A brief overview for Sunday School teachers and Bible study leaders, of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lesson of John 11:32-46, for Sunday, February 26, 2023, wit the title, “I Am The Resurrection.”
(A video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:
INTRO: ??? I think the Lifeway Leader guide has a pretty good introduction suggestion: Have you & your members share about the most interesting funeral you ever attended.??? Then use that to transition into John 11 and the death/burial of Lazarus.
OR begin with a discussion time like this:
??? Can you share a time when you/someone you know, questioned God??? (Or you might put it another way: If you could ask God one question about a time in your life, what would it be?)
(For example: In 2012 I got sick with an illness that took me out of the ministry for a couple of years. After a year of being incapacitated, I was stepping down from the church I had pastored for 12 years, and we were selling our home and 2/3 of our possessions. It was a difficult time. My wife Cheryl likes to tell the story of how at one point I was laid up in bed, and she was walking through the room packing things, and I said to her, “You know, I am really at peace with this.” She didn’t say anything then, but she told me later that when I said that, she said “I wanted to take that pillow you were laying on and suffocate the snot out of you!” She was not at peace with it. WHY was God doing this?)
You/your group can undoubtedly share many examples of this same kind of thing: WHY did God not do what you thought He would? Why didn’t He heal; why didn’t He seem to answer, etc?
And then I’d say: This morning we’re going to look at John 11, at a time like that in the lives of some of Jesus’ closest friends, who wondered why Jesus didn’t do for them, what they thought He should.
We’re in the last lesson of the winter session of John 1-11, in John 11. We’ve seen Who Jesus is, and what He came to do; the “7 I AM Statements” that form the backbone of John 1—11, and today we are looking at the last of them: “I AM the Resurrection.”
I. The QUESTIONS from those Jesus Loves (:21-32)
II. The FAITH that Jesus asks (:22-26)
III. The CARE that Jesus shows (:33-38)
IV. The POWER that Jesus demonstrates (:39-46)
I. The QUESTIONS from those Jesus loves. (:21-32)
The chapter begins describing the friends of Jesus in :1, “A certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.” Lazarus, Mary, & Martha were brother & sisters, and they were close friends of Jesus. If you remember from an earlier lesson, we saw where Jesus would teach in the Temple during the day, but leave and go to Bethany/or the Mt. Of Olives at night. Bethany was where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived. These folks were friends and supporters of Jesus.
So :3 says “the sisters sent word to Him, saying, ‘Lord, He whom you love is sick.’”
Let’s just stop there for a minute. Camp out on that. “He whom You love is sick.” That’s an amazing statement, isn’t it? That Lazarus’ nickname was “He whom you love.”
They didn’t tell Jesus: “LAZARUS is sick.” Nor did they say: “Our BROTHER is sick.” No, they said: “HE WHOM YOU LOVE is sick.” Who was Lazarus? “The one Jesus loved”! How much this says about the relationship that Jesus had with him.
(And then look at :5: “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus”!)
But ALSO: you need to understand that the SAME thing can be said of YOU too: John 3:16 says: “For God so loved THE WORLD” that He sent Jesus to save us! He loves the world, and everyone in it, just as He loved Lazarus. The Apostle Paul said that love of God is personal as well. He says in Gal. 2:20, He “loved ME, and gave Himself up for ME”! And YOU can say the same thing. God loves YOU! He sent Jesus to save YOU! He wants you to know and experience the love that He has for you, and He wants it to be the anchor of your life every day. If no one else loves you, you can know — every day — that the most important Person in the universe loves YOU, without fail. You can rest your soul, and build your security on it. The answer to the question, “Who are you?” Is: You are the one Jesus loves!
Wouldn’t that have made a great epitaph on the grave of Lazarus? “Here lies one whom Jesus loved.” That is the most important thing that can be said about anybody, and it makes all the difference in life, and in eternity! And you need to realize that it can be said about YOU as well. YOU are “the one Jesus loves”!
BUT IMPORTANTLY, THIS IS THE BACKGROUND for what would happen here: this was somebody Jesus loved.
And this is an important thing that WE need to understand for the things that unfold in OUR lives, is that Jesus loves US, too. Maybe you have something “hard” going on in your life right now. We don’t always understand those things, but in whatever happens to us we need to remember, our God always loves us!
THAT is the important backdrop of all that happens in John 11: the LOVE of Jesus for His people!
So the story that unfolds is familiar to many of us:
— After Mary & Martha tell Jesus that Lazarus is sick, Jesus says “this is for the glory of God” in :4, and :6 says He stayed two more days where He was.
Finally Jesus came, but :17 says Lazarus had been in a tomb for four days already.
Then in :21 Martha says: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
??? If Martha had asked a question of Jesus here, what would it have been???
(“Why didn’t You come and heal my brother?!” You have healed SO many people. You supposedly love him. WHY didn’t You come?! She didn’t understand. She was questioning Jesus.)
We have situations like that in our own lives, too, don’t we?
Why didn’t Jesus heal MY brother — or sister, or parent, or child?
Why didn’t Jesus give me that job, or that promotion, or raise, or award?
Why didn’t He answer that prayer you thought was really His will?
Why did He allow some seemingly evil thing to happen? Why didn’t He stop it?
Like Martha we’re always ‘second-guessing’ God, aren’t we? IF … IF … IF … WHY? … WHY? … WHY?
We have questions for Jesus too, just like Martha did.
(If you don’t use the “time in your life when you questioned God/what question would you ask Him” for the introduction, you might use it here. And emphasize, that like Mary & Martha, we ALL have questions for God; things we don’t understand.)
AGAIN: remember the CONTEXT: THESE WERE THE PEOPLE JESUS LOVED! So this just shows us; Is everything always easy for “the ones Jesus loves”? NO! There are things that we don’t understand that happen in our lives. Even for the people Jesus loves! And as we have seen, that includes us too! He loves us too, but that doesn’t mean that some hard things that we don’t understand will happen in our lives too.
II. The FAITH that Jesus asks (:22-26)
So in response to this, Jesus tells Martha in :23, “Your brother will rise again.”
She says in :24, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection”
And THAT is when Jesus says those famous words in :25-26 “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies; and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die.”
POWERFUL statement: Martha says; “He’ll rise in the resurrection;” Jesus says “I AM the resurrection.” Don’t put your faith & hope in some nebulous future event called “The Resurrection,” put your faith in ME. I AM the Resurrection! Put your faith & trust in JESUS!
This is a good reminder: our faith is not in “church,” or in “religion,” or in a “doctrine” — our faith is in JESUS Himself!
In fact, Jesus really calls for this faith here. Many people quote :25-26 and just leave it there, but the fact is, Jesus added something after it that a lot of people miss:
??? Do you see the 4 little words at the end of :26??
“DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?” I might write these 4 words on the DE board to emphasize them.
??? What do you think is so important about Him asking this question at the end???
(He was asking whether SHE PERSONALLY believed. He was calling for her to believe in Him. Personal faith.)
THIS is what Jesus wants from us.
At almost every funeral I preach of a Christian person, at the graveside I will share this verse, and point out how Jesus then asked: “Do YOU believe this?”, and I will say: “When the time came when Jesus asked them, ‘Do YOU believe this?,” their answer was YES!
But the point is, faith in Jesus has to become PERSONAL. It’s not enough to believe that “Jesus loves everyone,” or that “Jesus came to die for the world.” You have to come to a time when you make it PERSONAL, and say like Martha did here: “YES, Lord, I believe ….”.
When we do that, we call it “being saved.” It’s when you respond and say “Yes” to to Jesus.
So I’d encourage my class: Have YOU personally ever said, “YES” to Jesus, that YOU trust Him as YOUR Lord & Savior — and encourage them if they haven’t, to do it today!
Jesus calls for personal faith.
But this not only applies to our salvation; it also applies in the different trials of our lives; in those hard things that we don’t understand, and where we question the Lord. Jesus was basically asking Martha to TRUST HIM with this trial of her brother’s death. He’s saying, “I am the resurrection.” Trust Me in this trial.
And that’s a good word for US in our trials too, isn’t it? We need to trust Him in them. We may not understand those questions we ask: Why didn’t He heal, or give what I asked, or whatever. But He calls us to TRUST HIM with the answer to that. Just like Martha here, we just need to trust Him with those answers. Sometimes we can find Biblical answer to things. Sometimes we can’t. And when we can’t, we need to trust Him, and remember as we saw earlier, His ways are not our ways; His thoughts are not our thoughts. It seems like God often does things differently than we would. So we need to just trust Him, like He called Martha to do here. Remember, Hebrews 11:6 says, “Without faith, it is impossible to please Him.” For reasons known only to Him, God wants us to walk by faith; to trust Him when we don’t know WHY. And it pleases Him when we do. So there are going to be things in your life that you don’t understand, and that God just wants you to trust Him for. That’s what He wants you to do. When you don’t understand/know the answer, just TRUST HIM.
III. The CARE that Jesus shows (:33-38)
Sometimes we may be tempted to think that God is just sitting up there in heaven, and that He doesn’t really care about what’s going on in our lives. But we see several evidences here in this text that Jesus is not a “stoic” with no feelings about what was happening.
??? At this point I might have 3 volunteers from class to read verses :32, :35, & :38.???
And ask: what evidences do we see in these verses, that Jesus really CARED, really FELT for what was going on here?
:32 “He was deeply moved” that’s strong!
:35 “Jesus wept” Obviously He cared!
:38 “Jesus again being deeply moved within …”
He was “deeply moved … wept … again deeply moved.’
Now, some think the “deeply moved” means He felt sympathy for Mary & Martha, others think He was “deeply moved” by the Jews’ hypocrisy — but really either way, JESUS FELT STRONGLY about this situation.
A couple of things here
1) AGAIN this shows us that Jesus was a REAL, 100% MAN. He had emotions. He was no “stoic robot” or “Mr. Spock” who didn’t have emotions. He was a real man just like us, with real, human emotions, and He felt things.
2) He cares about our situations. He cares about what we are going through, and about how we feel.
And I think it is significant that Jesus even knew He was about to take care of this situation; He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead — STILL YET He has these deep emotions here.
It shows us again, in case we need reminding, that He really does care.
IV. The POWER that Jesus demonstrates (:39-46)
I plan to READ :39-46 and then ask my group: ??? What jumps out at YOU from this segment???
(There are a number of things that stick out to me here:
— :39 Martha didn’t yet believe. “Lord, by this time (lit.) he stinks”! He’s been in there 4 days; it’s gonna be bad. A LOT of times, we think what God has planned is not good, for some reason or another. We are wrong. Remember that!
— :40 “Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
This not only applies to the raising of Lazarus from the dead, but to OUR eternal life as well: If we believe in Jesus, we will see the glory of God — in heaven!
It ALSO shows us that we can TRUST HIM with those questions we don’t understand. HE HAD A PLAN. He has a plan for what YOU are going through too.
We usually don’t understand what His plan is.
??? Do you think anybody thought Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead here???
(NO! They thought He was just mourning with them. Even those who believed, Martha, etc., said “by now he stinks”. They did NOT expect Him to do what He did.
And in the same way, we very often do not know what God is up to in our difficult situations. Sometimes we don’t know until later. Sometimes we may have to live by faith with it until we get to eternity. But this story shows us that HE DOES HAVE A PLAN — so we need to TRUST HIM with all those things we have questions about, until then.
— :41 “Jesus raised His eyes and said, ‘Father I thank You that You have heard Me …” then in :42 He = “because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me.’”
Have you ever thought it was bad to pray something for other people to hear, instead of God? Well Jesus does here! Just sayin’
— Many have commented on :44, how Lazarus was raised, but still had to have the wrappings and face cloth removed: as a picture of how when we get saved, we still have “some work to do” to be free from our old life. Not a bad picture …
— Then :45 says “Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.”
??? WHY do you think they believed in Him???
(Because He had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead! If He had the power to do that, He has the power to give eternal life.
And that’s our big lesson here. We can trust Jesus to give us eternal life.
We don’t understand everything in life. Like Mary and Martha, we have a lot of questions — but we should just TRUST JESUS. He has the power to give us eternal life.
— and then finally in :46, ??? Did this satisfy everyone???
NO! :46 says some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. And if you read on, the Pharisees plot to kill Him.
THERE IS ALWAYS A DIVISION REGARDING JESUS. There are always some who believe — and there are always some who do not. Let’s be those who believe — even if we don’t understand everything. Let’s trust Him — and like He says, we will see His glory!
OK, I hope that will help you some with this passage for this week.
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Always thankful for your wisdom and insight of the scriptures…
Always thankful for your prayers for me and my class as we study this lesson…
Thank you again for your help with the lessons.
I appreciate your sharing the hard time you and your family went through.
Please continue to pray for our church and our class. Last Sunday there was only one empty chair in our Sunday School room!
Great lesson, I always glean something from your teaching and insight. Could you please add me to the lesson each week
I began reading this in preparation for teaching my “LOVE” class…now I find myself looking forward to reading this as a powerful message about God’s Word, laden with interesting insights and examples! Thank You Pastor Thomas!!!!
I cannot locate the “subscribe” blank. Please advise.
Thank you Shawn for your overviews. They are so valuable in helping to understand the weekly lessons that lifeway produces form our weekly scripture.
Enjoyed and very helpful