I AM the Resurrection and the Life
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.” After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.
Introduction: Have you ever wondered if evil is taking over? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by the pressures of this world?
Sometimes it seems like Death has the upper hand.
Death is the Enemy
Death is the Enemy
We must all face death
Death and dying are always on the back burners of everyone's mind, from preschoolers to the oldest adult. Some nine-year-old children were asked what they thought of death and dying.
Jim said, "When you die, they bury you in the ground and your soul goes to heaven, but your body can't go to heaven, because it's too crowded up there already."
Judy said, "Only the good people go to heaven. The other people go where it's hot all the time, like in Florida."
John said, "Maybe I'll die someday, but I hope I don't die on my birthday because it's no fun to celebrate it if you're dead."
Marsha commented, "When you die, you don't have to do homework in heaven, unless your teacher is there, too."
We have different responses to death and funerals - ignore, dwell, fear
"I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying."
It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens.
This story, however, seems to be more than what meets the eye.
Death here is not just physical death - Lazarus dies again - it is the enemy, deterioration, the Curse, Satan’s victory.
So when Jesus speaks about resurrection it is more than a resuscitation-
Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life
Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life
Conversation with Martha
In Jesus’ day, many believed in a general resurrection
Jesus is talking about more than an event.
Jesus embodies the resurrection and all it means.
While Resurrection “is” an event - Jesus’, the general - Lazarus - We have no choice - either he did or he did not - the story is making the claim that this event actually happened, not metaphorical, mythical, simply symbolic.
Painstaking timing - Lazarus sick, when messenger left, but died shortly after, 1-day journey to find Jesus, Jesus lingered 2 days, then 1 day travel to Bethel - he comes on the 4th day, day of decay.
More than an event - Resurrection is embodied in Christ.
Since Christ is alive Resurrection is present tense not future tense for Christians IN Christ.
It is a reality that impacts the totality of life.
So what difference does the resurrection make in our every day living?
Jesus is More Powerful than Death
Jesus is More Powerful than Death
Those who saw the resurrection of Lazarus saw God’s power
Some believed and some were scared
“God does his best work in cemetaries” - K. Korver
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,
We are talking about everything that is tied to death.
To illustrate “grave clothes” issues that need to come off of us, take a roll of toilet paper and, with sheets still intact, write in large letters common sin patterns that are destructive (for example: forgotten, addicted to pornography, cursing, hateful, unforgiveness, gossip, angry outbursts, lying, alcoholism, immorality, impurity, condemning myself, fear of humans, etc.). Then wrap a person in this roll of paper like a mummy and have them waiting a bit out of sight until the point in the message when you are ready. Have the mummy come out and unwrap him/her. Call out the words as you take them off and replace them with the opposite, based on who we are in Christ (“You are no longer hateful. In Christ, you are called beloved. You are no longer forgotten. In Christ, you are sought out.”).
It means God is winning when all evidence in your life points to the opposite.
It means believing that Jesus can and will heal.
It means believing that Jesus can and will heal, when he doesn’t
It means carrying with us a strong confidence in the face of death, difficulty, temptation, etc..
It means that even when we die to ourselves, or die physically, death does not have the upper hand, Christ does.
So though we mourn over deaths effects, and know it is real, we are not caught off guard, because we know Christ will overcome.
Cancer is limited
When Dan Richardson, and enthusiastic believer in Christ, lost his battle with Cancer, the following piece was disbributed at his memorial service.
Cancer is limited….
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot eat away peace,
It cannot destroy confidence,
It cannot kill a friendship,
It cannot shut out memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot reduce eternal life,
It cannot quench the spirit,
It cannot lessen the power of the resurrection.
-Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch.
Give an invitation for people to exchange old life for new life in Christ. Jesus IS the resurrection and the life. He can breathe life into our ashes, into our dead bodies and lives. Provide an opportunity for response and personal prayer for those who are struggling in the midst of pain or doubt (like Mary), as well as those who long to know the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus, for the first time. Be sure to also offer personal prayer for those who are struggling to remove their grave clothes, despite the resurrection Christ has given them.
Reference the Reformed Confessions: The Reformed Confessions are statements of faith written to clarify the Gospel at times when the Church was in crisis. Heidelberg Chatechism: Q&A 45, 49-51, 57-58 Belgic Confession: Articles 20, 37