Sun, Jul 16, 2017
Our Personal Billboard
John 11:17-53 by Mark Hull
Series: Sunday Sermons - 2017

Our Personal Billboard Text John 11:17-53
I came across some actual church signs that I found pretty
funny and I would like to share a few of them with you this morning...
I wish Noah would have swatted those 2 mosquitos!
Whoever is praying for rain can stop!
God, help me be the person MY DOG thinks I am!
Christianity is like chicken pox, if you have it you can give it to others.
Honk and drive if you love Jesus. Text and drive if you want to meet Him.
we’re not baskin & robbins, but we have great sundays.!
The lost and found is located inside, come on in!
Cars are not the only things recalled by their maker.
And finally, When the dead sit up... the funeral’s over.
The text for our sermon this morning is found in John 11:17-53.
In Jesus’ ministry He raised only 3 people from the dead.
1. The son of the widow from Nain.
2. The daughter of a man named Jairus.
3. And the 3rd was one of his best friends – a man named Lazarus.
Now, this is a really odd story because Jesus shows up 4 days late for the funeral. John 11:17 tells us “when Jesus came, He found that (Lazarus) had already been in the tomb four days.”
We all probably know of individuals who seem to always be late. You can even invite them at least a ½ hour before the ACTUAL time AND they STILL show up LATE! Then you tell them that they will probably be LATE for their OWN FUNERAL!
BUT ... Can you just imagine if you arrived 4 DAYS LATE to a FUNERAL! As we read from our text we see that this is what JESUS DID.
John 11:6 tells us “when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” Jesus DELIBERATELY stayed away for 2 days after He heard that Lazarus was sick!!!! And He ended up arriving 4 days late for the funeral
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???
Well, let’s take a little bit of a look of the background of the story here. Lazarus had 2 sisters – Mary & Martha and they all lived in Bethany – a small village about 2 miles west of Jerusalem. Then one day, Lazarus got sick... and he died.
Mary and Martha KNEW he might die – and that’s when they sent for Jesus. John 11:3 says “... the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’”
They desperately wanted Jesus to come, because if Jesus CAME, He could have healed him. But He doesn’t come and Lazarus DIES. So Mary and Martha are both upset and you can almost hear the reproach in their voices when they both tell Him: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” verse 21
Even the mourners are bewildered by this whole thing. Verses 35-37 tells us that as Jesus approached the tomb He wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
SO why did Jesus show up late? The most obvious answer is... He wanted Lazarus to be dead by the time He got there.
Bear in mind, this is the LAST of the 7 miracles in the Gospel of John, and each of those miracles was a SIGN that told us about Who Jesus was. So what’s THIS sign telling us about Jesus?
Well, in verse 25 Jesus said: “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 He came to be our SOURCE of eternal life. Jesus literally came to take away the power of death.
Hebrews 2:14-5 “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” wouldn’t be superstitious about death, we really are. You’ll see people avoiding the topic. 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.” 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.
ILLUS: But now there are people - who reject the physical resurrection from the dead. Around 6 years ago, an editor for Newsweek magazine put this on her blog. She wrote:
“Resurrection presents credibility problems... the immortality of the soul is easier to swallow than (bodily) resurrection. (According to that view which rejects a bodily resurrection) after death, the soul—unique and indestructible—ascends to heaven to be with God while the corpse... stays behind to rot. This view (she writes) has a serious defect: a disembodied soul attaching itself to God in heaven offers no more comfort or inspiration than an escaped balloon.... Without sight or hearing, taste or touch, a soul in heaven can no more enjoy the "green, green pastures" of ... paradise, than it can play a... cello or hit a home run. So for my part, I don't buy it.
That’s the kind of attitude that was popular with the Sadducees of Jesus’ day. They refused to accept the idea of a physical bodily resurrection. And the Greeks – the leading intellectuals of the day believed the same thing about death.
It was such a prominent belief that it began to filter into the early church and create a heresy some believers embrace. Paul addressed it in I Corinthians 15:12 “Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”
So there are people out there, both in the days of Jesus and in our day, who have rejected the idea of a bodily resurrection of the dead. How do you combat that kind of foolishness? Well, you raise someone who was undeniably dead... from the dead. Lazarus was exhibit A. He was literally a "walking billboard" for Jesus, a declaration that He was the resurrection and the life.
And after he was raised from the dead... people showed up from miles around just to see Lazarus 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.”
But of course... first you have to prove Lazarus was UNDENIABLY dead. That’s what the 4 day thing was all about. We’re used to elegant funeral homes and sanitized bodies of the dead. We’re familiar with the fact that our dearly departed has had their blood removed and the blood has been replaced by embalming fluid. This is all done to preserve the body from decay. And because of the advanced science involved... bodies can be preserved for a week or more.
But they couldn’t do that back in the days of Jesus. When a person died back then, they buried them as soon as possible - often on the same day.
By the fourth day after death the body began to decompose. In fact ... burial practice of the day involved covering the body with perfume when it was buried to offset the very obvious smell of decay. And that’s why, when Jesus ordered the stone to be rolled away from the tomb Martha... said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” John 11:39
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]"
Jesus knew about this tradition and planned His raising of Lazarus to meet that objection. So, in other words, after 4 days... Lazarus was DEAD dead. There was no question when he came out of the grave that it wasn’t a quirk. It wasn’t a trick. It was a dead man brought back from oblivion.
Yes Virginia... there IS a bodily resurrection.
But why put Lazarus through all this? Why let him die... why let this happen to one of your best friends?
What is the best thing you could do for your BEST friend? Many would probably say “buy them something.”
BUT: “What if you could do something for them that would make them famous? What if you could make it so that everybody would know their name and would come from miles around just to see THEM? Would you do that?
Most of us would probably agree that... that would be GREAT!!!
And that’s just what Jesus did for Lazarus. Just a few days after Lazarus came out of the tomb “the large crowd of the Jews ... came, not only on account of (Jesus) but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead.” John 12:9
To this day, just about every Christian knows the name of Lazarus. In fact, Lazarus went to his grave knowing Jesus had done this for him because he was friend
ILLUS: On the isle of Cyprus they believe they’ve found Lazarus’ grave. And on his tomb were inscribed these simple words: “Lazarus, of Larnaca—Four days dead, Friend of Jesus.”
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 as a kind of a reminder of His promise to us. You see, just a few days after raising Lazarus from the dead Jesus is going DIE and He’ll be BURIED and He’ll RISE from the dead. But... if that’s true why bother with Lazarus? Why raise HIM from the dead???
Well, IF ONLY JESUS rose from the dead - what difference does that make to us? I mean, yes 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 died... and is still in the grave.
But in raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus was allowing us to have a preview what He’ll do for us. Romans 8:11“... 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 right up 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 ever become a Christian.
Do you know what I’m talking about?
That’s right – when we are baptized. Paul writes in Romans 6:3-4 “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
That’s the genius of baptism. It not only declares that you’ve died to your past and all your sins have been buried in those waters never to come back to plague you again... BUT it is also declaring that just as Christ rose from the grave – you will too. When that trumpet sounds at the last day, you’ll shoot up out of the ground to be with Jesus eternally. No grave will hold you in the ground.
As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 15: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 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.
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 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.” “O death, where is your victory? O grave, where is your sting?” I Corinthians 15:51-55
ILLUS: The story is told that when Lazarus grew older he stood before a ruler of the region, and that ruler was demanding that Lazarus renounce his faith in Christ or face the possibility of 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.”
If Lazarus was a walking billboard for proof of the Resurrection, what does our WALKING BILLBOARD say about US?
Noah’s Billboard shows the Ark, Animals, the Flood and a Rainbow
Abraham’ Billboard shows a man of faith.
Job’s billboard shows a man of patience and trust in God.
Lot’s Wife has a billboard that shows a pillar of salt ... proof that God means what he says.
Paul’s billboard shows a man of determination and focus to both encourage and guide others.
Judas’ billboard shows betrayal, how one can be influenced by earthly pressures.
OR, Nicodemas’s billboard shows a man who had great questions but ...
So, how do others see us? What are the main MESSAGES on OUR BILLBOARD?



Contributing Sermon

Jeff Strite