Sickness Not Unto Death!

John 11:1-45
Preached @ Harambee Church by Pastor
Michael Gunn on June 3rd, 2007

“This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
John 11:4
After a couple of months in the book of Romans, we are back in the gospel according to the eyewitness apostle, John. John’s book is written to a pagan, gentile audience, and is written according to the author so that “You may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). John has built a case reminding us that Christ is our sustenance and final treasure. He alone is the object of our desires and hopes. He is the “Word” (the unifying essence), light of life (Illumination), the bread of life (nourishment), the water of life (refreshment). He is one sent into this world from God (John 1:14; 3:16; 20:21).

Among other strong themes, the book of John has had many key references to the sovereignty of God, and the exclusivity and deity of Christ. John 1:12-13 is a helpful couplet of verses reminding us that we are responsible for our choices, but God is ultimately in complete control in what is taking place in this world. This is a bit of a mystery, but God is sovereignly in control, and man is culpable of his choices. John 14:6-14, amongst many other verses in this book make it clear that Jesus was more than just a prophet or “Good” teacher, but that He is/was the messiah/savior that was promised by God in the Old Testament, and that He alone is man’s hope for eternal life, and He alone does the work of God, and is worthy of our worship, which is reserved in the scripture for God only (Exodus 20:4).

The first 10 chapters looked at the public life and ministry of Jesus Christ. These last 11 chapters describe Jesus’ final week of His life in Jerusalem, and prepare us for the reason Christ entered into human history. Our verses today show us that Christ and His subsequent work on the cross is the beginning point of reversal of the ills of mankind. Christ came to restore “Shalom” to our bodies, our families, our communities, and our world. In the midst of the human predicament, Jesus establishes Himself as its savior, destroying death, atoning for sin and guilt, and promising hope for weary travelers.

From the Head…
Last week we saw in Romans 8 that “All things work out for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purpose.” What does this mean? God wants to grow us to be “Conformed to His image,” so that we can love Him and others, and enjoy life with God and others the way we were created for. Our greatest enjoyment comes from feeding off of Him! In our passage today John deals with the hardest thing we have to face on earth; the death of a loved one. Especially when we feel that God has betrayed us.

Our natural reactions are found in Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha, and the people who also loved Lazarus. It is not unlike the reaction found in many Psalms such as Psalm 44. The problem is however that we struggle to see beyond our own problems and see into what God is trying to do in this world. Jesus wants to show us in a grand way that “This sickness will not end in death.” Our world is sick and messed up, and death is that grand reminder that this world is a messed up place. Jesus is going to use Lazarus’ death to set up the reality of His own death, which will really conquer death. Lazarus was raised from the dead, but he died a few years later under Caligula’s rule. It is doubt in this area that “Deeply moved” Jesus. His hurt comes from our near sightedness. He so badly wants us to get the reality that in His subsequent death on the cross that He is defeating the sting of death in this world. Its finality is conquered in Christ. He feels our pain, He took on our pain, and His pain is multiplied when our pain is redirected at Him.

…to the Heart
Who have you lost? What have you lost? How is living in this fallen world painful? Is your Christianity mental only? Is your based in bitterness towards God for the pain in your life? If we can only get a glimpse of what God is doing in this world, and realize that this sickness doesn’t end in death; it ends in glory, redemption and restoration. Even all of the heinous things we witness will one day be redeemed. How is your heart darkened by hurt in your life? How have yu not cared to see this world from God’s perspective and assumed that God is only for the derelict and the lonely, but not for you?

For Further Reading: “The New Daily Study Bible: The Gospel of John” William Barclay; “The Gospel of John,” F.F. Bruce; “The New Testament Commentary: The Gospel of John,” William Hendriksen; “Preaching the Word; John: That You May Believe,” R. Kent Hughes; “The NIV Application Commentary: John,” Gary M. Burge; “The Pillar NT Commentary: The Gospel According to John,” D.A. Carson


8 comments so far

  1. Aaron Youngren on

    Speaking of death not being a natural part of life: Did anyone see “The Fountain”?

    Great example of another sermon on how we should embrace death, this time by brilliant director Darren Aranofsky (Pi). The movie was evocative and quirky, but I would love to hear thoughts on what folks felt like when they left the theater.

  2. Rachelle on

    I haven’t seen the fountain, but I’d like too, now.
    An interesting twist to use U-2 to drive the point home.
    To me healing is not for the person being healed, it is to futher the Kingdom of Christ.
    My husband has received a major miracle healing and he feels that because of that he has a great responsability to use his testimony to further the kingdom.
    I agree fully with him.
    Great sermon, I especially liked the different view on doubting thomas…

  3. Mike Connaway on

    Wow, love what you guy’s are doing to challenge people to think. Seattle -Renton and the whole N.W. are cutting edge cities with very traditional churches. So many churches have lost touch with todays issues.Your church is changing that without comprising truth. Thax for all your team is doing. Pastor Mike Connaway – Oasis Seattle Church

  4. Michael Smith on

    Here are a couple of thoughts I wrote down while listening to Jesus’ words, “This will not end in death…” and “Lazarus is asleep”… I think Jesus words say something of what God thinks of Physical death. In short, death is not the end of ours or anyone’s story. I think it also tells us that in God’s soveignty, what appears to be a seemless life, from birth to death, to us, can be partitioned by Him, in order to teach us about his care in an uncaring world. God brings light and life into our situations.

    Not that God disregards any moment of our lives, but that he is so much in charge that bits and pieces are used for his purposes, often without our knowledge. My conclusion is to rely on him always because I seldom see a bigger picture, if ever. This story shows his capability of seeing a much bigger picture. I am shocked to see that many of those alive then still did not believe in him.

    Another thought has to do with the eyewitness accounts of Lazarus’s ‘first resurrection’. There were many witnesses but the Bible references two basic responses. 1. Those who believed in Jesus and 2. by implication those who went to the Pharisees to tell on him.

    Little wonder arguments about Jesus’ life and nature rage on today.

    Great Sermon.
    (I mistakenly put this comment on last week. Oops)

  5. mike on

    I didn’t see the fountain, but I did see Pi and Requiem for a Dream (Both Aronofsky), and I enjoy his works and depiction of life as hopeless when we chase our desires to their logical conclusion.

    Great point re: God’s use of healing!! Truly He heals ultimately for His purpose and plan, and not for the sake of healing. This is why we struggle with God, because we view God as a healer, and miss the reason for the healing, or we become embittered when He doesn’t.

    True. Even when people witness the miracles of God, our fallen, unbelieving hearts can justify our unbelief. Some things never change!

  6. Mariah Dubnow on

    “Only by the Grace of God go I”…this has been ringing in my ears the past six months or so and it rang loudly during this sermon on Sunday. By the way this is my first blog ever, and I don’t know that I will ever blog again, but found this sermon so powerful as it speaks into our sinful state. Without Christ, death is the result of our sin, but He overcame death and therefore we have life in Him. I find myself hating sin more and more as evil is by my side every step of the way, it weighs me down, makes me not want to be around people so I won’t hurt them with my sin, and sometimes it seems the pain and sickness will never go away. Yet there is hope, and that hope is only found in Christ. Everything else just numbs it for awhile, but Christ actually heals and offers life…and life in abundance!! It is because of this we can rest in Him, knowing He is our sustenance. How incredible though that God is glorified even in our sickness, because of His sovereignty, and that through something that seems so horrible He brings about redemption and restoration. Only in Christ can we survive the pain of this world and trust that He is working it to His end. Thank you God that this sickness does not end it death!!! Keep this weary traveler moving…

    “In the midst of the human predicament, Jesus establishes Himself as its savior, destroying death, atoning for sin and guilt, and promising hope for weary travelers.”

    “If we can only get a glimpse of what God is doing in this world, and realize that this sickness doesn’t end in death; it ends in glory, redemption and restoration”

    This is really good stuff…

  7. matt vermeulen on

    Hey, totally aside from all the great words here (and seriously, great comments), but I have a lingering need for clarification from the sermon on Sunday.

    Where do you draw the line with past action personification? What I mean is, how far can we really go into the emotional state of historical figures based solely on their quoted words? Specifically with the theme of Mary=all head, no heart; Martha=faith; the crowd=doubt/derision.

    I definitely see the truth in the points you brought out in the sermon, but I always feel a bit uncomfortable with putting an emotional state on a quoted text, especially when it is one, from the mouth of Mary, that seems to me could go to the other end of the spectrum and represent linear (no benefit of omniscience) faith (ie: the apostles being amped for Christ, but still asking stupid questions).

    I’ve always had that question, and this Sunday’s sermon brought it back up for me.

  8. mike on

    I concur, when we see grace, we begin to hate the sin in us, because it keeps us from loving and honoring God, yet His grace sustains us. It is awesome and beautiful!

    Not sure what text your speaking of, but in general, I think human emotion is not that different from culture to culture, and generation to generation. No matter where I go, people laugh, cry, get frustrated, fear, etc. When someone that we love dies, there is a feeling of loss, and I do think that transcends culture and generations? Yes? No? Good words!!

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