26. The Lazarus Factor

Reading Plan

If you’re looking to dive deeper into what the Bible says about this topic, here’s a suggested Reading Plan, one passage per day for a whole week, based on the sermon:

  1. MONDAY: Luke 10:38-42
  2. TUESDAY: John 11:1-44
  3. WEDNESDAY: John 12:1-10
  4. THURSDAY: Luke 7:36-50
  5. FRIDAY: Daniel 3
  6. SATURDAY: Hebrews 11:1-19, 39-40
  7. SUNDAY: Mark 9:14-29

eGroup Discussion Questions – Great for personal reflection/journaling, too!

Sermon Notes: “The Lazarus Factor” ⤵️

Preacher: Steve Furtick
Passage: John 11:1-44
Title: The Lazarus Factor
Date: November 3, 2019

Based on the lyrics from Never Lost:

You are still showing up
At the tomb of every Lazarus
Your voice is calling me out

Introduction

  • Lazarus means “the one whom God helps”
  • And his sisters:
    • Martha: A good cook (Luke 10:40)
    • Mary: A good listener (Luke 10:39)
  • The story of Lazarus begins like a lot of other accounts of Jesus. It makes sense up through Verse 5. But then Verse 6 comes and that’s when the story deviates from what we’ve come to expect:

John 11:1-6

1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (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.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” 4 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.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.


  • Jesus didn’t rush off to heal Lazarus. He waited around for two days.
    • He loved them so he stayed where he was. Not “but,” but “so.”
  • Different love languages, from the book.
    • I’m glad my wife’s love language is touch and not acts of service.
  • God’s love language is trust.
    • “Without faith [trust] it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6a) (The Greek word pisteuo can be translated “faith,” “belief,” and “trust”)
    • God’s loves when we trust him more than when we wear cross necklaces or come to church.
    • We equate love with comfort. God equates love with trust (even when it’s uncomfortable).

A. When God Leaves You on Read

So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.
John 11:6, NIV

  • My first job was at a pet crematorium. You learn who your real friends are when you tell them that.
  • The worst job would be being Jesus’ P.R. manager: Trying to explain to people why Jesus stayed where he was two days longer before going to Lazarus.
  • God’s job is outcome. Your job is process.
    • Trying to control outcomes = frustration
    • We think the formula is “Faith determines outcomes.”
    • But we all have a Lazarus that breaks that formula.
    • Faith is patience with mystery.
    • God is all powerful, but we all have something in our lives where God hasn’t shown up like he has for others… this isn’t evidence that God doesn’t love us.
    • We don’t praise God for what he’s done, but for who he is.
  • Jesus left Martha “on read.”
    • Have you ever been left on read by God?
    • Have you prayed a prayer that hit the ceiling and bounced back?
    • But God left them on read because he loved them.
  • My love language is presence. If you don’t come, then you don’t love.
    • “I’m with you in spirit” or Christian cliches.
    • Sometimes a Scripture is annoying.
    • My job is to say the stuff you’re thinking anyway: You can have great faith and still be frustrated.
    • I’m going to release an album called “Honest Worship”: “You seldom lost a battle / Except when I was fourteen”
    • God is your provider.
      • “But he’s not paying my rent!”
    • Everyone has something God was supposed to do that he did not do.
  • John has the insight of hindsight.
    • John was written several years after Matthew, Mark, and Luke, called the Synoptic Gospels (synoptic = “with vision”)
    • Mary and Martha didn’t get to read Chapter 12 while they were living through Chapter 11.
    • Don’t put a period where God put a parentheses. He is still working in your situation.
      • Verse 2, in parentheses in the NIV, is about an event in Mary’s life that doesn’t happen until John 12:3.
      • You have to see yourself worshiping in Chapter 12 to get through Chapter 11.
    • The world says, “You gotta see it to believe it.”
    • But God says, “You gotta believe it to see it.”
    • The disciples had doubts because they could never understand Jesus’ motives. They abandoned him at the cross.
  • God is God of the Outcome.
    • I’m not. I can only sow the seed.
    • “Pray to the Lord of the Harvest”
    • I decide what I sow.

B. Everybody has a Lazarus

7 And then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” 8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” 9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
John 11:7-10, NIV

  • Jesus’ response to the disciples is cute, but it’s not clear. Do you have the faith to follow him anyway?
  • Everybody has a Lazarus.
    • Sometimes it’s buried so deep that we never process the disappointment.
    • But how we process the disappointments determines what happens to our faith:
      • Faith to propel
      • Fear to discourage

C. The Faith to Follow Jesus Anyway

11 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.” 12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. 14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” 17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
John 11:11-120, NIV

  • The Lazarus Factor is the faith to follow Jesus anyway.
    • “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
    • “But even if he doesn’t” (Daniel 3:18)
  • Jesus was late.
    • He wasn’t even fashionably late.
    • He was functionally late.
    • He had to show up at the tomb to show them his glory in a way they hadn’t seen yet. (John 11:4)
    • God waits past the point of your expectation.
  • People can be a gift but they cannot be your God.

D. It’s not about WHAT Jesus does or doesn’t do; it’s about WHO he is.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
John 11:21-27, NIV

  • The most godly prayers are the most honest prayers.
    • Martha might have said: “You came when I cooked but you didn’t come when I cried.” (cf. Luke 10:40)
    • Or: Why didn’t you just keep it from happening so I wouldn’t need the peace?
  • Even so, she believed: “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
  • This isn’t about what Jesus did or did not do (You didn’t come when I needed you to) but it’s about who Jesus is. “I am the Resurrection.”
    • Do you believe this? Martha: “Yes, I believe you are who you say you are.”
    • The Lazarus Factor is the thing inside of you that knows he is God. “Even if you didn’t _________________, you are God.”

E. Jesus is with us in the pain of disappointment.

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

  • Mary and Martha were both mad but they still got a miracle.
  • The Lazarus Factor = He is with us in the pain of disappointment.
  • “Where did you bury him?”
    • Where have you buried your deepest hurts?
    • Jesus comes close to what other people push away.
    • Not a physical location, but an emotional one: Where you…
      • Stopped being optimistic
      • Started going through the motions
      • Managed the addiction
      • Put on a façade
  • “Jesus wept.”
    • Easy verse to remember if you’re trying to memorize Scripture.
    • Two voices:
      • God loves you so much. (Verse 36)
      • Why didn’t God help you? (Verse 37)

F. His presence always calls something forth

38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”

  • Jesus was not moved by opinions, but by purpose. (Verse 40)
  • Be willing to “open the tomb.” Open your heart to Jesus, even if you don’t want to expose what’s hiding inside. (Verse 41)
  • Jesus waited, because he loved them, “for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe” (Verse 42) (believe = trust)
  • The Lazarus Factor = You don’t always get Lazarus back, but his presence always calls something forth.
  • I call joy, peace, purpose, and glory forth in your life.

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