On John 11.

1866 57 In this chapter we have an example of the way in which our hearts are often bound down by circumstances. We see too that while the Lord answers the cry of our hearts, He does not act in the way we expect, but according to His purpose, His object being to give us the experience of present power to deliver in the trial. We learn Him better by this, while the circumstances may be such as to make us doubt His love; but as in this case, the Lord is not defeated in his ways and purposes. The Lord seems to leave us sometimes, while He goes somewhere else. We feel that which touches our own hearts, and for want of confiding in His love are often cast down by the circumstances. He wants that to take full effect upon our hearts, the end of His purpose being to make us know Him better. Bethany was a kind of home to the Lord Jesus. There was sorrow come in there. It was His intention to meet the need of the hearts of these sisters, but He does it in such a way as that the glory of God should be accomplished. What a mercy! When all the world is against Him, here is something to prove Him to be the Son of God. There is a remarkable testimony given to all His titles before He goes to the cross — Son of God, Son of David, or Christ, Son of man, etc. It was a wonderful position for Lazarus to be thus the means for the display of Christ's glory as the Son of God. Christ had healed many people, but here was something special. There is nothing like confiding in God, that He will do the very best thing. He might have gone off and healed Lazarus, and they were ready to reproach Him for not having come. Even Mary, as well as Martha, says, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." Their feelings governed, or rather smothered their faith, so that they could not look beyond present circumstances. It is hard for our hearts to believe it is all right when He does not come directly. Their hearts were buried under the power of death. They had no understanding of the present living power of the Son of God which was above and beyond death.

When Christ talked of going into Judea again, the disciples say, "The Jews of late sought to stone thee, and goest thou thither again?" Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day?" etc. See the entire, unhesitating dependence on the Father's will in Christ, so that He is willing to do or not to do according to His direction. He was the perfect servant. He waited God's time.

All through this chapter there is the sense of the power of death reigning. God's mercies indeed there were, but death was there. The disciples had affection to their Master and said, We will go and die with thee (though when the time came they were too feeble to go, and yet they were sincere in thinking they could) they had no thought but of death in going; they had no thought of the power of God bringing in life. When Jesus came, He found he had been dead four days already. Martha said,

"Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." The presence of Christ gave her a certain degree of confidence, but no sense of the power of life in Him who came into this place of death. "Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again." She answered, "I know that he shall rise again at the last day." Every Christian believes in a resurrection at last; every one has the faith that Martha had, which was all the Jews knew about. Mary was no better yet either; but see the Lord's answer to it, "I am the resurrection and the life," etc. That is what they had no apprehension of. "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die; believest thou this?" Not a word! She believed, according to Psalm 2, that God would bring in His begotten Son again. She believed in the Christ who should come into the world, but she could not get any farther. It is a good thing to remember this sorrowful fact, that when He goes one step in advance of what we have generally believed, there is no power in us to receive it. Men are ill at ease. They find no savour in what is said. There is nothing more distressing to an unspiritual Christian than the presence of a spiritual one. He wants to get out of the way; his desires and appetites after Christ not being lively, he wants to retire from His presence. Martha gets away. She had before been careful and cumbered about much serving. It was all right to serve; but if she had not been cumbered, she would have rejoiced to see Mary sitting at His feet, and would not have tried to get her away when she had the best thing. It was right to prepare — it would be for any saint, but much more for the Lord Himself.

So here, "Mary sat still in the house." There was much wanting in Mary's faith; but she had the waiting spirit, and the instant she get a call from Christ, she is ready to go directly — she has nothing to do but to go.

Ver. 31 — 33 indicate much unbelief. They thought blessing might have come in the way of healing in life; but they had no thought of the power of God in the place of death. "Jesus groaned in the spirit." This was His entering into the sense of the power of death; something like the groanings in Spirit that cannot be uttered; though, of course, He knew what He was going to do. He said (ver. 34 — 38) "Take ye away the stone." Now Martha's energy comes out: she was an active, busy person, but full of unbelief. "Lord, by this time he stinketh . . . Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, if thou wouldst believe, thou shouldst see the glory of God?" There was His power coming in. What we find here, and more blessedly still, in Christ's own resurrection is divine power coming into the place of death. They could put the stone, they could weep over him they left there. This power of death had come over all the nature of man; and what could they do? Weep over him and leave him there, but what was that? Nothing.

Death is the harbinger of judgment; that is the terrible thing in death, if there is only death. It is the messenger of the king of terrors, and we see the entire weakness of man under it. You cannot save yourself from dying. From the prince to the peasant death is master of them; they cannot escape. Man, with all his wisdom, science, and skill, cannot keep life. Death carries terror with it when it is thought of; they put all the trappings they can to hide it; but there is terror in it to the spirit of man. It is the consequence of sin. There is the weakness of man shown out in it, and the power of Satan over him, and it is the harbinger of judgment (I am speaking of what death is hr itself), and that the resurrection to judgment will not free you from, but rather announce the judgment; it is not over now to an unconverted man, he will be raised again to judgment. Death comes as the witness to that; it takes a man out of this living scene to judgment. Thus God coming in resurrection is no help to a man dying in sin. We have here the Lord's sympathy coming into the place where men were. He wept not for the loss of Lazarus. He knew He was going to raise him; but in His human nature Ho was entering thoroughly into the sense of the power that death had over the spirits of men. We see in this chapter it was death, and nothing else, resting on their spirit. It was the same story with them all. Even Martha says, "I know that he will rise again in the last day;" but it meant nothing for present power of life.

There was more than sympathy in Christ: there was help. A kind man can go and show sympathy, can weep, etc., but leave the stone there. Christ could go in the power of divine life, with the perfect sympathy of a man too, and bring the power of life into it. He can bring in just that which we want. There is no kind of remedy for us in all this scene: we must give it up. Death is the just judgment of God; there is no escaping it; it is written on man's nature; there is no escape for man as such. The next thing we see is that Eternal Life which was with the Father come down and manifested here, where He is "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead," The Eternal Life comes into the place where death is. He takes the cup due to us, and brings in life where death is. This scene is before He dies Himself. With the widow of Nain's son it is the same — death disappears before Him. Just as much as the first Adam is under death, so the Second man is above death. He comes into the place where death was reigning. Lazarus lay there; Martha speaks of the stinking corpse; but the same power that brought the first Adam into existence brought him up from the grave.

There is another life too which is the comfort for us. Resurrection is put first — "I am the resurrection and the life" — because men are under death; but what matter if a man is dead, if I can raise him? "I am the resurrection . . . He that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live." There was the power of life in Him. For those who are alive when He comes again, there will be no death at all, even of the body (He being the antidote, as it were). So that the power of death is gone when He appears. It will be literally true of some when He comes.

There was, indeed, more than sympathy in Christ. We were lying there iii death; He goes into the very place where we were, under the sentence of sin, under judgment, under wrath. He gives Himself up when there. He takes it out of His Father's hands, in the garden of Gethsemane when going through it in spirit with His Father, He says, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." There was the power of darkness, and the malice of His enemies, and the cup of wrath from God. He went under death only in grace, being obedient unto death. Grace brought Him where sin brought us. He took up the whole case, and the consequences of sin, and it is done — finished.

Lazarus never went so deep under death as Christ. God's wrath was the cup given to Him, the righteous One. "He by the grace of God should taste death for every man." It was for the sin of man, "the wages of sin;" but He goes down into it in the power of life. Just in the measure He knew the power of life was the terribleness of the power of death, and according to His holiness was sin abhorrent to Him. His nearness to His Father made it all the worse. He goes down and comes up out of it: there is an end of it. Where is a man when life has come in? There is an end of death — "O death, I will be thy destruction." There is an end to the meaning of death; with it, sin is gone, judgment is gone, the cup of wrath is drunk, and Christ enters into His Father's presence with all the fresh delight of having done His Father's will in going under it. "Therefore," he says, "doth my Father love me," etc. Every question between God and man is settled for ever for the believer. He, as a man, is gone with fresh blessedness into His presence; all the rest is gone, all the old Adam gone, its power gone. "In that He died, Ho died unto sin once." All Christ put Himself under is gone. There I get a Man in God's presence — an accepted Man, and I am called upon to trust Him. I see in the cross of Christ that I was in myself hopelessly under it, or He would not have gone under it. Now for a believer there is not Satan's power at all — physically, of course, it is there, but morally it is totally gone. When death comes to the believer, he is "absent from the body, present with the Lord."

With Lazarus, it was resurrection to natural life. We have something better. He was quickened and brought back to sit at the table where Christ was then, but now we have the life He has; we are raised up and made to sit together in heavenly places in Him. (Eph.) We have the life that Christ has — a life that cannot die any more (the body, of course, I am not speaking of now). I have the righteousness that Christ has; He is my righteousness. All that He, sitting at God's right hand, has, I have, and nothing less, "We are the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus." Then what is there of the old? Nothing. I have my place in Christ before God, and I can say, "when I was in the flesh," but now not in the flesh. There is the power of life in Christ apart from all the old Adam life, and all that belongs to it, though still working in me; but in this earthen vessel I have new power of life in which I live to God. It is the same power of life in which Christ was quickened after bearing my sins. Then what do I wait for? I am not waiting for life, for I have it; nor for righteousness, for I have it. What then do I wait for? To be made like Him: "when we shall see Him, we shall be like Him." I am waiting to be "clothed upon with the house which is from heaven" — for mortality to be swallowed up of life. The power of life in Him will take up the body and swallow up the mortality of it. He, by that "power by which He is able to subdue all things to Himself" will lay hold of the body and conform it to His own. He has been through death and has come out of it; therefore the apostle says, "We are always confident, knowing that whilst at home in the body we are absent from the Lord." Death may come to me; but I have a life beyond, that death cannot touch; and the body shall be raised when He comes. "This corruptible shall put on incorruption." "We shall bear the image of the heavenly." Christ has taken us up in the power of life to make us completely like Himself, and the change of our bodies or the raising of them will be the last thing He has to do in conforming us to Himself.

We have to seek the power of life over death now practically. Why let nature die, if it can be recovered? No, it cannot be recovered; it is to be reckoned dead; it must go through death practically. The system of monkery went on a wrong principle altogether. If you stunt the tree, you have not changed it; you may change the fruit, but it will only do mischief. You must cut it right down. The sap is bad, hopelessly bad. Monkery sought to die as to flesh, because the consequences of sin were there, but without having a life in which there was power to do it. But we have a life: "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God: mortify therefore your members," etc. Cut off all the old shoots of the tree. We have to seek that the "life of Christ may be manifested in our mortal bodies." The power of His resurrection is what we have to learn. We have to remember that in ourselves is no good thing. If you have a will of your own, it is sin. Doing our own will instead of God's is the principle of sin. Did Christ do His own will? No; "Lo I come to do thy will, O God." What, you say! with all these beautiful qualities in nature to reckon it dead! Ah, but whose are those beautiful qualities? You reckon them yours: self comes in. There are beautiful qualities, but what are they for? is the question. For yourself and not for God; it is your use of the qualities that is the point. So we see the Lord taking up the vilest and most wretched people, and passing over the Pharisees, etc. He did not come, as He says, to save the righteous (of course He knew there were none righteous really), but His principle was to save sinners. I should not have a last Adam nature given, if the first Adam nature would have done. The thing is done in Christ. I am in the Second man; but in practice it is a different thing. All kinds of exercises we may have to bring us to this point — Christ everything. He is life, peace, strength. The soul rests in Him; there is a confiding spirit. To the fathers, in 1 John ii., it is said, "Ye have known Him that is from the beginning;" and, again, the second time they are addressed in the same way. They had learnt Christ and needed nothing more: it is to be practically emptied of self.

May we remember what our standing before God is! Christ has passed through death, judgment, sin; it is all over, and He has brought us into the very same condition, past it (not in body yet), but brought to God, into His presence. May we know the liberty wherewith He hath made us free — beyond, past it all, and walk in the power of the new life in which He has set us by grace.