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Lesson 9: A Devoted Soul and an Impending Cross *

Introduction: This week I attended the National Religious Broadcasters convention. While there I was invited to a pre-release showing of Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ. This is a movie about the last hours of Jesus' life on earth. You should see it when it is released to the general public - not because it is a joy to watch - but because it reveals, like nothing else I have ever seen, the tremendous sacrifice that Jesus made for our sins. It will break your heart. It broke mine. This week our study in John is the event that precipitated the determination of the Jewish leaders that Jesus must be killed. Let's jump into our study.

  1. Lazarus Loved

    1. Read John 11:1-3. Why did the sisters send this message to Jesus?

      1. Why did they think it necessary to add "the one you love" is sick? Do you think Jesus knew several Lazarus' and this was for identification purposes?

      2. Why not just say "Lazarus is sick?" Jesus would know His own feelings for Lazarus. (The sisters wanted Jesus to come and heal Lazarus. They added the "love" comment to spur Jesus into action.)

    2. Read John 11:4-5. Now we also have John telling us that Jesus loves Lazarus! Why is John piling on these statements about Jesus' love for Lazarus?

  2. Lazarus Ignored

    1. Read John 11:6-8. Consider the two facts that we learn from these verses. First, Jesus delays coming to help Lazarus, even though He loves him. Second, the disciples think going to Lazarus' town is a very bad idea because Jesus may get killed there. Basing your decision only on those two facts, what conclusion would you come to as to why Jesus was shuffling His feet for two days? (A struggle was going on in His mind about whether He should go to help Lazarus or stay and be safe.)

      1. If you were in Jesus' place, what would you have done?

    2. Read John 11:9-10. This seems bizarre. The disciples speak about stoning and Jesus replies about lighting conditions. Is Jesus saying that He should go during the day so that He will not stumble over the stones that are thrown at Him?

      1. If not, what does the light have to do with the disciples' worry about being killed? (Jesus is saying something very profound and important for your life. Everyone has a limited period of time here on earth to advance the kingdom of God. That period of time is our "daylight." Since God is in control of that period of "daylight," Jesus says we (He) cannot be killed (stumble) while that daylight exists. We learn that Jesus was not delaying because of fear for His life. He had some other reason - which we will explore next.)

    3. Read John 11:11-15. Because Jesus has been shuffling His feet, Lazarus died. What reason does Jesus give for not hurrying to help his friend?

      1. Read John 11:4 again. What reason does Jesus give here for letting Lazarus die?

      2. Assume for a minute that Lazarus is your brother. What would you say about these reasons for letting your brother die?

        1. Would you suspect that Jesus delayed coming because He was feared for His life? (I find it interesting that John injects this issue into the story. We will always have reasons to charge God with human character flaws.)

    4. Read John 11:16. Does Thomas have faith? Does he have understanding? (Thomas is devoted, but not insightful. I would give him a low score on faith. He seems more resigned than trusting.)

    5. Read John 11:17-20. Remember that Mary is the one who spends time with Jesus and Martha is the one who attends to business? (See Luke 10:38-42) Why are the traditional roles reversed? Why does Martha come out to greet Jesus and Mary does not? (Can you see Mary's personality type? She has great range in her temperament. She rejoiced in spending time with Jesus and now she is distraught that He did not come to help her. I think she is "punishing" Him.)

    6. Read John 11:21. Is this a true statement? (Yes. No doubt Jesus could have healed Lazarus. This tragedy was completely preventable.)

      1. Is this an accusation? (Yes.)

      2. How many times in your life have you made the same accusation to God? "Jesus, you had the power and you did nothing. You could have prevented this tragedy." Are those your thoughts? Have you felt ignored by God? Left alone? Left helpless?

    7. Let's skip ahead a few verses and read John 11:28-29, 32. Jesus has asked to see Mary and she cannot resist coming. What are her emotions now?

      1. Notice that Mary and Martha have exactly the same question for Jesus. What do you think they discussed before and after the death of Lazarus? (My bet is that this was the number one topic of conversation: "Will He come soon?" "When will He come?" "Will He come in time?" "Why didn't He come in time?" "How could He not come?")

  1. Lazarus Raised

    1. Let's go back now and continue with Martha's conversation with Jesus. Read John 11:22-27. What solution has Martha worked out to account for Jesus' delay? What possible answers to the problem has she considered?

      1. One answer would be that Jesus is not to be trusted. That He is not who He says He is. Is this one of Martha's answers?

      2. Consider the conflict between what Martha could see (that her brother had died) and Jesus' statement in verse 26 that if you believe you will never die. If you were Martha, would you have exclaimed, "Wait a minute, how do you explain that Lazarus died and he believed in you?"

      3. Contrast the statements of strangers in John 11:33-37. What is the answer to the question in verse 37?(The reaction of the logically-minded outsiders, the statements by Martha and Mary that Jesus could have avoided this tragedy by a timely arrival, reveal the incredible test of faith for these two women. Martha's statement of faith in this situation is truly remarkable. She is firm in her conviction of the divinity of Jesus. She knows that the resurrection is the ultimate answer to death. She believes that Jesus has the power to raise her brother to life even now.)

        1. Friend, in times of tragedy, have you found the same answers as Martha? Is your faith as strong as hers?

    2. Read John 11:38-40. How do you explain Martha's objection in light of her prior extraordinary confession of faith? (Sometimes even those with great faith stumble over the reality of tragedy.)

      1. Waiting until Lazarus died is one thing, why did Jesus wait until he had started to decompose? (This fact killed any argument that sleight-of-hand or deception was involved. Lazarus was dead.)

    3. Read John 11:41-44. Who provides the power for this miracle?

      1. Jesus did not move the stone or remove the grave wrappings as part of His miracle. Why?

      2. This week someone repeated to me the old statement, "God does not do for us what we could do for ourselves." Is this a Biblically sound principle?

    4. I repeatedly pounded you with all the reasons why Martha and Mary should doubt Jesus. All the reasons why they should be upset about His delay. Does Jesus' delay make any difference now to Martha and Mary?

      1. Friend, are you able to keep the "end game" in mind through times of great tragedy? Can you look forward to the time when "the delay" no longer matters?

  1. The Reaction

    1. Read John 11:45. What reaction to the miracle do we find here?

    2. Read John 11:46-50, 53. What reaction to the miracle do we find here?

      1. Did the Jewish leaders doubt the authenticity of this miracle?

      2. What motivated their reaction?

    3. Read John 12:1-3. What reaction to the miracle do we find here?

      1. Read John 12:4-8. What was the extent of Mary's sacrifice? (Determine how much you earn in a year and decide if you would be willing to measure your love for Jesus by that amount.)

    4. How do you account for the different reactions of the Jewish people, the Jewish leaders and Mary to the miracle of raising Lazarus?

    5. Friend, it is natural to wonder why God does not intervene in tragedy. It is natural to have Mary's initial reaction - to be upset with Jesus. But just as Jesus raised Lazarus to life, so Jesus will raise you and your loved ones to life if you repent, believe and trust in Him. Will you trust Him today?

  2. Next Week: True Greatness.

* Copr. 2004, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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