or glory. That was the decision of the 30 or 40 climbers waiting near the summit of Mt Everest. It was midday on the 10th of May, 1996. Jon Krakauer, a member of the expedition, tells the story in his book, into “Thin Air”.
Three different expeditions were poised to conquer the mountain on the same day. And no-one wanted to miss out.
Conditions were good – the sun was shining, and the wind wasn’t too strong. The main problem was THE TIME. To make sure they made it back to the relative security of Camp 4, they had to turn around by 1 or 2 pm. HOWEVER far they’d made it.
Any later and they’d be descending in the dark. And their chances of falling off a cliff would increase dramatically.
If things went WELL. In a of hours they’d be standing on the roof of the world. And be covered in GLORY. Part of a select band who’d climbed the highest mountain in the world.
But if things went BADLY, if they made the smallest of mistakes, they could end up . Like hundreds before them.
Death or glory. They weighed up the options. (pause) And each group headed UP the slope.
By the end of the afternoon 23 climbers had stood on the summit. But for a variety of reasons – pride, mistakes, misunderstandings- EIGHT of them never made it down again.
They’d achieved the GLORY. But had claimed his victims. And there’s been heated discussion since about whether it was WORTH it.
Death and glory.
1. Lazarus and (1-16)
And in John Ch 11 – that story we’ve just read, Jesus has a similar choice. or glory.
We’ve actually come in half-way through the story. The background is that Jesus has nearly been killed. That’s back in Ch 10.
He was in Jerusalem – the capital city. The centre for worship. And he’d managed to get on the wrong side of the religious leaders. And so they wanted him . Tried to stone him.
And so to escape the heat, he’d headed out of town. Out into the desert. Maybe 150 km away. Nice and safe. That’s there at the end of Ch 10.
(And this is where WE come in. The start of Ch 11). You see, while he’s there, he gets a message from some OLD FRIENDS. There’s a man called Lazarus. He’s sick. At ’s door.
And so his sisters send Jesus a message. V3. “Lord, the one you LOVE is sick.” In other words, “Come and make him better. And HURRY. Because he’s ABOUT TO DIE. And he’s one of your best MATES.”
The problem is/ they live in Bethany. And that’s only a of km’s from Jerusalem. Where people are trying to KILL Jesus.
And so Jesus has a choice. Torn between friendship and danger.
1. He can stay where he is. Stay SAFE. But risk disappointing his good friends. Even risking his .
2. Or he can go back to Bethany, heal his friend. Show his GLORY. But risk his OWN .
Death and glory.
And so Jesus makes his choice. It’s not too hard because he LOVES his friends. Look at what he says in v4.
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will NOT end in . No, it is for God’s GLORY so that God’s Son may be GLORIFIED through it.”
The sisters feared that would win. But Jesus says the whole episode is destined, not for , but for GLORY instead.
People will end up seeing God’s glory. His RENOWN and FAME and HONOUR and POWER. Seen through his SON. Seen in JESUS HIMSELF.
And not just in JESUS’ time. This event was SO important. People REMEMBERED it. And told others. Who wrote it DOWN. And people have been reading about it for the best part of 2,000 years. Right up to today. When YOU’RE reading about it. And seeing something of the power of Jesus.
(pause) Jesus chooses GLORY over . So we assume he’ll head back. But he does THE OPPOSITE of what we expect. Look at v6.
6: … when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he STAYED WHERE HE WAS TWO MORE DAYS.
He DOESN’T rush off to his mate’s sick bed. He waits 2 more days! What sort of a friend IS he? What’s he thinking? Maybe fear gets the better of him AFTER ALL.
It’s even WEIRDER when we look a little closer at his MOTIVATION. V3. The sisters remind Jesus that he LOVES Lazarus. And V5 tells us that Jesus LOVED Mary and Martha and Lazarus. In fact, down in v36, when Jesus WEEPS, the WHOLE CROWD can SEE how much he LOVES this family.
And then there’s v2. It tells us that Mary is the SAME Mary who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. Which doesn’t actually HAPPEN until Ch 12. So why does John mention it here? To show the reader how much Mary LOVED Jesus. How CLOSE this family was to Jesus.
And then we get to v6 that says Jesus waited TWO MORE DAYS.
We see stories on the TV about how CRIMINAL it is when ambulances are DELAYED because of false Triple Zero calls, or because Telstra has stuffed up, or equipment breaks down. A 15 min delay can be LY.
But here Jesus hangs around for TWO MORE DAYS. Why?
Because he LOVES him. It doesn’t seem to make SENSE. Which is why the NIV version puts in a word at the start of v6. “yet”
Jesus LOVED Mary and Martha and Lazarus. YET he stayed two more days. But the ACTUAL word is THEREFORE.
Jesus LOVED Mary and Martha and Lazarus. THEREFORE he stayed two more days.
It was BECAUSE of his love for this family. That he WAITED until Lazarus DIED. But what can THAT mean?
It’s saying that for Jesus there’s something MORE IMPORTANT for this family – something BETTER – than their HAPPINESS and COMFORT and HEALTH.
It’s that they might RECOGNISE THE GLORY OF GOD. That in the events to follow they would look at the power and wisdom and love of Jesus. And see – understand, and trust – the character and hand of GOD HIMSELF. INVOLVING himself in the affairs of men.
That’s what Jesus wants for them BECAUSE he loves them.
And Jesus wants for YOU something that’s more important than YOUR health and comfort and happiness. And it’s exactly the same. To recognise GOD’S GLORY. Because he LOVES you, what he wants in all the events of your life – good or bad – is that you would recognise the magnificence of God himself, who’s involved himself in our world, in the person of his Son. And trust him. Honour and follow him.
Which is the lesson of THIS CHAPTER FOR US.
(pause) And so, when the two days are over, he announces that he’s headed back to Jerusalem. Because Lazarus is SLEEPING. And Jesus will WAKE HIM UP.
It doesn’t make much sense to the disciples! Going all that way. Back into DANGER. Just for someone who’s SICK. And who’s bound to get BETTER.
So Jesus spells it out. In black and white. Sleeping means . He’s waited those two days until Lazarus DIES. V14.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is , 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may BELIEVE. But let us go to him.”
Rather than HEALING him – like everyone expected. Jesus had something MUCH BIGGER in mind. Something MORE glorious. (Lazarus has DIED. And Jesus is going to RAISE him).
Something, which in the long run, will be for THE GOOD of his friends. Something to help them to recognise God’s GLORY. See Jesus for who he is, and trust him more COMPLETELY. That’s why he’s GLAD for them.
And so they head off.
2. Jesus and Life (17-37)
The trip takes a few days. And when they arrive, they discover Lazarus has already been buried FOUR DAYS.
Martha meets him. And she’s grieving. V21.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you’d been here, my brother would not have died.
A terrible cry of grief, and pain. But it’s not so much ACCUSING, as REGRETFUL. Because she knows Jesus could have DONE something. “If ONLY you’d made it in time.”
But what’s BEHIND the regrets? It’s a belief that Jesus is able to do something ONLY about SICKNESS. But not about . She’s got Jesus IN A BOX. A measured and finite Jesus. A Jesus who can help with the sorrow and pain – the SYMPTOMS. But not with the CAUSE – the itself.
But Jesus is WAY BIGGER than her box. And so Jesus reassures her. “Your brother WILL rise again.”
Martha concedes the point. She thinks he’s talking about some time in the FUTURE. “I know he will rise again in the resurrection AT THE LAST DAY.”
In other words, “It’s all over for him NOW. But I’m sure that God will raise him on the Judgment Day”. Once more, LIMITING Jesus. Defining what SHE thinks he’s capable of.
But Jesus is BIGGER than that. Look at his breathtaking claim in v25.
25 “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
A wonderful statement about the POWER Jesus has. Not only can he GIVE life. Not only can he CAUSE resurrection. But he IS the resurrection and the life. He’s MR “Resurrection and Life”. Those things are found ONLY in him. There’s NO OTHER MEANS by which they can be achieved.
He IS life. Col 1:16 tells us that all things on heaven and earth were made BY Jesus, and FOR him, and THROUGH him. He’s the King over life because he CREATED it.
(pause) Jesus is the resurrection and the life. They’re wonderful words when comes knocking. You’ll hear them at Christian funeral services. Because they’re words which DO give comfort.
Death is the playground bully. Who DELIGHTS in beating up EVERYONE. Who leaves GRIEF and DESPAIR in his wake.
No-one else can stand up to him. Except Jesus. There IS someone who can DO something about the pain and finality of . That’s why these verses are so great for funerals.
(pause) And it’s not just RESURRECTION FROM / when you DIE. He gives LIFE. Full life. True life. Complete and absolute life. Life the way it was designed to be. Following the KING of life. ABUNDANT life. And that’s something you can enjoy NOW.
(pause) Resurrection and Life. They’re gifts he’ll give to ANYONE who TRUSTS him. Who recognises who he is. And lives accordingly.
And so he asks Martha, “Do you BELIEVE this?”
Now that’s a question that carries some weight. Do you BELIEVE that Jesus is your only hope for resurrection and life? Will you throw all your hopes and dreams onto his shoulders?
Well, for Martha, what other CHOICE does she have? And it’s not really any different for US. may not be quite as immediate and in-you-face for US as it was for MARTHA. But it’s just as INEVITABLE.
In the face of your own , or someone your love – do you BELIEVE that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? And that whoever believes in him will LIVE, even though he dies?
But we need to be clear about what BELIEVING means. Channel 10 has an advertising campaign called “I believe in”.
The female doctor from House says, “ I believe love is stronger than any medicine ever invented.” The guy from Numbers believes in following his instincts. Alison Dubois’ husband from Medium believes I in a good night sleep.
While Denozo from NCIS says, “I believe there are sheep in Australia. But not as many as in NZ.”
But is that what BELIEF is?
The belief Jesus is talking about is more than something you think is IMPORTANT. Even something you think is TRUE. Is it something you DEPEND on. Will you LEAN against it?
Do you believe in ME? Depend on ME? Stand on MY team against the school bully, ?
And look at Martha’s reply. V27.
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
She sees it. Jesus is the One. Promised by God. His RESCUER. His Ruler. His King.
It’s the declaration of someone who BELIEVES. And who Jesus gives the gift of LIFE to. Eternal life. Life BEYOND .
What about YOU? Can you say the words of v27 for YOURSELF?
And what does that LOOK like when you sit in the doctor’s waiting room? Or you stand beside a hospital bed? Or you send your children off to school camp, or Beijing, or Greece, or St Marys, and worry about their safety?
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who holds life and in the palm of his hand?
(pause) And then it’s Mary’s turn. And when SHE arrives, it’s the same regret as her sister. V32. “Lord, if ONLY you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”
She’s at Jesus feet. Weeping. Distraught. Without HOPE. And all the friends and rellies are there too. All of them weeping. Carrying on like it’s the END.
And Jesus can’t STAND it. It says in v33 he was DEEPLY MOVED and troubled. That’s probably a bit soft. It’s probably better to say he was OUTRAGED and troubled.
But he’s not angry with THE PEOPLE. He’s angry with ITSELF. All the PAIN it brings. The separation. The loneliness. The ACHE.
He’s outraged because it doesn’t have to be that way. was never MEANT to be the MONSTER he’s become. It wasn’t ALWAYS like this. And one day, it won’t be like this AGAIN. There IS something better.
And so he does something about it. “Take me to the tomb”
(pause) “Come and SEE, Lord” they replied. And he DOES see. He DOES understand. He FEELS and EXPERIENCES the grief. He empathises with the suffering. And so he WEEPS. V35. Overcome with the emotion of the occasion. He sheds tears.
I’ve heard people say it’s there favourite verse in the whole Bible. It’s certainly one of the SHORTEST. “Jesus wept”.
It’s their favourite because it shows that Jesus WASN’T distant. Uninvolved. Uncaring. Too pre-occupied to get his hands dirty.
“Come and SEE,” they say. And he DOES see. He sees the pain. And he WEEPS.
And when YOU AND I are in pain. And we say to Jesus, “Come and see!” He DOES. And he WEEPS with US TOO
3. Jesus and Lazarus (38-45)
(PAUSE) But more than that. He can DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
And so we come to the tomb. It’s the final climactic scene. The showdown. Life and glory/ meets . The great tug-o-war. With Lazarus as the prize.
Jesus stands in front of the opening. And tells the people to take away the stone.
There’s a sharp intake of breath from the crowd. They’re the rubber-neckers – keen to see some action. But they’re not THAT keen! They’re happy to SEE something, just not to SMELL it TOO.
“But Lord, by this time, there’ll be a bad odour!” says Martha, “He’s been for FOUR DAYS!”
And look at Jesus’ reply. V40 He offers MARTHA the choice of or GLORY.
(John 11:40 NIV) Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you BELIEVED, you would see the GLORY OF GOD?”
Doubt, and you’ll only see . BELIEVE, and you’ll see GLORY.
And when they take away the stone. Jesus prays, and tells us why he’s gone to all this trouble. V42.
(John 11:42 NIV) … I say this for THE BENEFIT OF THE PEOPLE STANDING HERE, that THEY MAY BELIEVE that you sent me.”
You see this story’s FOR YOU and ME. For everyone who’s WATCHING and LISTENING. Jesus does it all so that YOU might BELIEVE. Believe and SEE God’s GLORY. See LIFE and Resurrection. And not just Lazarus’ – but YOURS TOO.
And then he calls out IN A LOUD VOICE. After all. Lazarus isn’t just in the next room. He’s a fair way away. “Lazarus, Come out!”
(pause) Imagine the crowd. Not a sound. You could hear a pin drop. All eyes on that dark hole in the cliff. Craning their necks over the people in front. Eyes squinting into the darkness of the mouth of the tomb.
And then someone gasps. There’s movement in there. And then everyone sees it. White grave clothes.
(pause) And then out stumbles Lazarus. Still wrapped up in the rags. Hands and feets tied up. Eyes blinking in the bright light.
Jesus says, “Take the grave clothes off him. Set him free. … I’ve STARTED the job. Now you FINISH IT. I’ve done the COOKING – now you do the WAHSING UP!
Just four days before/ his family had carefully and reverently and tearfully wound the clothes around him, ing at their final moment together.
Now they RUSH forward. They can’t WAIT to get the strips of cloth OFF him. They hug and cry and kiss him. More tears, but this time tears of joy. has been beaten. And Jesus has won the tug-o-war for Lazarus.
4. Your choice – or glory
Death or glory. The sisters had the choice. They believed. And saw GLORY.
And you have the same choice. The same choice as Martha and Mary. OR GLORY.
You can recognise who Jesus is. Martha saw it – God’s king, and rescuer. The one who defeats for us, and wins eternal and complete life.
We can SEE it. And then TRUST him. Trust him in this life. Seek HIS way over ours. Honour HIM first, with ourselves SECOND.
Because if Jesus is who he SAYS he is. Then that’s what he DESERVES. It’s what he DEMANDS. That’s choosing glory. And belief. And life.
Or you can choose . That means Ignoring him. Choosing to shut your eyes to truth of this story. Choosing to NOT belief. Not trust.
It’s a choice of life and . , that great bully, is coming to get you. You can’t get past that. You must choose how you’ll face him.
Death or glory? I know what I choose!