Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JESUS COMFORTS THE GRIEVING”

John 11.1-45

 

We are in the midst of Christmas season, with Christmas day only eight days away, and yet the economy is in terrible shape, the weather is horrible and depressing to many, and we find ourselves grieving the loss of a dear sister in Christ. How are we to deal with this imposition of real life onto the Christmas season?

My friends, there is nothing about Christmas season that is not real life, that is not meaningful and substantial, and that is not capable of facing down the most gritty of life’s dreadful features. Christmas is not about lights and presents. Neither is Christmas about snow and play. Christmas is our seasonal remembrance of that occasion when the One who created man on the sixth day actually became a man Himself, being born to the virgin named Mary in the village of Bethlehem.

Keep in mind what the angel said to the shepherds who were keeping watch over their flocks just outside Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. Luke 2.11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.” Do some thinking with me for a moment. If we accept what the angel to the shepherds said as being true, then we not only know that Jesus was born that night, and where Jesus was born that night, but that Jesus born that night in Bethlehem is the Savior. Does that not suggest to you that the Lord Jesus Christ cares about us, that He loves us, and that He is moved to bless us in various ways?

To paraphrase something Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, why would the Lord Jesus come to earth to die for your sins, why would He do something that big for you, unless He was also willing to do somewhat smaller things for you besides? We are not a large church, but about average size as churches in the United States go. That means we know each other pretty well. We are on more intimate terms with each other than most other people are with this number of people. Therefore, our grief from losing Rosa affects us in every conceivable way.

Therefore, I think it is appropriate, in light of our recent loss of one of the most wonderful Christians many of us have ever known, in light of the family-like intimacy that a church our size enjoys, and in light of the Christmas season’s focus on the birth of Christ, that we take note this evening of how the Lord Jesus Christ comforted the grieving.

It is entirely possible to be a Christian, to love the Lord with all your heart, and yet entirely miss the blessing of being comforted by Jesus Christ when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Let me help you to secure for your own broken heart the comfort Jesus provided when the two sisters He greatly loved suffered the death of their own beloved brother.

Some months ago we studied John chapter 11, and spent considerable time examining the details surrounding the death of Lazarus and the miracle of Jesus raising him from the dead four days later. However, God’s Word is an inexhaustible mine of riches, and there is so much more to see, even after you think you have picked through all the nuggets. When you find John chapter 11, please stand and read along silently as I read aloud:

 

1      Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha.

2      (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)

3      Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.

4      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.

5      Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.

6      When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was.

7      Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again.

8      His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again?

9      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.

10     But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him.

11     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.

12     Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well.

13     Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep.

14     Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.

15     And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.

16     Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him.

17     Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already.

18     Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:

19     And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.

20     Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house.

21     Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.

22     But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.

23     Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.

24     Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

25     Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:

26     And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

27     She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.

28     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.

29     As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him.

30     Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him.

31     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.

32     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.

33     When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,

34     And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.

35     Jesus wept.

36     Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!

37     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?

38     Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.

39     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.

40     Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?

41     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.

42     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.

43     And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

44     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.

45     Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

 

Sometimes when we suffer grief we turn inward and focus ourselves on the pain of our loss. On other occasions, when others are grieving, we fail to minister to their spiritual needs because we do not know what those needs are. Tonight we can all benefit from observing our Lord Jesus comfort Martha and Mary, reminding ourselves that this glorious Savior who promised His disciples another Comforter in John 14.16, is Himself the first Comforter of our souls.

Three very simple things to observe about the Savior in His gentle dealings with the grieving and vulnerable sisters of Lazarus:

 

First, HE CAME TO THEM

 

There can be no doubt from correctly understanding John 11.6-7 that the Lord Jesus Christ did delay in coming to Martha and Mary when He was informed that His beloved Lazarus was gravely ill. However, keep in mind that our text informs us three times that the Lord Jesus Christ loves them very much. Therefore, though He had good reasons for the delay, those reasons were not prompted by any lack of love for them on His part.

Do you know someone who is grieving? Step number one to comfort the grieving is to go to them. Of course, it is inconvenient. Pain and death disrupts people’s lives, and only those who have died experience greater disruption in their life than those grieving who have been left behind. Therefore, it means very little for you to feel sorry for the grieving from a distance. You can only meaningfully comfort the grieving by actually inconveniencing yourself enough to depart from where you are to be at their side. Jesus traveled two days by foot to be with Martha and her sister Mary during their time of grief.

Another reason to go to those who are grieving is that whether you go to their side, others will. Oftentimes those who respond to grief and come to the side of those who suffer great loss are not those who really need to tend to the suffering of those in grief. Either they do not know what is best to do, can be counted on to say something that is misleading or downright wrong, or they will use the tragedy as an opportunity to establish a connection with the grief stricken people that could eventually prove harmful to them.

Our text provides a useful illustration of this very point. The crowd that assembled after Lazarus’ burial were not friendly toward the Lord Jesus Christ. They were not of the same mind toward the Savior as Lazarus and his two sisters. Therefore, it goes without saying that the things they certainly did, and comments that were invariably made, were not conducive to either Martha’s or Mary’s spiritual growth. Therefore, when someone you know is grieving, you need to be at their side, because someone will be at their side.

I was so happy that I was at a very nice woman’s house one day before her wonderful Christian daughter died. She was gravely ill at the time, with only hours remaining. Me being in her bedroom, with her sisters and mom, made it impossible for someone else to get in there. Once he saw he was not going to be treated as a prominent personage he left. That is one reason why you need to actually come to the grieving. If you don’t come, and even if you do come, others will. I am not saying that you should prevent anyone from coming. However, there is a strong case to be made for you being there, my friend.

 

Next, HE SHOWED COMPASSION FOR THEM

 

Why do you think the crowd of mourners said, “Behold how he loved him!”? The people made the comment, not because the Lord Jesus Christ loved Lazarus, but because the Lord Jesus Christ showed that He loved Lazarus. Do you see the difference between loving and showing that you love?

When someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, he has no need for your love. What he has need of from you is an actual demonstration of your love for him. So, in what ways did the Lord Jesus Christ show, not only Martha and Mary but also everyone else, His love for them? To put it another way, in what ways did He demonstrate compassion? No less than three ways: First, He came to their side. As we have read in our text, it was a two-day journey by foot. That is a great deal of effort, my friends. However, it was not only inconvenient, it was also dangerous. John 11.8 essentially says, “You’re going back there after they have already tried to stone you to death?” By merely coming to their side, the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated compassion for their grief. Next, He patiently listened to them. Sometimes people who are grieving need to vent. Their venting may even be somewhat misdirected or frustrated. The first words out of Martha’s mouth were, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”[1] Later on, the first words out of Mary’s mouth were, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”[2] Where do you think these two lovely women came up with such comments? Right, the mourners who did not much like Jesus. Listen to their murmurings in John 11.37: “Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?” No wonder the Lord patiently listened to Martha and Mary, but groaned within Himself when the others spoke. When you come to comfort the grieving, spend time listening instead of talking. You frequently help those grieving more by listening to them than by subjecting them to listening to you. Third, He wept. You do not necessarily minister comfort to the grieving by maintaining rigid emotional control of yourself. Jesus wept. Therefore, what can be wrong with weeping? Grief is painful. It hurts. Suffering is involved. There is nothing wrong with sharing their painful experience with tears, though any attempt to manufacture emotion is nasty. Thus, if tears come, just let the tears come. It was one way Jesus showed compassion.

 

Finally, HE CORRECTED THEM

 

I hesitate to mention this, only because I want to avoid two misconceptions: First, I do not want anyone to think there is anything wrong with grieving the loss of a loved one. Grief is normal, natural, and proper. However, sometimes grief can be helped by greater understanding of important truths. As well, I want caution to be the watchword when seeking to comfort the grieving. Do you realize that there are things a woman can say to another woman than a man dare not say? As well, there are things an older man can say that will produce a negative reaction when said by a younger man? As well, there is a place in a person’s life for someone to provide the gentlest correction that most people simply do not occupy. Therefore, though those who are grieving can frequently benefit from very gentle instruction, or the very delicate correction of erroneous beliefs, you need to be very careful to assure yourself that you are the person to provide that gentle instruction or delicate correction. Unless you are positive you are the man or the woman for the job, and this would typically be verified by someone older and more seasoned than you in the faith agreeing that you are the man or woman for the job, please restrain yourself. People frequently see things that need to be said to others years before they are really qualified to be the one to actually say those things.

Back to the Lord Jesus Christ correcting Martha and Mary. Let me explain how He corrected them: First, He corrected Martha. In John 11.22, Martha acknowledged that Jesus could get anything He wanted from God. However, that only shows us that she believed Jesus was in God’s favor. That is not good enough when you are grieving. In verses 23 and 24, Jesus indicated her brother would rise again and she agreed that he would someday rise again, when everyone else did. The implication, of course, was that between now and then Lazarus is a dead man. How comforting is that? However proper it is to grieve the loss of a loved one, it is still improper to grieve over something that is not true. Which leads to His revelation of who He is, in John 11.25: “I am the resurrection, and the life.” In other words, Martha, I am not someone who makes it. I am it! That future resurrection when all the dead, and your brother, will someday live again? That is Jesus! He is the resurrection, and He is the life! The implications of this reality immediately follow, in the second half of verse 25 and verse 26: “. . . he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” In other words, Lazarus is not really dead. Not that his body did not die, because of course it did. Lazarus, however, is not dead. No one who believes in Jesus dies. That is why Jesus refers to it as sleep. The way our Lord corrected Martha’s sister was not to instruct her, as He had done with Martha. He did not teach Mary with words so much as He showed Himself to be the resurrection and the life by raising her brother from the dead.

So, how would the child of God provide gentle and every so tender correction to the one grieving the loss of a loved one? Not by claiming to be the resurrection and the life. Certainly, not by raising anyone from the dead. However, if the grief is for a loved one who is a Christian, it is very important to point out that whosoever liveth and believeth in Jesus shall never die.

People who believe in Jesus do not die the same way lost people die. People who believe in Jesus do not die in the way most people think of dying. In the most important way imaginable, people who believe in Jesus never die, and since Jesus is the resurrection as well as the life, people who believe in Jesus will someday be raised from the dead. That is a most comforting certainty.

 

Isn’t the love of Jesus something wonderful? Is it not profoundly comforting to know that death for the child of God is better than most people think it is, and that it isn’t really death at all, but an event that occurs before a certain resurrection? Jjjjjjj Iiiiiiiiii will not only see her mom someday, but they will both be raised up in resurrection glory. The same is true for Mmmm Ddddddd and his father, and for my friend Jjjj Jjjjjjjj and his beloved wife Cccccc.

Grief is still grief. Loss is loss, though it is much more bearable when the parting from a loved one is temporary. Because of my Savior, the loss of a Christian loved one is always and can only be temporary. Does that not reveal something to you about the Lord Jesus Christ that you may not have had a firm grip on before? Ddddd Mmmmmm is not dead. Rrrr Ppppp is not dead. Jjj Dddddddd is not dead. Lllll and Eeeee Jjjjjj are not dead. Bbbb Iiiiiiiiii is not dead.

Such a Savior.

Is he your Savior?

So approachable.

So loving.

So kind.

So comforting.

Yet, so capable, so powerful, so wise, and so sufficient.

Why not come to such a Savior right now, my friend?

As we stand for prayer, do the right thing and come to Jesus. Embrace Him as your Savior.



[1] John 11.21

[2] John 11.32



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org