John 11:42-43, “And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.”
This morning, motives are difficult to detect. When a person’s mouth says one thing and his actions another, we puzzle as to his motivation(s). Further still, sometimes people act in certain ways for the benefit of others. For example, someone may share a personal experience with a friend to help console or build up their friend during a difficult situation. Knowing that others have been in similar situations can bolster the resolve of someone to shoulder on. However, consider the exact same scenario under different motivating factors. What if someone told his friend a personal experience that might “seem” to strengthen his friend but in reality take the light off the hearer’s situation and put it on the teller? The motivating factor could be to gain compassion, pity, or otherwise from the other party. Both stories carry similar storylines, but they stem from highly polarized motivations.
Many times, we might read the Scriptures and wonder, “Why did Christ do that?” I remember as a younger and ignorant boy wondering why Christ did not just wait to perform miracles the day after the sabbath to keep people from persecuting him. To the natural mind, that makes sense, and it makes sense even to synagogue rulers. (Luke 13:14) Still, whether I ever discover the motivating factor for Christ’s actions or not, one thing should be abundantly clear and undeniable: all of His motivations were as equally pure and just as the actions themselves. (John 8:29) Should we never know anything about some of the things He did or why, we can rest assured that they are all in Him yea and amen to the praise and glory of God. (II Corinthians 1:20) However, Christ does not leave us in doubt on numerous occasions as to why He does what He does.
Our study verses above are from the near conclusion of the account of Lazarus being raised back to life by our Lord and Saviour. However, Christ, in the context, sets the record straight on many things before He actually raises Lazarus up. Early on, He instructs His disciples on the concept that death of the body to them is but sleep to His perspective. Martha is instructed not to refer to the resurrection as an actual day but the substance and reality of it being Christ Himself. Furthermore, He declares to His Father the reason and motivation for His verbal speaking on this earth.
Honest question: had Christ never opened His mouth to declare one solitary thing about His work of redemption and atonement, would He have ascended to heaven any less victorious in that work? The simple answer is that “no” He would not have been any less victorious in that. The declaration of something does not make it so, but the declaration of something professes what is already so. Therefore, Christ did not open His mouth in verbal speaking to make something so. Rather, He opened His mouth to declare what is so. The power of God Almighty does not require Him to verbally speak to accomplish His purpose. Should He choose just to have the thought, the purpose will be accomplished just as His thought designed it to be, although He does oftentimes from Scriptural record speak audibly when accomplishing His purpose. (John 5:25)
Another honest question: should we be thankful that Christ did open His mouth to declare His work of redemption and atonement among other things? The simple answer should resound in a constant “yes” of thanksgiving that He did. Christ freely professes to the Father in our verses that He is not speaking for His benefit – nor the Father’s for that matter. He speaks for the benefit of those that stood by. They, as we today, are sad creatures of doubt. Doubting creatures must have things affirmed and reaffirmed. Had Christ ever said that the Father sent Him? Yes, John 6:37-40 says so. Yet, here Christ again affirms the point that by speaking audibly to the Father, those standing by – and yea even us today – will know and understand that this One is always heard in heaven and indeed was sent from heaven.
While we will attempt, in a later writing, to address the last and most often described phrase from verse 43, let us ponder the ramifications and motivation for the opening phrases of verse 43. Jesus has already clearly stated His motivation and reasoning for even speaking audibly. Now, He increases the level by crying in a loud voice. What could possibly motivate such a thing? Was a loud voice necessary to reach Lazarus’ dead ears? As already previously stated, the Deity need never utter audible syllables to accomplish His purpose, for the purpose of His pleasure can be effectual with or without voice. Furthermore, volume is not what affects the dead, for the variance of sound (volume) is not perceived by the dead.
Let us notice some of the particulars of this scene in conjunction with Christ’s loud voice. Looking at the context of this chapter, Christ intentionally waited before coming to Bethany, making His arrival 4 days after Lazarus’ death. Indeed, when word first reached Christ, Lazarus was reported as simply sick, but He purposely waits and arrives “4 days late” by the world’s standards. While the Scriptures do not explicitly state why, what might we infer from this? Certainly, Christ was not being cruel to this family that He loved. Such is against His nature. What was Martha’s protest when He commanded that the stone be rolled away? She protested that his body was already decaying and highly pungent to the smell. (Verses 38-39)
When that stone was rolled away, the odious scent of death no doubt came pouring forth from that tomb. No one on that occasion would dare doubt that this man was really and truly dead. Indeed, we might infer from Christ’s action to wait before coming that He would put away any proof that someone might have of this mighty miracle that He would perform. Death reeked on that occasion, but Life stands to overcome that power and its associated smell. Therefore, knowing that no one could doubt the fact of Lazarus’ death, what other tactic might the critic employ? How else could he attribute this wondrous work to trickery? If one cannot condemn the party being raised, he must condemn the party doing the raising.
The critic could employ the tactic, “Was his voice really what did it? Surely the dead was really dead because of the smell, but did the man Jesus really do it? How do we know?” While the Scriptures do not specify how many were gathered on that occasion, the implication is that it was more than a few. (Verses 31-37) By crying in a loud voice, Jesus removes any possible doubt the critic might use to deny the correlation between His voice and the raising of the dead man. The volume did not make the work any more or less powerful, but it manifested to a greater degree to all there present that surely this One really and truly did do this.
After all, His speaking in the first place was for all those people there present to benefit – in a knowledge way – from what He did on this occasion. Those same words are inspirationally penned and preserved for us today so that we might all benefit as well. When His voice echoed around Calvary, “Eli, Eli, la-ma sa-bach-tha-ni?” that loud declaration was for our benefit to have some knowledge of what He went through for us. (Matthew 27:46) Even though darkness reigned upon the earth at the ninth hour when He declared that loudly from the cross, none present could deny hearing the voice of Him who said it. These and other loud declarations do not carry more “voice power” than His “even toned” dialogues, but they do serve to show us His motivations for speaking and sometimes speaking in such a loud fashion.
While the critic still walks the earth seeking to deny the work of our blessed Saviour, may we cling to those precious words that His lips uttered. Those words to not make reality, but thanks be unto Him that He was pleased to declare reality on these occasions for us. Thanks be unto Him that we have audibly expressed unto us, “It is finished,” (John 19:30) “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” (Luke 23:46) and others. Thanks be unto Him that certain occasions were marked by loud speaking to remove all justification for doubtful disputations. Thanks even more unto Him for mercifully affirming and reaffirming these things in His word and in our lives so that the clouds of doubt that seem to linger and loom so often get burned away in the rays of His glorious sunshine.