Where is he? Where? Where is he? How many times had she asked that question over the past four days? Her only brother had come down with some mysterious virus and nobody could do anything for him. Well nobody except for their friend Jesus. How many times had he reached out his hand and the blind had seen, or the lame had walked?
If there was any hope for Lazarus it would only be through Jesus. Granted she hadn’t actually asked Jesus to come, she had only sent word that His friend was deathly ill. But if Jesus was the friend that he professed to be wouldn’t he have come?
But she had waited, and Lazarus got worse, and she waited, and Lazarus had died, and she waited, and Lazarus had been buried.
Jesus had healed the paralytic and he didn’t even know him, he healed the blind man who was just a face in the crowd.
Surely, he would come for his friend. And still the thought tormented her. Where was he? Surely, she couldn’t have misjudged Jesus so badly.
He had eaten at their table and slept under their roof surely that had meant something to him? Or maybe not.
And then a murmur began to weave its way through the crowd that had gathered to mourn with the two sisters, the master is here, Jesus has arrived. And Martha couldn’t help herself, she was on her feet rushing to meet her friend. The thought that had burned in her heart was already on her lips, John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.
I don’t think it was said with a mean or vindictive spirit, but I don’t think it was simply a statement of fact either. I think she was disappointed in Jesus and felt betrayed and I’m sure the question even though unasked could be read in her eyes, “When you heard he was sick, why didn’t you come then?”
Max Lucado says that “The grave unearths our view of God” And he’s right how often have we heard “God if you existed my child wouldn’t have died, if you’d have answered my prayers my life wouldn’t be empty, if you cared my mother wouldn’t have developed cancer.”?
How often are we guilty of dealing with God in that very same way, of demanding to know why he doesn’t do it the way we want it done, when we want it done? The experts tell us that it would have been a two day walk from where Jesus heard the news to Bethany, and you all know how an expert is defined? X being the unknown quantity, spurt being a drip under pressure.
So, if we take the experts word for the distance and add to it the two days that Jesus waited before he left we come up with a grand total of four days, the exact number of days that Lazarus had been in the grave. Sometimes we just don’t know.
And then she said the most incredible thing, something that revealed volumes about her character and her faith. Remember this is Martha, the more practical of the two sisters. We might expect these words from Mary, but not so much from Martha. But, it is Martha who tells Jesus, John 11:22 “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
This is the second week of our “After the But. . .” series here at Cornerstone where we are unpacking the reality of “After the But, comes the truth.”
We see this in our everyday conversation. I enjoyed the movie, but. The hotel was clean, but. They call themselves a friend, but.
It was Winnie the Pooh who said, “People say nothing is impossible, But I do nothing every day.”
And here we see Martha saying, “Jesus I may not understand what you’ve done, I may not be able to explain it, I may not like it but even now I still believe that you are capable of anything.”
How about it people? Are you convinced even now that God is able to do anything? Are you? We say we believe that, but do we really?
What do you believe that God can do even now through Cornerstone Wesleyan Church? All we have to do is look at what He has done in the past to see what he can do in the future, because what he did yesterday, he is capable of doing today.
1) But Even now, God can do the impressive. I love the story of Gideon. Maybe you don’t know it, after all it happened about three thousand years ago.
It was during a time that Israel had come under foreign rule. The story is found in the book of Judges. The Midianites had conquered Israel and the people had run for the hills, literally living in caves and ravens. Not satisfied with that the Midianites made a nasty habit out of burning any Israelite fields they found and killing their animals.
In a situation like this who do you need? You need a hero right and where do you find a hero? You google it, but there wasn’t google 3000 years ago so I checked the yellow pages and they skipped right from herbs to hobbies. But if you’re God you don’t need the yellow pages google and so an Angel was sent to a young farmer named Gideon.
Well to make a long story short Gideon raised an army of 32,000 men not bad. But God said “Hey you guys could defeat the Midianites all by yourself, and what would be the fun in that? Tell anyone who is afraid to go home.” That did it, 22,000 of them left. Imagine how Gideon must have felt. But still 10,000 is better than none.
But God said, “Hey Gideon still too many, get everyone to drink from the stream and keep only those who drink from their cupped hand.” Well maybe you know what happened 9,700 of them knelt down to drink and Gideon was left with 300. To quote God in Judges 7:7 The LORD told Gideon, “With these 300 men I will rescue you and give you victory over the Midianites. Send all the others home.”
And he did!
Now that’s impressive. But not necessarily impossible. You see the three hundred men surrounded the Midianite camp in the middle of the night each one armed with a trumpet, a clay pot and a torch. On a prearranged signal they blew their trumpets and smashed their clay jars, waved their torches and yelled “For the Lord and for Gideon.” Well the Midianites had just been woken up, panicked turned on each other and beat a hasty retreat.
God does some impressive things in our lives, perhaps helping us deal with anger, or helping our relationship with our spouse or our children. People have prayed for work and found the perfect job. That’s impressive. People have been sick, and others have prayed for them and they have gotten better, that’s impressive. God answers prayer in an impressive way, but none of those things were impossible.
People have found the perfect job without praying, sick people have gotten better without praying, relationships have been restored without God. But he does do impressive things in answer to our prayers.
Are there situations in your life that you need to say, “Even now I believe God can do some impressive things for me.” Maybe you’re at the end of your rope in your marriage or frustrated with your children and you feel like only a miracle could help, God is still in the miracle doing business. God still does the impressive.
Throughout the Bible we read how God stepped in and helped his people. Abraham, David, Solomon, Joshua, Moses, Daniel each one could tell an amazing story of the impressive work that God did for them and even today there are people who would confirm that even now, April 14, 2019, God does the impressive.
God has done impressive things with this church, twenty-five years ago Cornerstone only existed in the dreams of a young Canadian Pastor in Australia. Look where we are today, impressive but not impossible. God can and will continue to do the impressive through Cornerstone Wesleyan Church. When? Even Now.
2) But, Even Now God Will Do the Improbable. Do you remember the story of David and Goliath? It seemed that everyone wanted to whump on Israel, this time it was the Philistines. The story is found in the book of 1 Samuel 17. The Israelites are on one hill, the Philistines are on another hill and the Philistines trot out their Champion, Goliath, and he was one big sucker standing over nine foot tall. Throwing down a gauntlet Goliath says, 1 Samuel 17:8-9 Goliath stood and shouted a taunt across to the Israelites. “Why are you all coming out to fight?” he called. “I am the Philistine champion, but you are only the servants of Saul. Choose one man to come down here and fight me! If he kills me, then we will be your slaves. But if I kill him, you will be our slaves!
That seems fair to me, too often men too old to fight send men too young to vote to die in war.
Maybe we should just pick our champion and let them go to it. And it wouldn’t even have to be a fight. We challenge you to a donair eating contest. Send out your champion.
Well, none of the Israelite soldiers were all that excited with the prospect of taking on this guy. But along came David, not a soldier a shepherd, not an adult but a teenager and armed with a slingshot and five smooth stones he killed the giant and saved the day.
What would you say to that? A professional soldier armed with the very best armaments available to him who was challenged by a mere boy who had little more than a toy for a weapon.
What were the chances of David being the victor? Possible but not probable. Hey, God not only does the impressive he does the improbable. Daniel surviving a night in a den full of lions, Abraham and Sarah having a child in their nineties, Noah building a 450-foot boat, miles from the nearest major body of water. Impossible no, improbable yes.
And God does the improbable today. People addicted to one thing or another who have tried everything to break that addiction have turned to God and have conquered it. Possible yes, probable no. But even now God does the improbable.
Through prayer abusive husbands have become loving mates. Through prayer shrewish wives have become encouragers and through prayer impossible teens become friends with their parents.
And each case wed’ have to say, well sure it’s possible, but it’s not probable.
But even now God does the improbable. Cancer patients have been prayed over and all traces of the disease have disappeared, Possible yes, probable no. But even now God does the improbable.
What were the chances of a small Albanian nun winning a Nobel Peace Prize for her work in India? Possible yes, probable no. But even now God does the improbable.
What are some of the improbable things that you need doing in your life, things that just aren’t likely to happen.
Need a personality transplant, he can do that, need self control he can do that. Do you have giants in your life that need to be put down? He still helps to defeat giants. And not only can he do the improbable in your life he can do the improbable in your church as well. He’s already doing it.
15 years ago this property was just a piece of wood land. Was it really possible for a group of forty-five would commit and give over three hundred and fifty thousand dollars to build a church here?
Sure it was, after all it happened. Was it probable? No. But even now God still does the improbable.
If you had of asked the people in two villages in Northern Ghana what the chances were that a group of Christ followers in Hammonds plains would raise $16,000.00 to drill deep bore wells to provide their villages with clean water, they probably would have said that it was possible but not probable.
But because of your generosity last year the villages of Nandundo and Katinguli have clean water this year.
A year ago, if we had of asked you what the chances would be that Cornerstone would be given a property worth over a half a million dollars to start a satellite campus, you probably would have said it was possible but not probable. But even now God does the improbable.
God can help us to minister in improbable ways to our community. When? Even now.
3) But, Even Now God Does the Impossible. Let’s return to our original story. Jesus friend Lazarus becomes ill and his sisters send news to Jesus. As we noted before in the account, we have they don’t actually ask Jesus to come but judging by their reaction they expected him to come.
Have you ever been driving along with your spouse and they ask you if you need a coffee, and you reply nope. And then a little bit later they ask why you passed the Tim Hortons and you say I didn’t need a coffee, to which they reply, well I did.
Not only did Lazarus’ two sisters expect Jesus to come they expected him to come and heal their brother.
That much is evident in Martha’s words in John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. and the words of her sister in John 11:32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Now that’s pretty much laying it on the line, isn’t it?
Now you would think that with expectations like that and knowing Jesus the way we know him that he would have rushed to be with the sisters or knowing that he wouldn’t have made it in time did a God thing and zapped Lazarus back to health long distance.
John 11:5-6 So although Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, he stayed where he was for the next two days.
Now I don’t know why Jesus waited two days, and I’m not going to pretend I do. What we do know is that when Jesus heard the news his friend was already dead and ready to be buried.
And then he came. But Lazarus had already been in the grave for four days. And even though it would appear that Martha had reprimanded Jesus for not being there sooner she tells him “It’s not too late because even now you can perform a miracle.”
Could you do that? Standing next to your brother’s filled in grave could you express that type of faith in God? You see her statement was not so much saying that she believed that Jesus could raise her brother, but she would trust him even if he didn’t.
Martha was saying. “Even now I believe that you can do anything, but I will trust whatever it is you do or don’t do.” Can you believe in the goodness of God even when it doesn’t line up with your expectations?
But the story doesn’t end there, because Jesus goes to the tomb, let’s read John’s account of what happened after all he was there.
John 11:38-44 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.” Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
Guy’s been dead five days, in the grave four days and he’s brought back to life. That is impressive, and it’s improbable and it’s also impossible. Dead people don’t come back to life that just doesn’t happen. But it did happen. You see it is the reality of what the Angel Gabriel told Mary in Luke 1:37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
and Jesus reiterated that concept when he told his followers in Luke 18:27 He (Jesus) replied, “What is impossible for people is possible with God.”
And guess what God still does the impossible today. People can change their behavior but only God can change their hearts. What have you been told is impossible in your life? Can you say with Martha, even now I will believe.
What would you have God do with Cornerstone Wesleyan Church?
Can you see it as God sees it? Can you see it not as it is but as God would make it? Close your eyes for a minute and answer this question, if Cornerstone could be anything and do anything without taking into consideration any human limits. Forget about money, buildings, staff what do you believe God can do with this church. Because even now God can do the impossible.
The question is what does God want us to do here? What does God want us to do near? And what impossible things are there that God would have us do far way.
What lives will be changed? What lives will be saved? And what difference will there be made in our world, if we are only willing to say, but even now?