ESV)

18    Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,

and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.

       For the Lord is a God of justice;

blessed are all those who wait for him.

Isaiah tells us that when God delays His mercy until His timing is right, we praise Him and He is exalted even more. He goes on to say that we are also blessed when we wait on God. Waiting in peace is a blessing rather than an anxious waiting. Trusting God with the answer and the timing is the mark of a mature believer.

Jesus waits.
Now Jesus loved them, so He waited. Both of these phrases point us back to the glory of God. The sickness would bring God great exaltation and that is how God shows us love, so Jesus waited.
In order to follow His Father’s will and timing Jesus would lead His followers right back to the hornet’s nest…
Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”

Remember from Chapter 10 Jesus and His disciples left the Judean region because the Jews were seeking to kill Him?
Believing and following Jesus sometimes takes us into difficult situations. If you’re looking for an easy life you won’t find it following Jesus. If comfort is what you’re after Jesus will not lead you there. Just ask any one of these disciples.

Jesus gives us another illustration of what it looks like to follow the Father…
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”
When Jesus waited for the Father’s timing, He walked in the light and led His followers through the danger in the light. If He had started back for Bethany as soon as He heard He would have been walking in darkness because it wasn’t God’s time yet.
This is a great example for us. For us it’s a little different. What we must seek to do is walk in the light of God’s Word. When we live our lives in accordance with God’s Word, we are walking in the light.
1 John 1:5–7 (ESV)

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

Psalm 119:105 (ESV)
105        Your word is a lamp to my feet

and a light to my path.

  1. I Rejoice That I Was Not There

11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

John writes that after Jesus said these things…these things refer back to the saying that the sickness was for the glory of God. Then Jesus refers to Lazarus as sleeping. We must not fail to understand the imagery here. To God, death is simply sleep.

Jesus says Lazarus is sleeping because for God death is sleep. To all who love God

death can even be a thing to welcome. For Lazarus, who had been no doubt suffering terribly death came, he was now sleeping in peace.
The sleep of Lazarus is very much like the three days Jesus was in the tomb. After the resurrection then we see how our Lord awoke or slept no longer. The same is said for Lazarus who, in a short time would awaken from his sleep or be resurrected from the dead.

For believers, those who are in Christ, the sting is gone from death.  While we who loose loved ones are sad at our loss, the believers who go on are not sad but death becomes the grace of God whereby He brings us into His presence with great joy.

1 Corinthians 15:50–58 (ESV)

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 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. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 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.”

55    “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

In the midst of explaining to His disciple that the time has now come to go to Lazarus He uses the word friend to describe His relationship to him. It’s as if Jesus is reminding His disciples who no doubt wanted to run to Lazarus two days ago, that he is also Jesus’ friend. In other words, Jesus loves Lazarus more, in fact, than they do.
God’s people have a very unique relationship with Him. We are called God’s friends. Like Lazarus whose death would now serve the glory of God and who would in turn receive an unbelievable inheritance so too we must be ready to also serve God in any way He desires.

As believers God declares once and for all that He loves us. Sometimes our discomfort and pain and even our death may in fact serve to bring God maximum glory. We must always remember that as God’s people He forever loves us and has us within His eternal grasp even if our calling is to glorify Him in our sickness or even our death, He never lets go of us, He never stops loving us.

Are you confident today that no matter what situation you find yourself in, it has been ordained by God for His glory and for your eternal good?
Are you ready to stop determining God’s love for you based on your current circumstance?

 

Declaration of Grace

In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

God’s Love is Not Our Love

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