After He had said this, He told them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up."
Yet, in adopting it, he imparted to it a tone and character peculiar to himself. On the other hand, what he says concerning the awakening is altogether original; herein he claims a power which is unprecedented and unparalleled.
I. To THE CHRISTIAN DEATH IS SLEEP.
1. It is the close of the day of toil.
2. It is the hushing and silencing of the many harsh and jarring voices of care, of anxiety, of restlessness.
3. It is the soothing of sorrow and trouble.
4. It is looked for and welcome, when the due time comes.
II. IT IS THE PREROGATIVE OF CHRIST TO AROUSE HIS PEOPLE FROM THE SLUMBER OF DEATH.
1. Our Lord awakens slumbering souls from the stupors of sin. The message of the gospel to such is, "Awake, thou that sleepest, arise from the dead, and he shall enlighten thee." This spiritual awakening is the pledge of the glorious and final awakening of the future unto the higher and immortal life.
2. As sleep is but for a season, so the sleep of death is appointed only as a temporary, a transitory experience.
3. The voice which woke Lazarus out of his sleep is the voice which summons from the slumber of death. Christ's assumption of this power is an implicit claim to Divine authority. God's omnipotence alone can create life, and alone can restore life when death has asserted its power and has done its work.
4. The awakening from death summons to an endless life of activity and holy service. Whilst the hours of slumber are hours of repose, the daylight which arouses the sleepers calls to the exertion of the powers of body and of mind. This law applies to the higher realm. When Christ awakens out of the slumber of death, it is to the happiness of conscious existence and to the energy of untiring effort. There is no reason to suppose that this brief earthly life is man's only period of service. It is the discipline and preparation for endless ages of glad devotion alike to the praise and to the service of our glorious Redeemer.
"If my immortal Savior lives,
Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.I. We have A SWEET RELATIONSHIP DECLARED.
1. "Our friend." Behold here wondrous condescension. Our Lord does not turn to His disciples and say "Your friend sleepeth," but places Himself side by side with them in their affection and says "Our friend." It seems to me to teach so sweetly the blessed fact that Jesus is one with His people. It is equal to saying, "Do you love Him? so do I." Let us meditate upon the friendship Christ has to His children, and in doing so I would notice —
1. It is a real one. There is too much of superficial friendship abroad; plenty of the lip, but little of the heart. This is an age of shams; and among them, most hideous of the lot, is that of miscalled friendship. In the love of a saint to his Saviour there is a blessed reality. Whoever else he may not love with all his heart, his Saviour he must.
2. In this friendship there are no secrets kept on either side. The old saying runs "whisperers separate chief friends," but in close friendships nothing is hidden, so whispers have nothing to reveal. When Jesus says to anyone, "My friend," He declares a friendship that ignores all secret keeping, for "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." If there be a secret sin in the heart, if a fall in the life, O bear me witness, saints of God, that there is no peace for us until, like the woman of old, we have "told Him all." Heavy burdens roll off the soul, and sweet ease flows into it by telling Jesus everything.
3. Jesus shows His friendship by helping in time of need.
4. Moreover, if a person says to me, "my friend," I naturally expect he will show his friendship by calling in to see me; and sweet are the love visits that Jesus pays His friends. That disciple knows but little of the sweets of the religion of Jesus who knows but seldom what it is to hear his Lord's knock, and who but seldom sups with his beloved in closest fellowship.
5. Jesus is never ashamed of His friends. When once He has said "My friend," He never retracts the sentence. There are many butterfly friends fluttering round us all, to be seen in the summer of prosperity, but conspicuous by their absence in the winter of adversity.
6. That the friendship of Jesus lasts forever. The sweeter the friendship the more terrible the blow, that severs it. But severed it must be at last.
II. A SOLEMN FACT SUGGESTED. Christ's friends die.
1. The friendship of Christ does not exempt from death. This dread reaper spares none. Death asks not whether the shock of corn is ripe for glory, or is as yet green, and unprepared for the sickle. He asks not whether his victim is a child of God or one of the world's devotees.
2. Christ permits His friends to die in order to make manifest how completely He has conquered death. Suppose that, instead of tasting death, all Christ's friends were, like Enoch, translated into glory; might not death boast and say, "Aha! they dare not meet me in the field! Their Lord is afraid to put His conquest to the test."
3. Another reason why the friends of Jesus die is that they may be brought into conformity with their Lord. It may seem strange to some of your ears; but I believe there are many here who would rather prefer to die than otherwise, in order that in everything they might be conformed to their Master.
III. WE HAVE IN THIS TEXT A VERY CHEERING DESCRIPTION. "Our friend sleepeth." Not our friend is dead.
1. In sleep there is a rest from pain. There is rest from pain in death.
2. In sleep there is a rest from care.
3. Sleeping implies waking.
(A. G. Brown.)I. JESUS IS THE FRIEND OF HIS PEOPLE. Human friendship is the choicest of earthly privileges. How much more the friendship of Christ! (John 16:14, 15). Note the qualities of a true friend.
1. Amiableness, or having those properties which are calculated to attract the heart. We may be grateful to those we cannot esteem, and admire those we cannot love; but to make a friend there must be something lovely. This exists in Christ in the highest degree.
2. Power of wisdom to guide, of strength to support and defend; of riches to help. These all exist in their fulness in Christ.
3. Faithfulness to keep our secrets and to fulfil His promises.
4. Tenderness. Friendship is like a foreign plant which requires delicate treatment. It shrinks from whatever is rough and unfeeling, and cannot confide in rudeness.
5. Unchangeableness. Christ is not a summer friend, who, like the butterfly, flutters round us while the sun is shining, but retires when the sun has gone. He is "a friend horn for adversity." He is "the same today," etc.
II. THE SERVICES WHICH CHRIST DISCHARGES FOR HIS FRIENDS.
1. He sympathizes with them, as one of them sharing their sorrows.
2. He is their abiding companion.
3. He has paid their debts, ransomed their persons, reconciled them to God at the expense of His own life.
4. He has purchased for them an inheritance incorruptible, etc.
5. He has fitted up mansions as the eternal residences of the bodies and souls of His people.
III. TO THE FRIENDS OF CHRIST DEATH HAS CHANGED ITS NATURE. They cannot die, they only sleep. The emblem expresses —
1. "The composure of soul which the Lord gives to His people in the hour of death," "Mark the perfect man," etc.
2. The temporary cessation of the powers of the body to recruit it for fresh service on the resurrection morn (Isaiah 26:19).
(J. H. Stewart, M. A.)
Weekly Pulpit.Jesus awakes men out of the sleep of IGNORANCE, to give them intellectual life. His teaching —
1. Awakes the power to think.
2. Strengthens the thinking powers.
3. Affords food for thought.
II. MORAL INSENSIBILITY, to give them spiritual life.
1. Men are dead in sin.
2. Christ's call awakes the soul, and Christ's power gives it life.
3. Christ supports, develops, and perfects this new life.
III. INDIFFERENCE, to give them a life of usefulness.
(Weekly Pulpit.)I. IN LIFE.
1. The friend of Jesus. Expressing ideas of —
(1) (2) 2. The friend of Jesus' friends. Adding thoughts of — (1) (2) II. IN DEATH. Asleep. 1. Withdrawn from the ordinary activities of life, as the mind is during the hours of slumber. 2. Possessed of a real, though different existence, as the mind never ceases to be active during the hours of repose. 3. Certain to awake refreshed after the period of rest has terminated, as mind and body do when night is passed. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.) (Bishop Ryle.) (M. Henry.) (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
(2) 2. The friend of Jesus' friends. Adding thoughts of — (1) (2) II. IN DEATH. Asleep. 1. Withdrawn from the ordinary activities of life, as the mind is during the hours of slumber. 2. Possessed of a real, though different existence, as the mind never ceases to be active during the hours of repose. 3. Certain to awake refreshed after the period of rest has terminated, as mind and body do when night is passed. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.) (Bishop Ryle.) (M. Henry.) (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
2. The friend of Jesus' friends. Adding thoughts of —
(1) (2) II. IN DEATH. Asleep. 1. Withdrawn from the ordinary activities of life, as the mind is during the hours of slumber. 2. Possessed of a real, though different existence, as the mind never ceases to be active during the hours of repose. 3. Certain to awake refreshed after the period of rest has terminated, as mind and body do when night is passed. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.) (Bishop Ryle.) (M. Henry.) (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
II. IN DEATH. Asleep. 1. Withdrawn from the ordinary activities of life, as the mind is during the hours of slumber. (T. Whitelaw, D. D.) (Bishop Ryle.) (M. Henry.) (T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
II. IN DEATH. Asleep.
1. Withdrawn from the ordinary activities of life, as the mind is during the hours of slumber.
(T. Whitelaw, D. D.)Deuteronomy 31:16; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 27:52; Acts 7:60; Acts 13:36; 1 Corinthians 7:39; 1 Corinthians 11:30; 1 Corinthians 15:6-18; 1 Thessalonians 4:13, 14). But it is a striking fact that the figure is frequently used by great heathen writers, showing clearly that the traditions of a life after death existed even among the heathen. Homer, Sophocles, Virgil, Catullus, supply instances. However, the Christian believer is the only one who can truly regard death as sleep — that is, as a healthy, refreshing thing, which can do him no harm. Many among ourselves, perhaps, are not aware that the figure of speech exists among us in full force in the word "cemetery," applied to burial ground. That word is drawn from the very Greek verb which our Lord uses here. It is literally a "sleeping place."
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)