Sermons

Jesus' Best Friend

Sun, Mar 08, 2020
Teacher: Mark Hull
Passage: John 11:32-53

Message text

Jesus’ BFF
John 11: 32 – 53

Social Media (texting/twitter/etc.) has created a whole new set of terms. These terms are called “acronyms”, and they’re basically abbreviations of common phrases. For example “LOL” means “Laugh Out Loud.” LOL is simply shorthand for a term that takes longer to type than most folks seem to have patience with. As I searched the internet, one website stated that there are over 1500 of these abbreviations out there. So what I’m going to do this evening is put a few of these abbreviations on the overhead and see if you can recognize them:
ROFL (Rolling On Floor Laughing); LMK (Let Me Know); OMW ( On My Way); YOLO (You Only Live Once); SMH (Shaking My Head... I can’t believe you said that); NVM (Never Mind); and one of my favorites:
PBPGINFWMY (Please Be Patient. God Is Not Finished With Me Yet). Ok, so no one really ever uses that one on Social Media, but I like it.

And, of course, there’s the acronym of our sermon title today: BFF. What does it mean? That’s right: “Best Friend Forever.” And that brings us to our sermon today. In John 11:3 we’re told that when Lazarus got sick, his sisters sent Jesus a message: “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” Lazarus was Jesus’ BFF. Lazarus was Jesus’ best friend.
Now, if I have a best friend, wouldn’t you think that I’d tend to treat them just a little bit better than just an ordinary friend? Of course, I would.

ILLUS: I want you to think of a person whom you regard as a good friend. Now picture them traveling to Chicago for work and they end up in the hospital with a heart problem. Now, being a good person, you MIGHT travel the nearly 300 miles (one way) to see them in the hospital. But since you regarded them as a “best friend,” there is no “MAYBE” about going. It is OBVIOUS that OF COURSE you will make that trip since they are such a good friend, and that’s what you do for good friends.
Here in the Gospel of John, we’re told that Lazarus was the one Jesus loved. Lazarus was Jesus’ BFF. And Jesus hears that Lazarus is sick. In fact Jesus knew Lazarus was going to die. But Jesus DELIBERATELY waited 2 days after hearing of his illness before going to the family. And before He left, Jesus said: “’Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.” (John 11:11-13)
Wait a minute. Jesus WAITED 2 days, knowing Lazarus was going to die? That hardly seems like the way to treat your best friend. And because Jesus waited those 2 days He ended up arriving 4 days late for the funeral. And apparently, He did it on purpose!

ILLUS: A old time minster stated how he once showed up ½ hour late for a funeral. That wouldn’t have been such a big deal, except that he was supposed to be the one preaching the eulogy. To be fair, at least he had an excuse for that one: The minister lived across the state line in a different time zone. The funeral home didn’t think to remind him of the time difference... and it never crossed his mind. The minister was on his way to the funeral when he got a call on his cell phone asking him where he was.
So he showed up late for that funeral.
But he had never DELIBERATELY showed up late for a funeral. And he guaranteed you he will never shown up 4 days late to anything! But Jesus did... and He did it on purpose!
Now you know whenever Jesus shows up late for anything – especially for the funeral of a close friend - there’s got to be a reason. But what possible reason could he have???
The most obvious answer is that Jesus wanted Lazarus to be dead by the time He got there. But why would He want that?
Well, you see, the Jews had a tradition about death that said (remember, this isn’t Scripture - it’s Rabbinic tradition) "Until three days [after death] the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back [into the body]; but when it sees that the facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons [the body]"
So, in other words, there was a Jewish superstition that people weren’t REALLY dead until after being in the grave 3 days. And so, to avoid any question about the miracle, Jesus waited until the 4th day. That way, when Lazarus rose from the dead, everybody knew this was a miracle.
Now, in the Gospel of John, John records only 7 signs (or miracles). The other Gospels list more of Christ’s miracles, but John zeros in on these 7. And raising Lazarus from the dead is the LAST of the 7 SIGNS in the Gospel of John.

ILLUS: If you’re driving down the road there will be all kinds of “signs” by the side of the road. What purpose do those signs serve? They inform you of where you are, where you’re going, or how fast you can go to get there. Those signs tell things about the road.
The signs that John listed in his Gospel were designed to tell you WHO Jesus was. So this was a sign... what is THIS sign telling us about Jesus? Well Jesus told us in John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live....”
What’s that mean? It means that Jesus came to be our POWER of resurrection, and that He came to be our SOURCE of eternal life. Jesus literally came to take away the power of death. That’s what Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, (Jesus) likewise partook of the same things,
that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
People don’t like death. It’s not natural. It’s not normal. Even pagans realize it’s not the way things should be. Those who face death often see it as a step into the darkness and into the unknown. According to research, the fear of death is one of THE greatest fears people have. Aristotle called death the thing he feared most because "it appears to be the end of everything."
Chinese superstition held that if you just “mentioned” death you were basically inviting it to happen. And, while “we” Americans wouldn’t be superstitious about death, we really are. You’ll see people avoiding the topic all the time. They’ll not even make arrangements for their death, often not even having a burial plot.
They think “if I don’t talk about it... it won’t happen.” BECAUSE ... they really do fear death.
But Jesus came to deliver us from that fear. Jesus came to offer us a physical resurrection from the dead. Jesus came so that we might no longer fear death.
So here... Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead. And AFTER Lazarus was raised from the dead people were so impressed that they came from miles around just to see him. John 12:9 “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.”
Now, I’ve said all THAT... to say THIS: The reason Jesus delayed coming to his best friend’s funeral, was because Lazarus WAS His best friend. When you’ve got a best friend... you want to do stuff for them. You want to share stuff with them. You want to buy them something special for their birthdays. If nothing else... you’re always talking them up around others. Basically, good friends are folks you do good things for because you like them.
And as I thought of Lazarus and his story, my mind began to drift... so stick with me for a couple of minutes here: I got to thinking - the Bible tells us the names of every one of Jesus’ 12 apostles. They were important men. The founding fathers (if you will) of the early church. And yet, how many of you could write down all of their names?
How about HALF of their names?

ILLUS: I tested myself and found I could confidently name 7 of the apostles just off the top of my head. And, when I rechecked the list of the 12
I found 3 others I should have remembered... leaving 2 I hadn’t ever thought about. Now, why didn’t I remember all of them? Well, because I don’t care! It doesn’t matter to me. It’s not like I’m going on Jeopardy and know they’ll ask me that question. After I get past Peter, James and John, I just don’t care anymore. Two months from now, I still won’t know all their names.
But now, Lazarus’ name - HIS name I know. I remember his name because its central to Jesus’ message. And so does practically every Christian who’s ever read the Gospels. He’s the guy Jesus raised from the dead. Jesus gave Lazarus a gift that almost no other New Testament hero had... Jesus gave him a testimony.
Lazarus was such a powerful witness for Christ that even Jesus’ enemies paid attention. John 12:10 tells us “...the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death.”

ILLUS: Of course, they didn’t get it done. The story is told that when Lazarus grew older he stood before a ruler of the region, and that ruler demanded Lazarus renounce his faith or face death. And Lazarus began to laugh.
The governor became incensed and demanded that Lazarus quit laughing take this seriously – “Don’t you realize I have the power to have you executed.” But Lazarus laughed all the harder. Finally, the Governor exploded in a rage demanding to know why Lazarus laughed. Lazarus looked up at the ruler and replied: “I’ve already died once. I no longer fear death.”
Another way of saying it would have been: “Been there, done that... I own the t-shirt.” And so... Lazarus laughed. How do you threaten a man with something that God has already rescued him from?
Jesus loved his friend... and so He gave him something really good. He gave Lazarus a story of God’s power in his life. A testimony that defined who he was for the rest of his life.
The reason Jesus waited while Lazarus died wasn’t because He was being cruel! It was because He was giving Lazarus the opportunity to be one of the most powerful witnesses of His power over death and the grave. And that’s the same witness He gives to you and I.
Romans 6 tells us that was God’s message to us when we are baptized. Romans 6:4 tells us “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”
When we were baptized that’s what happened to us - we died! We died to our PAST. We died to the SINS we’d committed. We died to controlling our own lives and we turned them over to Jesus. But when you and I died to all that, and we were buried in the waters of baptism.

CLOSE: Now, one last thought: Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead not only as a testimony to those who lived in that day, but also as a witness to us ... kind of a reminder of God’s promise to us. You see, just days after raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was going to go to Jerusalem, be put on trial, be beaten and whipped, and then die on the cross. He was to be buried... and then He was going to rise from the dead. But... if that’s true why bother with Lazarus? Why raise Lazarus from the dead???
Well, if Jesus were the only one to rise from the dead - what difference does that make to us? I mean, yeah Jesus is God - of course He can rise from the dead! But I’m mortal – death is part of the deal for mortals. And every mortal I’ve ever known is going to die - and those who have died are still in the grave.
But in raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was allowing us a preview of what He’ll do for us. Romans 8:11 declares “... if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Isn’t that cool? The Spirit of God who resides in you is powerful enough to bring you out of the grave!!!
And this is a such a central doctrine in Scripture that it’s even part of the salvation experience of every person who’s become a Christian. That’s why baptism is so important. It loudly declares what will happen at the end of time.
Lazarus’ resurrection is a proof of the promise found in I Corinthians 15:51 – 55 51 Behold, I tell you a [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 incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O[b] Death, where is your sting?
O Hades, where is your victory?”
You know it’s a good thing that, when Jesus came to Lazarus’ grave, He shouted “LAZARUS, come forth” because if He’d simply said “Come forth” every grave in the area would have opened up.
But at the end of time, when Jesus returns and the trumpet sounds... every grave WILL open and we will rise to be Christ forever. That promise is reflected in the resurrection of Lazarus, and that is his testimony. That was his testimony till the day he died.
ILLUS: I have heard it said that
There’s a tomb in a city in Cyprus, And above the opening of that tomb there’s a simple inscription that says, “Lazarus,—Four days dead, Friend of Jesus.”
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