Jeff Grisham

Bella Vista Church of Christ



Do You We Believe This?

Text: John 11.1-44




Our text for tonight comes from John chapter 11, so if you have your Bible, please make your way there and we will look at it in just a few minutes.


To many, or maybe even most of us, this is a familiar event in the life of Jesus.  There are several “dangers” in preaching from a familiar text like this. One is that we make the assumption that everyone is really familiar with the narrative and we can treat it in a way that could alienate people who don’t know it as well.  Another is that we may be so familiar with a section of scripture that we can just “check out” and not pay really close attention to it.  I may be the only one that does this (but I doubt it); we come to a familiar biblical passage and we just skim over it.  “I know what this says and what happens” so we read it without really looking at it closely. 


One of the fascinating things about scripture to me is the ability of sections of scripture to sort of jump out and grab us differently at different times in our lives. We read a section of scripture once, and the next time we come across it, something stands out, or rather, reaches out and grabs our attention.  I had this experience with John 11.  Let’s take a look.  We won’t read this as much as just walk through the text.


Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, from the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent word to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”


Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 SoThomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”


17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him,“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”


28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said,“Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”


38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”


As familiar as we may be with this narrative, there is a question that we find in the middle that really should reach out and grab us.  Did anyone notice it?  It is found in verse 26.  Just after Jesus tells Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.  Anyone who believes in me, even though he dies, will live and he that lives and believes in me will never die.”  He asks this question, “Do you believe this?”


This little 4-word question is really heavy, isn’t it?  Do we believe this?  The answer to this question carries with it some very large implications.  In fact, this question – either verbalized like Jesus did at Bethany or implied like in other areas of scripture – is found all over, all throughout scripture. 


Look at these examples:

Genesis 3 – God told Adam and Eve that the day they eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die. Did they hear him? Yes. Did they understand him? Apparently so.  Did they believe it? In the end, no they didn’t. They instead believed the serpent.


Genesis 6 – God told Noah of his plan to destroy the earth with a flood.  He told Noah to build an ark to save his family, along with a certain number of animals. Did Noah believe this?  According to Hebrews 11.7, yes he did.


Genesis 12 – Abraham is called to follow God away from his homeland to the land that God would give to his heirs.  Abraham, do you believe this?  Genesis 12.4, yes he did?


The Israelites made their journey from Egypt to Sinai and then to the land of Canaan.  They saw the plagues, were spared the death of their firstborn, saw the Red Sea part, received water, manna and quail from God, experienced his presence at Sinai.  When they went into the land of Canaan to see what it was like, they found it just as God had said, a land flowing with milk and honey.  God told them that he would give them the land.  Did they believe it?  When we look at Numbers 13 and 14, we see that they did not.


This question doesn’t end at the close of the Old Testament.  It doesn’t stop at the end of the life of Jesus or at the close of the New Testament. The question keeps coming at us today. And we, like all those people about whom we read, have to answer.  This is not one of those questions that we just verbally answer and move on.  The question is answered by how we respond to the situations around us.


Let’s think about some things that God has told us. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few of the promises that God has made to us.  Let’s look at them and see if our lives give evidence of our belief.


43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.


34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”


25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”


26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”


27 He answered,“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”


28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”


Do we believe this?  It is easy to answer “yes” while we are sitting here tonight, but what happens tomorrow when:

o  A co-worker makes us mad

o  Someone puts their needs ahead of ours

o  We pick up the paper and see what those who hold opposing views are doing?

o  We read about or hear on the news about those who are persecuting our brothers and sisters either here or in another area of the world

o  Someone within the church family hurts us

Do our lives bear out the fact that we just said we believe that we should love others….ALL others?


25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?


28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


Jesus has said that God will take care of our needs if we put him and his kingdom first.  Do we believe it?  Or what happens when I have the opportunity to use the blessings that God has given to honor him and further his kingdom?  Will I live out this confession of belief, or will I say, “I’m not sure I have enough for God and myself.”?  I need to make sure I’m taken care of first.


15 “If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.


23 Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.


Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit will live in us.  The Holy Spirit of God whose role is to transform us, to sanctify us will live in us and change us, with our cooperation. Do we believe this, or do we think this transformation is all up to us and if we fail, it’s just the way we are? Do we believe that we can be different tomorrow than we were today because of the Holy Spirit?


You see, the answer to the question of, “Do we believe this?” is evident, not by our words, but by our actions.  Look at Martha. Twice she says that she believes, but when the rubber meets the road, she says “Don’t move that stone.”  You and I can say the right answer to the question, but it is how we live that shows how we really feel about it.


Sometimes we need to be reminded of our confession of faith.  Again, we hear Martha twice confess her belief, but then show her uncertainty. It is then that Jesus says, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe that you would see the glory of God?”


Church, we meet here and sing songs of praise that give voice to the things that God has done and has promised.  We study and share God’s word and see what he has done and promised.  We read and study and examine God’s word on our own to be reminded of the confession of faith that we have made.


There is danger in forgetting who we are and whose we are.  Peter in 2 Peter 1 says, “For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is near sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.”


The answer to the question of “Do we believe this?” means that we will follow Jesus even when we don’t know the outcome.  We see this in a couple of places in John 11 and the first is with the disciples.  When Jesus says they are going back to Judea, the disciples are unsure about it.  Then, Jesus says that those who follow the light of the world will not stumble.  The Light of the World….it seems like Jesus has used that term before.  When Jesus gets to the home of Mary and Martha, each of them say “Jesus, if you had done what we asked we wouldn’t be in this mess.” Do we see how upside down this is? We say we want to follow Jesus and then we make the demands of him.  Faith requires that we follow him even when we don’t know the outcome. 


I think of a very popular verse in Romans 8. Romans 8.28 says, “28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  I try to think of this verse as read by those who first received this letter; actually just a few short years removed from receiving it.  Then we would find Christians being rounded up and killed in horrible ways. We would see these people suffering the loss of loved ones or maybe even their own lives, clinging to this promise.  Do we believe what God has promised?  If we do we will follow even when we can’t see the outcome.