The Thirty-Eighth in a Series of Sermons on the Gospel of John
Jesus has just raised his dear friend Lazarus from the dead. There were plenty of eyewitnesses to this amazing miracle–Lazarus’s family saw it, as did many Jews from the city of Jerusalem who were present at the tomb. This was our Lord’s seventh miraculous sign recorded in John’s gospel, and surely the most dramatic sign so far. The Jews of Jesus’ day should have understood full-well the significance of this event. YHWH was to raise the dead on the last day (the general resurrection), yet Jesus had just raised Lazarus. Since the Jews tied the resurrection of the dead to the culmination of the messianic age, the only conclusion to be drawn is that with the coming of Jesus, the messianic age is a present reality. There can be no doubt about Jesus’ identity. Jesus is Israel’s Messiah, the Son of Man, and the eternal word made flesh. Jesus has demonstrated for all to see that he is the coming one foretold by all of Israel’s prophets. You would think that upon learning that Jesus raised had Lazarus from the dead, the members of the Sanhedrin would rush to embrace Jesus as Israel’s Messiah. Instead, the Sanhedrin issues a warrant for Jesus’ arrest and hatches a plot to kill him. Our Lord’s hour is rapidly drawing near, and at the same time, Israel is also coming to a biblical crossroad. Just as Jesus’ hour is near, so too is Israel’s.
We are currently working our way though John’s Gospel, and are now in chapter 11. We are considering the closing verses of this remarkable chapter, in which the wheels are set in motion for Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. We have spent several weeks considering Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead, and it is important to once again consider the role that chapters 11 and 12 play in the overall structure of John’s Gospel. After the prologue to the Gospel (the first 14 verses), John (who was an eyewitness to these events) spends ten chapters covering Jesus’ messianic mission. When we left off last time, Jesus was in Bethany where Lazarus had been buried (just outside Jerusalem) and only days remained before Jesus’ death as the Passover Lamb and his resurrection from the dead.
Beginning in chapter 11–especially with John’s account of Jesus’ raising of Lazarus–John will spend two chapters preparing us for what is commonly known as the “Upper Room Discourse” which is recounted in chapters 13-17. During the Upper Room Discourse, Jesus prepares his disciples for his betrayal, arrest, death, and resurrection–all associated the so-called “Passion” found chapters 18-20. Although they do not yet realize it, the disciples’ time with Jesus is soon coming to an end. In just days, Jesus will be leaving his disciples and returning to the presence of the Father. As his hour draws near, little time remains for Jesus to prepare his disciples for a new manner of his presence with them–through the indwelling of the blessed comforter (the Holy Spirit).
In the first half of his Gospel (chapters 1-10) then, John covers the first three years of Jesus’ messianic mission. But the material found in chapters 13-17 (the Upper Room Discourse) takes place during one evening, while the Passion account (chapters 18-20) covers a mere three days. So even though we are about half way through our time in John, everything from chapter 11 until our Lord’s Passion, takes place shortly before Jesus’ final Passover celebration in Jerusalem. Chapters 11-12 serve as the literary bridge between the two halves of John’s Gospel, taking us from the end of Jesus’ three year messianic mission, to the days immediately before our Lord’s death upon the cross, and his resurrection from the dead.
To read the test of this sermon, Click Here