George Whitefield Sermon 39

The Resurrection of Lazarus

John 11:43-44, "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 grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith

unto them, Loose him, and let him go."

When Jesus Christ, the eternal Word, was pleased to make all things by

the word of his power, his last works were the best. When he looked back

upon, and beheld the first products of his almighty power, he pronounced

them "good;" but when that last, that lovely creature man, was formed, he

pronounced them "very good." So, the same Jesus, when he came to tabernacle

among us, and to begin and carry on a new and second creation, though all

his works were miracles of wonder, and manifested forth the glory of his

eternal Godhead, yet the nearer he came to the end of his public

ministrations, the greater and more noble did the miracles which he wrought

appear. The resurrection of Lazarus, that is to be the subject of the

following discourse, I think, is a sufficient proof of this. To an eye of

sense, it seems to be one of the greatest, if not the very greatest miracle

of all which our blessed Lord performed. When our Savior bid John's

disciple go and tell their Maser what things they had seen and heard, he

commands them to inform him, that by his divine power "the dead were

raised;" alluding no doubt to the Ruler's daughter, who was raised

immediately after her decease; and the Widow's son, who at the command of

Jesus, rose out of his coffin, as they were carrying his corpse to the

burial. These were pregnant proofs, that Jesus was indeed the Messiah that

was to come into the world. But his raising of Lazarus from the dead, after

he had lain four days dead, and saw corruption, is still, if possible, a

greater miracle; and consequently a stronger proof of his being the

Anointed, the Christ of God. The evangelist John is very particular in

giving us an account of this miracle; even so particular, as to spend a

whole chapter in relating the circumstances which preceded, attended, and

followed after it. And as he was undoubtedly directed herein by the all-

wise, unerring Spirit of God, does it not point out unto us, that this

miracle, with all its respective circumstances, calls for our particular

and most serious meditation? It appears to me in this light; and therefore,

as the Lord shall be pleased to assist, I shall go back to the beginning of

this chapter, follow the evangelist step by step, and consider the

particulars of this wondrous miracle, make some practical observations as I

go along, and conclude with some suitable instructions and exhortations,

which will naturally arise from the body of the discourse.

The evangelist in the first verse, makes mention of the sickness of

Lazarus. "Now, a certain man was sick, named Lazarus of Bethany, the town

of Mary, and her sister Martha." Some think these sisters were very

wealthy, so as to own good part of the town, or, as the original word seems

to imply, the village. But then it is probably the evangelist would have

said the town of Lazarus, estates usually descending, as with us, in the

male line: it means therefore no more, than that Martha and Mary lived in

Bethany. The Holy Ghost pointing out to us hereby, that nothing makes a

town so worthy of a gracious soul's remark of esteem, as its having many of

God's dear children for its inhabitants. Bethany, though a little place, is

more famous because it was the town of Martha and Mary, than if Alexander

had fought in it one of his greatest battles. Both these women loved Jesus

in sincerity, and were as good as they were great. But Mary, though the

younger sister, seems to be the most eminent: for the evangelist in the

second verse, speaks of her in a very distinguishing manner. "It was that

Mary (that never-to-be-forgotten Mary) which anointed the Lord with

ointment (expensive as it was) and wiped his feed, (after she had washed

them with tears of love with her hair," even the hair of her head. What

notice is taken of this action! With what an eulogy, and in what a high

strain of commendation is it here spoken of? And such are the honors of all

God's saints. Though all our good works are not recorded as Mary's are, yet

God is not unmindful, that he should forget our works of faith, and labors

which have proceeded of love. Every tear we shed, every sigh we fetch,

every alms we give, though it be only a cup of cold water, are all recorded

in the Lamb's book of remembrance, and shall be produced to our eternal

honor, and rewarded with a reward of grace, though not of debt, at the

great and terrible day of the Lord. "I was an hungered, and ye gave me

meat, I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink, naked, and ye clothed me, sick

and in prison, and ye came unto me." What reason have we then to be

"steadfast and unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,

forasmuch as we are assured, that our labors will not be in vain or

forgotten by the Lord!" It was that Mary that anointed the Lord with

ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair. And what follows? "Whose

brother Lazarus was sick." So that being related to Christ, or his

disciples, will not exempt persons from sickness. In this life, time and

chance happens to all, only with this material difference, those

afflictions which harden the obstinately impenitent, soften and purify the

heart of a true believer. "My son, therefore despise not the chastening of

the Lord (on one hand), nor faint when thou art rebuked of him (on the

other): for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son

whom he receiveth."

Jesus loved Lazarus, and yet Lazarus was sick. And what do his sisters

do for him now he is sick? No doubt they applied to a physician, for it is

tempting God to neglect making use of means for the recovery of our health,

when it is impaired. But then they were not guilty of Asa's crime, "who

sought to the physicians, but not to the Lord." No; they knew the most

skillful prescriptions would be of no effect, unless attended with a

blessing from Jesus the Great and Almighty Physician; and therefore his

sisters sent unto him, probably at the beginning of their brother's

illness. How unlike is their conduct, to that of the generality of people,

especially the rich and great! How unfashionable is it not-a-days for

persons to send to Jesus in behalf of their sick relations! It is so very

uncustomary, that in some places, if a minister be sent for to a sick

person, it is a sad symptom that the patient is almost past hopes of

recovery. Thus did not Martha and her sister Mary; they sent unto Jesus,

though he was now beyond Jordan, (chap. 10:40) where he abode, or chiefly

resided, for some time. Hence it was that they knew where to send to him.

But what kind of message did they send? A very humble and suitable one.

"Lord, Behold, he whom thou lovest is sick." They might have said, Lord, he

who loveth thee is sick. But they knew, that our love was not worth

mentioning, and that we love Jesus only because he first loved us. Besides,

here is no prescribing to our Lord what he should do, or what means he

should use of. They do not so much as say, We pray thee to come, or only

speak the word, and our sick brother shall be restored. They simply tell

Jesus the case, knowing it was sufficient barely to lay it before an

infinitely compassionate Redeemer, and leave it to him to act according to

his own sovereign good-will and pleasure. "Lord, Behold he whom thou lovest

is sick." Oh how sweet is it when the soul is brought to this! And with

what a holy confidence may we pray to, and intercede with the holy Jesus,

when we have reason to hope, that those we pray and intercede for, are

lovers of, and are beloved of him! For his eyes are in a peculiar manner

over the righteous, and his ears always open to their prayers. This was

their message, and it soon reached Jesus Christ. And how does he receive

it? We are told, verse 4, "When Jesus heard that, (that he whom he loved

was sick) He said, this sickness is not unto death, but unto the glory of

God, that the Son of God may be glorified thereby." To whom these words

were spoken is not certain. In all probability, Jesus spake them to the

persons that delivered Martha's and Mary's message. And if so, it was no

doubt a comfortable answer for the present, though it must afterwards

puzzle them as well as the disciples how to explain it, when they found

that Lazarus was actually dead. "This sickness is not unto death," not unto

an abiding death, because he intended to raise him again, soon after his

decease. It is like that expression of our Lord in St. Mark, "The damsel is

not dead, but sleepeth;" which must not be understood in a literal, but

metaphorical sense. And this and such-like instances, ought to teach us to

weigh carefully our blessed Lord's words, and to wait for an explication of

them, by subsequent providences; otherwise we shall be in danger of

misapplying them, and thereby bring our souls into unspeakable bondage.

"This sickness is not unto death, but unto the glory of God, that the Son

of God may be glorified thereby." This is the end both of the afflictions

and the deaths of God's people. By all that happens to them he will be

glorified one way or another, and cause every thing to work together for

their good. And who then but would be content to be sick, or willing to

submit to death itself, if so be the Son of God may be glorified thereby?

This answer, no doubt, proceeded from love. For we are told,

Verse 5 that "Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus." Oh

happy family! Three in it beloved of Jesus, with a peculiar, everlasting

love. "Very often it so happens, (to use the words of the pious Bishop

Beveridge) that there "is but one in a city, and two in a country of this

stamp." But here are two sisters and a brother, all lovers of, and beloved

by the glorious Jesus. What shall we say to these things? Why, that our

savior's grace is free and sovereign, and he may do what he will with his

own. They who are thus so highly favored as to have so many converted in

one house, ought to be doubly thankful! Such a blessing have not all his

saints. No; many, very many, go mourning over their perverse and graceless

relations all their lives long; and find, even to their dying day, that

their greatest foes are those of their own household. Surely these three

relations lived a heaven upon earth. For what can they want, what could

make them miserable, who are assured of Jesus' love? But surely if Jesus

loves this dear little family, the next news one might think we should

hear, would be, that he went immediately and healed Lazarus; or at least

cured him at a distance. But instead of that, we are told, verse 6 "When he

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

he was." A strange way this, in the eye of natural reason, of expressing

love; but not so strange in the eye of faith: for the Lord Jesus very often

showeth his love, by deferring to give immediate answers to our prayers.

Hereby he tries our faith and patience, and exercises all our passive

graces. We have a proof of this in the Syrophonecian woman, upon whom the

blessed Jesus frowned, and spake roughly to at first, only that he might

afterwards turn unto her and say, "O woman, great is thy faith." Let not

those then who believe, make too much haste; or immediately in their hearts

repine against the Lord, because he may not answer their requests, in their

own time and way. God's time and way is best. And we shall find it to be so

in the end. Martha and Mary experienced the truth of this, though

undoubtedly our Lord's seeming delay, to come and heal their brother, cost

them great searchings of heart. But will the Lord Jesus forget his dear

Lazarus, whom his soul loveth? "Can a woman forget her sucking child?"

Indeed she may; but the Lord never faileth those that fear him. Neither is

he slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness: for his very

delays are answers. The vision is for an appointed time; in the end it will

speak and not lie.

Though our Lord abode two days where he was, to try the faith of these

sisters, yet after this, he said unto his disciples, verse 7, "Let us go

into Judea again." With what a holy familiarity does Jesus converse with

his dear children! Our Savior seems to speak to his disciples, as though he

was only their brother, and as it were upon a level with them; "Let us go

into Judea again." How gently, according to what was predicted of him, does

he lead those that are with young! Jesus very well knew the weakness of his

disciples, and also what a dangerous place Judea was: how gradually

therefore does he make known unto them, his design of going thither! And

how does he admit his disciples to expostulate with him on this account!

"Master, say they, the Jews of late sought to stone thee, and goest thou

thither again?" They were amazed at our Lord's boldness, and were ready to

call it presumption; as we generally are prone to censure and condemn other

zealous and enterprising persons, as carrying matters too far; it may be

for no other reason, if we examine the bottom of our hearts, but because

they go before, and excel ourselves. The disciples, no doubt, thought that

they spoke out of love to their Lord, and assuredly they did; but what a

deal of self-love was there mixed and blended with it? They seem much

concerned for their Master, but they were more concerned for themselves.

However Jesus overlooks their weakness, and mildly replies, verse 9 and 10,

"Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he

stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of the world; but if any man walk

in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him." As though

our Lord had said, My dear disciples, I thank you for your care and concern

for me. Judea is a dangerous place, and what you say of the treatment I met

with from its inhabitants, is just and true: but be not afraid of going

there upon my account. For as a man walketh safely twelve hours of the day,

because he walketh in the light: so as long as the time appointed by my

Father for my public administration lasts, I shall be as secure from the

hands of my enemies, as a man that walks in broad-day is secure from

falling. But as a man stumbleth if he walketh in the night, so when the

night of my passion cometh, then, but not till then, shall I be given up

into the hands of my spiteful foes. Oh what comfort have these words, by

the blessing of God, frequently brought to my soul! How may all Christ's

ministers strengthen themselves with this consideration, that so long as

God hath work for them to do, they are immortal! And if after our work is

over, our Lord should call us to lay down our lives for the brethren, and

to seal the truth of our doctrine with our blood, it would certainly be the

highest honor that can be put upon us. "To you it is given not only to

believe, but also to suffer," says the apostle to the Philippians.

"These things (the evangelist tells us, ver. 11) said Jesus, and after

that, (to satisfy them that he was not going into Judea without a proper

call) he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth." Our friend.

Amazing! For what is a friend? As one's own soul. How dear then, and near

are true believers to the most adorable Jesus! "Our friend LAZARUS." Still

more amazing! Here is condescension, here is unparalleled familiarity

indeed. And what of him? "He sleepeth." A figurative way of expression. For

what is death to the lovers of Jesus Christ, but a sleep, and a refreshing

one too? Thus it is said of Stephan when he died, that "he fell asleep."

Christ indeed died, but believers only sleep. And "those that sleep in

Jesus, (says the scripture) will God bring with him." "Our friend Lazarus

sleepeth." For though he be dead, I shall raise him from the grave so soon,

that his dying will be only like a person's taking a short sleep. "Our

friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go that I may awake him out of sleep." By

this time, one would imagine, our Lord's disciples should have understood

him: But how unwilling are we to believe anything that we do not like.

"Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep he shall do well." Oh fearful,

and slow of heart to believe! How fain would they excuse themselves from

going into Judea, for fear of a few stones! By this way of talking, how do

they in effect impeach their blessed Master's conduct, and under a pretense

of preserving his person, foster, and as it were plead for their own

(though perhaps undiscerned) cowardice and unbelief? That charity, which

hopeth and believeth all things for the best, teacheth us to judge thus

favorably of them. For, "Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: they thought

that he had spoken of taking rest in sleep." The great and compassionate

High priest knowing and remembering they were but dust, throws a veil of

love over their infirmity; and at length, verse 14, "Saith unto them

plainly (for if we wait on Jesus, we shall know his will plainly, one way

or another) Lazarus id dead." And even then, lest they should be swallowed

up with overmuch sorrow, he immediately adds, verse 15, "And I am glad for

your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe," or have

more faith, or have that faith which you already possess increased and

confirmed. A plain proof this, that all Jesus' delays to answer prayer, are

only to strengthen our faith.

"Nevertheless, says our Lord, let us go unto him." This was a

sufficient hint, if they knew how to improve it, that he intended to do

something extraordinary, though he would not tell them directly what he

intended. For the Lord Jesus will keep those whom he loves, at his foot,

and dependent on him. "Let us go unto him." He still speaks as though they

were his equals. Oh that Christians in general, Oh that ministers in

particular, would learn of him their great exemplar, to condescend to men

of low degree! Well, the secret is now out. Jesus has said unto them

plainly, Lazarus is dead. And what reception does this melancholy news meet

with? With great condolence, especially from Thomas; for verse 16, "Then

said Thomas, who is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples, let us also

go and die with him;" i.e. according to some, with Lazarus, with whom, it

may be Thomas had contracted an intimate acquaintance. But granting it was

so; shall I commend him for this passionate expression? I commend him not.

Surely he spake unadvisedly with his lips; "Let us also go and die with

him." As though there was no comfort henceforward to be expected in the

world, now his friend Lazarus was gone. This was a great fault, and yet a

fault that many of God's children run into daily, by mourning for their

deceased relations over-much, like persons that have no hope. But this

infirmity ought not to be indulged. For if our friends and dear relatives

are dead, Jesus, that friend of sinners, is not dead. He will be better to

us than seven sons, and will abundantly supply the place of all creature-

comforts. But I am more inclined to think that the word HIM, refers to

Jesus his dear Master; and if so, he is so far from being blamed, that he

spake like a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Let us also go, that we may die

with him. If our dear master will go into Judea, and hazard his precious

life, let us not any longer make such frivolous excuses, but let us

manfully accompany him; and if the Jews should not only be permitted to

stone, but also to kill him, let us also go and die with him, we cannot die

in a better cause. This was a speech worthy of a Christian hero, and Thomas

herein hath set us an example, that we should follow his steps, by exciting

and provoking one another closely to adhere to the blessed Jesus,

especially when his cause and interest is in any immediate danger. This

exhortation, it seems, had a proper effect. They all went, and as far as we

know, cheerfully accompanied their glorious Master.

How their thoughts were exercised on the road, we are not told. But I

am apt to believe they were a little discouraged when they came to Bethany.

For "When Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had been in the grave for four

days already." And what would it avail them, to come so many miles only to

see a dead man's tomb? But how wisely were all things ordered by the

blessed Jesus, to manifest his glory in the most extraordinary manner, that

not only his disciples might have their faiths confirmed, but many also of

the Jews might believe on him. This Bethany, it seems, verse 18, "was nigh

unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off;" or about two miles; and Martha

and Mary, being what we may call people of fashion, and devout likewise;

many of the devout, and we may suppose many of the wealthy Jews came from

the metropolis, as well as other adjacent places, verse 19, to Martha and

Mary; not to pay an idle, trifling, but a serious, profitable visit, "to

comfort them concerning their brother." This was kind and neighborly. To

weep with those that weep, and to visit the afflicted in their distresses,

is one essential branch of true and undefiled religion. And O how sweet is

it when we visit surviving friends, that we have reason to think that their

departed relations died in the Lord! And we can therefore give them comfort

concerning them. For "blessed are the dead, that die in the Lord, even so

saith the Spirit, for they rest from their labors." This and such-like

arguments, no doubt, these visitors made use of, to comfort Martha and

Mary. And indeed they stood in much need of consolation. For we have reason

to suppose, from our Lord'' answer, "This sickness is not unto death, but

the glory of God;" that they had entertained thoughts of the recovery of

their brother. But who can tell what these two holy souls must feel, when

they found their brother did not recover, but was dead, laid out, and now

stinking in the silent grave! What hard thoughts, without judging them, may

we suppose they entertained concerning Jesus! Think you not that they were

ready to cry out in the language of the prophet, "Thou hast deceived us,

and we are deceived?" But man's extremity is Jesus' opportunity. In the

multitude of the sorrows that they had in their hearts, the news of

Christ's coming refreshes their souls. Somebody or another, commendably

officious [direct, forceful, forward], privately informs Martha of it.

"Who, as soon as she heart that Jesus was come (without making any apology

to the company for her rudeness) went and met him. But Mary sat still in

the house." But why so, Mary? I thought thou hadst been most forward to

attend on Jesus, and thy sister Martha more prone to be cumbered about the

many things of this life. Why sittest thou still? It may be the news was

brought only privately to Martha (for it is plain from verse 31st, that the

Jews who were in the house knew not of it;) and Martha knowing how our Lord

had chid her once, was resolved he should have no reason on the same

account to chide her anymore; therefore when the news was brought, she

would not so much as stay to inform her sister, but went out to see whether

it were true or not, and if so, as the eldest sister, she would invite the

blessed Jesus in. How happy is it, when Christ's reproofs for past

neglects, excite our future zeal to come out and meet him! Such reproofs

are an excellent oil. Or, it may be, the news reached Mary's ears, as well

as Martha's, but being overcome with sorrow, the thought is too good news

to be true, and therefore sat still in the house. O how careful ought

believers to be, to cherish and maintain, even in the midst of tribulation,

a holy confidence and joy in God! For the joy of the Lord is a believer's

strength. Whereas giving way to melancholy and unbelief, raises gloom and

vapors in the mind, clouds the understanding, clogs us in the way of duty,

and gives the enemy, who loves to fish in troubled waters, a very great

advantage over us.

Mary, perhaps, through the prevalence of this, and being also

naturally of a sedentary disposition, "sat still in the house," while her

sister Martha got the start of her, and went out to meet Jesus. And how

does she accost him? Why, in a language bespeaking the distress of a

burdened and disordered mind. For she said unto Jesus, verse 21, "Lord, if

thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Here is a mixture of faith

and unbelief. Faith made her say, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my

brother had not died." But unbelief made her confine Christ's power to his

bodily presence. Besides, here was a tacit accusation of the blessed Jesus

of unkindness, for not coming when they sent unto him the message, "Lord,

he whom thou lovest is sick." Once she charged Jesus with want of care;

"Lord, carest thou not, that my sister hath left me to serve alone?" Now

she taxes him with want of kindness. "If thou hadst been here;" as much as

to say, if thou hadst been so kind as to have come when we sent for thee,"

"my brother had not died;" and by saying thus, she does as it were lay her

brother's death to Jesus Christ. O how apt are even those whom Jesus loves

in a peculiar manner, to charge him foolishly! How often does the enmity of

our desperately wicked hearts rise against Christ, when we are under the

afflicting hand of his providence! And not the very best of us frequently

tempted, in such circumstances, to say within ourselves at least, Why does

God thus cruelly deal with us? Why did not he keep off this stroke, seeing

it was in his power to have prevented it? How should we be ashamed and

confounded before him upon this account? How should we pray and labor to be

delivered from this remaining enmity of the heart, and long for that time,

when mortality shall be swallowed up of life, and we shall never feel one

single rising of heart, against a good and gracious, and all-wise and

glorious Redeemer, any more? However, to do Martha justice, she pretty well

recovers herself, verse 22, "But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou

wilt ask of God, God will give it to thee." Whether these words imply an

actual belief of our Lord's divinity, is not certain. To me they do;

because we shall presently find, that she did believe our Lord was the Son

of God, and the Messiah which was to come into the world. Therefore when

she said, she knew that whatsoever he asked of God, God would give it to

him, she may be understood as referring to God the Father, under whom the

Lord Jesus acted as Mediator, though equal to him in respect to his eternal

glory and godhead. This mystery we may well suppose her acquainted with,

because Jesus had been frequently preaching at her house, and consequently,

had opened that mystery unto her. O what a blessed thing must it be to have

such a Mediator! Such an high-priest and intercessor at the Father's right-

hand, that whatever he asks the father in our behalf, he will give unto us!

Jesus takes this kindly at Martha's hand, and passes over her infirmity.

For if the Lord was exact to mark every thing that we say or do amiss,

alas! who could abide? He only calmly says unto her, verse 23, "Thy brother

shall rise again."

Glad tidings these of great joy. This should comfort us concerning our

deceased, pious relations, that ere long they shall rise again, and soul

and body be for ever with the Lord. Howbeit Jesus spake here of an

immediate resurrection, though he did not speak plainly: For Christ loves

to exercise the faith and patience of his disciples, and frequently leaves

them to find out his meaning by degrees. It is best for us in our present

state, that it should be so. In heaven it will be otherwise. "Thy brother,

(says Christ to Martha) shall rise again." She might immediately have

replied, When, Lord? But she fetches a circuit as it were, and labors to

find out the mind of Jesus by degree. "I know, says she, that he shall rise

again at the resurrection of the last day." These words seem to imply, that

she had some distant thought of our Lord's design to raise her brother now,

and that she spoke thus only to draw our Savior to speak, and tell her

plainly whether he meant to do so or not. Those who are acquainted with

Jesus, are taught an holy art by the blessed Spirit, in dealing with their

blessed master. "I know, says she, he shall rise again at the resurrection

of the last day," (a notable proof this, by the way, that the pious Jews

believed the resurrection of the body). It is just the same as though she

had said, Lord, dost thou mean that my brother shall rise again before that

time? Our savior wisely keeps off from giving her a direct answer, but

chooses rather to preach to her heart. "Jesus said unto her, I am the

resurrection and the life: He that believeth in me, though he were dead,

yet shall he live." On this Martha's faith, if in exercise, might take

hold. O glorious words! How encouraging to you poor sinners lying in your

blood! Though you are dead in trespasses and sins, and might justly be

condemned to die the second death, yet if you believe on the Lord Jesus you

shall live. He adds, "And whosoever believeth in me shall never die;" never

die as to their souls, never die eternally, and consequently never finally

fall away from God. This is an encouraging soul-comforting declaration for

you, O believers, who are thus kept, as it were, in a garrison, by the

mighty power of God, through faith, unto salvation! "Believest thou this?"

says Christ to Martha, verse 26. What avail all the many great and precious

promises of the gospel, unless they are applied and brought home in

particular to each of our souls? The word does not profit unless it is

mixed with faith. We therefore do well, when we are reading Christ's words,

to put this question to ourselves; O my soul, believest thou this? And well

would it be for us, if upon putting this question to ourselves, we could

with the same holy confidence, and in the same delightful frame, say with

Martha, verse 27, "Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son

of God, which should come into the world." This I think is a direct

confession of our Lord's divinity. How full was her heart when she spoke

these words! I am persuaded it burnt within her. What a divine warmth had

she contracted by talking with Jesus! How does she long that her sister

might share in her holy joy! For when she had so said, verse 28, "she went

away;" full of love, no doubt, and called Mary her sister, as all will

labor to call their near relations, who have felt the Lord Jesus to be the

resurrection and the life themselves. But Martha took care, in the midst of

her zeal (as we should always do) to behave with prudence; and therefore

"she called her sister secretly, saying, The master is come, and calleth

for thee." The master is come. She need say no more; Mary knew very well

whom she meant. For holy souls easily understand one another when talking

of their master Jesus. The divine Herbert used to delight (when speaking of

Jesus) to say, "My Master;" perhaps he learned if of Martha, who said here,

"The Master is come, and calleth for thee? Surely a woman of thy exalted

piety will not tell a deliberate lie, and in order to induce thy sister to

come to Jesus, acquaint her that Jesus called her, when indeed he did not.

Thou needest not put thyself to such an expense, or do so much evil, that

good may come of it. Only mention Jesus to Mary, and let her know for a

certainty that the Master id indeed come, and I am persuaded she will sit

no longer. Martha no doubt knew, and therefore I cannot judge her as some

do, as though in her haste she said what was not true. For Jesus might bid

her to call her sister, though it be not directly mentioned in this

chapter. And it is very probably, that our Lord did inquire after Mary,

because she used to take such great delight in sitting at his feet, and

hearing the gracious words that proceeded our of his mouth. "The Master is

come (saith Martha to her sister) and calleth for thee." And so say I to

all poor sinners. Jesus, your Lord and Master, your Prince and Savior, is

come, come unto this lower world, and is come this day in his word, and by

me, who am less than the least of all his servants, and calleth for you. O

that he may also come in the demonstration of the Spirit, and by his mighty

power bow your stubborn hearts and wills to obey the call, as holy Mary


For we are told, verse 29, "When she heard that, she rose quickly, and

came to Jesus." Sinners, when will you do so? Or why do you not do so? How

know you whether Jesus will call for you any more, before he calls you by

death to judgment? Linger, O linger no longer. Fly, fly for your lives.

Arise quickly, and with Mary come to Jesus. She obeyed the call so very

speedily, that her haste was taken notice of by her visitors. "The Jews

then, who were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary

that she rose up hastily (without any ceremony at all) and went out,

followed her, saying, she goeth to the grave, to weep there." How wisely

does our Lord permit and order all this, to bring the Jews out to behold

the wonderful miracle that he was about to perform! Little did Mary and the

Jews think for what end they were thus providentially led out. But when

Jesus hath work to be done, he will bring souls to the place where he

intends to call them, in spite of men or devils. But how does Mary behave

when she comes to Jesus? We may be assured, not without great humility. No

wonder then we are told, verse 32, that "when she saw him, she immediately

fell down at his feet (a place Mary had been used to, and in an agony of

grief, says, as her sister had done before her) Lord, if thou hadst been

here, my brother had not died." Poor Mary! Her concern was great indeed.

Though she was a holy woman, she could not well bear the loss of her

brother. She knew very well, that the world would miss him, and no doubt he

had been a kind and tender brother to her. But I am afraid she was sinfully

overcome with overmuch sorrow. However, had we been there, the sight must

have affected us. It seems to have affected the visitors, especially the

blessed Jesus. He, instead of blaming her, for her tacitly accusing him of

unkindness, and for not coming to her brother's relief, pities and

sympathizes both with Mary and her weeping friends! "When Jesus saw her

weep, and the Jews also weeping, he groaned in his Spirit, and was

troubled." Troubled: Not with any sinful perturbation we may be assured:

nothing of that nature could possibly be in his sinless soul. And,

therefore, some have judiciously enough compared the trouble our Lord now

felt, to some crystal water shaken in a glass or bottle; you may shake it,

but there will be no sediment: it will be crystal water still. "He groaned

in is spirit." I do not see why this may not be understood of his praying

in the spirit, which maketh intercession for the saints, with ajlalhvtoi"

stenagmoi'", "groanings that cannot be uttered." [Rom. 8:26] Methinks I see

the immaculate Lamb of God, secretly, but powerfully agonizing with his

Father; his heart is big with sympathy! At length, out of the fullness of

it, he said, ver. 34, "Where have ye laid him? They (I suppose Mary and

Martha) say unto him, Lord, come and see." He came, he say, "He wept," ver.

35. It is put in a verse by itself, that we might pause a while, and ask,

why Jesus wept?

He wept, to show us, that is was no sin to shed a tear of love and

resignation at the grave of a deceased friend; he wept, so see what havoc

sin had made in the world, and how it had reduced man, who was originally

little lower than the angels, (by making him subject to death) to a level

with the beasts that perish: but above all, he wept at the foresight of the

people's unbelief; he wept, to think how many then present, would not only

not believe on, but would be hardened, and have their prejudices increased

more and more against him, though he should raise Lazarus from the dead

before their eyes. Well then may ministers be excused, who, whilst they are

preaching, now and then drop a few tears, at the consideration of their

sermons being, through the perverseness and unbelief of many of their

audience, a savor of death unto death, instead of a savor of life unto

life. Upon a like occasion Jesus wept. What an affecting sight was here!

Let us for a while suppose ourselves placed amidst these holy mourners; let

us imagine that we see the sepulcher just before us, and the Jews, and

Mary, and the blessed Jesus weeping round it. Surely, the most obdurate of

us all must drop a tear, or at least be affected with the sight; we find

that it affected those who were really by-standers: for then said the Jews,

ver. 36, "Behold, how he loved him." And did they say, Behold, how he loved

him, when Jesus only shed a few tears over the grave of his departed

Lazarus? Come then, O sinners, and view Christ dying and pouring out his

precious heart's blood for you upon an accursed tree, and then surely you

must needs cry out, Behold, how he loved us!

But alas, though all were affected, yet, it seems, all were not well

affected at seeing Jesus weep! For we are told, ver. 37 that some of them

said, "Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused

that even this man should not have died?" One would imagine, that Satan

himself could scarce have uttered a more perverse speech: every word is

full of spite and rancor. Could not this man, this fellow, this deceiver,

who pretends to say, that he opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that

this man, whom he seems to love so, should not have died? Is not this a

sufficient proof that he is a cheat? Have we catched him at last? Is it

likely that he really helped others, when he could not help his own friend?

-- O how patient ought the servants of our Lord to be! And how may they

expect to be censured, and have their good deeds questioned, and lessened,

when their blessed Master has been thus treated before them! However, Jesus

will do good, notwithstanding all these slights put upon him; and

therefore, again groaning in himself, "he cometh to the grave; it was a

cave, (or vault, as is customary in great families) and a stone lay upon

it; Jesus said, ver. 39, "Take ye away the stone." How gradually does our

Lord proceed, in order to engage the people's attention the more! Methinks

I see them all eye, all ear, and eagerly waiting to see the issue of this

affair. But Martha now returning with the rest of the company, seems to

have lost that good frame which she was in when she went to call her

sister; "She saith unto him, (ver. 39) Lord, by this time he stinketh: for

he hath been either dead or buried for four days." O the dismal effects of

carnal reasoning! How naturally do we fall into doubts and fears, when we

have not our eye simply directed to the blessed Jesus! Martha, instead of

looking up to him, looks down into the grace, and poring upon her brother's

stinking corpse, falls into a fit of unbelief: "By this time he stinketh;"

and, therefore, a sight of him will only be offensive. Perhaps she might

think our Lord only wanted to take a view of her brother Lazarus; Jesus

therefore, to give her yet a further hint, that he intended to do something

extraordinary, saith unto her, ver. 40, "Said I not unto thee, that if thou

wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God?" Our Lord speaks here

with some degree of warmth: for nothing displeases him more than the

unbelief of his own disciples. "Said I not unto thee, if thou wouldst

believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God?" When Christ first spoke these

words unto her, we are not told; it might be, this was part of their

conversation upon another occasion some time before: however, he checks her

openly for her unbelief now: for those whom Jesus loves, must expect to be

rebuked sharply by him, whenever they dishonor him by unbelief. The reproof

is taken.

Without making any more objections, "They took away the stone from the

place where the dead was laid." And now behold with what solemnity the holy

Jesus prepares himself to execute his gracious design! "And Jesus lift 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." Who can express

with what fervor and intenseness of spirit, our glorious High-priest

uttered these words! They are a thanksgiving arising from an assurance that

his father had heard him: for Christ, as Mediator, was inferior to the

Father. "I knew that thou hearest me always (and so may every believer in

his degree say so); but because of the people which stand by, I said it." _

Said what? We do not hear that Jesus said any thing by way of prayer

before; and that is true, if we mean vocally, but mentally he did say

something, even when he groaned in the spirit once and again, and was

troubled. There is a way of praying, even when we do not, and cannot speak.

"Why cryest thou," said God to Moses; though we do not hear that he spoke

one single word: but he cried in his heart. And I observe this for the

comfort of some weak, but real Christians, who think they never pray,

unless they can have a great flow of words; but this is a great mistake:

for we often pray best, when we can speak least. There are times when the

heart is too big to speak: and the spirit itself maketh intercession for

the saints, and that too according to the will of God, with groanings that

cannot be uttered. Such was Hannah's prayer for a son, "She spake not, only

her lips moved:" and such was our Lord's way of praying at this time. And

perhaps the soul is never in a better frame, than when in a holy stillness,

and unspeakable serenity, it can put itself as a blank in Jesus' hand, for

him to stamp on it just what he pleases.

And now the hour of our Savior's performing this long-expected

miracle, is come. Ver. 43, "When he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud

voice, Lazarus, come forth." With the word there went an irresistible

power: he spake, and it was done: he cried, and behold, "He that was dead

came forth bound hand and foot with grave clothes; and his face was bound

about with a napkin." What sight was here! Methinks I see surprise sit upon

each spectator's face: as the body rises, their wonder rises too. See how

they gaze! See how their looks bespeak the language of astonished hearts;

and all with a kind of silent, but expressive oratory, ready to say, What

manner of man is this? Surely this is the Messiah that was to come into the

world. How did the hearts of Martha and Mary, as we may very well suppose,

leap for joy! How were they ashamed of themselves, for charging Jesus

foolishly, and taxing him with unkindness, for not coming to prevent their

brother's dying! It is true, Christ suffered him to die, but behold he is

not alive again! Jesus never denies us one thing, but he intends to give us

something better in the stead of it. Think you not that Martha and Mary

were not the most officious to obey our blessed Lord's command, "Loose him,

and let him go?" That same power that raised Lazarus from the dead, might

have also taken the grave-clothes from him: but Jesus Christ never did, and

never will work a needless miracle. Others could unloose his grave-clothes,

but Jesus could unloose the bands of death.

And now, perhaps, some may be ready to ask, What news hath Lazarus

brought from the other world! But stop, O man, thy vain curiosity! It is

forbidden, and therefore useless knowledge. The scriptures are silent

concerning it. Why should we desire to be wise above what is written? It

becomes us rather to be wholly employed in adoring the gracious hand of

that mighty Redeemer who raised him from the dead, and to see (now we have

heard the history) what improvement we can make of such a remarkable and

instructive transaction.

Would to God that my preaching upon the resurrection of Lazarus

today,, may have the same blessed effects upon you, as the sight of it had

upon some of the standers-by. For we are told, ver. 45, "Then many of the

Jews who came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on

him." A profitable visit this! the best, no doubt, that they ever paid in

their lives. And this was in answer to our Savior's prayer, "But because of

the people who stand by, I said it, that they may believe, that thou hast

sent me." One would imagine, that all who saw this miracle, were induced

thereby, really to believe on him: But alas! I could almost say, that I can

tell you of a greater miracle than raising Lazarus from the dead. And what

is that? Why, that some of these very persons who were on the spot, instead

of believing on him, "went their way to the Pharisees, and told them what

Jesus had done." Ver. 46. It was so far from convincing them, that it only

excited their envy, stirred up the whole hell of their self-righteous

hearts, and made them, from that day forward, "take counsel together," to

execute what they had long before designed, to put the innocent Jesus to

death. See how busy they are, ver 47, "Then gathered the chief priests and

the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? For this man doeth many

miracles." Envy itself, it seems, could not deny that. And need they say

then, "What do we," or what should we do? Believe in, to be sure, and

submit to him; take up the cross, and follow him. No; on the contrary, say

they, ver 48, "If we let him this alone, (which they would not have done so

long, had not God put a hook in the Leviathan's jaws) all men will believe

on him." And suppose they did? Then all men would be blessed indeed, and

have a title to true happiness. No, say they, "then the Romans shall come

and take away both our place and nation." But were not the Romans come

already? Were they not at this time tributaries to Caesar? But they were

afraid of the church as well as the state: "They will come and take away

our place," our place of worship: and consequently, they look upon Jesus

Christ and his proceedings, and adherents, as dangerous both to church and


This hath been always the method of Pharisees and high-priests, when

they have been taking counsel against the Lord Jesus, and his dear anointed

ones. But they need not have been afraid on this account: for our Savior's

kingdom neither was, nor is of this world; and the only way to have

preserved their place and nation, was to have countenanced, and as much as

in them lay, caused all to believe on Jesus. How miserably were they out in

their politics! The death of Jesus, which they thought would save, was the

grand cause of the utter destruction both of their place and nation: And so

will all politics formed against Christ and his gospel end at last in the

destruction of those who contrived them.

O the desperate wickedness and treachery of man's deceitful heart!

Where are the scribes, where are the infidels, where are the letter-learned

disputers of this world, who are daily calling for a repetition of

miracles, in order to confirm and evidence the truth of the Christian

religion? Surely if they believe not Moses and the prophets, neither would

they believe, though one rose from the dead. Here was one raised from the

dead before many witnesses, and yet all those witnesses did by no means

believe on Jesus. For divine faith is not wrought in the heart by moral

persuasion (though moral suasion is very often made use of as a means to

convey it); faith is the peculiar gift of God: no one can come to Jesus

unless the Father draw him: and, therefore, that I may draw near the close

of this discourse, let me shut up all with a word of exhortation.

Come, ye dead, Christless, unconverted sinners, come and see the place

where they laid the body of the deceased Lazarus; behold him laid out,

bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, locked up and stinking in a dark

cave, with a great stone placed on the top of it! View him again and again;

go nearer to him; be not afraid; smell him, ah! How he stinketh. Stop there

now, pause a while; and whilst thou art gazing upon the corpse of Lazarus,

give me leave to tell thee with great plainness, but greater love, that

this dead, bound, entombed, stinking carcass, is but a faint representation

of thy poor soul in its natural state: for, whether thou believest it or

not, thy spirit which thou bearest about with thee, sepulchered in flesh

and blood, is as literally dead to God, and as truly dead in trespasses and

sins, as the body of Lazarus was in the cave. Was he bound hand and foot

with grave-clothes? So art thou bound hand and foot with thy corruptions:

and as a stone was laid on the sepulcher, so is there a stone of unbelief

upon thy stupid heart. Perhaps thou hast lain in this state,, not only four

days, but many years, stinking in God's nostrils. And; what is still more

affecting, thou art as unable to raise thyself out of this loathsome, dead

state, to a life of righteousness and true holiness, as ever Lazarus was to

raise himself from the cave in which he lay so long. Thou mayest try the

power of thy own boasted free-will, and the force and energy of moral

persuasion and rational arguments (which, without all doubt, have their

proper place in religion); but all thy efforts, exerted with never so much

vigor, will prove quite fruitless and abortive, till that same Jesus, who

said, "Take away the stone," and cried, "Lazarus, come forth," comes by his

mighty power, removes the stone of unbelief, speaks life to thy dead soul,

looses thee from the fetters of they sins and corruptions, and by the

influences of his blessed Spirit, enables thee to arise, and to walk in the

way of his holy commandments. And O that he would now rend the heavens, and

come down amongst you! O that there may be a stirring among the dry bones

this day! O that whilst I am speaking, and saying, "Dead sinners, come

forth," a power, an almighty power might accompany the word, and cause you

to emerge into new life!

If the Lord should vouchsafe me such a mercy, and but one single soul

in this great congregation, should arise and shake himself from the dust of

his natural state; according to the present frame of my heart, I should not

care if preaching this sermon here in the fields, was an occasion of

hastening my death, as raising Lazarus hastened the death of my blessed

Master. For methinks death, in some respects, is more tolerable, than to

see poor sinners day by day lying sepulchered, dead and stinking in sin. O

that you saw how loathsome you are in the sight of God, whilst you continue

in your natural state! I believe you would not so contentedly hug your

chains, and refuse to be set at liberty.

Methinks I see some of you affected at this part of my discourse. What

say you? Are there not some ready to complain, alas! we have some relations

present, who are so notoriously wicked, that they not only hug their

chains, but make a mock of sin, and stink not only in the sight of God, but

man. Dear souls! You are ready to urge this, as a reason why Jesus will not

raise them; and think it hard, perhaps, that Jesus does not come, in answer

to your repeated groans and prayers, to convert and save them. But what

Jesus said unto Martha, I say unto you, "Believe, and you shall see the

glory of God." Think it not a thing incredible, that God should raise their

dead souls. Think not hard of Jesus for delaying an answer to your prayers:

assure yourselves he heareth you always. And who knows, but this day Jesus

may visit some of your dear relations hearts, upon whose account you have

traveled [travailed] in birth till Christ be formed in them? You have

already sympathized with Martha and Mary, in their doubts and fears; who

knows but you may also be partakers of that joy which their souls

experienced, when they received their risen brother into their longing


O Christless souls, you do not know what grief your continuance in sin

occasions to your godly relations! You do not know how you grieve the heart

of Jesus. I beseech you give him no fresh cause to weep over you upon

account of your unbelief: let him not again groan in his spirit and be

troubled. Behold how he has loved you, even so as to lay down his life for

you. What could he do more? I pray you, therefore, dead sinners, come

forth; arise and sup with Jesus. This was an honor conferred on Lazarus,

and the same honor awaits you. Not that you shall sit down with him

personally in this life, as Lazarus did, but you shall sit down with him at

the table of his ordinances, especially at the table of the Lord's supper,

and ere long sit down with him in the kingdom of heaven.

Happy, thrice happy ye, who are already raised from spiritual death,

and have an earnest of an infinitely better and more glorious resurrection

in your hearts. You know a little, how delightful it must have been to

Martha and Mary and Lazarus, to sit down with the blessed Jesus here below;

but how infinitely more delightful will it be, to sit down, not only with

Mary and Martha, but with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and all your other

dear brethren and sisters, in the kingdom of heaven. Do you not long for

that time, when Jesus shall say unto you, "Come up hither?" Well! Blessed

be God, yet a little while, and that same Jesus, who cried with a loud

voice, "Lazarus, come forth;" shall with the same voice, and with the same

power, speak unto all that are in their graves, and they shall come forth.

That all who hear me this day may be then enabled to lift up their heads

and rejoice, that the day of their complete redemption is indeed fully

come, may Jesus Christ grant, for his infinite mercy's sake. Amen, and