Sermon title: “I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE”
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, May 12, 2019
that we read about in John, Chapter 11,
wasn’t the first time Jesus raised someone from the dead.
A mother’s worst nightmare
is to lose one of her children to an early death.
And that’s what had happened to a mother in the town of Nain.
She had lost her only son.
And she was a widow, besides.
So, in that ancient society
without a social safety net,
there would be no one to provide for her.
But the account in Luke Chapter 7 tells us
that Jesus stopped the funeral procession,
went up to the open coffin,
and told the dead man to get up.
Luke 7:15 tells us,
“The dead man sat up and began to talk,
and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
Everyone who saw this
was filled with awe
and praised God.
But the resurrection of Lazarus was different.
This time, the funeral had taken place days earlier,
and Lazarus had been dead in the grave for 4 days.
But, before I get ahead of myself,
let’s look at the biblical account
beginning at John, Chapter 11, Verse 1.
Remember, Lazarus was a common name back then,
and this account had nothing to do
with the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus.
That was an illustrative story
involving a different Lazarus.
This account that we’re about to read in John 11
was an actual event
that contributed to Jesus’ enemies’ desire to kill him.
Starting with John 11:1, it says,
1 Now a man named Lazarus was sick.
He was from Bethany,
the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
Bethany was a small town on the outskirts of Jerusalem—
a town that was also mentioned
a number of other times in the Gospels.
It was east of Jerusalem proper,
and lies in the area called the West Bank today,
and the Palestinians there call the town
by its Arabic name al-Eizariya,
which translates into English as “place of Lazarus.”
Verse 2 says,
2 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.
That’s an account that we haven’t come to, yet,
in our chronological coverage of Jesus’ ministry.
But John’s First Century readers
were familiar with it,
even though John’s Gospel account
hasn’t got to that part of the story yet.
3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus,
"Lord, the one you love is sick."
4 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."
Jesus knew, of course,
that Lazarus was going to die from this sickness,
and that he would visit his grave
and raise him to life.
5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.
6 Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick,
he stayed where he was two more days.
“where he was”—where Jesus was—was evidently in Galilee,
when Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus
that his friend Lazarus was sick;
the next verse makes it clear
that he wasn’t in Judea,
because it says,
7 Then he said to his disciples,
"Let us go back to Judea."
The disciples objected.
8 "But Rabbi," they said,
"a short while ago
the Jews tried to stone you,
and yet you are going back there?"
The crowds of Jews in Jerusalem
had picked up stones to stone Jesus to death,
the last time he was there.
But our Lord was determined to return there, anyway.
9 Jesus answered,
"Are there not twelve hours of daylight?
A man who walks by day will not stumble,
for he sees by this world's light.
10 It is when he walks by night
that he stumbles,
for he has no light."
Apparently, Jesus was referring to
the need to get his work done on earth
while it was still possible.
His ministry was coming to a close,
but the workday wasn’t over yet,
and there was more work to do:
This time, the work of resurrecting Lazarus.
Verse 11 tells us,
11 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."
12 His disciples replied,
"Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better."
13 Jesus had been speaking of his death,
but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly,
"Lazarus is dead,
15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there,
so that you may believe.
But let us go to him."
The disciples had already seen Jesus heal many sick people.
But they had not yet seen him
call out of the grave
a man who had been dead four days.
This would give them more evidence—
more proof on which to base their belief
that Jesus was the Son of God.
But there was a “doubting Thomas” in the group.
In fact, this is where we get our common expression—
It’s a reference to the Apostle Thomas,
who always seemed to have something negative to say:
a doubt, a skeptical question,
or a pessimistic objection.
When Jesus spoke about taking believers home to heaven with him,
Thomas objected at John 14:5 and said,
“Lord, we don’t know where you are going,
so how can we know the way?”
Later, after Jesus was crucified, rose from the dead,
and appeared to the other disciples,
Thomas doubted and said,
“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands
and put my finger where the nails were,
and put my hand into his side,
I will not believe.”
And now, on this occasion,
when Lazarus had died,
and Jesus invites the disciples
to go back with him to Judea—
a place where crowds had recently
attempted to stone Jesus to death,
Thomas makes another pessimistic remark:
16 Then Thomas (called Didymus)
said to the rest of the disciples,
"Let us also go,
that we may die with him."
Thomas casts the trip in a negative light,
suggesting that Jesus and his disciples
will be going to their deaths
if they return to Judea.
He evidently doubted what Jesus had just said:
that “Lazarus has fallen asleep;
but I am going there to wake him up”
and that the end result would be, as Jesus said,
“so that you may believe.”
Jesus appears to have ignored Thomas’s pessimistic remark,
and they all set out for Judea, anyway.
Verse 17 tells us,
17 On his arrival,
Jesus found that Lazarus
had already been in the tomb for four days.
18 Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem,
19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary
to comfort them in the loss of their brother.
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming,
she went out to meet him,
but Mary stayed at home.
21 "Lord," Martha said to Jesus,
"if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.
22 But I know that even now
God will give you whatever you ask."
Apparently, Martha couldn’t hide her disappointment
that Jesus hadn’t come sooner—
in time to heal her brother from his sickness,
and keep him from dying.
But, she still expressed faith
that Jesus could do the impossible.
23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
24 Martha answered, "I know he will rise again
in the resurrection at the last day."
Their Old Testament had already given the Jews
hope of a resurrection
at the end of the world.
At Daniel 12:13, God’s angel told the prophet,
"As for you, go your way till the end.
You will rest,
and then at the end of the days
you will rise
to receive your allotted inheritance."
And Job said, at Job 19:25,
“I know that my Redeemer lives,
and in the end He will stand upon the earth.
26 Even after my skin has been destroyed,
yet in my flesh I will see God.
Martha was expressing that same hope
of a resurrection in the distant future,
at the end of the world,
when she said,
"I know he will rise again
in the resurrection at the last day."
But, in Verse 25,
25 Jesus said to her,
"I am the resurrection and the life.
He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
26 and whoever lives and believes in me
will never die.
Do you believe this?"
27 "Yes, Lord," she told him,
"I believe that you are the Christ,
the Son of God, who was to come into the world."
So, Martha heard something new from Jesus’ lips.
She already knew and believed
that he was “the Christ, the Son of God.”
But now she also heard Jesus say,
"I am the resurrection and the life.
Verse 28 tells us that,
after she expressed faith in Christ,
she went back and called her sister Mary aside.
"The Teacher is here," she said,
"and is asking for you."
29 When Mary heard this,
she got up quickly and went to him.
30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village,
but was still at the place
where Martha had met him.
31 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.
32 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."
Again, there was that disappointment,
first shown by Martha, and now by Mary—
disappointment that Jesus hadn’t come right away,
in time to keep Lazarus from dying.
We can identify with that, can’t we?
I’ve experienced many answered prayers—
even miraculous answers that knocked my socks off.
But, sometimes God’s answer to my prayer was, “Later!”
I didn’t hear God say, “Later!”
But I knew that he was delaying
giving me the thing I had asked for.
We can be disappointed,
when God doesn’t act as soon as we wish.
And we see that disappointment expressed here
by Martha, and then by Mary.
They went through the painful tragedyof losing their brother.
And sometimes we, too,
suffer painful loss in this world.
Or the pain of unanswered prayer
in some other area of our life.
We don’t understand why God’s answer to our prayer was ‘Later!’
But, like Martha and Mary,
we can learn to have faith,
and to trust that God will
make everything work out best for us
in his own timing.
Verse 33 continues,
33 When Jesus saw her weeping,
and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping,
he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
34 "Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
“Jesus wept.” He feels our pain.
The Lord doesn’t just go smugly along,
ignoring our feelings.
When we are hurt, he is hurt, too.
“he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”
And he goes through our pain with us.
He holds our hand in our time of trouble,
and he feels our pain with us.
The mourners who had come to Martha and Mary’s home
to comfort them—they “said, "See how he loved him!"
37 But some of them said,
"Could not he
who opened the eyes of the blind man
have kept this man from dying?"
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb.
It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
39 "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."
40 Then Jesus said,
"Did I not tell you
that if you believed,
you would see the glory of God?"
41 So they took away the stone.
Then Jesus looked up and said,
"Father, I thank you that you have heard me.
42 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."
43 When he had said this,
Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!"
44 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."
45 Therefore many of the Jews
who had come to visit Mary,
and had seen what Jesus did,
put their faith in him.
46 But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees
called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
48 "What are we accomplishing?" they asked.
"Here is this man performing many miraculous signs.
If we let him go on like this,
everyone will believe in him,
and then the Romans will come
and take away both our place and our nation."
You would think that everyone would rejoice
over the wonderful miracle Jesus performed
in raising Lazarus from the dead.
But the religious leaders were jealous of Christ’s popularity.
And they failed to recognize God in all of this.
They were looking at these events
from the standpoint of their own power in the world,
and they saw Jesus as the competition,
instead of recognizing him as the Son of God.
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, spoke up,
"You know nothing at all!
50 You do not realize
that it is better for you
that one man die for the people
than that the whole nation perish."
51 He did not say this on his own,
but as high priest that year he prophesied
that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation,
52 and not only for that nation
but also for the scattered children of God,
to bring them together and make them one.
So, even though Caiaphas was one of Jesus’ enemies,
God spoke through him as High Priest
And so, he foretold that Jesus would die
for the Jews and for all mankind.
He didn’t really understand what he was saying, though.
His thought was that they should kill Jesus,
before Jesus provoked a political crisis
that would bring Roman retaliation.
So, the Jewish leadership became determined to kill Jesus.
53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54 Therefore Jesus
no longer moved about publicly among the Jews.
Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert,
to a village called Ephraim,
where he stayed with his disciples.
55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover,
many went up from the country to Jerusalem
for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover.
56 They kept looking for Jesus,
and as they stood in the temple area
they asked one another, "What do you think?
Isn't he coming to the Feast at all?"
57 But the chief priests and Pharisees
had given orders
that if anyone found out where Jesus was,
he should report it so that they might arrest him.
And it was no longer just Jesus they wanted to kill.
If we look ahead to John Chapter 12, Verse 9, we read,
9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews
found out that Jesus was there and came,
not only because of him but also to see Lazarus,
whom he had raised from the dead.
10 So the chief priests made plans
to kill Lazarus as well,
11 for on account of him
many of the Jews were going over to Jesus
and believing in him.
Instead of believing the powerful evidence
that Jesus was the Son of God,
the leadership wanted to kill him—
and to destroy the evidence
by killing Lazarus, too.
As we reflect on what happened
when Jesus called Lazarus to come out of the tomb,
we come away with lessons
that can help us in our walk of faith.
Martha and Mary were hurt and disappointed
that Jesus didn’t come sooner
and keep their brother from dying in the first place.
We, too, may feel such hurt and disappointment
with unanswered prayer,
when God’s answer really is
‘Not now, but later!’
God understands that this disappoints us,
He made sure that the Gospel writer
wrote down that both Martha and Mary said,
“Lord, if you had been here,
my brother would not have died.”
But we also saw that “Jesus wept.”
“he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled”
and he “wept.”
Our Lord knows
that he will answer our prayers
in the way that is really best for us—
--and at the best possible time—
but he still feels our pain in the meantime.
And his raising Lazarus from the dead
gives us confidence
to believe Jesus’ promise
that he is “the resurrection and the life.”
In the 4th Chapter of his 1st Letter to the Thessalonians,
the Apostle Paul summed up our hope,
beginning with Verse 13:
13 Brothers and sisters,
we do not want you to be uninformed
about those who sleep in death,
so that you do not grieve
like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.
14 For we believe
that Jesus died and rose again,
and so we believe
that God will bring with Jesus
those who have fallen asleep in him.
15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you
that we who are still alive,
who are left until the coming of the Lord,
will certainly not precede
those who have fallen asleep.
16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven,
with a loud command,
with the voice of the archangel
and with the trumpet call of God,
and the dead in Christ will rise first.
17 After that,
we who are still alive and are left
will be caught up together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
And so we will be with the Lord forever.
18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.
And we do indeed
find our encouragement
in our living Lord,
who raised Lazarus from the dead.