Resurrection Hope

Pastor Phil Andrukaitis, April 9, 2023

General Theme from John’s Gospel: That You May Believe in Jesus and Have Eternal Life

Sermon Title: Resurrection Hope

Sermon Text: John 11:1-44

Dominating Idea: The glory of Jesus shines brightest from an empty grave.


In his book, The Jesus Creed, Scot McKnight expressed his appreciation for the color, yellow.[1] While not one of his favorite colors, McKnight came to value the color of yellow through the famous Dutch painter, Vincent van Gogh. 

Sadly, this famous artist, the son of a Dutch reform pastor and who at an early age hoped to be a pastor like his father, had been born with a brain lesion and suffered from various types of epilepsy, psychotic attacks and delusions. 

Lacking self-confidence, van Gogh struggled with the truth that had been imparted to him in his Christian home and sank into depression and destruction.  Only by the grace of God did van Gogh’s life turn around as he embraced the truth of God’s Word and hope returned. 

And he gave his new-found hope a color – the color of yellow.  While it is possible that the prescribed medication van Gogh took might have caused him to see yellow, he found hope by returning to his spiritual foundations in Christ.

However, McKnight believes that the best-kept secret of van Gogh’s life is that this artist was gradually increasing the color of yellow in his paintings.  Why?  It is believed that for van Gogh, yellow evoked the hope and warmth of God’s love and truth. 

In one of his depressive periods while staying in an asylum (late 1888), van Gogh produced the famous painting, The Starry Night.

The observer can see a yellow sun and yellow swirling stars, because van Gogh thought truth was present in nature. 

 Tragically though, the church which is the pillar and buttress of truth (1st Timothy 3:15), stands tall in the center of van Gogh’s painting; yet, the church shows no traces of yellow.  Why?

About a year before his death, van Gogh painted The Raising of Lazarus

It appears that van Gogh’s life was on the mend as he began to face the truth about himself. 

Expressing his heart through his art, The Raising of Lazarus is a painting that is (blindingly) bathed in yellow. 

 In fact, van Gogh even painted his own face on Lazarus to express his own, personal hope in the Resurrection.

McKnight concludes: Yellow tells the whole story:  Life can begin all over again because of the truth of God’s love.  Each of us, whether with actual yellows or metaphorical yellows, can begin to paint our lives with fresh hope of a new beginning.

Transitional Sentences

Since Lazarus of John 11 illustrates Christ as the resurrection and the life, let us direct our attention to John chapter 11. 

While the raising of Lazarus from the dead is not the Lord’s last miracle, it is the Lord’s greatest miracle of the seven signs recorded in John’s Gospel.  Why?   The raising of Lazarus demonstrates Jesus’ power over the “last and most irresistible enemy of humanity – death.” [2]

By why is the raising of dead Lazarus so important for us to know and understand?  Warren Wiersbe stated, if Jesus Christ can do nothing about death, then whatever else He can do amounts to nothing…(1st Corinthians 15:19).  Death is man’s last enemy (1st Corinthians 15:26), but Jesus Christ has defeated this horrible enemy totally and permanently.[3]

If you are presently amid an overwhelming, personal crisis, if your grief and suffering seem stronger than your faith in the Lord, take heart.  The Lord is here.  His Word is clear.  Trust Him and believe in Him because He is our resurrection hope.

I have outlined account – the raising of Lazarus (John 11:1-44) into three sections: 

I.         The plan of God involves times of grief and suffering (1-16).

II.        The pathos of God identifies with our grief and suffering (17-37).

III.      The power of God triumphs over all our griefs and sufferings (38-44).

Therefore, let us look more closely at each section so that our faith may be strengthened and that we may remind ourselves of God’s love and power when each of us come face to face with our greatest and most irresistible enemy – death.

The dominant theme in this passage is,
The glory of Jesus shines brightest from an empty grave.


I.         The plan of God involves times of grief and suffering (1-16).

As John opens the story, he introduces the reader to Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, who lived in Bethany, which is approximately two miles from Jerusalem.  Apparently, Jesus was a close friend and a frequent guest, along with His disciples in this Bethany home (John 11:11; Mark 11:11).  Little did these siblings know that they were about to take part in an event, as planned by God in eternity past (Ephesians 2:10) that would glorify the Son of God.    

Even before the creation of the world, the Triune God had designed the plan to save sinners.  Thus, when God spoke creation into existence, the stage was set for salvation’s drama to unfold and when the time was right.  And Mary, Martha, and Lazarus would play their part according to the divine design. 

God’s plan often involves times of grief and suffering.  This observation is confirmed throughout the NT, especially in James and 1st Peter.  God’s purposes for us to experience times of testing vary; however, in this gospel account, divine delays and human suffering in this family were designed to reveal the glory of Jesus Christ. 

Apparently, Lazarus’ health condition was life-threatening.  The alarmed sisters, knowing that they were putting Jesus at risk, sent a message to Jesus to come and heal their brother:  “Lord, he whom You love is ill” (John 11:3).  The implication is clear:  If you love Lazarus, You will come and heal him, no matter the danger You might encounter from the religious authorities who want to kill you. 

Scripture tells us that Jesus never did anything apart from the Father’s will.  Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to finish His work” (John 4:34)

By the time news of Lazarus’ sickness reached Jesus, Lazarus was already dead.  Yet, Jesus waited two more days before going to Lazarus, adding human suffering and sorrow to His friends, Mary and Martha.  But why?  Jesus needed to demonstrate His power over death by raising to life a man who was dead for four days.  Only then would His disciples begin to understand the Who He is. 

Still unable to grasp the purpose of Jesus’ delayed response, Jesus had to spell it out for His disciples – Lazarus is dead. 

Yet, as the religious leaders galvanized themselves in opposition against Jesus, hostilities against Jesus were intensifying, even to the point where they were seeking to stone Jesus (John 11:8).  Jesus was not worried about those who sought to kill Him; rather, He was focused on doing the will of His Father by raising Lazarus from the dead.  That is why He said to His disciples, “let us go to him.” 

However, the disciples still did not understand what was about to happen.  That is why Thomas replied, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” 

While the plan of God involves times of grief and suffering,
we can know that…
The glory of Jesus shines brightest from an empty grave.

II.        The pathos of God identifies with our grief and suffering (17-37).

Solomon said that no man has power over death (Ecclesiastes 8:8).  For those who do not know Christ, death brings an abrupt end to all their dreams and hope.  No wonder unbelievers sorrow so painfully – they have no hope. 

On a recent Facebook page entitled, “The Rephidim Project,” David Christensen posted this statement:

Death is like birth.  There is pain.  We struggle.  Fear overwhelms us.  Humans, cannot understand the resurrection life any better than a fetus in the womb can understand life in this world.  We enter this world kicking and screaming as we leave the comfort of the womb.  We enter death gasping and grasping as we leave the comfort of this life.  People seek answers to death everywhere but Christ.[4]

Hope that is apart from the Son of God expresses itself by saying, I hope so.  Hope that is founded on the Son of God declares itself by saying, I know so! 

When Jesus and the disciples arrived at the “cemetery,” Lazarus had already been dead for four days and was now sealed in a cave.  Jesus’ arrival not only coincided with the family’s three full days of intense mourning; Jesus has allowed death to assume its full authority by allowing the body’s decomposition to take its course.

John informs the reader that beside family and friends, the Jews were also present.  According to rabbinical teachings, it was a solemn duty to comfort others in times of grief.

Martha was the first of the grieving family to see Jesus.  Her heart is broken.  With tears streaming down her face and a voice that probably quivered between phrases, she expressed her heart filled with sorrow and disappointment to Jesus:  “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21)

When Jesus saw Mary weeping, along with the Jews who also came weeping with her, Jesus groaned because His spirit was troubled.  As He stood before the tomb of Lazarus, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

Jesus truly sympathizes with the sufferings of others because God our Heavenly Father truly cares for you and me.  When Jesus wept at the gravesite of His friend, I also imagine God the Father was also weeping for us and His Son.  I am reminded of the hymn, Does Jesus Care.

Others however, who stood by the tomb were puzzled saying, “Could not this Man, Who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37). 

The obvious answer is “Yes,” but, God had a greater and more marvelous purpose even though it involved much suffering and death. 

Someone has rightly stated, tears are words from the heart that can’t be spoken.

While the pathos of God identifies with our grief and suffering,
there is a brighter future because…

The glory of Jesus shines brightest from an empty grave.

III.      The power of God triumphs over all our griefs and sufferings, including death (38-44).

Filled with emotion, Jesus orders the stone to be moved away from the opening to the cave.  Even though Martha protested, Jesus reminded her that she would see the glory of God – NOW!  

Having addressed Martha’s doubts and her hesitancy to believe Jesus, she consents.  Jesus lifted His eyes to heaven and prayed.  When He finished His prayer, He called forth Lazarus from the dead.  Immediately, he who was bound hand and foot and with his face still wrapped with a cloth, came out [most likely hopping].  And Jesus said, “Loose him, and let him go.”

While the power of God triumphs over all our griefs and sufferings, including death,
The glory of Jesus shines brightest from an empty grave.


Three principles regarding the plan of God:

1st  God designs heart-breaking experiences for our lives to glorify Himself.  The first question in the Westminster Catechism is, “What is the chief end of man?”  ANS:  “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever” (Romans 11:36; 1st Corinthians 10:31; Psalm 73:24-28; John 17:21-23). 

Does this seem strange to you that Jesus’ decision to have Lazarus die would bring the worse type of heartache to family and friends?  Do you think that God is cruel to allow sorrow and grief to impact our lives? 

Cast all such notions from your minds.  Know this: God’s glory will always take precedence over human comfort.  While “weeping may endure for a night, joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b).  Therefore, when we do not always understand God’s actions, we are to always trust Him.

2nd  Sometimes, the dangers and opposition from the world stifle our faith and dull our spiritual insight regarding God’s plan.  Jesus knew His enemies were waiting for Him; however, Jesus also knew and understood God’s plan and direction every hour of every day. 

As for His disciples, Jesus was patient with them as their faith slowly, ever so slowly matured in them.  Just consider Thomas’ comment. 

3rd  Delays are God’s deliberate stop signs built into the process of our spiritual growth.  What does Jesus’ response to Lazarus’ condition teach us about “divine delays”?  Bruce Milne has observed three truths:[5]

         1.  Divine delays are inevitable for our lives. 

  • God is working His plan, not our plan. 
  • God is omniscient and omnipotent, working out all the details.
  • God seeks to glorify Himself while man seeks the highest good and comfort for himself.

         2.  Divine delays do not contradict God’s love.

God’s love for Lazarus and his sisters did not diminish in anyway.  Though it seems that God does not answer our prayers according to our broken hearts, His love for us remains unchanged.  Therefore, hold onto that truth – never let it leave your mind even though your feelings say otherwise.

         3.  Divine delays are not final.

God comes in His time and in His way.  The Creator of time is never late or early but always on time.

Three observations regarding the pathos of God:

1st  God does not distance Himself from our sufferings and sorrows.  Just as Jesus heard Martha’s cry, God hears our cries, too, especially when death takes away those people we love.  Just as Mary acknowledged Jesus’ promise, our cries also reveal a mingling of faith and sorrow.

2nd  God calls us to believe in Him, even amid sufferings and sorrows.  Even though Martha believed that her brother would rise in the resurrection at the last day (John 11:25), Jesus was moving Martha’s faith from a doctrine to a Person when He said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  In other words, Jesus was calling Martha to believe that Jesus alone is the source of resurrection power and eternal life.[6]  

If the time should ever come when sorrow and grief have seized your heart and the tears will not cease, know that Jesus is near.  Since most people are open to God during times of transitions, trouble, and tribulations, look and listen for God and put your trust in Him.

3rd  God is compassionate because He identifies with our sufferings and sorrows.  Jesus was moved to tears because of the death of His friend, the grief of others, and the effects of sin in this world. 


1.         Like Jesus, do not digress from God’s Word or God’s will.  To digress from His Word and  will is to walk in darkness.  If you claim to have fellowship with God without His Word and walk according to your will, you are not walking in the light.

2.         Like the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, we too may fail in crucial moments. Therefore, to avoid failure when amid a fiery crucible, embrace the attitude as voiced by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:  When Jesus calls a man to follow Him, He bids him come and die.

3.         When you are sorrowing, listen for voice of Jesus. He will call out to you. Go to Him and pour out your heart to Him in prayer because He is acquainted with your grief.

4.         When you sorrow with others, enter their grief with silence and reflection upon God’s Word.  Listen to the sorrow before speaking about comfort.

5.         And when you sense God’s presence, thank Him and praise Him because you know that…

The glory of Jesus shines brightest from an empty grave.


Many of you may remember the great Paul Harvey.  His radio broadcasts were heard for well over fifty years throughout America.  Harvey’s unforgettable stories revealed the untold story behind some of history’s strangest events, in a radio series entitled, The Rest of the Story.

When I read this passage, I am looking for the rest of the story.  If I were writing about this account, I might have described the reactions of mourners; the tearful reunion of Lazarus with his sisters and friends; and questions people might have asked Lazarus – What was it like on the other side?

Instead, we are left with an anti-climactic ending; some believed, and others did not believe.  However, John wanted his readers to get the point that Jesus is truly the resurrection and the life.  Jesus is The Creator of life Who transcends His creation.  Jesus is not bound by His creation but suspends its laws, according to His purpose.

Thus, Jesus’ ultimate purpose raising Lazarus, who had been dead four days, was to demonstrate His divine authority over life and death.  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life!” 

  • Jesus holds all authority over life and death and us.
  • Jesus came to this world to restore His kingdom.
  • Jesus came to seek the unrighteous sinners and to call them to repentance.
  • Jesus came to redeem sinners by sacrificing Himself of the cross for their sins.
  • Jesus exchanged His righteousness for our unrighteousness on the cross.
  • Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s law by shedding His blood on the cross.  And when His redemptive work was done on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished!”
  • Jesus raised Himself from His grave three days later and came walking out of His tomb as the Risen, Living, Victorious Savior.  How does every Resurrection Sunday encourage us?  (Source:  Rev. Keith Hillard, March 31, 1991)

– Our faith has not been misplaced.
– Our Lord has not forsaken us.
– Our life does not end with the grave.
– Our tomorrow will be better than today.

  • Jesus has ascended to heaven and presently sits at the right-hand of God the Father.
  • And whosoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

Therefore, will each of you admit to God that you are a sick, wretched sinner that does not deserve to be saved?  Will you call upon the Lord to be saved?  Look away from yourself.  Look away from any of your “good deeds.”  Look away from religion.  Rather, look unto Jesus alone!

Since each of us are appointed to die [except those appointed to be raptured] and then comes judgment (Hebrews 9:27), do you possess the hope of the resurrection?  Everyone will be raised to life!  Question is, where will you spend eternity; with God in the New heavenly Jerusalem or with the countless number of unbelievers in the Lake of Fire? 

[1] Scot McKnight, “The Jesus Creed,” (Brewster:  Paraclete Press, 2004), pp. 65-66.

[2] Merrill C. Tenney, “The Gospel of John,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 9, (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 114.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Volume 1, (Wheaton:  Victor Books, 1989), p. 334.

[4] David Christensen, “WHO’S FIRST?  AN EASTER REFLECTION,” [doc online]; from, accessed 2019 April 17.

[5] Bruce Milne, The Message of John, (Downers Grove:  Inter-Varsity Press, 1993), p. 160.

[6] John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament  Commentary, John 1-11,  (Chicago:  Moody Press, 2006), 464.

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