The Power of Perspective
Introduction: Parental Perspective.
Almost two months ago my son started pre-school. Out of our 3 kids he is the shiest, so I knew school would be a hard adjustment for him. Everyday when I dropped him off he would cry uncontrollably. I would pray for him before I left to help ease his fears and remind Jesus was with him. He would still BEG me to not leave. The first two days were hard, but I thought to myself he would surely adjust. But by day 3 he and I both got worse. I can remember walking back to my car and praying to God. Like a faint whisper the Spirit of God reminded me of a simple truth—this was a part of his development. He needed school, to learn how to make friends and socialize, to not be so dependent on his parents, and learn to lean on God. As hard as it was to watch him suffer deep down God reminded it was for his good. By pressing into God, He reminded me of the power of perspective. We have something similar in our text today….
Theme: Pressing into God’s perspective will reveal to us more of His glory.
1. Christ’s Confidence—John 11.1-16.
At the end of John 10 we saw there was significant division arising around Jesus Christ. In John 10.31 people are ready to murder Him. Some how Jesus was able to escape (John 10.39), and John 10.42 tells us some who were willing to receive His teaching believed. John is establishing a pattern—there are people who believe in Jesus and what He can do, and people who don’t. We must never forget the author’s main purpose is stated at the end of his Gospel, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.31). This is important to remember because our author, John, is doing this once again.
John 11 opens with Jesus getting a message from some of His dearest friends—READ John 11.3. While it may not seem like terrible news on the front end Jesus’ reveals the seriousness of the illness, and His response is shocking—READ John 11.4-5. Various verses in John 11 reveal Jesus cared VERY deeply for this family (John 11.4-6, 33, 38), but it seems as if His response is detached and cold. Jesus not only seems detached from others struggles but His own. When Jesus finally decides to go His disciples remind Him people in Jerusalem are trying to murder Him (John 11.7-8).
But here’s the thing friends, in both of these situations Jesus is NOT detached or unconcerned, but has a different perspective. His FIRST perspective is this situation will not end in Lazarus’ death, but God’s glory. The SECOND perspective is there is safety in Jesus Christ. He uses a traveling illustration. It is much easier to travel in the light of day, than it is at night. Jesus has already claimed to be “the light of the world.” Jesus is not detached, but confident.
Jesus is CONFIDENT for a couple of reasons. He is confident about Lazarus, because his death is like fallen asleep to Jesus—READ John 11.11-15. When we fall asleep we are inactive but NOT dead—sleep is temporary. Jesus is telling His disciples that death is like sleep to Him. Jesus has power over death—for Him it is temporary. This affects Jesus’ perspective on Lazarus’ death and His own. Jesus is also confident because He knows He will die when His Father wants Him to. He has mentioned several times throughout the Gospel of John “His time has not come yet.” Almost all the scholars agree this is a reference to His death. Jesus is confident His Father will reveal when it is time for Him to die.
2. Realized Revelation—John 11.17-37.
In the second section Jesus arrives in Bethany, finds Lazarus has been dead for four days, and his family really hurting. Lazarus’ sister Martha is the first to approach Jesus and they have a brief conversation—READ John 11.20-27. Even when Martha tried to give Jesus a solid theological way out He doubled down and revealed the main reason He chose to do what He did. Jesus’ goal for Martha and everyone else in the story is to help increase their confidence in Him. Jesus wants everyone to BELIEVE. Jesus wants them to REALIZE even more of who He is. God does not just want to reveal portions of Himself to us, but wants us to see more of His glory. And what specific aspect of His glory does Jesus want Martha to realize? He wants her to realize what it means for Him to be “the resurrection and life.” One scholar I read this week put it this way:
“Jesus…doesn’t say, ‘I can resurrect people, and I have life…he doesn’t have life; he is life. This is just one of the ways Jesus is different from you and me. You have life, He is life. You can lose your life. He cannot and will not lose his life. He laid it down, but his resurrection was proof that death could not take life from him.”—Carter & Wredberg, p. 230
This is not the only realized revelation that happens here. There something very uniquely revealed in this Gospel. John 11.28-37 shows us the debate that happened during the forming of Apostles Creed was SO important. All orthodox Christians will affirm that Jesus is fully God AND fully man. It is here where we see the beauty of those two things so clearly. Jesus calls for Mary to come and see Him. When Mary arrives she makes the same assertion Martha did (11.32 cf. 11.21). And it is here we see an amazing description of Jesus—READ John 11.33-35. Jesus uses some VERY specific language to convey to us the depths of Jesus’ humanity. The Greek phrase for “Jesus wept,” reveals to us He was in SO much anguish that He was physically TREMBLING. This type of weeping is so unique the word is not used anywhere else in the NT. The author carefully crafted this phrase to reveal something unique in the experience of Jesus Christ. There is also another phrase that helps us understand the depth of Jesus’ emotions here, “deeply moved.” What we know from language experts is the emotion here was all out “RAGE.” One scholar said this, “The word…indicates an outburst of anger, and any attempt to interpret it in terms on an internal emotional upset caused by grief, pain or sympathy is illegitimate.” (Schnackenberg, p. 335)
What does this reveal to us about Jesus? Jesus experience was TRULY human. Jesus is experiencing the full emotions of death. Not merely the effect it had on Lazarus, but his family, the world, and so much more. Jesus is upset at death and the “one” over death. Hebrews 1 reminds us Jesus is the exact imprint of God. Therefore, we should also keep in mind if Jesus is experiencing this then so is the entire Trinity. Friends, we have a God who experiences WITH us the full range of our emotions, joys, struggles, strife, and anything else. He is not detached, uninterested or unconcerned. God instructs us to weep with those who weep because that’s what He does (Rom 12.15).
3. Powerful Prayerful Perspective—John 11.38-44.
In the final scene Jesus goes to the tomb with everyone, and our text emphasizes once again how “deeply moved” He was. He instructs the people to remove the stone blocking Lazarus’ tomb, and Martha does not seem to understand what He is about to do (John 11.39). Jesus reminds her of what He told her earlier, and the author, John is reminding us of the main idea throughout this section—READ John 11.40. What a wonderful reminder for us all—if we only BELIEVE we will see God do amazing things.
Right in the middle of this final section we have something that could be quickly overlooked about Jesus, but is SO important—READ John 11.41-43. What Jesus does here that is so important is He PRAYS. Jesus knew what He was going to do, He know He and God the Father are on the same page, but He wanted the people around to understand the value pleading out to our Father in heaven. What Jesus understands is prayer teaches us a lot about what we truly believe about God and ourselves. Many people forget a few vital things about prayer. First, prayer is a habitual way to remind us of our dependence on God. When we have a life devoid of prayer it says we are functionally unthankful prideful people. Second, Jesus short prayer here serves as reminder that public prayer can tell us a great deal about each other’s doctrine. When we intentionally listen to public prayers we will hear places where there are misplaced or unhealthy beliefs. Third, Jesus’ prayer reminds us that our public prayers are another means to teach others sound doctrine. Far too many times we do not consider the weight of what we are saying in our prayers about God and ourselves. Prayer gives us a perspective on our lives, others, and the world around us.
After all this Lazarus rises from the dead. I love the final phrase John wrote here—READ John 11.44. All throughout the Gospel we have been seeing small paintings of Jesus’ greatest and the arrival of God’s kingdom on earth. Here Jesus is showing us a glimpse of His final masterpiece. This is the SEVENTH SIGN and the greatest of them all. And when Jesus says, “Unbind him, and let him go,” it is almost as we can Him saying this to the devil in the end about all of us as we all rise from the dead. Sin, satan, and death have kept us in bondage, but by the power of Jesus Christ all who BELIEVE will be set free.