Lazarus, Come Forth! | John 11:38-44
Brian Hedges | February 9, 2020
Turn in your Bibles this morning to John 11. At Redeemer Church, we preach and teach through books of the Bible, and every year we’re taking at least sections of different books. Sometimes we’ll take a whole book if it’s a short book, maybe one of Paul’s letters, and then sometimes we’ll take a section, a few chapters of a book, a longer book like the Gospel, and we’re working through those books.
We do that for a couple of reasons. One reason is because we believe that God speaks to us through his word and that the whole church, every Christian, needs a balanced diet of God’s word. We need everything that God says. We need the whole counsel of God. We need gospel and epistle, we need Old Testament and New Testament. So every year we’re trying to get a balanced diet, and we’re always trying to get into the gospels at least once a year.
We just recently started a series in the gospel of John, really picking up an earlier series. We’ve been through John 1-10, and we’re now looking at chapters 11-12, which are the hinge in the Gospel of John, the turning point in this book.
The Gospel of John, I think, is one of the most unique books in Scripture, it’s one of the most beloved books in Scripture. Maybe someone’s given you the “desert island” test: you know, if you’re stranded on a desert island, what books would you have with you? If you were to ask what biblical books you would have, the Gospel of John would be one of the high contenders, because it’s utterly unique, it gives us information about Jesus that you find nowhere else in Scripture.
It’s so important that we dig into the Gospels, the actual gospel narratives, because they answer for us a question that the world is still asking. That question is, “Who is Jesus Christ and what did he come to do?” There are lots of answers that people try to give. Every few years there’s a new documentary about Jesus or there’s a new Newsweek article about Jesus. There are new books about Jesus. But if we really want to know who Jesus is, we have to go all the way back to the very first sources, those gospel records. The Gospel of John, written by one of Jesus’s own disciples; John, who became one of the apostles, is one of those records.
So this morning we’re going to be in John 11, and we’re continuing with a story that we really began last week. Last week we looked at this narrative where Jesus raises a man named Lazarus from the dead.
Most of what we did last week was just kind of cover the story itself, the problem and the tension in the story and then the resolution in the story, and especially as Jesus interacts with Lazarus’s sisters, Martha and Mary. Today I want to dig into the miracle itself and take a more in-depth look at this miracle, the resurrection of Lazarus. I want to begin by just reading John 11:38-44. This is about the fifth paragraph in this story. John 11:38-44.
“Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’ The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him and let him go.’”
This is God’s word.
This is a miracle, and here’s what I want to do as we try to unfold what this passage is about. I want you to see, first of all, that the resurrection of Lazarus was a sign. Then I want us to see what the sign means, the meaning of the sign; and then, thirdly, the cost of the sign. I want you to see that it was a sign, what the sign means, the cost of the sign.
I. The Resurrection of Lazarus Was a Sign
There are several things to say about this event itself.
(1) The first thing is just this, that it was a genuine, historical miracle. There are liberal scholars who would say this is mythology, that it didn’t really happen. We don’t believe that. We believe that this really happened, we believe that this was a literal miracle, it was a physical miracle, that here was a man who actually was dead, he had been dead for four days; Jesus spoke, and he actually came out of the tomb. It was a literal miracle.
This is one of just three resurrections that take place in the ministry of Jesus. Even in the ministry of Jesus, this was relatively rare. He only did this three times, at least that are recorded for us in Scripture. The other two were the widow of Nain’s son, recorded in Luke 7, and then the daughter of a man named Jairus; that’s recorded for us in three of the gospels: Mark 5, Matthew 9, and Luke 8.
Here’s the third one, the third resurrection. This is the last one that took place during Jesus’ earthly ministry. It was the only miracle that I know of that took place in Bethany, this particular little village kind of on the outskirts, about a mile and three quarters from Jerusalem.
It’s the only one of these miracles where the subject (that is, Lazarus) is actually named. In fact, in the Gospel of John it’s the only miracle where the subject is named. So this was a very personal thing. This was a friend of Jesus, it was a personal miracle, and it’s obviously historically verifiable, because the names are given. In fact, I think it was 150 years ago or so an ossuary or a tombstone or something like that was found around the location of Bethany with the names of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Now, we have no way to know whether it was actually the Lazarus, Mary, and Martha that are recorded in Scripture, but it at least shows us these were common names, and it very well may have been the tombs of these three people.
So this was a genuine, historical miracle. Never forget that the gospels are recording for us history.
(2) Secondly, we need to see that it was a sign. In the Gospel of John, John calls the miracles of Jesus signs, and he records seven of them.
Those seven signs were, first of all, the turning of water into wine in John 2. It was a miracle of new creation. Then there was the healing of the nobleman’s son (John 4). There was the healing of a paralyzed man in John 5. In John 6 you have two of these signs: you have the feeding of the thousands, as Jesus, with just a few loaves of bread and a few fishes, feeds thousands of people; then, somewhat privately, to his disciples, there’s a sign as Jesus walks on water. Then in John 9 you have the healing of a man born blind (that’s the sixth sign), and then here in John 11 you have the seventh sign, the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead.
Now, the significance of these signs is this, that they were pointers to deeper spiritual reality. The signs were pointers. Just as today, if you’re driving down the road and you see a sign, what’s the sign doing? It’s giving you a direction. It’s pointing you somewhere. The sign is there to show you something. That’s the significance of a sign. In fact, you can even see the word “sign” in the word “significance,” right? There’s significance in these miracles.
Here’s the way New Testament scholar D.A. Carson puts it in his excellent commentary on the Gospel of John, my favorite commentary on John. Carson says, “Jesus’s miracles are never simply naked displays of power, still less neat conjuring tricks to impress the masses, but signs: significant displays of power that point beyond themselves to the deeper realities that could be perceived with the eyes of faith.”
Here’s one of the things you see in the Gospel of John as you read these signs, is that the signs usually will have some kind of accompanying dialogue, sometimes even a whole sermon from Jesus, that is explaining the significance of the sign. Let me just give you a couple of examples.
Jesus feeds thousands with loaves and fishes, right? It’s bread in the wilderness. Then following that, in John 6, you have this lengthy discourse where Jesus calls himself the Bread of Life. Here’s just one verse, John 6:51. He says, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if anyone eats of this bread he will live forever, and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”
What was the meaning of the miracle of the loaves? Well, it was a real miracle. Jesus really did multiply loaves through an act of sovereign power and feed thousands of hungry people. That’s there. That took place. But the significance of that miracle was that it pointed to Jesus, who is the true bread from heaven, the living bread from heaven. It pointed even to Jesus’ death. He says, “The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh,” and he’s looking ahead, of course, to his atoning work on the cross.
One more example: the healing of the man born blind in John 9. Here’s a man who’s born blind, his entire life he has spent in darkness, utter darkness. He hasn’t been able to see anything, and then Jesus heals him. What’s the significance of this sign? You have it both preceding the miracle and following the miracle.
In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the Light of the world; whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The phrase “I am the Light of the world” occurs again in John 9:5, just preceding this miracle. Then to the man himself in John 9:39 this is what Jesus says. He says, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”
The significance of the miracle is that it points to Jesus, it points to Jesus who gives light to the blind. It points to Jesus, who gives light to the spiritually blind, to those who are born in darkness, walking in darkness. When Jesus shines on them they have the light of life, and the begin to walk in a new way.
Every one of these miracles has a significance beyond itself, beyond the bare, naked display of power. Beyond even the historical event, which did take place, it has a significance. It points beyond itself.
II. The Meaning of the Sign
So, that raises this question, doesn’t it: What does this sign, the resurrection of Lazarus, mean? What does it mean? So that’s the second thing, the meaning of the sign. I want to give you three answers to that question. They all start with P; that’ll make it easy to remember. The meaning of the sign.
(1) First of all, it is a proof of Jesus’s glory and power. It’s showing us who Jesus is, his glory and his power, his power over death.
We saw last week, we read the beginning of the story in John 11, and we saw that Jesus gave the reason for Lazarus’s illness, which ultimately, he says, is not going to lead to death, he says it is “for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” That’s John 11:4. It was to show the glory of God.
Indeed, in verse 40, which we read a few minutes ago, Jesus says to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” Here’s the reason for it (this is one of the reasons): it’s to show the glory of God. It’s proof of Jesus’ glory. It’s proof that Jesus is the Son of God. It identifies him. It’s an authenticating miracle that shows us who Jesus really is.
And it displays his power over death. It displays the fact that Jesus has life, he has the power of life, he has the power over life and death. Again, as we saw last week in verses 25-26, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life,” one of the great I Am statements in the Gospel of John. “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live; and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
This would, furthermore, confirm the faith of his followers. Look at verses 41-42. “And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” This is the purpose for which John wrote his Gospel: that people would believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. It’s the purpose for which this sign is included. It’s why Jesus did the miracle—it’s one of the reasons Jesus did the miracle, so that people would believe.
So, the sign is a proof of Jesus’ glory and his power over death.
(2) Secondly, the sign is a pointer to the final resurrection, as well as, we might say, the resurrection of Jesus himself in John 20. But I want to go backwards to John 5 for just a minute, because in John 5 Jesus talks about the final resurrection; that is, resurrection at the end of time. Look at what Jesus says in John 5:25-29.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and is now here when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and he has given him authority to execute judgment because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who were in the tombs will hear his voice and come out: those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
Listen, as Christians we do not merely believe in the immortality of the soul. We do believe that, we believe the soul endures forever; but we also believe in the resurrection of the body. It’s not just that your soul will live forever, but after you die, when Jesus returns, even if it’s been 10,000 more years, your body is going to be raised up. That’s true not just for Christians; that’s true for all. A resurrection to life for those who had done good, the righteous, that is, those who are made righteous through faith in Christ, those whose lives are transformed into righteous lives through faith in Jesus Christ; those who have done good will be raised to life, and those who have done evil will be raised to judgment, judgment in soul and in body. The resurrection of the dead.
This miracle was pointing to that. In fact, one commentator says this is an echo of John 5; in fact, we read it, didn’t we? Verse 25, “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and is now here…” It’s now here! The future has broken into the present. The eschaton, the last times, have broken into human history in the person of Jesus Christ. The one who has the keys to death and hell has already tread on this planet! He’s already been here, and he came with the power of life and death in his very words. It is a pointer to the final resurrection.
(3) Thirdly, it’s a parable of spiritual resurrection. The resurrection of Lazarus is a parable of spiritual resurrection. We already read it this morning in our assurance of pardon, John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
That’s one of the many ways that the Bible describes salvation. Salvation is described in lots of different ways, lots of different metaphors and lots of different angles. One of them is resurrection, being raised with Christ—again, symbolized in baptism, as we witnessed this morning. Buried with him in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life: a spiritual resurrection.
Listen to how Paul describes this in Ephesians 2:4-6. He says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” He raises us out of spiritual death and he gives us life!
One more verse, 1 John 3:14. The apostle John says, “We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.”
Now, let’s unpack this for a minute. What I’m saying here is that the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, though it was a true, historical, physical miracle, it’s also a pointer to spiritual reality, it’s also a parable of what happens in every one of our lives when we come to faith in Jesus Christ. It’s a parable of what God must do to bring someone into salvation.
Let’s just think about this for a few minutes.
(a) Lazarus was dead. In fact, verse 39 calls him, “the dead man,” verse 44, “the man who died.” He was dead. That meant that there was no life in his body; it was a corpse in the tomb. In the same way, you and I, outside of Christ, are spiritually dead. We are lifeless. Ephesians 4 says we are alienated from the life of God. We are dead! Dead in our trespasses and our sins; without life, without hope, without God in the world, Paul says. That’s who you are without Christ. That’s who you were before you became a Christian. You were absolutely dead.
(b) A dead person is unresponsive to external and physical stimuli. So listen, after Lazarus died, if Martha and Mary were weeping over the body of Lazarus, it didn’t affect Lazarus at all. They were weeping; he didn’t hear their crying, he didn’t hear their sobbing, he didn’t see their tears. If they spoke to him, he didn’t hear what they were saying. If someone comes up to a corpse and pricks it with a needle, it feels nothing. It doesn’t flinch. There’s no life! It’s completely unresponsive.
In the same way, that’s a picture of us outside of Christ. Before the power of God gives us life in Jesus Christ, we are unresponsive on the spiritual level. In fact, Scripture speaks of this in all kinds of ways. It says that we are unable even to come to God of ourselves. Jesus says, “No man can come to me except the Father who has sent me draws him.” You can’t even come to Jesus unless you are drawn by the Father.
Jesus says you cannot see the kingdom of God, you cannot enter the kingdom of God, unless you are born again. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul says that the natural man (that is, the person without the Spirit, the non-Christian, the unbeliever) cannot discern the things of the Spirit of God, for he cannot understand them. They are spiritually discerned. He cannot receive them, he cannot welcome them, he cannot understand them. In other words, we are unresponsive to spiritual reality.
Don’t you know this, Christian? Don’t you know that there was a point in your life—even if you were raised in church, there was a point when you came to church every Sunday, you heard the Sunday school lesson, you heard the sermon, you sang the songs, but it didn’t really mean anything. You may have even sort of intellectually believed it, but it was never personal, it was never real! Then something happens. The Holy Spirit begins to work in your heart, he begins to convict you of sin, you begin to see, “This is describing me; it’s my sin; I’m the one that’s facing the judgment of God. I need a Savior! I need forgiveness of sins!”
All of a sudden it becomes alive to you, and those songs, you sung the words before and they never meant anything; now they mean everything, because you’re singing about your own personal experience. Before you were unresponsive to spiritual reality; now the word of God comes with power into your heart, into your life.
(c) Here’s another aspect of this (notice this), that Lazarus’s body was decaying. Corruption had set in. Verse 39: “Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’” I like the way the King James says it, “By this time he stinketh…” They didn’t have the embalming techniques that we have today, so they had to bury someone quickly. They would bury someone the same day, because the corruption would set into the decaying corpse and there would be a foul odor.
Isn’t that a picture of sin? Isn’t that a picture of what spiritual death does? It causes corruption, it causes decay, it leads to external indications of the sin.
Spurgeon preached a really amazing sermon (almost all of his sermons were). He preached a sermon—I don’t even remember the title of it, but he preached on the three different resurrections that Jesus performed in the Gospels. The first one, you know, was Jairus’s daughter, and she had just died. The decay hadn’t really set in, she had just died. The second one was the widow of Nain’s son, and he had been dead a little bit longer, and he was being carried on this funeral byre in public, so everybody could see that he was dead. Jairus’s daughter it was in private. Then there was Lazarus, who had been dead four days. Spurgeon said these are types of three different kinds of people who are spiritually dead. You have one person who maybe is young and maybe it’s very private, and the corruption’s not very public yet, people don’t really see it, it’s private; but it’s still there, it’s still dead. Then there are some people who have gone a little further in life and they’re spiritually dead, and it’s beginning to be seen. It’s not the foul odor yet, but it’s beginning to be seen. There are some people who are far gone in spiritual death, and it stinks. You see the odor.
Listen, if you’re not a Christian this morning, it may be that nobody sees the corruption that’s in your heart; but you know. Or it may be that you haven’t walked with God for years and years and years, and the corruption is there in a trail of broken relationships, in heartaches, in sins, in addictions, in who knows what. You know the corruption. The corruption is there because of spiritual death. Listen, we are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners, because we are dead in trespasses and sin.
Listen to how C.S. Lewis described this in his book Surprised by Joy, his spiritual autobiography. Lewis says that when he begins to understand spiritual reality, he says, “For the first time I examined myself with a seriously practical purpose, and there I found what appalled me: a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was Legion.”
(d) Notice this also in the text. Spurgeon points this out in another one of his sermons, that the disciples couldn’t have raised Lazarus. If Peter had stood there at the tomb and said, “Lazarus, come out,” nothing would have happened. If Mary and Martha had stood there and said, “Lazarus, come out,” nothing would have happened. It took what Spurgeon calls "the Voice of Life." It took Jesus!
Listen: in the same way, I can preach all day long and you can witness all day long, but I can’t bring anybody spiritual life. I can’t bring you to faith. I can’t bring you out of unbelief into life in Jesus Christ. It takes the voice of life, it takes Jesus. But when Jesus comes, it’s just an instant. He speaks, “Lazarus, come forth! Andy, come forth! Philip, come forth! Margaret, come forth! Kathy, come forth!” Put your name in the blank.
That’s what it takes, that’s what it requires: the voice of life. In the words of Ephesians 5, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” That’s what it takes.
Don’t our songs say it best? Here’s an old one and a new one. Wesley:
“Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light!
My chains fell off, my heart was free;
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.”
Then a new song that I love (we sang it this morning):
“Alone in my sorrow and dead in my sin,
Lost, without hope, and no place to begin;
Your love made a way to let mercy come in,
When death was arrested and my life began.”
That is the story of every Christian.
(e) Here’s one more thing to notice. Lazarus had to be unbound. When he came out of the tomb, he was still bound in the grave clothes. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. One reason is it’s a subtle contrast between the resurrection of Lazarus and the resurrection of Jesus in John 20. When they find Jesus’ empty tomb, nobody else has set him free from the tomb, and the grave clothes are left. Not so with Lazarus. Lazarus didn’t raise himself. Jesus did.
But it also is a picture, isn’t it, of the person who, even when they have been raised out of death in sin, even when they have been born again, they’re still sometimes bound up and they need to be unbound, they need to be loosed. If the resurrection of Lazarus, when Jesus says, “Lazarus, come out,” if that’s a picture of regeneration, then the unbinding of Lazarus is a picture of sanctification.
It may be that’s where you’re found this morning. You have life in Christ, but you’re all bound up. You’re wrapped in the grave clothes of anger, envy, bitterness, pride. The same power that raised you from the dead can set you free.
(f) One more insight, this time moving forward to John 12:9-11. “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there,” this is in the home of Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, “they came, not only on account of him, but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing Jesus.”
Lazarus is raised from the dead, and from that time forward his life is different. He is forever identified with Jesus, who raised him from the dead. That means that he will be a witness (many believed through him) and he will be a suffering witness. They’re trying to put him to death. He’s being persecuted.
That’s also what happens in the life of a Christian. When God raises you out of spiritual death into life in Christ, you become a witness to Jesus Christ, and sometimes you’re going to suffer for it. Sometimes you’re going to suffer. You will be identified with Jesus, both being made conformable to his death as well as knowing the power of his resurrection, Paul says in Philippians 3. There is a cost to becoming a Christian.
III. The Cost of the Sign
But there’s a greater cost on God’s part, on Christ’s part, in us becoming Christians in the first place, and that leads us to the final point. We’re almost done. The cost of the sign.
We’ve seen that the resurrection of Lazarus was a sign, we’ve seen the meaning of this sign—it was proof of Jesus’s power and glory, it was a pointer to final resurrection, and it’s a parable of spiritual resurrection, our own experience. But there’s a cost, and it was a cost to Jesus.
I said last week that these two chapters, John 11-12, are the hinge, they are the turning point in this Gospel. Things are different from this time forward. In fact, it is no understatement to say (and I will show you in the text) that what Jesus does in Bethany leads directly to his death. Jesus knew it. Look at John 11:5-8.
This is going back in the narrative. Jesus has heard that Lazarus was sick, and then Lazarus dies. Remember, Jesus delays going to Bethany. He has about a two-day journey to get there. Jesus delays, and then you read verses 5-8. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go to Judea again.’” Now, notice what they say to him, verse 8. “The disciples said to him, ‘Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?’”
“You’re going back in the lions’ den? You’re going back into the furnace? They were just trying to kill you!” If you go back one chapter, John 10, Jesus has said, “I and my Father are one,” and they’re trying to kill him. So Jesus leaves Jerusalem, he leaves Judea. He’s away.
Then he hears that Lazarus is sick, and he decides to go back; but going back means he’s walking right into the jaws of the enemy.
Then in verse 16, when Jesus said, “We’re going,” one of the disciples, Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us go also, that we may die with him.” He’s expecting to die. They’re expecting a massacre when they get to Jerusalem, because they know the opposition to Jesus.
After this story—we’re going to look at this passage in more depth next week, but in John 11:53 there’s been a conspiracy now as the chief priests have gathered together, plotting the death of Jesus in verse 53, and it’s all because of the resurrection of Lazarus, and in verse 53 it says, “So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”
Listen: in order for Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, Jesus would have to die. There’s a cost. There’s a cost to the resurrection, and there’s a cost for Jesus for us, as well. So, every person who has ever been born again and raised out of spiritual death into spiritual life, the only reason that was possible is because of the death of Jesus Christ.
One more passage (I’m almost done), John 12:23-24. Listen to what Jesus says. “Jesus answered them, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit.’” Who’s the grain of wheat that falls into the ground? It’s Jesus. Jesus is the grain of wheat, and he falls into the ground, he dies, and because he dies there is a harvest of spiritual resurrections, and that includes you and I, if we believe.
Let me just end with an illustration that I think is so powerful. This is from the end of one of C.S. Lewis’s Narnian stories, The Chronicles of Narnia. If you’re around Redeemer you know that we love these stories. I’m reading these stories to my youngest daughter right now and loving them again.
One of my favorites is The Silver Chair. It’s about a girl named Jill and a boy named Eustace, and they’re on this journey, they’re on a quest; they’re looking for a prince named Prince Rilian.
When you get to the end of the book, there’s a wonderful chapter called “The Healing of Harms.” They finally have met Aslan, who is the lion, the King of Narnia, the Christ-figure in the stories, and the children are with Aslan. They’re on the mountain of Aslan, high up above and beyond the end of the world in which Narnia lies; and they finally find the king, and he’s dead. King Caspian is dead.
The children hear music, and it’s the music of a funeral. It’s a funeral dirge. They don’t know where it comes from. Then something happens, and I just want to read you Lewis. I think you can follow along, because my daughter follows along really well reading The Chronicles of Narnia, so you can follow along as I read a couple of paragraphs here. I can’t say it better than Lewis.
“They were walking beside the stream, and the Lion went before them. He became so beautiful and the music so despairing that Jill did not know which of them it was that filled her eyes with tears. Then Aslan stopped, and the children looked into the stream, and there, on the golden gravel of the bed of the stream, lay King Caspian, dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass. His long, white beard swayed in it like water weed, and all three stood and wept. Even the Lion wept great lion tears, each tear more precious than the earth would be if it was a single, solid diamond.
“‘Son of Adam,’ said Aslan [speaking to Eustace], ‘go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there, and bring it to me.’
“Eustace obeyed. The thorn was a foot long and sharp as a rapier.
“‘Drive it into my paw, son of Adam,’ said Aslan, holding up his right forepaw and spreading out the great pads towards Eustace.
“‘Must I?’ said Eustace.
“‘Yes,’ said Aslan.
“Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the Lion’s pad, and there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined. It splashed into the stream over the dead body of the king. At that same moment, the doleful music stopped, and the dead king began to be changed. His white beard turned to gray, and from gray to yellow, and got shorter, and vanished altogether. His sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoothed, and his eyes opened. His eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them, a very young man, even a boy. He rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would around the huge neck, and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a king, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a lion.”
It took the shedding of blood to bring life to Caspian, and it took the shedding of blood to bring life to you.
Let me ask you this morning: are you alive? Have you heard the voice of Jesus? “Come forth!” Has the word of God come with power into your heart? You’ve seen the corruption of your heart, you’ve seen the need for new life, you’ve turned from your sins, you’ve trusted in Christ, and all of a sudden there is new spiritual reality. Jesus is the resurrection and the life; if you follow him, you will have life this morning. Let’s pray.
Gracious and merciful God, we thank you for your word and we thank you for Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life. We thank you for his death on our behalf. We thank you for his conquest, his defeat of sin and death and the grave, and we thank you that through faith in him we have eternal life. I pray, Father, right now for any who have not believed, that today would be the day of salvation. May you bring them to faith in Christ right now. You are able. I can’t do it, but you can speak the words of life. So we pray that you would.
We pray that as we come to the Lord’s table this morning that we would come remembering what it cost Jesus to give us life. It cost the cross! It cost his death, it cost his atoning work as our substitute, as our representative, him being punished for our sins, him bearing our suffering. May we come remembering his death even as we feed on Christ as the bread of life. So draw near to us in these moments, by the power of your Holy Spirit, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.