Wednesday, March 07, 2007

John 11
Where is Jesus when you need Him?

The biggest emotional killer is the gap between expectations and experience. This gap can bring disillusionment to a husband/wife relationship or a parent child relationship. It can kill churches and create bitterness when prayers and faith expectations are not met.

Let’s look at one very personal story where this gap drove a wedge between Jesus and some of His closest friends.

“Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” [John 11:5]

I. A story of friendship is told in Luke 10:38 – 42.

A. Jesus stayed at the home of Martha (sister of Mary and Lazarus).

B. There was a conflict between Martha and Mary.

1. Martha was distracted by the preparations and complained to Jesus about Mary.

2. Jesus described Martha as “worried and upset.” By nature she was:

a. DRIVEN by duty.

b. DRIVEN to action.

3. Mary had chosen what is “better.”

a. Mary chose relationship over activity. (“one thing is needed”)

b. Activity does not mean relationship or life.

(The church at Ephesus in Revelation) “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. ... Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. [Revelation 2:2a, 4]

II. All friendships suffer a crisis at some point. [John 11:1 – 6, 14]

A. Lazarus became sick. [v 1]

1. The sisters sent for Jesus. [v 3]

2. Jesus promises that this “will not end in death.” [v 4]

a. The promise would have comforted the sisters.

b. Afer all, wasn’t Jesus THE One who knew all and could do anything?

B. Lazarus died. [v 11]

1. This does not make sense.

a. Jesus promised!

b. Jesus delayed (it wouldn’t have made a difference, Jesus could not have walked there in time to prevent Lazarus’ death).

2. Raises the question: What happens when what you think you believe collides with what you think you experience?

a. Now there is a gap between what you expect (belief) and what you experience (in this case Lazarus’ death).

b. The question then becomes: “Where is Jesus when you need Him?”

III. What are some possible answers?

A. Jesus could have healed Lazarus. [Even from a distance, like other stories.]

1. There is a story telling device used by John in a descending spiral.

a. Martha complains but exercises faith [vv 21, 22].

b. Mary complains but can only be in sorrow [vv 32 – 33].

c. The “chorus” complains and demonstrates bitterness [v 37]

2. The fact is faith has reached a crisis because experience did not live up to expectations.

B. We can take comfort in out theological systems.

1. Our belief systems can give us hope.

2. Martha expressed hope in the future. [v 24] hope deferred

3. Let’s be honest with ourselves a second:

a. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” [Proverbs 13:12]

b. There is something about the disappointment between the expectation and the experience that can leave us cold, empty, and dead.

C. Maybe venting will help.

1. Sometimes we are too hurt to anything else but want to strike back.

a. Sometimes we go after the person we think hurt us, or an innocent, or someone we can bully, or even God.

b. We call it “letting off steam.”

2. After all, if you are miserable it helps to have the people around you miserable too...

a. “Misery loves company.”

b. “Hurt people hurt people.”

IV. The real crisis is happens when Jesus challenges our perception of reality [v 40].

“Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” [John 11:40]

A. Jesus meets an emotional attack with an emotional response.

1. “Deeply moved in spirit” [v 33] means Jesus was angry.

a. Jesus is angry at the COST of sin.

b. Sin brought death into the world. And the enemy uses the emotions around death to paralyze our minds and faith.

2. “Troubled” [v 33] means Jesus is frustrated.

a. Jesus’ frustration is how CONSUMED humans are by sin.

b. We are limited to what we think we see. (Walk by sight... not faith)

3. Jesus weeps. [v 35]

a. Jesus displays empathy with us. (It is ok to weep.)

b. Jesus feels the CONSEQUENCES of sin/death = separation.

B. Jesus asks for response in the face of natural resistance.

1. Jesus asks to see the tomb. [v 34]

2. Jesus asks to have the stone rolled away. [v 39]

3. Every request for response is a chance for us to break down the resistance.

4. Every piece of resistance that is broken down closes the disappointment gap between what we think should happen and what is happening.

V. When Jesus takes control; our perception is adjusted.

A. Jesus starts with prayer. [vv 41, 42]

1. Why? Because, Jesus is our example.

2. Jesus prayed as a habit and Jesus prayed in critical situations.

B. Jesus then resurrects Lazarus. [vv 43, 44]

1. This causes multiple reactions:

a. Some people believed. [v 45]

b. Some people tattled. [v 46]

c. Some people plotted. [v47]

2. The key is to see that Jesus’ purposes are not the same as ours.

VI. What is the resolution for the gap between what we expect and what we experience?

A. A future hope is a present power.

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, [11] and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” [Philippians 3:10 – 11]

1. Paul already knew he would be resurrected from the dead.

2. What he wanted to attain was the level of living found in the “the power of HIS resurrection.”

B. A present power sees the purposes and possibilities of God.

1. This was for God’s glory. [vv 4, 15, 40]

2. When the gap between our expectations and experience are narrowed or eliminated, we are freed from the misery our perceptions cause, people notice that God is at work, and God gets the glory.

C. How about you?

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