Series: WHY? (Why Did God Let the Worst Happen?)
Week of February 24 – March 2, 2021
AIM: After studying this lesson students will know that death is not final. But in God we can look forward to a better time, a better plan, a better future!
I admit it! Sometimes I become very frustrated with the Lord! (Yes, I said it!) My prayer requests are, for the most part, asked with a pure motive, rarely selfish, yet He frequently chooses to allow events to unfold in ways I do not comprehend. His timing is rarely what I would expect of a God who loves His people! The money needed for a critical ministry is too little or arrives too late. Evil people flourish financially while good people suffer with cancer. His ways and His timing challenge my trust far more often than I wish, so I find myself repeating the words in my mind like a mantra, “The Lord is right in all His ways. The Lord will make a way somehow. The Lord is in control!”
When I read the story of Martha and Mary’s loss, I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone in my experience. Here are two women who knew the Son of God as personally as I know my sister (and I know my sister)! Yet, we see Martha and Mary struggling to understand His handling of Lazarus’ illness. Why did He not rush to Bethany as soon as He heard the news? Did He not care? Why would He allow Lazarus to suffer his illness one moment longer than necessary? Yet each woman – to her credit – expressed continued devotion to the Lord; neither lashed out in bitterness or questioned His goodness. They merely expressed disappointment, laced ever so subtly with bewilderment.
The Lord empathized with the sorrow of His friends and shared their anger at the ruthless oppression of death. Death, after all, is not the invention of God; it’s the consequence of sin. How He responded to Lazarus’ death is a foreshadow of an important lesson that we need to learn. Let’s take another look at the death and resurrection of Lazarus and see more about a better time, a better plan, a better future!
After His last encounter with the religious elite in Jerusalem, Jesus took refuge in the same wilderness that had protected John the Baptist from their murderous intent. The Lord ministered to John’s disciples there for an unknown length of time before traveling to Galilee. Much is not known about this time, but it is known for certain that Jesus was more than a day’s walk from Bethany, which was the home of His friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary, just two miles east of Jerusalem.
Lazarus is ill. Martha and Mary sent an earnest, hopeful message to Jesus about their brother Lazarus: “Lord, the one you love is sick.” If they could have heard Jesus’ response at the moment He received their plea, they initially might have been encouraged because “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’” (John 11:4). Hearing this response, the logical assumption would have been that Jesus knew God would not let Lazarus’ illness become worse. . .that Lazarus would not die. . .that God would heal him.
Point to Ponder: When have you prayed and received initial encouragement through a promise from God? Has that promise added to your miserable confusion when, not only does it seem unfulfilled, but the very opposite happens?
Point to Ponder: Why? Why does God let things go from bad to worse for those He loves – those like Martha? Like Mary? Like you? Like me?
Now, consider this. . .when Jesus made His statement that “this sickness will not end in death” Lazarus was already dead! Was Jesus lying? Was His promise some sort of empty “hope so” attitude? NO! What Jesus said meant.
- That Lazarus’s sickness did not have physical death as its ultimate purpose.
- That God has a greater purpose than our immediate comfort.
- That getting what we want, when we want it, is not always the best for us or glorifying to God.
- For Martha and Mary, the greater purpose was to bring them to a point of absolute helplessness and hopelessness. . .
- so that they might keep their focus on Him,
- so that they might put all their faith in Him alone,
- so that they might soar on eagles’ wings,
- so that they might bring glory to God!
- Their faith would give Him an opportunity to demonstrate in a spectacular, unmistakable way that His power and grace were totally sufficient for their need!
- Their faith gave Him the platform to prove by His actions His claims. . .
- of being the unique and only Son of God,
- of being the long-awaited Messiah,
- of being the Resurrection and the Life were true!
- Jesus was teaching Mary and Martha, and us, to trust Him. . .
- beyond today
- beyond the physical
- beyond the emotional
- beyond the temporary
- beyond the material
- beyond the visible
- beyond the grave!
The Foreshadow of Lazarus’ Death and Resurrection è to Mankind’s Death and Resurrection
- Lazarus Sickness è Mankind’s Sickness
(Physical Illness) è (Sin Sick through disobedience)
John 11:1 (NIV) – Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Genesis 3:6-7 (NIV) – 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
- Condition Reported è Condition Known
John 11:3 (NIV) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
Genesis 3:8-9 (NLT) 8 When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
- Jesus Delays è Jesus Delays
(In Returning) è (In Returning)
John 11:6 (GNT) 6 Yet when he received the news that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days.
Hebrews 10:37 (GNT) 37 For, as the scripture says, “Just a little while longer, and he who is coming will come; he will not delay.
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) 9 The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
- DeathCalledSleep è BelieversareAsleep
John 11:11 (NIV) – After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
1 Corinthians 15:20 (NIV) – But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
- LazarusDies è ManDies
John 11:14 (NKJV) – Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.
Job 14:1 (NLT) – “How frail is humanity! How short is life, how full of trouble!
Genesis 3:19 (NLT) – By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.”
Hebrews 9:27 (NASB) – And just as it is destined for people to die once, and after this comes judgment
- Jesus Comes è Jesus Returns
John 11:17-20 (NCV) – 17 When Jesus arrived, he learned that Lazarus had already been dead and in the tomb for four days. 18 Bethany was about two miles from Jerusalem. 19 Many of the Jews had come there to comfort Martha and Mary about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed home.
John 14:3 (NKJV) – And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; thatwhere I am, there you may be also.
1 Thessalonians 4:14-15 (NKJV) – 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.
- Mary Kneels and worship è Mankind will kneel and worship
John 11:32 (NKJV) – Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Philippians 2:10-11 (NKJV) – 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Revelation 5:13-14 (NIV) – 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” 14 The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
- Jesus Wept è Jesus Wept
John 11:35 (NIV) – Jesus wept.
Isaiah 53:3 (NKJV) – He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Matthew 23:37 (NIV) – “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.
- Jesus Shouts Loudly è Jesus Shouts Loudly
John 11:43 (NKJV) – Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!”
Matthew 27:50, 52-53 (NKJV) – 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit. 52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
1 Thessalonians 4:16 (NKJV) – For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.
- Lazarus Comes From the Grave è Mankind Comes From the Grave
John 11:44 (NKJV) – And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NKJV) – 13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 (NKJV) – 16. . .And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
(11) At Banquet Table with Jesus è At Banquet Table with Jesus
John 12:1-2 (NKJV) 12 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. 2 There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him.
Revelation 19:7-9 (NKJV) 7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.”
When I don’t understand, I will trust God because
PRAYER PRINCIPLE: Be thankful for the great time, plan and future that Christ has secured for us.
SOCIAL JUSTICE PRINCIPLE: Be a source of comfort for those who are experiencing grief.
EVANGELISM PRINCIPLE: Help others understand death for the believer and encourage nonbelievers to become secure by a relationship with Christ today.
STEWARDSHIP PRINCIPLE: Our giving helps those going through a rough time because of the death of someone or something.
DISCIPLESHIP PRINCIPLE: Regardless of how hopeless things may get, remember our hope is beyond the grave.
NEXT WEEK’S TITLE: Speak a Word
SERIES: More than Hips, Lips and Fingertips
NEXT WEEK’S READING ASSIGNMENT: 2 Kings 5:1-3