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From Darkness and Death to Light and Life

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From Darkness and Death to Light and Life
 
A Sermon Presented to:
The Compassion Internet Church
 
25 March 2012
 
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

Scripture References:

John 11:1-57
John 12:1-11

The world around us is filled with corruption, injustice, and indifference to the suffering of others, particularly the animals, of which more than 50 billion are horribly treated and killed every year to satisfy human greed, all of which hardens the hearts of most people on earth.
 
Therefore, these people blind themselves to the truth, and prefer to live in the evil darkness and death of the world, where this warring madness extends to killing each other and causing immense suffering.
 
It is time we shed intense visible and spiritual light on all of these evil acts, work to free the earth from its present corruption, and usher in God’s peaceful light and life.
 
Our pre-Easter message for today speaks to the human side of this issue.
 
The story of Mary, Martha, her sister, and Lazarus, their brother whom Jesus raised from the dead, has a far reaching message of overcoming this corrupt world and living in the heavenly will of God.
 
Let’s begin this story in John 11:1 –

1. Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
 
2. It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.

This is just an insertion in the story to let us know who Mary is, because she had not yet anointed Jesus, as we will see in the next chapter.

3. So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”
 
4. But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by it.”

Everyone who truly believes in Jesus, and by faith follows the heavenly will of God, also glorifies the Son of God. This is what each and every one of us is to be doing.

5. Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
 
6. So when He heard that he was sick, He then stayed two days longer in the place where He was.

Jesus’ actions may seem strange to us, because we don’t always have His kind of heavenly insight; but the closer we move toward God, the more of this insight we will have to foresee the outcome.

7. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”
 
8. The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone You, and are You going there again?”

The disciples also have a limited vision.
 
And even though Jesus and they are also Jewish, they refer to the Jewish hierarchy as being the Jews in order to separate themselves from their ungodly ways.
 
They are having trouble seeing beyond the corrupted and evil ways of the world around them.
 
They see the darkness and death of the world, but still cannot see the full light and life that Jesus is presenting to them.

9. 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.”

Jesus is speaking of physical light, to which all of us can relate, but He is also giving us a message about spiritual light and darkness, which operates in the spiritual realm as visible light does in this physical world.

11. This He said, and after that He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.”
 
12. The disciples then 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 was speaking of literal sleep.
 
14. So Jesus then said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead,
 
15. and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe; but let us go to him.”
 
16. Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.”

Like so many of us, Thomas is still focused upon this dark and corrupted world and the threat of death upon Jesus; thus, he is blinding himself to the spiritual light and life that Jesus is referring to in connection with Lazarus.
 
They quickly forgot that Jesus said that Lazarus’ sickness was not unto death, but to glorify Him.
 
Death does not glorify the Lord; life does.

17. So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.

As Jesus had planned, He came upon their town at a time of darkness and death.

18. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off;
 
19. and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary, to console them concerning their brother.

Are these some of the same Jews who wanted to kill Jesus, and who sacrificially kill so many animals, when all God really wanted was their obedience and repentance?
 
Let’s keep this in mind as we go on.

20. Martha therefore, when she heard that Jesus was coming, went to meet Him, but Mary stayed at the house.
 
21. Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.
 
22. “Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

Do you see the confusion in Martha’s faith?
 
She knows that Jesus could have saved Lazarus’ life, and that He could raise him from the darkness and death unto light and life; but at the same time she has doubts.

23. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 
24. Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
 
25. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,
 
26. and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
 
27. She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

With Jesus’ encouragement, her faith is beginning to return.

28. When she had said this, she went away and called Mary her sister, saying secretly, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
 
29. And when she heard it, she got up quickly and was coming to Him.

Mary was stuck in the darkness of mourning her brother’s death, but upon hearing that Jesus was there, she began to see the light of hope.

30. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha met Him.
 
31. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and consoling her, when they saw that Mary got up quickly and went out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there.
 
32. Therefore, when Mary came where Jesus was, she saw Him, and fell at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
 
33. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled,
 
34. and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
 
35. Jesus wept.
 
36. So the Jews were saying, “See how He loved him!”
 
37. But some of them said, “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?”

As we can easily see, they really know the truth; but because they also glorify darkness and death, they fail to see beyond it.
 
And we will shortly see how far the evil intent of their heart goes.

38. So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it.
 
39. Jesus said, “Remove the stone.” Martha, the sister of the deceased, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

Jesus wants to shine some light into the tomb, but Martha is concerned about the stench of death, and not the promise that Jesus offers.

Martha's heart and soul should have been so full of faith and hope, that she should have echoed Jesus' request, "Yes, please remove the stone."

But that didn't happen, so, in His love, Jesus continues to encourage her and all of us.

40. Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
 
41. So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
 
42. “I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.”
 
43. When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.”
 
44. The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

From the place of darkness and death, Jesus has shown them the glory of God by turning it into light and life, in the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

45. Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.
 
46. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done.

The ones who went to the Pharisees also knew the truth, but they were more interested in staying in the status-quo of the darkness of the Pharisees’ teaching.
 
As we go on, note the depth of the religious hierarchy’s self-centered and evil ways.

47. Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs.

They knew that what Jesus was doing was from God, but instead of praising what He was doing and glorifying God, they chose to follow the ways of the world.

48. “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
 
49. But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all,
 
50. nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”
 
51. Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
 
52. and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
 
53. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.

The moment that we see or hear of anyone wanting to kill another living being, whether human or non-human, we know that it is against the will of God.
 
They are of their father, the devil.

54. Therefore Jesus no longer continued to walk publicly among the Jews, but went away from there to the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there He stayed with the disciples.

When people deal in death, the Lord will pull away from them, and we strongly believe that this is the reason that we have so many problems in the world today.
 
Our world is filled with death.
 
Think about these things when planning your daily and holiday meals.

55. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up to Jerusalem out of the country before the Passover to purify themselves.
 
56. So they were seeking for Jesus, and were saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think; that He will not come to the feast at all?”
 
57. Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he was to report it, so that they might seize Him.

And the evil continues, and is about to escalate. (John 12:1-11)

1. Jesus, therefore, six days before the Passover, came to Bethany where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead.
 
2. So they made Him a supper there, and Martha was serving; but Lazarus was one of those reclining at the table with Him.
 
3. Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
 
4. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said,
 
5. “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?”
 
6. Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it.
 
7. Therefore Jesus said, “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial.
 
8. “For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.”

No matter how evil the ways of the world are, Jesus always tries to pull people back into the heavenly will of God, where there is no darkness, nor suffering, nor death, nor injustice, nor corruption, nor indifference, but only light and life.

9. The large crowd of the Jews then learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead.

Shouldn’t the Miracle Maker be more important than the results of His miracles?
 
Of course He is!
 
Then why are the people not seeking Jesus instead?
 
Because many of their hearts and souls were not set upon the ways of the Lord; instead they were set upon the ways of the world, just like their religious leaders.

10. But the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death also;
 
11. because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and were believing in Jesus.

I don’t believe that there is anyone who doesn’t really see the difference between the good and evil we have seen in the lesson for today or in the ways of the world around us.
 
When a pastor or church promotes the killing of animals for pleasure, as they do with hunting or fishing, or for fund raising, as they do with their barbeques, they are not really any different than these priests and Pharisees.
 
Killing of any kind is not of God, for the only one who enjoys the spilling of blood is Satan.
 
So the choice is ours: Are we going to stay in the darkness and death of this world, or are we going to seek the light and life of the Lord?
 
I pray it’s the light and the life of the Lord.
 
Amen.