John 11:39
"Take away the stone," Jesus said. "Lord, by now he stinks," said Martha, the sister of the dead man. "It has already been four days."
Man as a Helper in Divine WorkL. O. Thompson.John 11:39
Pity Must be Followed by Active HelpC. H. Spurgeon.John 11:39
Taking the Stone AwayC. F. Deems, D. D.John 11:39
The Reticence of PowerJ. Laidlaw, D. D.John 11:39
The Sphere of InstrumentalityC. H. Spurgeon.John 11:39
The Stone Taken AwayR. Besser, D. D.John 11:39
Thrice in the gospel narrative is Jesus recorded to have wept; viz. over the unbelieving and doomed city of Jerusalem, by the grave of his friend, Lazarus of Bethany, and in the garden of Gethsemane, when enduring the agony which all but overwhelmed his soul. Much valuable and consolatory reflection is suggested by the simple record, "Jesus wept."


1. It is obvious to say this capacity lay in his true human nature. As we read in Job, "Man is born to sorrow;" as our poet sings, "Man is made to mourn." Jesus was "a Man of sorrows."

2. Christ was capable of human sympathy. Men weep for themselves, and they weep for others. The tears of Jesus were tears shed, not for himself, but for members of this race whose nature he assumed.

3. This capacity lay yet deeper in our Lord's Divinity. It is unjust to represent God as unfeeling; he is susceptible of some deep "painless sympathy with pain." He pities and grieves over the sorrow he nevertheless in wisdom and in love permits.

II. THE OCCASIONS OF CHRIST'S TEARS. The narrative reveals:

1. His personal sorrow for the death of his friend. He had been wont to come to Bethany to meet with a cordial welcome and a friendly smile from Lazarus. And as he knew the joys of friendship, so did he experience the distress of bereavement. There was justice in the exclamation of the Jews, "Behold how he loved him!"

2. His sympathy with the grief of the bereaved sisters. Mary and Martha were nearest in kindred and in affection to the deceased Lazarus; and Jesus, who loved all three, could not but feet for the sisters whom he found in sorrow and in tears.

3. Consciousness of the power of sin. Nothing less than this can account for the prevalence and the bitterness of the heart's anguish. Jesus, who knew all things, knew this; it was sin which "brought death into the world with all its woes." In every instance of human mortality Jesus could not fail to discern the bitterer root of fruit so bitter. Hence the strong emotion he displayed, as he groaned and was stirred and moved by the mighty wave of feeling which swept over his soul.

III. THE PRACTICAL OUTCOME OF CHRIST'S TEARS. There are cases in which tears are a substitute for help. It was not so in the instance before us. The heart that found expression for its woe in tears, found expression for its sympathy and pity in the reaching out of a hand of help. Jesus first wept, and then succored the sorrowful and raised the dead. Christian sympathy should be like Christ's sympathy, which was not content with words and tears, but made for itself a way of practical compassion.


1. They assure us that we have in him a feeling Friend, who in all our afflictions is afflicted.

2. They teach us a lesson of sympathy - that we should "weep with those who weep."

3. They remind us by contrast of that state where "all tears shall be wiped from off all faces."

"The path of sorrow, and that path alone,
Leads to the land where sorrow is unknown." T.

Jesus said, Take ye away the stone.
I. GOD NEVER PERFORMS AN UNNECESSARY ACT. We know most of God in Christ, and Christ never spoke an unnecessary word or did an unnecessary deed, although He had omnipotence at His command. Had this merely been delegated to Christ as a man it is inconceivable that He should not at some time have put forth His power to gratify the curiosity of friends, or to bind the hands of foes. But He never did; then God never does. It is the merest fanaticism to pray that God would give us a sign and set the universe agape.

II. GOD NEVER DOES DIRECTLY WHAT HE CAN DO THROUGH OTHERS. He has begotten children capable of knowing, feeling, and acting. He has made them free, He gives them the field, He allows them time; they must do the rest.

1. He will never do for the race what the race can do for itself. He could have stocked the world at the first with all the implements of agriculture, travel, and research. But He did not. He put man down among the quiet facts and laws of His universe, with physical, intellectual, and moral powers, and man was to produce the result. God made the garden because man could not, and then set man to dress it because God would not.

2. The same rule holds good spiritually. Man's agency precedes God's working. In regeneration there is first the agency of man in Churches, preaching, books, etc., and then the power of God doing what man cannot do.

III. THE HELP WE CAN RENDER GOD IN THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS GREAT DESIGNS. We can remove the stones which hinder spiritual resurrections. What are they?

1. Indifference. This is produced by —(1) The engrossing work of life. Your friend is like the racer who does not notice whether the sun is shining or clouds gathering, all he thinks of is the goal. All he needs is to be arrested and made to feel that he is wasting his energies for a prize he may not gain, or if gained, nothing in comparison with what is lost.(2) Ignorance. He does not know that there is gold in California, and so keeps at his potato patch. Not knowing the treasures of religion he satisfies himself with the best he knows — worldly pursuits and joys.(3) The frigidity of the religious atmosphere he breathes. When people are at freezing point they would rather die than stir. It is no mercy in a fellow traveller to indulge a freezing man with a short nap. It may be the sleep of death.

2. Scepticism. There are two courses open to doubters. They may open their minds to their friends. Their friends may sympathetically enter into their questions and answer them, and thus remove the stone. Or their friends may do, as too many do, treat them as lepers, in which case they bury their doubts in their own hearts, and a stone is placed over them. Don't do that. Do as Christ did with Thomas.

3. The inconsistency of Christians. How many neighbours, employes, are kept away from Christ by the practical unbelief of the professors with whom they are in daily contact.

4. Vicious indulgence which can only be removed by personal influence and example.

(C. F. Deems, D. D.)

(text and ver. 44): — Although God alone is the Quickener there are many things which we can do for others.


1. We can call in the Master, as the sisters did. We must earnestly pray for souls and get them in contact with the Saviour

2. We can believe as they did, that whatsoever Christ asks of God will be granted; that He is able and willing to raise the spiritually dead.

3. We can roll away the stone of —(1) Ignorance. Let not the people die for lack of knowledge.(2) Error — that they will be saved by their good works, etc.(3) Prejudice.

(a)That religion is gloomy, by being happy.

(b)That religion is effeminate, by being men.

(c)That religion is mere sentiment, by experimentally demonstrating its reality.

(d)That religion is not for "such as us," i.e., the working classes, by showing that Jesus is the people's Man.(4) Solitariness. Let men feel that Christianity is social and fraternal.(5) Degradation. Help men out of the mire of sin.(6) Despair. Infuse hope into the most hopeless.

II. AFTER CONVERSION. Lazarus is alive, but he is encumbered with grave clothes; it is the business of his friends to loose him and let him go. New converts want loosing for the sake of their own: —

1. Comfort. Remove their doubts and fears.

2. Freedom. Gently lead them out of those habits which still bind the new man.

3. Fellowship. Just as Lazarus could not enjoy his sisters' society till his swathing bands were off, so real Christians are kept back from fellowship by a sense of unfitness, etc. Encourage them: compel them to come in.

4. Testimony. Lazarus was unable to bear witness while the napkin was about his head, so young converts are deterred by nervousness, etc.

5. Service. Take them by the hand and teach them how to use their hands and feet for God.

6. Communion with Christ. After Lazarus was unbound he sat at the table with Jesus. Don't leave the new convert until he enjoys full fellowship with Christ.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

(text and ver. 44): — God's power is all-sufficient. He does not need human help. The utmost that man can do is little. What little man is required or permitted to do is for his own welfare and improvement.


1. Physical. God has given bodily life, and then continues to uphold its powers, so that man is capable of work within the appointed limits.

2. Natural. God has adapted the seed to the soil, and sunshine, rain, and seasons to harvests; but to man He has given the important work of combining the conditions. God will not plough and scatter the seed; neither will He cut and grind the grain. God stops His work where man's may begin, and begins His where man's must stop.


1. The miraculous. It was just as easy for Christ to do all, in the raising up of Lazarus, as only a part. But at the grave He said, "Take ye away the stone;" and after the working of the miracle, Jesus said unto them, "Loose him, and let him go." This the friends of Lazarus might do, and in doing might either receive unmistakable proof of the life-giving power, or show their tender sympathy for the sisters and the risen man by ministering to them and him.

2. The spiritual. It is the Holy Spirit that gives life or renews the soul, and then the means of grace are to be faithfully used in building up a Christlike character.

3. The providential. Here the renewed are directed to offer prayer for the fulfilment of the promises as relate to nations and individuals, for the evangelization of the world, for the coming of God's kingdom, and then faithfully to employ all necessary instrumentalities by which to secure these ends.


1. "Take ye away the stone." This is preliminary. If the word is to enter a soul "dead in trespasses and sins," the stone of prejudice, ignorance and unbelief must be taken away, and then the life-giving word will enter and do its work.

2. "Loose him." Let us help others to a greater freedom and larger usefulness.

3. "And let him go." Let us not chide others if they do not work in exactly our chosen methods, or in the same branches of moral and spiritual work. There is "one Spirit," and "to every man his work."

(L. O. Thompson.)

When Luther received the Divine call: "Take away the stone!" the body of the Church had already lain more than four hundred years in the Romish grave, and more than one faint-hearted Martha shrank from the smell of corruption which was being wafted by the stone-removing Reformation; but Luther's faith prospered unto the seeing of the glory of God. And we, if we would believe, should then know by real experience that the fragrance of incorruptible life, which goes forth from the Head of the Church, is powerful enough to overcome the corruption which Death is working in her members. Before every Lazarus grave of Jesus' beloved Church the glory of the Lord stands ready to reveal itself.

(R. Besser, D. D.)

Suppose we had read, Jesus wept, and went about His daily business, I should have felt small comfort in the passage. If nothing had come of it but tears, it would have been a great falling off from the usual ways of our blessed Lord. Tears! what are they alone? Salt water! A cup of them would be of little worth to anybody. But, beloved, Jesus wept, and then He cried, "Lazarus, come forth."

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

The Divine modesty, if we may so say, of the miracle which tells us that this setting aside for once of the stern law of death is the work of Him who is the Lord of law, and respects it in all His worlds — the Author not of confusion, but of peace. To have done these other things without means would not have rendered the true marvel greater, it would only have added something of prodigy to miracle, which Jesus never did. What is still more to the purpose, it would have been out of keeping with His working, who never wastes His power, who never confuses the natural and the supernatural, the human and the Divine. In His all-wise hand the two systems are one plan. The supernatural is never made to do the work of the natural, but the natural is the basis and preparation for the supernatural. The principle is a most important one, and most pointedly applicable to the kingdom of grace. You say, if God means to save my friend, or my child, his salvation will be of grace; and grace is wholly supernatural. The new heart is a Divine gift; nothing but an immediate act of Divine power will make him a new creature; just as nothing but the voice of Jesus could call Lazarus from the tomb. True! yet He bids you "take away the stone." Remove ignorance, root up bad habits, implant good ones, rescue your neglected brother from degradation and misery. Give your children Christian education, prepare their minds to receive the truth in Jesus. Do these things, then may you pray and look for the raising of the morally lifeless. But if you do nothing; if you neglect to teach, to train, to strive and pray for them, wonder not if they sink into utter ungodliness and spiritual death.

(J. Laidlaw, D. D.)

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