John 11:43
Jesus said unto Martha, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? When Lazarus of Bethany fell sick, his sisters sent a messenger beyond Jordan to carry the tidings to Jesus. Our Lord's reply was to the following effect: "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God," etc. We cannot doubt that these words, or the substance of them, was conveyed by the messenger to Martha and Mary, and yet, either before the arrival of the message or shortly after, Lazarus died, and his death was followed by his burial. Four days of mourning passed away, and at last Jesus himself came to Bethany. Martha met him at the outskirts of the village, and he told her that her brother should rise again, and that he himself was the Resurrection and the Life. At last the Savior stood at Lazarus's grave. It was a cave, and its inner recess, which concealed the dead from view, was blocked up by a stone. Before it stood Martha and Mary and a crowd of their weeping friends. But when our Lord bade the bystanders take away the stone, then Martha interfered. She evidently hoped from first to last that Jesus would do something to meet her case, and, though her hopes were vague, they were nourished by his own words; but now her fears prevailed against her hopes. Her faith gave way before the exigencies of sense. She dreaded the removal of the stone and the evidences of corruption. She could not bear to look into the dark and noisome grave. How gently, and yet how solemnly, does Jesus chide her unbelief! "Said I not unto thee," etc.? He reminds her of all that had passed between them before. And could she now mistrust him, whatever he might do? Why doubt that power and wisdom and love, even all that makes up Divine glory, would shine forth in his actions? This was enough for Martha, and now she trusts her Lord. Now she is in a right state of mind and heart for profiting by all that followed. Had it been otherwise, even the raising of her brother from the tomb would not of itself have revealed to her the glory of God. For her it might have been but a temporal mercy, an earthly, perhaps a questionable boon, carrying no spiritual blessing along with it. Miracles, when they were wrought, were extraordinary means of grace, but they might be misunderstood and abused like any other means; nay, we must not forget that there were men who witnessed this miracle as well as Martha, whose hearts were only hardened by what they saw. They went their ways to the Pharisees and helped them to plot against the Prince of life! Our text is this, "If thou wouldest believe," etc. The significance of these words extends far beyond the occasion on which they were uttered. As a master-key opens many locks, so it is with such sayings of Jesus dropped incidentally in the course of conversation. If we could only use them aright they would open many of the secrets of our hearts, and explain to us much of the character and of the ways of God.

I. THESE WORDS CONTAIN A GREAT DOCTRINE, VIZ. THAT THE GLORY OF GOD CAN ONLY BE SEEN BY THE EYE OF FAITH. This is universally true, whether we think of his glory as displayed in nature and in providence, or by his Word and his Son from heaven. The psalmist of Israel exclaims (Psalm 19.), "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handywork." And so it has been from the beginning. But what multitudes have, alas! been deaf and blind to all this teaching - in some ages worshipping the host of heaven instead of him who made them all; and in later times seeing nothing in God's grandest works but a vast and complicated machine without a final purpose, a thickly woven veil of laws and second causes with nothing behind it! Ah! the last word of unbelief is a blank and cheerless materialism. And the same thing must be said of the very highest display of God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ. There, surely, it shines forth in wondrous and yet attractive radiance. "Christ the Power of God, and the Wisdom of God." His life on earth the very image of God's holiness. His cross the meeting-place of righteousness and mercy. His resurrection the triumph of victorious grace. But why is Christ to so many a stumbling-stone and a rock of offence? Why is he still despised and rejected of men, so that they turn from him with indifference or, perhaps, with a far worse feeling? Why do they think naught of his Divine glory, and make so much of the glory of man, which is as the flower of grass? The Apostle Paul replies that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God... neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." The god of this world, or the spirit of the age, or, it may be, some lust of their own hearts, has blinded their eyes, so that they will not believe. On the other hand, every Christian knows, by a very practical experience, that the glory of God is a spiritual thing, which can only be seen by the eye of the spirit. By whatever way he has been led in providence and grace, he has learned this much, that God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in his heart and opened his eyes. And what has been the result? May we not say that, so far as he has walked in this light, life has become a more solemn and blessed thing than it was before, and the Bible a different book to what it was, and the day of rest otherwise hallowed and welcomed, and the means of grace, instead of seemly and well-meaning forms, have become wells of salvation? Not seldom among his fellow-pilgrims in life's journey he recognizes men and women who have the mark of God on their foreheads; and there are times, too, when on the face of nature itself - on the many-colored earth beneath and on the heavens over his head - there seems to him to rest "a light that never was on land or sea," revealing to him a glimpse, as it were, of the glory of the Eternal.

II. THESE WORDS CONTAIN A GREAT PROMISE, TREASURED UP HERE FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF EACH DISCIPLE OF CHRIST. "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe," etc.? For this vision of faith of which we have been speaking does not perpetuate itself. I do not mean that it passes away like a dream in the night, leaving no traces behind it. The Christian who has seen ought of the Divine glory must desire to see it still, or he would be no Christian at all; but how many things tend to veil it from his view! Sometimes, from the inevitable cares and engagements of life, often from causes which cannot be traced, he finds himself in perplexity and gloom. But, weak and changeful as he is, God's promises do not depend on his varying moods of mind; and in view of such a promise as this, faith bursts into prayer, and evermore the prayer of faith shall live. "I beseech thee, show me thy glory;" "Open thou mine eyes, that I may see wondrous things out of thy Law; " Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief." But it is in the greater trials of life that the soul feels most its own intrinsic weakness, and that the promise in the text is "exceeding great and precious." When, for example, health is suddenly shattered; or when fair earthly prospects are dashed to the ground; or when the family circle is broken in upon, and a tenderly loved member is taken away; - then nature's darkness and nature's sorrow compass us in on every side. The heart whispers, "Vanity of vanities." Oar common life loses its interest - "like a dream when one awaketh." And perhaps unbelief, no longer like a silent, lifeless weight, but rather like a mocking demon, assails the very foundations of the faith, or tells us that our interest in them has been all a delusion. Thus it was with the Psalmist Asaph, when in an hour of infirmity he exclaimed (Psalm 77.), "Will the Lord cast off forever? Both his promise fail forevermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious?" Poor and cold is the comfort that the world can give in such a case - perhaps telling the sufferer that things might have been worse; or that misfortune is the common lot of man; or that time will in the long run blunt the edge of his feelings; and that "wild flowers may yet grow among the ruins of his happiness," and that meanwhile "to bear is to conquer his fate." Ah! surely if these are the only lessons that trial has to each us, we must often come to look upon providence as a necessary evil. How different are the Master's words, "If thou wouldest believe," etc.! This is indeed the sum and substance of many an ancient oracle. In all ages the Spirit of Christ, which breathed in the prophets, had spoken in the same tones. God's children were ever taught to look within the veil and walk by faith. "Who is among you that feareth the Lord,... that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the Name of the Lord, let him stay himself on his God" (Isaiah 1:10). But here Christ himself adds his "Yea and Amen" to all the promises given by his forerunners; and not only when he raised Lazarus from the grave, but above all when he burst forever the chains of death in his own resurrection, he gave assurance unto all men that his words are faithful and true. What, then, is the perpetual message of these words of his to his disciples? Believe that your secret trials are not the shafts of a blind fate, but the decrees of a reconciled Father's will. They are not designed to crush you, inscrutable as they now appear. They bid you "be still, and know that he is God;" but they are never lightly inflicted, never inconsistent with his wisdom and love. Trust him, then, in the dark. Trust him when your heart is aching. Trust him when human sympathy falls short of your need, and your faith shall not be in vain. He has many ways in providence and grace of showing you his glory; tempering your trials with mercy; perhaps giving them an unexpected issue; raising you above them, and, as it were, above yourselves; giving you new discoveries of his love, a deeper assurance than you ever had before that he is your God. Thus those who walk by faith and not by sight have this promise of Christ fulfilled to them even here below. Through the checkered experiences of life, whether those be joyous or grievous, God is ever drawing near to them and manifesting himself to them. They shall never, indeed, take the measure of his perfections, and they adore him for this; but whilst their knowledge of him cannot be full, it may be most real; whilst it cannot be comprehensive, it may yet be sufficient for their life-journey. They may see enough of his glory to make them habitually humble and thankful and hopeful, to strengthen them for daily work, and support them under daily trial. How often may two persons be met with whose lives have been visited with much the same trials and enriched with much the same outward blessings, and yet as they approach the evening of their days you hear the one complaining that he was born under an unlucky star, that his steps have been dogged by an unkind fate, and that all is vanity and vexation of spirit; while the other is saying that goodness and mercy have followed him all the days of his life, and asking what he shall render to the Lord for all his benefits towards him! Whence the difference between the two? Is it not from this - that the one has lived without God in the world, whilst the other has sought for grace to walk in the light of his countenance? So much for the life that now is. But there is a larger fulfillment of this promise that belongs to the life to come. Here the glory of God can only be seen amidst the clouds and darkness of this storm-tossed world. The faith of his children, too, is not only tried by the long conflict between good and evil which rages around them, but by the unbelief of their own hearts and the weakness of their bodies of humiliation. "Now they see through a glass darkly." But this is not to last forever. This vision is only for an appointed time. And when the mystery of God has been finished, and the children of the resurrection open their eyes on the new heavens and the new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, then shall each one of them learn the fullness of these words of Christ, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? " - G.B.







Lazarus come forth.
Look at our Lord by this grave. How truly man, partaker of our common nature! The sight of the tomb awakens all His grief; the sufferings of these two sisters, clinging to each other, touch His loving heart; and there He stands, forever sanctioning sorrow, and even exalting it into a manly, most noble thing. His eyes swim in tears, groans rend His bosom; He is so deeply, so visibly affected, that the spectators say, "See how He loved him!" Jesus wept. So it was some moments ago. But now what a change! The crowd retreat, surprise, wonder, terror seated on every face; the boldest recoiling from that awful form which comes shuffling out of the grave. This Man of tears, so gentle, tender, easily moved, endued with a sensibility so delicate that the strings of His heart vibrated to the slightest touch, has by a word rent the tomb. Struck with terror, the Witch of Endor shrieked when she saw the form of Samuel. What a contrast this scene to that! Not in the least surprised at the event, as if, in raising the buried dead, He had done nothing more remarkable than light a lamp or rekindle the embers of an extinguished fire, calm and tranquil, Jesus points to Lazarus, saying, "Loose him and let him go."

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

I. A MEMORABLE MIRACLE. There is no measuring miracles, for they are all displays of the infinite, but in some respects it stands as the head of a wonderful series, and is a type of what Jesus is doing now in the world of spirit. Its memorableness is seen —

1. In the subject of it.(1) Lazarus had been dead four days. When a man has newly died he might seem to resemble an engine just now in full action, and now though motionless, the valves, wheels, and bands are still there: only rekindle the fire and reapply the motive force and the machinery will work. But when corruption comes, valves displaced, wheels broken, metal eaten away, what can be done now? It were an easier task to make a new man than to reanimate a corrupted one.(2) There are some who are symbolized by this case, who are altogether abominable. The pure mind desires to have them put out of sight. It does not seem possible to restore them to purity, honesty, or hope. But when the Lord makes them live, the most sceptical are obliged to confess "this is the finger of God." However far a man may be gone he is not beyond the Lord's arm of mighty mercy.

2. The manifest human weakness of its Worker. In no passage is the manhood of Christ more manifested.(1) He showed the sorrows and sympathies of a man.(2) As a man He seeks information.(3) He walks to the tomb — quite unnecessary action.(4) He seeks human assistance.(5) He prays. This is a parable of our own ease as workers. Sometimes we see the human side of the gospel and wonder whether it can do many mighty works, yet out of the foolishness of preaching the wisdom of God shines forth. Despise not the day of small things, but glory in your infirmity.

3. The instrumental cause — a repetition of the man's name and two commanding words. A miracle seems all the greater when the means are apparently feeble. So in the salvation of men. It is marvellous that poor preaching, a short sentence, should convert great sinners. But the quickening power is not in the words but in the Spirit of the living God.

4. The result. The thunder of Christ's voice was attended by the lightening of His Divine power, and forthwith life flashed into Lazarus and he came forth, and that at once. It is one of the glories of the gospel that it does not require weeks to quicken men.

5. The effect on the bystanders. Some believed; others reported to the Pharisees. Never mind what enemies do so long as sinners are saved.

II. A SINGULAR SPECTACLE.

1. A living man in the garments of death. Some quickened by Divine grace have still their grave clothes about them, and the superficial question their vitality.

2. A moving man bound. So some souls can move away from sin, but seem bound hand and foot as to faith.

3. A repulsive object, but yet attractive — how charming to the sisters! So some sinners are enough to frighten people with their groans, but what Christian does not love to see them?

4. A man strong and yet helpless. Lazarus was able to quit his grave but not his grave clothes. So men have been mightily moved by the Spirit, but unable to enter into the liberty of Christ.

III. A TIMELY ASSISTANCE.

1. What are the bands which often bind newly-awakened sinners?

(1)Ignorance, which we must enlighten.

(2)Sorrow, that we must comfort.

(3)Doubts, that we must resolve.

(4)Fears, that we must assuage.

(5)Prejudices, that we must remove.

(6)Evil habits, that we must help tear off.

2. Why are these bandages left?(1) Because Christ will not work an unnecessary miracle. Christ is as sparing with the genuine as Rome is prodigal with the counterfeit coin. Men could do this, therefore Christ did not.(2) That those who came to unwind Lazarus might be sure that he was the same man who died. For some such cause Christ permits a quickened sinner to remain in a measure of bondage that he may know he was the same who was dead in trespasses and sins.(3) That those disciples might enter into rare fellowship with Christ. It is sweet to do something with Christ for a saved person. It gives us such an interest in Him.

3. Why should we remove these grave clothes?(1) The Lord has bidden us do so.(2) But perhaps before conversion we helped to bind them on him, and after by our coldness or unbelief helped to keep them on.(3) Somebody has helped ours off, and if we cannot repay that individual by a similar service let us do so for someone else.

IV. A PRACTICAL HINT. If Christ employed these disciples in this He would employ us in similar work. Saul is struck down by Christ, but Ananias must visit him that he may receive his sight. The Lord is gracious to Cornelius, but he must hear Peter. Lydia has an opened heart, but only Paul can lead her to Jesus. When the prodigal came home the father personally forgave and restored him; but the servants were told to bring forth the best robe, etc. The father might have done this, but he desired that the whole house should be in accord in the joyful reception. Christ could do all for a sinner, but He does not do so because He wishes all of us to have fellowship with Him.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

I. Take it as A PICTURE OF CHRIST. Here we note the following aspects of the Saviour —

1. The interceding One (vers. 21, 22).

2. The prophetic One (vers. 23, 24): promising to us the same resurrection that He promised to the friends of Lazarus.

3. The living One (vers. 25, 26): who has life in Himself, not as an endowment, but as an element of His Being.

4. The anointed One (ver. 27): the word "Christ" meaning "anointed," and pointing to the mission of Jesus to the world,

2. The sympathizing One (vers. 28-38): who is afflicted in all our affliction.

6. The commanding One (vers. 39-41); whose commands are to be obeyed, even when they seem strange and contrary to nature.

7. The quickening One (vers. 42-44): who gives life to the dead.

II. Take it as A PARABLE OF SALVATION.

1. Lazarus is the type of a world dead in sin.

2. There is but One who can impart spiritual life, the One who is "the Life."

3. When Christ comes to give life He enters into fellowship with our sufferings.

4. Though we cannot give life we can help to give it by rolling away the stone and bringing those spiritually dead into relation with Christ.

5. When Christ calls the soul must obey, and come forth from the death of sin to the life of righteousness.

III. Take it as A PROPHECY OF THE RESURRECTION.

1. Death is universal.

2. Death is corrupting.

3. No human power can call the dead from their graves.

4. Christ can summon the dead, and His voice will reach them in their abode.

5. There will come a day when the picture of Lazarus rising from his tomb will be repeated in a general resurrection.

The significance of this mighty deed we cannot over estimate, for it is, on the one hand, a profoundly significant symbol of Christ's redemption, and, on the other, a signal testimony to His right and power to redeem. Whether we regard it as a symbol or a witness, it is equally noteworthy. This great transaction was —

I. AN EMINENT EMBLEM OF CHRIST'S REGENERATING AND SOUL-QUICKENING WORK; and that both in the details and in the substance. The details if followed out make an almost complete allegory of spiritual resurrection. The sinner, like Lazarus, is dead, buried, we may say already corrupt and loathsome. Christ comes Himself to the sinner's tomb. He bids, "Take away the stone." He calls His servants to ply all preliminary means. He sends His agents to warn and teach. But when all this is done there is no life till He calls. He cries with a loud voice. It is the "effectual call" of His Word and Spirit. The man hears, the dead lives, the soul is converted. Then comes in the use of means. Let the living help their new-raised brother — "Loose ye him and let him go."

1. The Divine element in the transaction. The mighty shout which raised Lazarus of Bethany was not the prayer of a mortal. It was the command of God. The Divine will is first cause, without the intervention, in the act itself, of any second cause whatever.

2. This power which raises the dead is the power of God in the voice of Jesus. The Father hath given all things into His hands. The spiritual resurrection is going on. One rises and leaves his lusts and base passions, and becomes a sober, true, God-fearing man. Another leaves his poor legal strivings and becomes a humble debtor to the grace of God for righteousness. Another rises from the tomb of doubt — that "creeping palsy of the mind, despair of truth" — and sits clothed at the Redeemer's feet.

II. A SUPREME TESTIMONY TO THE DIVINITY AND GLORY OF JESUS.

(J. Laidlaw, D. D.)

Some of them are blindfolded by the napkin about their head; they are very ignorant, sadly devoid of spiritual perception, and withal the eye of faith is darkened. Yet the eye is there, and Christ has opened it; and it is the business of the servant of God to remove the napkin which bandages it by teaching the truth, explaining it, and clearing up difficulties. This is a simple thing to do, but exceedingly necessary. Now that they have life we shall, each them to purpose. Besides that, they are bound hand and foot, so that they are compelled to inaction; we can show them how to work for Jesus. Sometimes these bands are those of sorrow, they are in an awful terror about the past; we have to unbind them by showing that the past is blotted out. They are wrapped about by many a yard of doubt, mistrust, anguish, and remorse. "Loose them and let them go."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

There was no revelation of the future made by the restoration of Lazarus, and his silence was in perfect keeping with that fact. He was brought back to the old life, with its old relationships to his sisters, his neighbours, and his friends, and he had to die again. When Christ rose from the grave, however, He did not come back, but went forward. His resurrection was not a return but a going on. He saw His followers, indeed, but it was not after the former fashion. There was a complete difference between the nature of His intercourse with them after His resurrection and that of His fellowship with them before His death. He did not come back to His former life; but He went forward to a new and higher human life, and so His resurrection was also a revelation of the nature of the life beyond. He brought life and immortality to light by it, and He did so because He rose not to die again but to pass in spiritual and glorified humanity up to the throne of glory. This is what gives its distinctive feature to His resurrection, as contrasted with all mere restorations to life — such as those effected by prophets and apostles, and even by Christ Himself.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

I. WE HAVE HERE A REVELATION OF CHRIST AS OUR BROTHER BY EMOTION AND SORROW. This miracle stands alone in the whole majestic series of His mighty works by the fact that it is preceded by a storm of emotion, which shakes the frame of the Master, which He is represented by the Evangelist not so much as suppressing as fostering, and which diverges and parts itself into the two feelings expressed by the groans and by the tears. Here, for one thing, is the blessed sign and proof of His true brotherhood with us. Here we are also taught the sanction and the limits of sorrow. Christianity has nothing to do with the false stoicism and the false religion which is partly pride and partly insincerity, that proclaims it wrong to weep when God smites. But just as clearly and distinctly as the story before us says to us "Weep for yourselves and for the loved ones that are gone," so distinctly does it draw the limits within which sorrow is sacred and hallowing, and beyond which it is harmful and weakening. Set side by side the grief of these two poor weeping sisters and the grief of the weeping Christ, and we get a large lesson. They could only repine that something else had not happened differently which would have made all different. Thus oblivious of duty, murmuring with regard to the accidents which might have been different, and unfitted to grasp the hopes that fill the future, these two have been hurt by their grief, and have let it overflow the banks and lay waste the land. But this Christ in His sorrow checks His sorrow that He may do His work; in His sorrow is confident that the Father hears; in His sorrow thinks of the bystanders, and would bring comfort and cheer to them. A sorrow which makes us more conscious of communion with the Father who is always listening, which makes us more conscious of power to do that which He has put it into our hand to do, which makes us more tender in our sympathies with all that mourn, and swifter and readier for our work — such a sorrow is doing what God meant for us; and is a blessing in so thin a disguise that you can scarcely call it veiled at all.

II. And now turn to what lies side by side with this in the story, and at first sight may seem strangely contradictory of it, but in fact only completes the idea, viz., THE MAJESTIC CALM CONSCIOUSNESS OF DIVINE POWER BY WHICH HE IS REVEALED AS OUR LORD. A consciousness of continual cooperation with the Almighty Father, a consciousness that His will continually coincides with the Father's will, that unto Him there comes the power ever to do all that Omnipotence can do, and that though we may speak of a gift given and a power derived, the relation between the giving Father and the recipient Son is altogether different from and other than the relation between the man that asks and the God that receives.

III. THE REVELATION OF CHRIST AS OUR LIFE IN HIS MIGHTY, LIFE-GIVING WORD. The miracle, as I have said, stands high, not only in the greatness of the fact, but also in the manner of the working. With tenderest reticence, no word is spoken as to what followed. No hint escapes of the experiences which the traveller brought back with him from that bourne whence he had come. Surely some draught of Lethe must have been given him, that his spirit might be lulled into a wholesome forgetfulness, else life must have been a torment to him. But be that as it may, what we have to notice is the fact here, and what it teaches us as a fact. Is it not a revelation of Jesus Christ as the absolute Lord of life and death, giving the one, putting back the other? And there is another lesson, namely, the continuous persistency of the bond between Christ and His friend, unbroken and untouched by the superficial accident of life or death. Wheresoever Lazarus was he heard the voice, he knew it, and obeyed. And so we are taught that the relationship between Christ-life and all them that love and trust Him is one on which the tooth of death that gnaws all other bonds in twain hath no power at all. Christ is the Life, and, therefore Christ is the Resurrection. And the thing that we call death is but a film which spreads above, but has no power to penetrate into the depths of the relationship between us and Him.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

This raising is a parable as well as a prophecy; for even as Christ was the Life of this Lazarus so, in a deeper and more real sense, and not in any shadowy, metaphorical, mystical sense, is Jesus Christ the Life of every spirit that truly lives at all. We are "dead in trespasses and sins." For separation from God is death in all regions, death for the body in its kind, death for the mind, for the soul, for the spirit in their kinds; and only they who receive Christ into their hearts do live. Every Christian man is a miracle. There has been a true coming into the human of the Divine, a true Supernatural work, the infusion into a dead soul of the God-life which is the Christ-life. And you and I may have that life. What is the condition? "They that hear shall live." Do you hear? Do you welcome? Do you take that Christ into your hearts? Is He your Life, my brother?

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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