Who Can Raise Lazarus From the Dead?
February 14th, 1988 @ 8:15 AM
WHO CAN RAISE LAZARUS FROM THE DEAD?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-14-88 8:15 a.m.
And once gain welcome to the throngs of you who share this hour on radio. This is the pastor bringing the message. In our preaching through the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of John, we are in the eleventh chapter. And the title of the message is Who Can Raise Lazarus From the Dead?
Our background text, taken out of the heart of the eleventh chapter, is first, verse 14, “Then said Jesus unto them, plainly, Lazarus is dead” [John 11:14]. Verse 15, “And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there” [John 11:15]. Evidently we do not die in the presence of our Lord. Had He been there, he would not have died. “I am glad for your sakes I was not there, to the intent ye may believe” [John 11:15]. Now verse 21:
Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But I know, that even now, whatsoever Thou wilt ask of God, God will give it Thee.
Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha saith unto Him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection of the last day.
Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:
And whosoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never, ever die.
Who can raise Lazarus from the dead? We invite first the most boastful and self-appointed omniscient and omnipotent creature that lives in the world today, the pseudoscientist. We invite him into the tomb to raise Lazarus from the dead. He is self-confident, most willing to accept the challenge. So he comes with his sacred cow and with his golden calf, before which the throngs and multitudes of the world do worship. And he appears with his anatomical charts and his chemical formulae and his physical grafts and equations.
He enters the tomb and he looks and checks on all of the parts of the dead man: his cranium, his clavicles, his coronary conduits, his vertebrae, his ribs, his sternum, his viscera, his organs, his nervous system, his femurs, his tibia, his fibula, his tarsals and metatarsals. All of him is there. Then with grandiloquent rodomontade, in the name of omniscient and omnipotent textbooks, “We bid you, rise!” Doth he rise? What could have happened? And we press him with vital questions; “You say you have all the answers? You don’t know anything that I really, vitally, importantly want to know. What has happened here? What is death? What is the soul? What is the spirit? What happens if there’s a separation between the two? Where do I come from and where do I go to?” Nothing but a vast ignorant negation, “I don’t know.” And his golden calf falls in dust and in ashes before my very eyes.
Who can raise Lazarus from the dead? Enter two cousins of false philosophy, again redundant with self-assurance. They have found the answers. The first is the modern existentialist. “There is no truth but that is truth for you. There is no experience but that is experience for you. There is no such thing as propositional truth, stated truth, revealed truth, universal truth. Truth is nothing but what is truth for you. It is your opinion that he’s dead. My opinion is that he’s alive.” Does he live? No!
Then his first cousin, the sophomoric spiritual sophist, comes. He says, “All sickness and all death is just in your mind. You just think it. And if you don’t think it, it won’t be.” My first pastorate out of the seminary was in a college town, a very large college there. In the college was a professor who belonged to those sophists, spiritual sophists—that sickness and disease and death are just in your mind. Her mother was very large, very heavy, and she fell down the steps into the basement and hurt herself dreadfully. I went to see her. She was broken and bruised all over. I said, “Has a doctor been to see you?”
“No, my daughter will not allow such doctor—doesn’t believe in a doctor, doesn’t believe in a physician. When I fell, she said to me, ‘Mother, you are not hurt. You’re not hurt, you’re not hurt. That’s just in your mind.’” Dear me! O Lord!
A little girl came up and said, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, you know that woman that is so sick down the street?” And she said, “That’s just in your mind.” She said, “She just thinks she’s sick.” And the little girl said, “Well, Mommy, now she thinks she’s dead.”
Who can raise Lazarus from the dead? Up here’s the evolving evolutionist: all of us coming upward. Sin and death are nothing but the drag of our bestial ancestors. We’re coming up; we’re rising up, and one day we’ll be angels, yea, archangels.” I say to him, “You mean to tell me that out of nothing, something came? Nothing created something? And that little something fell into the ocean. And that little thing that fell into the ocean became an amoeba, then a paramecium, then a coral, then a tadpole, then a fish, then a fowl, then a marsupial, then an anthropoid, and finally Homo sapiens, and soon to be an angel?” “Yes,” he says. “Yes, that’s the truth; observable, demonstrable truth. And this man who is dead, he’s going to evolve into life, just give him ten million years and he’ll be an angel.” What an empty, stupid, unthinkable hypothesis!
We invite to come into the tomb four tremendously gifted and learned theologians, like the three Job’s comforters and the fourth: Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and finally Elihu. And the first comes; Zophar enters the tomb, raising Lazarus from the dead. He is eminent for his magnificent discourses on social responsibility. Redemption, salvation, to him is always collective. It’s political; it’s social; it is community orientated. And he enters into the tomb and says, “See, I have this bowl of salt of quickening conscience and social duty and responsibility. I will rub him with this salt of social conscience and I will awaken him to his social duties and responsibilities. I will raise him from the dead.” He rubs him. We say, “Doth he live? My brother, has he risen?” No, he hasn’t risen.
Then Bildad, the second, says, “Come thee out of the tomb and I will enter. I will raise him from the dead.” And Bildad is the professional, paid religionist. He enters with his flowing robes and his embroidered surplices. He enters with his incantations, with his perfume, and with his incense, and with all the beautiful things of ritual and litany. Doth he raise him from the dead? He comes out in exasperation and failure.
And the third, Zophar, enters the tomb. “I will raise him from the dead.” Zophar believes in auditory salvation; he brings with him a jive quartet. He has the shaking dances. He addresses to him a tenebrific incantation with timbrel and dance and tambourine, “Rise!” And he addresses him in words and syllables that he himself doesn’t understand, much less the dead. And the dead is still dead.
Who can raise Lazarus from the dead? Finally Elihu, the fourth, comes. He is as cold as a cadaver himself. He approaches religion philosophically and critically. And he speaks in words and languages and nomenclature that nobody can understand. And he addresses the dead. And we say, “What did you say, and what was it that you meant?” And the dead is still dead.
Finally, eventually, a humble follower of the blessed Lord Jesus says, “I will go get the Master. I’ll go get Jesus and we’ll bring Him to the tomb.” And Jesus comes, He who made the universe, who spoke the worlds into existence [John 1:3, 10; Colossians 1:16], who is the Lord of life [John 10:10], and the Conqueror of death [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], Jesus comes and stands before Lazarus who is dead [John 11:34-39], and our Lord speaks and instantly that dead cadaverous corpse is instantaneously instate with life. Jesus lifts up His voice and says, “Lazarus, come forth” [John 11:43-44].
Somebody reminded me last Sunday of the oldest story that I have ever heard, but it’s still pertinent. Why did the Lord say, “Lazarus, come forth?” And the answer, had He not said “Lazarus,” the whole cemetery would have arisen to greet Him and to meet Him.
This is a parable. It is a type. It is a portent. It is a harbinger. It is a promise. It is a hope. It is something dramatically dramatized before us in order that we might have a preview of the consummation of the age. Lazarus lived to die again, went back into the dust. But the wonderful story of the ableness and power of Jesus are ever before us.
Number one: Jesus is able to open for us the doors of heaven, to introduce us into the life that is yet to come. “Flesh and blood,” say the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 15:50, “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” As long as I’m in this flesh, I cannot see God, and live [Exodus 33:20]. As long as I’m in this body made of the dust of the ground [Genesis 2:7, 18:27; Ecclesiastes 3:20], I cannot walk those golden streets [Revelation 21:21], inherit that beautiful mansion [John 14:2-3], or enter those pearly gates [Revelation 21:21].
Someone must change me. Someone must remake me, re-create me. Who is able to do that?
My brethren, I show you a mystery; We may not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we, we shall all be changed
[1 Corinthians 15:51-52]
He is able to change us. He is able to raise us from the dead. He is able to open for us the gates and the doors of heaven [Psalm 24:9]. Jesus is the answer.
O God! Those beautiful “no-mores” in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, “And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for these things,” these old former things, “are all passed away” [Revelation 21:4]. And the blind say, “I can see.” And the halt and the cripple say, “I can walk.” And the lonely say, “I am in the family of God.” Oh, the ableness and the power of Jesus our Lord!
Number two: He is able to quicken these bodies that fall into the grasp and the horror of death, of corruption and disintegration. At the consummation of the age, Jesus will speak life everlasting to our fallen and sleeping bodies, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18:
My brethren, I would not have you to sorrow as those who have no hope.
For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also who believe in Jesus will God raise from the dead. . .
For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, with the trump of God: and these that sleep in Jesus will rise first.
[1 Thessalonians 4:13-16]
They will be the first to see Him.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up [together] with them to meet our Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
[1 Thessalonians 4:17-18]
Our tears, and our sorrows, and our age, and our sickness, and our separation is but for the moment. When He comes with a shout, with a voice of victory, He will raise us from the dead, and we shall all be changed.
Number three: Jesus is able to resurrect us now to a new life, a spiritual life, a heavenly life, a glorious triumphant life in Him. “He that believeth in Me shall never, ever die” [John 11:26]. This is a spiritual life; one that never ends. Paul wrote it like this in Ephesians 2:1, “We are dead in trespasses and in sins.” Then Jesus comes. And in His presence, there is new life, new hope, a new vision, a wonderful vista of His presence with us in our pilgrim journey, our friend and Savior, walking by our life through every experience of this pilgrim way [Matthew 28:20], and walking with us into that dark chamber of death, and beyond with us into the heaven He has prepared for those who love Him [John 14:3].
That’s our Lord and our Savior. Who can raise Lazarus from the dead? Jesus, our Lord [John 11:43-44]. Who shall raise us from the dead? Jesus, our Lord [1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]. Who is our Savior now and forever? Jesus, our Lord [John 3:16, 10:27-30]. And He is mine for the having. He is ours for the asking [Romans 10:9-13]. And that is our appeal this precious and holy and soul-saving moment. To give your heart to the Lord Jesus, to open your house and home and life to the blessed Lord Jesus, to ask Him to be your Friend and fellow pilgrim, come. Come. Come.
In this moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, down one of those stairways from the balcony, down one of these aisles in the throng on this lower floor, “Pastor, this is God’s day for me. I have decided for Christ, and I stand here with you and these people who have found in Him a resting place, a hope, a salvation [Ephesians 2:8]. Number me in the family of God, and I’m coming.” Make it now. Place your whole family in the circle of our dear church. Answer a call of the Spirit in your heart; when we sing this song, come. A thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.