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THE RAISING OF LAZARUS TO THE ANOINTING
BY MARY OF BETHANY

(SERMON #1 ON THE FINAL DAYS OF CHRIST’S EARTHLY MINISTRY)

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Saturday Evening, March 15, 2008


I usually preach expository sermons from a short text, as did the Puritans, including our Baptist forefathers. I think that is the best way to preach. But I see no reason why a pastor cannot at times give what the old-timers called a “Bible Reading.” If you looked at several different places in the Bible, they didn’t call it a “sermon.” They called it a “Bible Reading.” I do not prefer this method, but I think it is necessary to employ it at times, as I am doing in this first sermon on the last part of Christ’s ministry on earth. I am following the order of events, as given in A Harmony of the Gospels, by William Arnold Stevens and Ernest DeWitt Burton, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1905, pp. 11, 164-178.

Jesus made it very plain to the Disciples that He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified. Turn in your Bible to Matthew 20:17-19.

“And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again”
      (Matthew 20:17-19).

As they travelled toward Jerusalem, Jesus came to Bethany. Please turn to John 11:1-54,

“Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.) Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick. When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it. Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples” (John 11:1-54).

I have read this entire passage because I think it is critical. We need to understand how the raising of Lazarus triggered the reaction of the chief priests and Pharisees. They planned to kill Him from that time on.

After this, Jesus left Bethany and went northward to Ephraim, as we are told in John 11:54. Then He made a circuit through Samaria to the edge of Galilee, then east to Perea, then south to Jericho, a short distance northeast of Jerusalem. When He reached Jericho, He healed two blind men, as we are told in Matthew 20:29-34. Mark only mentions the more prominent of the two, blind Bartimaeus, who cried out to Jesus. Turn to Mark 10:46-52.

“And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way” (Mark 10:46-52).

The next thing that happened in Jericho was the conversion of Zacchaeus. Please turn to Luke 19:1-10.

“And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house. And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:1-10).

The healing of the blind man and the conversion of Zacchaeus are both pictures of salvation. Jesus said to blind Bartimaeus,

“Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole” (Mark 10:52).

Faith in Jesus brings salvation. Zacchaeus also shows us the same thing. Look at Luke 19:6,

“And he made haste, and came down, and received him [Christ] joyfully” (Luke 19:6).

And, in verse 10 Jesus said,

“For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

At Jericho the blind man and Zacchaeus came to Jesus by faith and were saved.

Then Jesus and the Disciples travelled south, back to Bethany, about two miles outside the city of Jerusalem. Turn to John 11:55-57.

“And the Jews' passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves. Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him” (John 11:55-57).

Walter A. Elwell and Robert W. Yarbrough give the following statement:

WHY JEWISH LEADERS OPPOSED JESUS

1.  Their jealousy – He was accepted readily by the common people.

2.  His authority – He taught with authority that opposed theirs.

3.  Perceived danger – He made messianic claims.

4.  His liberal attitudes – He simplified the law and rejected their rules.

5.  His social attitude – He associated with the wrong people [tax collectors and sinners].

6.  His lack of formal education – He was not properly educated and lacked credentials.

7.  Their embarrassment – He publicly contradicted them.

8.  His power – He did miraculous work they couldn’t.

9.  Their political fears – He was neutral regarding Roman rule.

10.  His call to repentance – He denied their righteousness.

11.  His knowledge – He won debates by referring to Scripture.

12.  His popularity – Large numbers of people traveled to hear Him.

(Walter A. Ewell, Ph.D., and Robert W. Yarbrough, Ph.D., Encountering the New Testament, Baker Books, 1998, page 124).

When Jesus and the Disciples arrived back to Bethany, they were served a lavish meal by Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Please read John 12:1-11.

“Then Jesus six days before the passover came to Bethany, where Lazarus was which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper; and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table with him. Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped his feet with her hair: and the house was filled with the odour of the ointment. Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein. Then said Jesus, Let her alone: against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you; but me ye have not always. Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus”
      (John 12:1-11).

Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

These people were curiosity seekers. The chief priests wanted to get Jesus out of the way. I personally believe that [these] people [came] out of curiosity to see Lazarus rather than to see Jesus and that the faith described here is much like the faith exhibited when Jesus first came up to Jerusalem [John 2:23-25]. Remember that they believed on Him, but He would not commit Himself to them. It was belief based on curiosity (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983, volume IV, p. 444).

Concerning those earlier “curiosity seekers” in John 2, we are told,

“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:23-25).

Dr. McGee commented,

The language that is used here is saying that He did not believe in them. You see, they believed in Him, but He didn’t believe in them. In other words, to put it very frankly, their faith was not saving faith, which He realized, of course. He knew what was in their hearts. This is a grave danger today for those who say they believe in Jesus. What do you mean when you say you believe in Jesus? Do you mean that you believe in the facts of the Gospel? The important question is: Do you trust Him? (ibid., pp. 381-382).

Have you come to Jesus by faith? Do you trust Him with all your heart? As Spurgeon said, “Lay flat on Christ.” That’s what it means to trust Him. Salvation is by faith in Christ alone!

(END OF SERMON)
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