“Open Doors” Series #6
"THE DOOR OF DEATH!"
TEXT: John 11:1-53
INTRO: Have you ever noticed how we avoid the subject of death! Americans like no others do everything we can do avoid facing it or talking about it! We have youth serums and creams; we take wrinkles out of faces to avoid the appearance of age, etc. everything we can to avoid the reality of death. You can look good up until you die … but that is just the point, we still die!
We live as though we will never die ... but death is real! Death to a Christian should be viewed in an entirely different way than the way the world views death. To the world the door of death is the thing most dreaded; to the Christian death is the door to life!
Christianity without the resurrection isn't Christianity!!
ILLUS: IN HIS LITTLE BOOK, "COUNTDOWN," G.B. HARDY SAYS THIS ABOUT THE RESURRECTION: "THERE ARE BUT TWO ESSENTIAL REQUIREMENTS: (1. HAS ANYONE CHEATED DEATH AND PROVED IT? (2. IS IT AVAILABLE TO ME? HERE IS THE COMPLETE RECORD: CONFUCIUS' TOMB ... OCCUPIED! BUDDHA'S TOMB ... OCCUPIED! MOHAMMED'S TOMB … OCCUPIED! JESUS' TOMB ... EMPTY!" END OF ARGUMENT! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
We serve a God that has power over life and death! As His followers, the door of death holds no terror! Jesus is the “resurrection and the life!”
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us that Jesus is “the life” ... that He has conquered death, and those who have faith in His saving work need not fear the door of death! Christ has power over death!
I. DOOR OF DESPAIR! John 11:1-37
A. Worry & Blame! John 11:1-32
1. Despair usually strikes Christians after both great losses and great successes!
a. Success?: Remember Elijah ... after beating the 450 prophets of Baal, a great success, he ran away from Jezebel who had threatened to take his life:
(1. He becomes severely depressed!
(2. He shows all the classic symptoms of depression:
(a. He goes days without sleep
(b. He isolates himself in the desert, leaving behind his helper
(c. He eats poorly
(d. He ignores God's Word to him
(e. He assumes the worse about God
(f. He sees no future
(g. He seeks no counsel from friends
(h. He believes that what he did won't have any lasting impact
(i. He assumes he is the only one living for God properly!
(3. With worry ... comes blame!
b. Great loss ... Martha and Mary lose their brother Lazarus ... all were especially close friends with Jesus!
(1. They had probably helped finance much of Jesus’ ministry.
(2. Their house was a frequent stop for Jesus
(3. They had all grown very close!
2. In their hour of need Jesus was not there to minister to them! Despair sets in!
a. On top of this, Jesus deliberately stays away long enough to ensure that Lazarus was good and dead!
b. Imagine how this must have felt to Martha and Mary ... they had sent word to Jesus before Lazarus had died ... and Jesus didn't come!
c. When Jesus explains to the disciples that Lazarus was only "sleeping" they get the wrong idea and think he is recovering from an illness ... Jesus finally has to explain that He meant he had died!
3. The disciples also fall into despair ... especially when Jesus explains that they are going back to Bethany now that Lazarus was dead. Thomas assumes this means they are all going to die ... and so he is ready! John 11:16
a. Death brings profound despair out in people!
b. On top of this ... Martha and Mary imply that Jesus was somewhat to blame ... if He had been there, this wouldn't have happened – they both state this outright! (Martha in John 11:21a; Mary in John 11:32b)
4. It seems quite clear that neither Martha nor Mary; nor the disciples, really understood the nature of Jesus' life and power!
a. They could believe for healing if He had been there...
b. And maybe like many of the others He had raised from the dead, Jesus could have raised Lazarus immediately after he had died ... but a man dead 4 days already ... this was something else!
5. Even when Jesus explains that Lazarus will be raised, they don't think in terms of “now” ... only sometime in the future!
a. Yet Jesus is THE LIFE ... HE IS THE RESURRECTION POWER!
b. Death could not exist in the presence of Jesus ... His life gave power!
c. Notice in the Gospels that EVERY funeral Jesus is mentioned to be at; the dead person comes back to life!
ILLUS: AS A YOUNG MAN, D.L. MOODY WAS CALLED UPON SUDDENLY TO PREACH A FUNERAL SERMON. HE HUNTED ALL THROUGH THE 4 GOSPELS TRYING TO FIND ONE OF CHRIST'S FUNERAL SERMONS, BUT HIS SEARCHED ENDED IN VAIN! HE FOUND THAT CHRIST BROKE UP EVERY FUNERAL HE EVER ATTENDED ... DEATH COULD NOT EXIST WHERE HE WAS! WHEN THE DEAD HEARD HIS VOICE, THEY SPRANG TO LIFE! JESUS SAID, "I AM THE RESURRECTION, AND THE LIFE!" – SOURCE UNKNOWN
6. Despair was everywhere ... in Martha's and Mary's heart and the mourners that were present, they usually stayed 7 days to mourn with the family ... thus they are still there 4 days after Lazarus' death.
a. Jesus is the power of life!
b. The door of death is nothing in the presence of the giver of life!
B. Weeping & Broken! John 11:33-37
1. They are all weeping over death ... if only Jesus had been there earlier!
a. Jesus’ lateness however was no accident!
b. No barrier is too great for God!
2. Notice that Jesus even weeps here!
a. The phrase, "he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled" is interesting in the Greek, it means, "he was enraged in spirit and troubled himself!"
b. It was a mixture of both tears and anger!
(1. The tears were for the anguish He saw that death brought to humans! After all ... this was not God's original plan for man!
(2. The anger was no doubt over the pain that death brings to His creation ... death is indignation upon the human race.
3. It was quite clear that these loved ones of Jesus didn't fully understand the nature of Jesus' power or life! Their perception was not clear and so they are misguided with their despair!
ILLUS: A MAN HAD STOPPED AT A GAS STATION; IT WAS ADVERTISED AS A "FULL SERVICE STATION." AFTER THE SERVICE MAN HAD WASHED HIS WINDSHIELD, THE DRIVER COMPLAINED TO HIM AND ASKED, "WASH IT AGAIN, IT IS STILL DIRTY!" A LITTLE CONFUSED, THE ATTENDANT ONCE AGAIN WASHED THE WINDSHIELD TAKING GREAT PAINS TO WIPE IT WELL. AS SOON AS HE WAS DONE HOWEVER, THE MAN IN THE CAR BECAME ANGRY AGAIN AND SAID, "IT IS STILL DIRTY, CAN'T YOU DO SOMETHING SIMPLE LIKE WASH A WINDSHIELD!?" JUST ABOUT THAT MOMENT, HIS WIFE REACHED OVER AND TOOK HIS GLASSES OFF HIS FACE AND BEGAN TO WIPE THEM, THEN SHE PLACED THEM BACK ON HIS FACE ... AND TO HIS AMAZEMENT, THE WINDSHIELD WAS PERFECTLY CLEAN ON THE CAR! THE PROBLEM ALL ALONG HAD NOT BEEN THE WINDSHIELD OR THE ATTENDANT'S PERFORMANCE, IT WAS THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE MAN WITH THE DIRTY GLASSES ... HIS VIEW WAS CLOUDED BY HIS OWN DIRT! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. Jesus was broken over their despair and inability to see His power!
II. DOOR OF DEATH! John 11:38-44a
A. Woeful Barrier! John 11:38-42
1. Jesus now moves toward the tomb like a gladiator ready to do battle ... like a champion!
a. The first thing Jesus asks for is to have the DOOR TO THE DEAD removed!
b. There must be no barrier between Jesus and us!
2. Why were they sorrowing ... wasn't He there ... didn't He already show that He has the power over life and death!?
3. They had placed this barrier between Him and Lazarus ... it must be removed!
a. This stone door was a symbol of their despair ... there was no longer any hope in their heart for Jesus to do something ... the door had been placed! Like many today, they felt like death was the final loss.
b. Their despair was misplaced ... didn't they know that they were on the winning team, they needn't despair!
ILLUS: A GUY WHO LIVED IN HAWAII LOVED MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL, BUT SINCE MOST OF THE GAMES WERE PLAYED ON THE MAINLAND AND HAWAII WAS SEVERAL HOURS DIFFERENCE IN TIME, THE GAMES WERE NOT BROADCAST IN HAWAII UNTIL HOURS AFTER THEY WERE OVER. BEING SUCH A FAN HOWEVER, HE COULDN’T WAIT TO WATCH THE GAME ON TV BY DELAYED BROADCAST, SO HE WOULD LISTEN TO THE GAME BROADCAST LIVE OVER RADIO. LATER, WHEN HE GOT HOME, HE WOULD THEN SIT DOWN AND WATCH THE DELAYED BROADCAST OF THE GAME. IF HE KNEW FROM THE LIVE RADIO BROADCAST THAT HIS TEAM HAD WON HE WOULD NOT GET TOO WORKED UP WHEN HE SAW THEM BLOW IT ON TV OR MAKE A SERIOUS BLUNDER. EVERY DUMB MISTAKE HE WOULD TAKE IN STRIDE BECAUSE HE ALREADY KNEW THE OUTCOME OF THE GAME ... THEY WON! THIS IS A BIT LIKE DEATH FOR CHRISTIANS, WE DON'T GRIEVE LIKE MOST MEN, BECAUSE WE ALREADY KNOW THE OUTCOME OF THE GAME ... EVEN THE TERRIBLE BLUNDERS THAT COME IN THIS LIFE DON'T CAUSE US TO DESPAIR, BECAUSE WE KNOW THAT WE WIN ALREADY! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
4. Martha's and Mary's problem was that they had lost hope! And lost hope meant despair!
5. Hope is a powerful force ... if we ever lose it, we lose everything, but with it comes strength!
a. Martha and Mary should have maintained their hope in Christ ... even against death days earlier!
b. Their hope needed restoring!
c. The first step was to remove the stone barrier ... for us it is getting rid of the hard-heart ... the barrier to hope in Christ!
ILLUS: A FEW YEARS AGO THE PSYCHOLOGY DEPARTMENT OF DUKE UNIVERSITY CARRIED ON AN INTERESTING EXPERIMENT TO DETERMINE THE POWER OF HOPE. THEY WANTED TO SEE HOW LONG RATS COULD SWIM! IN ONE CONTAINER THEY PLACED A RAT FOR WHOM THERE WAS NO POSSIBILITY OR HOPE OF ESCAPE ... IT WAS DESIGNED SO THAT THE RAT KNEW RIGHT AWAY THERE WAS NO WAY OUT! THE RAT SWAM FOR A FEW MINUTES ONLY, THEN DUCKED ITS HEAD AS SOON AS IT REALIZED THERE WAS NO WAY OUT AND DROWNED ITSELF! IN THE OTHER CONTAINER, THEY MADE THE HOPE OF ESCAPE POSSIBLE FOR THE RAT, EVEN THOUGH IT COULD USE IT ... THE RAT SWAM FOR HOURS BEFORE IT FINALLY DROWNED TRYING TO ESCAPE! THE CONCLUSION OF THE EXPERIMENT WAS THAT WHERE THERE IS HOPE ... THERE IS LIFE! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
B. Wonderful Belief! John 11:43-44a
1. Imagine what must have been going on in Martha's and Mary's mind and the rest of those around this tomb when they heard Jesus declare in a loud voice: "Lazarus, come forth!"
a. Martha, the practical one, had already informed Jesus that Lazarus had been dead 4 days, that he would already stink!
b. Isn't it nice to have practical people around to tell you what God can't do, or even to tell God what He should know that He might have missed?
2. How many times had they seen Jesus do the impossible ... but somehow this seemed more impossible!?
a. How do we limit God?
b. How big is your God?
3. What must have run through their minds when Lazarus shuffled through the entrance of the tomb still wrapped in smelly grave clothes!
a. Suddenly, doubt turned to faith!
b. Jesus was now viewed differently ... “He is the resurrection and the life!”
4. Death had a way of fleeing from Christ ... in His presence death fled!
a. This is why in heaven we can't die!
b. In Christ’s presence for eternity we will live eternally!
c. The grave couldn't even hold Jesus! He is life!
III. DOOR OF DELIVERANCE! John 11:44b-53
A. Wrapped in Bondage! John 11:44b
1. There was still a job to be done by Lazarus' family and friends though ... they are asked by Jesus to un-wrap him!
a. While Jesus gave life ... they must help Lazarus out of his grave clothes!
b. This is still our job in the family of God ... when Christ saves someone, where they are given life; we are called upon in the family of God to help them remove the smell of death from their life!
c. We are to help un-wrap the new life in Christ from the clothes of death!
2. After all, they were the ones who had put these grave clothes on Lazarus!
3. Since Christ has conquered death and given life to those who believe on Him, we are called upon to minister to the new lives, to help unwrap them from the cold death of sin, to remove the bondages (bandages!) from their lives!
4. Jesus commands them to "take off the grave clothes and let him go!"
a. This command still holds today for us!
b. Are we doing this?
B. Will You Believe? John 11:45-53
1. What happens as a result of this?
a. Many people believe!
b. And many people don't believe as well! They run to the authorities to get Jesus in trouble!
2. The Jews feel threatened by this miracle ... instead of rejoicing over it, they are more concerned about their own lifestyle and position not being interrupted!
3. There are those today who still don't want to consider the claims of Christ ... they don't want to think about eternal life and death, it only upsets their way of living!
4. Yet, Jesus cannot be ignored, what will it be ... will you believe?
5. Do you know He is coming again? Not even the dead will stay in their graves!
6. Jesus' coming is real ... and so is His power, even if we try and ignore it!
ILLUS: THERE IS AN INSCRIPTION IN THE DOME OF OUR CAPITOL IN WASHINGTON D.C. WHICH FEW PEOPLE HAVE EVER NOTICED! IT STATES, “ONE FAR OFF EVENT TOWARD WHICH THE WHOLE CREATION MOVES.” A VISITOR ASKED WHAT THE MEANING OF THE PHRASE WAS, AND THE GUIDE SAID, "IT WAS WRITTEN I BELIEVE AS A REFERENCE TO THE SECOND COMING OF JESUS CHRIST." WHEN THE DOME OF OUR CAPITOL WAS ERECTED, SOME GOD FEARING OFFICIAL ORDERED THAT INSCRIPTION TO BE ETCHED IN THE DOME OF OUR SEAT OF GOVERNMENT, BELIEVING THAT THIS TRUTH WAS VITAL TO THE CONCERN OF THIS NATION! HOW TRUE!!!! – SOURCE UNKNOWN
7. How are you dealing with the door of death?
CONCLUSION: The most formidable door that humans face is the door of death! Throughout history no man has been able to break down this door ... except one! All religions have the graves of their founders, and inside them lay the bodies of these men ... but one grave is empty, the grave of Jesus outside of Jerusalem! He is the “Resurrection and the Life” and if we believe in Him, we too will never die!