#1 (The “Great Escapes” Series)




TEXT:         John 11:11-44;   1 Cor. 10:13


INTRO:       All Christians will experience tough times!  Some times it seems there is no way out, no escape from the temptation or trial ... but one of the great themes of the Bible is that God always gives us an escape route from the tragic designs Satan has on us!


1 Cor. 10:13 states it this way, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”


We all love great escape stories ... one of my favorites is the following true story:


ILLUS:     In July 1976 one hundred and three Jewish hostages were taken by terrorists in Entebbe, Uganda.  The Jewish nation sent secretly their commandos into Entebbe to free their people.  The problem was tremendous ... how do they free one hundred and three of their own people from seven terrorists?  Their plan was simple and beautiful!  They simply entered the area where the hostages and terrorists were together and shouted in HEBREW “GET DOWN NOW, CRAWL!”  Since the terrorists didn't understand Hebrew and all the Jewish citizens did they simply shot everyone still standing after they yelled this!  It was a great success as an escape story!  All seven terrorists were killed and the one hundred and three Jewish hostages were all freed!  Only 2 Jews were hit during the firing, one because he hesitated to obey, the other because he stood back up too soon.  What a great escape story! – Source Unknown


There is probably no greater bondage over humans than "DESPAIR AND DEATH."  How do you break the horrible bondage of despair and death ... its gripping power on humans is obvious in the ruined lives of many that can't shake it.


Even the best of Christians can be gripped by despair at times, but God has made an escape for us!


PROP. SENT:   The Bible teaches us that we can escape the destructive nature of despair by refocusing our present experiences upon the power and relationship we have in Christ, and also with the help of fellow Christians who are in active fellowship with us!


I.   BONDAGE OF DESPAIR   11:11-37


A.   Perceptions     11:11-16

1.   It is actually possible to be with Jesus and yet forget WHO HE REALLY IS!

a.   The disciples were with Jesus when He tried to explain to them that Lazarus their good friend was dying!

b.   Yet, they thought Jesus simply meant that Lazarus was sleeping, i.e. natural sleep!

c.   What Jesus meant was "death."

d.   So, to make the point clear He tells them plainly, "LAZARUS IS DEAD!"

2.   Though they were with Jesus, the source of all life, their response signaled by Thomas indicates their perceptions were out of whack!

a.   Thomas simply states, "LET US ALSO GO (with Jesus) THAT WE MAY DIE WITH HIM" 11:16

b.   They assumed that the end was near, that Lazarus' death meant the deaths of all Jesus’ disciples were near, by going to his house near Jerusalem it would result in all their deaths!

c.   How lost their perspectives had become, they were seeing from natural eyesight, not that of faith!

d.   This can happen with the best of saints, it did then, and it can now!


ILLUS:     In Northern Burma a missionary was given the task to teach the Burmese how to read Scripture.  With only a single copy of the Bible in their language available he appointed a teacher to work with these people to read the Bible.  Six months later when he returned he found the teacher around the table with three men each; one at the top of the table, the others each at one side.  He discovered that they had come in groups of three like this each day, always sitting on the same side of the table and thus they had each learned to read from the perspective of where they sat all the time!  The man who always sat at the top of the table could only read upside down!  The one on the right side could only read from that right side angle and the man on the left could only read that way ... if they were placed in front of the copy of the Bible they could not read it!  Their constant position gave them a perspective that made it impossible for them to read in any other way!  This is what happens to Christians, we live so long in this natural world that we sometimes find it difficult to see from a Spiritual perspective, but we must if we are to see things different.  The natural perspective can only leave us in despair but one of faith can find an escape from the bondage of despair! – Source Unknown


3.   These disciples responded from the natural standpoint, death is so final and inevitable, may as well get it over with ... we can't escape it!

a.   Though they were with Jesus the source of life they are willing to simply give in and die along with Lazarus!

b.   How fatalistic their response seems to be – yet, Jesus had something much greater in mind, He wanted them (AND US) to know that even death is not the inevitable end that we so often accept it to be!

c.   For Jesus this was to be the moment to reveal the GREAT ESCAPE POWER God has in mind for us even over death!

4.   This event would end Jesus' earthly ministry aside from the last week of His own death ... He wanted to be sure they understood the power of God to raise our mortal bodies again, thus Jesus deliberately waits for 4 days to pass before raising Lazarus ... to be sure no one can claim any other conclusion outside of the fact of God's power to raise the really really dead!

a.   Thus Jesus' delay was deliberate and with purpose!

b.   When Jesus delays in answering your prayers it is for the same reason, there are always reasons; God does nothing half-hazard in our lives!


B.   Painful   11:17-32

1.   Some of the finest saints of that day were gripped by the painful reality of death!

a.   Even Mary and Martha were grieving; Martha (the practical one who was mad at her sister Mary for not helping serve dinner one night) mentioned to Jesus when He finally arrives that her brother might have lived if He had come earlier!

b.   Even when Jesus mentions to her that His purpose in coming now was so Lazarus would live again it is accepted by her only as a promise of the future hope of life in the resurrection!

c.   What was missing here is the presence of Jesus as the SOURCE OF LIFE ITSELF!

2.   Their present pain was hiding the reality of God's presence ... Jesus is the resurrection and the life!

a.   In our pain we forget to understand the power and the presence of the God we serve, we still have our theological belief system but it is often void of the practical power of the ever present God!

b.   We rely on pat answers and memorized spiritual promises at such painful times in our lives, but God wants us to see past our pain and into the face of Jesus Himself ... OUR SALVATION AND OUR POWER!

3.   Even when Jesus attempts to clarify Himself to her by saying He was "the resurrection and the life" she simply continues the automatic pilot mode of thinking by again stating, "Yes, Lord I believe you are the Christ."

a.   Her pain at the moment prevented her from seeing the implication of who Jesus was for the terrible ordeal they were going through in the moment!

b.   Jesus is not only the God who will save us in the future, He is very much a miracle working God in the present!

c.   Sometimes we wrap ourselves up in so much pain that we forget the power of God to really deliver in the present!


C.   Personal   11:33-37

1.   Jesus’ interest was very personal, He was not indifferent to their personal needs even though this miracle was intended to send a very broad message to many people!

a.   This is seen in the fact that Jesus is deeply moved by the sorrow He witnessed by these friends of His!

b.   The phrase translated:  "HE WAS DEEPLY MOVED IN SPIRIT AND TROUBLED" literally means, "He was enraged in Spirit and troubled Himself."  It is unusually intense in the original language.

(1.  This was not anger at the women or the others who were weeping over Lazarus' death ... it was probably anger over the final enemy of man, i.e. death, and the pain it brings on the human race.  Jesus is angry over death's grip over humans.  God always intended man to have life, not death!

(2.  The personal side of this is evident in Jesus' own weeping ... He too feels their pain over the fallen condition of man, that death must touch us as the penalty of sin, but Jesus is here to make a loud statement about this final enemy called death ... AND IT IS THAT FOR HIS PEOPLE IT SHALL NOT HOLD POWER OVER US ANY MORE!

c.   Jesus is about to destroy the bondage of despair they were all gripped with, He is able to make a way of escape even now!

2.   Like Mary and Martha, the others too indicate the same reasoning that if only Jesus had come sooner...

a.   They all saw Jesus strong enough to heal but not as the God who could help them escape the worst of events ... death itself!

b.   Were they in for some interesting news, JESUS IS LIFE ... EVEN NOW!

3.   The crowd notices Jesus' reaction of TEARS and they too see a Jesus who really loved in a personal way!

a.   Jesus still does this today!

b.   He is not indifferent to your despair, your feelings of aloneness!

c.   He is not so busy with the universe that He doesn't have time to get personal with you!

d.   He is the same God who loves us individually and is moved by our pain and sorrows!

e.   And He is the same God who desires to SHOW US HIS LOVE, to help us escape from the bondage of despair and fear!


II.  BONDAGE OF DEATH   11:38-43


A.  Permanent?   11:38-40

1.   Like Mary and Martha we too understand the future reality of resurrection, but fail like them to understand that LIFE is operating within us NOW already!

2.   It is not just a future thing.

3.   While we will still experience physical death, (unless we are alive at the time of the rapture) death has no real hold on us, we are permanently alive!!!


ILLUS:      The Vietnam memorial is an awesome sight, the black granite walls contain the names of 58,156 Americans who died in that war.  It is one of the sites that draw the most visitors in Washington D.C. each year.  For 3 Vietnam Vets, Robert Bedker, Willard Craig, and Darrall Lausch; a visit to this memorial has a unique feature ... all 3 of these men can visit and read their own names!  Because of a data-coding error their names were included among the dead though they are very much alive!  Officially they were listed as "killed in action" even though they are really alive!  How well this describes the Christian in this world, EVEN THOUGH WE ARE GOING TO BE LISTED AS DEAD SOME DAY -- WE ARE VERY MUCH ALIVE, EVEN NOW! – Source Unknown


4.   There is no death for God's people, we go from "LIFE TO LIFE."  We are the living among the dead right now!


B.   Promise!    11:41-43

1.   We don't have to live today consumed with the power of death over us, we are testimonies of life!

2.   Jesus demonstrates this promise of life to all standing around the sight of death!

a.   He asks first for the stone to be removed!

b.   This was the testimony of death's power ... the stone was the great barrier that separated the dead from the living!

c.   Jesus can remove this stone and remove the power of death over us!

3.   It is interesting to note the power of their despair when Jesus asks for the stone to be removed:

a.   Martha (the practical one again!) quickly speaks up, "But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been dead for 4 days!"  11:39

b.   She is concerned about the stench of death; Jesus is concerned about giving life!

4.   How often do we allow the stench of death to grip us, even though we believe in the power of God and the future resurrection?  Sometimes we still demonstrate the grip despair holds over us by refusing to seek God's power to escape this bondage!

5.   We are people who are not to be consumed by physical death, life rules us!


ILLUS:      Many years ago, the ship known as the "Empress of Ireland" went down with 130 Salvation Army officers on board along with many other passengers.  Of these 130, only 21 of them survived the sinking.  Of the 109 who did die, not one of their bodies had life preservers on, the reason?  The ship did not have enough life pre­servers for all the passengers, so these Christians gave them up to the other passengers who were not believers.  They did so by saying, “I know Jesus, so I can die better than you can.”  They understood the power of God's life in them even when facing death!  Their testimony deeply affected those passengers who were given vests as well as created the testimony of the Salvation Army around the world today! – Source Unknown


6.   It is vital that we portray to the world a very different picture of facing death as Christians, for us it is not an end, we are not held in the bondage of despair as the world is!


ILLUS:      Winston Churchill planned his own funeral, which took place in St. Paul's Cathedral.  He included many of the great hymns of the church and used the eloquent Anglican liturgy ... but he added something of a personal touch.  He wanted to commun­icate his faith to the world, faith that he was not in despair over death, but had faith in God's life.  He had given instructions after the benediction was said for a bugler to begin playing "taps," the universal signal that says, "THE DAY IS OVER."  Then came the dramatic statement of faith, following "taps" he wanted the bugler to immediately play "REVEILLE" -- the universal statement of "IT'S TIME TO GET UP IN THE MORNING.  That was Churchhill's request so the world would understand that the last note will not be "TAPS" but "REVEILLE" ... LIFE FOLLOWS DEATH FOR THE SAINT! – Source Unknown




A.   Problems    11:44

1.   Imagine the sight of Lazarus coming forth from this grave after 4 days of being dead!

a.   What a God Jesus is!  Even those who knew Him had to be struck by this God of power; healing was one thing, raising the dead after 4 days was something else!

b.   Surely they must now confess the confidence of faith in a God who can even escape the despair of death!

2.   Lazarus still had a problem however, he had stinking clothes on and was still all wrapped up with the stench of death!

a.   This is still true today when we get saved, we are filled with "new life" yet because we still live in this world we are still wrapped up with the stench of death!

b.   How was this problem to be solved?

3.   Jesus' solution to Lazarus’ problem is very instructive for us today:  How can we find release from the "wrappings" (bondage) of death that once held us?

a.   Lazarus was alive ... but still bound by the trappings and stench of death!

b.   His hands weren't free to serve others, his feet were bound so he could not walk well, his face was wrapped by death sheets so he could not see life clearly, this is all such an apt picture of the saint of God who is alive in the world today!

c.   So how does he get "FREE" from that bondage of despair and death?

4.   Jesus gives a magnificent solution to the bondage problem ... He commands those nearby, mostly family and friends, to reach out to him and loose him from his bondage!

a.   The meaning is very clear: The way of escape from the bondage of Despair includes the help of other people!

b.   We need one another to help remove the painful reminders of sin's presence in this life!

c.   We need help to get free from the various things that can put us in bondage.

d.   Christians need other Christians!

e.   Those that pretend they can serve God without going to church are just plain FOOLS!

5.   Freedom from bondage includes a recognition of WHO Jesus is ... and the recognition of WHO the family of God is ... we need God AND each other to make it through this life together and ESCAPE THE BONDAGE OF DESPAIR!

6.   Too many Christians isolate themselves in self-pity and never find release from the bondage of despair, they accept future life and future deliverance, but do not experience the escape from bondage and death that is available today through the help of the saints!

7.   It is much easier to walk with God if we have each other!


ILLUS:      One day in the woods a Boy Scout troop came across some abandoned railroad tracks.  Each boy in turn tried to walk on a rail to see how far they could each go.  None of them made it too far down the rails until a couple of boys demonstrated how easy it can be, they each stood on one side of each rail and held hands and walked together ... they were able to walk easily down the rails without falling off since they were connected by hand on opposite sides with one another, they could walk in a way that was nearly impossible for them to do as individuals! – Source Unknown


a.   Too many Christians never escape the bondage of despair and self-pity because they go it alone!

b.   They prefer to try and unwrap the "grave clothes" themselves but can't even get started alone!

c.   There is an escape from the bondage of despair and death!  It is found in a vital relationship with Christ and with each other!


CONCLUSION:   Despair can be a life and mind boggling bondage!  It can rob us of hope, courage, and faith.  God offers an escape from the bondage of despair ... it is found in Jesus Christ!  In Christ we find deliverance instead of the bondage of despair!  Have you experienced this great escape?