Today on Summit Life with J.D.
Greer. Believers go through very intense pain but Paul says it's always the pain of birth that is about to be overwhelmed by rejoicing. It is never the pain of despair because God is working in all things to take their decomposition and stamp it with resurrection and recomposition.
Suffering in this life is real but see the next life is forever and in light of forever the pain of this moment has just disappeared. Welcome to Summit Life, the gospel-centered Bible teaching ministry of J.D. Greer, pastor of the Summit Church in Raleigh, Durham, North Carolina.
I'm your host, Molly Vitovich. I'm sure we all know someone who was involved in the church and believed what the Bible said, but then their life went wrong. They experienced some tragedy and suddenly they didn't know if they could really believe in God anymore, let alone love and trust Him. Maybe you've wrestled with those kinds of doubts too.
If so, you're in the right place. Today on Summit Life, Pastor J.D. Greer helps us think through these questions to find hope through the loss and in our suffering. It's part of our series called Can't Believe and Pastor J.D.
titled today's message, The Disappointed. John chapter 11 verse 1, Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus, he was from Bethany, which is 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 said 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. Verse 5, Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. And now one of the strangest words in the entire New Testament.
So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. So? Does that word make any sense to you right there?
That's like me saying, I love my wife so much, so I forgot her birthday. It doesn't make any sense to use the word so right there. Verse 7, Then after this, he said to the disciples, Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him. He's trying to give him sort of some inside knowledge. So these, you know, intellectual geniuses, they respond this way, verse 12 and 13. They're like, Well, Lord, if he's asleep, he'll wake up on his own. Verse 14, So Jesus told them plainly.
You got to read that. Jesus told them and rolled his eyes is basically what that says. Lazarus has died. Verse 17, Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. He's dead dead. He's full on dead. He can't get deader than Lazarus.
Four days. Verse 21, Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if you'd been here, my brother would not have died. See, Martha's got the same problem with God that we do. God, where were you? God, you could have fixed this. Why didn't you come?
Disappointment. Verse 23, Jesus said to her, Your brother will rise again. Martha, who had just graduated from seminary, said to him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. And Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this? And she said, Yes, I believe that you are the Son of God. Verse 28, When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying, The teacher is here and he's calling for you.
When Mary heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now when Mary came to him where Jesus was and she saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Verse 33, When Jesus saw her weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.
And he said, Where have you laid him? And they said to him, Lord, come and see. Verse 35, And Jesus, well, literally in the Greek it says, And Jesus burst into tears. Verse 38, Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, Lord, you see the problem is by this time there's going to be an odor because he's been dead four days. Verse 40, And Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around so that they might believe that you sent me. Now when he said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out. And the man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips and his face now wrapped with a cloth. What did that look like? I mean, if his feet are bound with hands, look, he's like a mummy.
Did he roll out? And he's trying to talk through it. And Jesus is like, Unbind him and let him go.
Now watch this. Martha had warned Jesus not to open the stone because it had been four days and she said the body would stink. She was expecting the stench of decomposition. He knew that what they would find is the glory of recomposition. And I think in this, listen, you are supposed to see a picture of how God in all pain is working for good. In the pain in your life, you expect to find the decay of decomposition. But what you find is that when God finally rolls away the stone, you're going to find that he has repurposed your pain for good and you don't encounter the stench of decay. What you find is the glory of what God has made new. Sometimes he rolls back the stone and lets you see it now. But see, there are other times that you don't get to see him roll away the stone, at least in this life. But when you go into eternity and you see what will overwhelm you when he finally rolls away that stone is not the stench of decomposition. It is the glory of how God made all things new and you will be confronted with the beauty of what he has recomposed, not the ugliness of what decomposed. If you can already, already see a purpose for some of the suffering in your life, how God was using it for good.
Don't you think that given enough time and an eternal perspective, you're going to be able to see a reason for all of it? See, that's why Paul calls a believer's suffering to get to a light and momentary affliction. And before you write Paul off as a guy who probably lived a charmed life and did not experience pain, the scholars tell us that Paul's wife probably left him or died as a result of Paul's conversion. Paul spent most of his life in prison. Paul was beaten three times within an inch of his life. He'd been through shipwrecks. He was put out of his community.
He spent most of his life running for his life. He knows pain and he said all of it is light and momentary. And then he compared it to birth pangs. Birth pangs are terrible, or so I am told. But as severe as they are, this is what my wife tells me who's given birth to four children. As severe as they are, they are immediately swallowed up in the glory of the little child that is revealed to the point that you can't hardly remember the pain that led into the process.
What you remember is how beautiful the moment was when you had the child. It doesn't mean your pain's not real. See, it just means you endure it differently.
Guys, let me explain it to you like this. Imagine you're in a hospital room and you hear somebody moaning in pain in the hospital room next to you. What emotion does that create in you?
Well, it depends on why they're moaning, right? If it's a woman going through birth, you know, if she's going through labor, then yes, you feel sympathy for her, but you know that even in this pain, that room she's in is about to be filled with rejoicing. If the person next to you is dying of bone cancer and this is the final stages of death and they're crying in despair, it creates a different emotion. Believers go through very intense pain, but Paul says it's always the pain of birth that is about to be overwhelmed by rejoicing. It is never the pain of despair because God is working in all things to take their decomposition and stamp it with resurrection and recomposition. Suffering in this life is real, but see, the next life is forever.
And in light of forever, the pain of this moment will just disappear. That's what Jesus is saying to Mary, or Martha. There's one other detail here before I go on to Mary's answer. There's one other detail that you can't miss. In fact, any treatment of Christian suffering that leaves out this detail is woefully deficient.
You ready? Watch this. See that phrase, deeply moved? If you're reading it, you saw it a couple times.
It appeared once in verse 33 and once in verse 38. Scholars tell us that deeply moved is a terribly deficient English translation. But it's not like I can give you a better word. The problem is English just doesn't have a great word for the Greek word, Imremaomai. One scholar says that the word, if you want to translate it as literally as possible, you would put down snort. But that's awkward in English to say Jesus snorted a couple times throughout the story.
Right? He says it really has the connotation of an animal snorting in anger as if getting ready to charge. John Calvin says that this word indicates Jesus is about to enter the ring like a wrestler preparing for a contest with his most hated foe. The violent tyranny of death, which he came to overcome, now stands in front of his eyes so his groan is not one of sympathy, it is one of hatred as he is going into battle. Verse 43 says he shouts at death in a loud voice.
Snorting, yelling, shouting. You see what's happening here? You see this? This meek and mild?
Is that what this is? Jesus is entering the ring with mankind's greatest enemy. Now here's the other thing that's interesting. John, the writer of this, points out in verse 47 that this event, the raising of Lazarus, is going to trigger the events that are going to lead to Jesus' crucifixion. So in other words, Jesus is picking a fight in chapter 11 that begins with him yelling and taunting and shouting and snorting at death. But it's going to end eight chapters later in the crucifixion when Jesus goes full body contact with death, absorbs the death that we deserved in our place, and snaps the neck of death through his death forever. You see, the only way Jesus could enter out the funeral of Lazarus was to commence his own funeral. So Jesus got Lazarus out of his death by going into his own. Now before we end this, let's go back and pick up Jesus' reaction to Mary. Because this is the second, right? It's a much shorter, much simpler reaction. You see, but it's just as important.
And you've got to get it. Verse 32, Mary says, Lord, if you've been here, my brother would not have died. Again, the exact same words, but notice the new detail, one new detail, when Jesus saw her weeping. He was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled, and so Jesus started to weep. Why weep with Mary if in 10 minutes the issue is going to be resolved? Why? To give you a picture of how Jesus goes through suffering with you.
That's why. All these things, John says, are signs. Signs that give you a picture of eternal realities. You see, this is the reaction of a friend. Jesus addressed Martha as a teacher, philosopher. He gave her the answer. You see, Jesus snort as the savior.
Right? Now you're seeing him weep as a friend. Because this is a reaction of one who feels the pain of those that he loves. And Jesus is not just a savior, and he's not just a teacher, he is a father and a friend. And when his children hurt, he hurts right along with them. And when they weep, he weeps.
You see, 10 minutes is not that much different to Jesus than 10,000 years. And Jesus can already see the beautiful end to your story. For a parent that has lost a child and has wept the side of the grave at why their child would die, Jesus can already, already, he can see that moment when you walk into heaven and when you are reunited with that child. And he can see when that child is fully grown and you see them as everything that you hoped they would be. He can already see that.
He is already living in that moment because he is past, present, and future at all points and all time, all together. But he weeps with you. Because even though he can see that, he knows that your pain is painful. Because when you've lost somebody, as much as you tell yourself that you're going to see them again in eternity, it's still painful now. When you're lonely, it hurts. When you're in pain, when you hurt, sometimes what you need is not theological answers.
What you need is the presence of a Savior who feels your pain and who weeps with you. What a friend we have in Jesus. He took our sin and our sorrow and he made them his very own. He bore our burden to Calvary and he suffered and died alone. He feels as his own every broken heart, every shattered dream, every sorrow because he is a father and a friend. You see, there was another time, at least one other that we know about, that Jesus wept.
Only one other one recorded in Scripture. But nobody was there to weep with him. The Gospels tell us that in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus would weep with such great anguish that it would make the capillaries in his face burst.
He would sweat great drops of blood. Here is the Son of God who in the Garden of Gethsemane is under such great anguish that he calls out to God with such torment of soul that it makes the capillaries in his face not only burst but he causes them to sweat great drops of blood and there is total silence from heaven because the Father had turned his face away. So Jesus goes to his disciples and he's like, why don't you stand with me? Why don't you weep with me? I came in John 11. I wept with you. When you had pain, I felt it. I wept with you. I cried with you.
But they all fall asleep. And so Jesus dies friendless and he dies godless. He died all alone. But because of that, I know that he'll never forsake me because he was forsaken so I would never have to be. He died so that all that could ever separate me from God would be removed so I would never have a season of suffering where God would not hear me in my pain or God would not weep with me in my pain.
He cried alone and died alone so that when I cry and I die, I'm never alone. That's what all this is about. It's not about how Jesus does miracles and you should ask him to rest. I mean, that's great.
You should. But I'm telling you, it's about him doing a whole lot more than that. It is about him walking through death so that when you walk through death, it's not the same for you. I've told you this before but a pastor by the name of Donald Gray Barnhouse, this guy was about my age when his wife died. They went to the funeral and they were leaving the funeral going to the graveside and his 11-year-old daughter, his wife had died, his 11-year-old daughter looks up at her daddy and he says, Daddy, what is the valley of the shadow of death?
Because Barnhouse would refer to that in the eulogy, Psalm 23. Barnhouse thought about how to explain this to an 11-year-old and he said, just at that time, this little tractor trailer passed by on the left side of their car and cast a shadow that fell over the car. He looks at his 11-year-old and he says, sweetheart, would you rather be hit by that tractor trailer or would you rather be hit by its shadow? Well, of course, Daddy, the shadow.
Barnhouse said to his daughter, he said, Jesus got hit with the truck of death and sin so that your mommy and you and me would only have to be passed by its shadow. So yes, I walk through the valley of the shadow of death but I don't walk through the valley of death. I walk through the shadow but I never have to face abandonment. I never have to face condemnation. I never have to face corruption because Jesus faced all those things in my place and took them so that now I just pass through the valley. And I can say, yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil because you're with me.
You're rotting, your staff will comfort me. And I know that even in those times where I feel abandoned, I am not because you were abandoned for me. And because you took the full brunt of abandonment and condemnation in my place, I know that even when I walk through that valley, I am not alone. Lord, if you'd have been here, my brother would not have died. He is there. He's always there.
Why? Because he walked through the valley for you so that when you go through it, you don't have to go through it with the despair of those that are dying. You go through it with the hope, the pain, yes, with the hope of those who God is bringing glory out of.
Never, never, never will he leave. Never, never will he turn his face away or not feel your pain. And sometimes you need to understand the theological answer. But sometimes you simply need to know that he is there, that he is present, that he is fully committed to you and that he is fully in control and doing exactly what he said he was going to do.
For those of you that are disappointed, what if Jesus appeared to you right now? Later this afternoon, just you, he just shows up, he says, I just want you to know that this that you're going through, it's for my glory. It doesn't mean I'm out of control.
It doesn't mean I don't love you. I'm just using it for my glory and for your good. And I need you to be patient. If Jesus said that to you face to face, could you endure what you're going through right now? Could you hang on with the questions? Could you just walk?
Of course you could. Because essentially that's why that story is in there for you. He didn't need to say it to you face to face. He said it to you in the story.
Because hey, get this. Anybody know where Lazarus is right now? Anybody? Anybody talk to Lazarus this week? Anybody got Lazarus on speed dial? We can call him up and interview him real quick. Anybody?
Anybody in here? Oh no, why not? Because Lazarus is dead. Because Lazarus went through this again. And Mary and Martha, if this is the way it went down, had to bury their brother another time. And this time, guess what? Jesus didn't show up. But don't you think they went through this?
This next time with a little bit of an understanding? That Jesus could speak and bring Lazarus out of a grave with a word. And if Jesus could speak and bring him out of a grave with a word and Jesus says, I'm never late.
I'm always doing what I need to do. That the next time they went through this, they could do so with the assurance that Jesus was fully in control. And that his love for them had not faltered. That his absence did not mean a lack of control or a lack of affection. Don't you think they knew that the next time that they went through this?
Of course they did. And so can you. That's why it's here. John 20, 31. These things are signs.
They're just physical demonstrations of God's eternal plan. Now, one quick objection. Because I know you. I love you people. I'm your pastor.
I know what you think. Some of you, especially young professionals, well maybe I'm suffering because I keep doing something wrong. Maybe I lost my job because I got bad work habits.
Maybe I keep destroying potential marriage relationships because I've got annoying personal characteristics. That may be true. And that's why, listen, that's why God gave you the church. To help you see that. God gave you a community like this so that the community can point out, hey, yeah, yeah, this is a problem in your life and this is causing this stuff. But that same community can help you see when it's not because you're doing something wrong, it's because of the sovereignty of God. That God just, for his glory and for your good, there's nothing you're doing wrong. It's just that God has appointed this. See, maybe you're in day two and Jesus is not showing up. Maybe you're in day four and Lazarus is dead. But see what this story shows you is that he's there. He's coming. He gave you the church so that he can help you see that you're making wise decisions.
Now you've got to be connected. But he also gave you the church to see that God's sovereign plan sometimes works and when he seems like he's absent, he's not. And to those that are disappointed, wait until he rolls back the stone because he's doing something that doesn't have the stench of decay.
It's got the glory of recomposition. So just hang on. Hang on. Some at church, do you realize that we worship at the feet of one who could speak a word and bring dead people out of the grave? Just a word. In fact, it was Augustine who said that if Jesus had not put the word Lazarus in front of that last command, every dead person in that cemetery would have walked out.
Just a word. If that's what he can do with our greatest enemy, death, what is there that he can't do in your life? Do you realize this is the Jesus that works in you. This is the Jesus that works through you. This is the Jesus that walks with you. This is not a prophet who gives you a helpful to-do list of moralisms and piety that he wants you to perfect. This is a savior who conquered death on your behalf and gave himself up so that you could have eternal life. That requires a different kind of response.
A fundamentally different kind of response. If he's just a prophet and a teacher, then yeah, you come to church every once in a while, learn some of his wisdom, throw some trinkets in the offering plate and go on with your life. But if he really is this right here, if he's the one that speaks and dead people get out of the graves, and if he went into the grave for you, that demands a different kind of response. That's where you start saying things like, were the whole realm of nature mine?
That were a present far too small. Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all. It's just different. Some of you are still relating to Jesus like he's a prophet, not like he's this. He is the one who took on your greatest enemy and saved you.
And that requires something different. Every week of this series, I've given you a chance to respond to Jesus if you have not before. Are you really going to resist him?
Are you really going to put him off? Do you realize that nobody in the world is exempt from the problem that he's dealing with here? The problem of death. The death rate is still holding steady at 100%.
It's not showing any signs of wavering. You're going to die. Jesus died so that when you died, you wouldn't really have to. Without him, you were absolutely hopeless.
Are you really going to keep putting us off? Are you ready to respond to Jesus today? If you've never given your life to him, let me encourage you to visit us at jdgrier.com.
We have resources to help you learn more and take the next steps. You're listening to Summit Life with Pastor J.D. Greer. You know, even though it's J.D. 's voice you hear every day on this program, this ministry doesn't really belong to J.D.
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This ample space for note-taking is perfect to record reading insights, reflections and responses, prayers, and note-taking during messages. Ask for the devotional and Scripture notebook when you donate today or when you commit to regular monthly giving as a part of the team called Gospel Partners. Call 866-335-5220. You can also give online at jdgrier.com. If you prefer to write, you can always mail your donation. Our address is J.D. Greer Ministries, P.O.
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Sign up when you go to jdgrier.com. I'm Molly Bidevich, and I'm so glad that you joined us today. Be sure to listen next week as we continue our series called Can't Believe.
We're looking at the arrest and trial of Jesus and several people who missed out on salvation because it was easier just to stay on the sidelines. We'll see you Monday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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