Second Reformed Church

Monday, June 06, 2016

"I Am the Resurrection and the Life" Sermon: John 11:17-27

“I Am the Resurrection and the Life”
[John 11:17-27]
June 5, 2016 Second Reformed Church
            We will remember that the Jews were trying to kill Jesus after He taught in the Temple and explained that He is God the Savior, so Jesus went to the other side of the Jordan River.  While He was there, He received word that His very close friend, Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, was desperately ill.  So Jesus told the disciples that He would wait two days before going to see Lazarus.
            After two days, word came that Lazarus was dead, so Jesus said it was time to go to Bethany – which was near Jerusalem – and Thomas declared that they might as well all go together and die with Jesus.
            Jesus waited so He would arrive four days after Lazarus’ death to show that God is Sovereign over life and death – and God uses our lives, our health and our illness, and our death to bring glory to Himself.  It is all part of His plan – it is the Will of our Loving Father for His children for many reason, but, ultimately, to glorify Himself.
            We continue to look at this history as Jesus neared Bethany, and we see, first, Martha believed God would give Jesus whatever He asked.
            “Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’”
            Lazarus was well-known and well-loved.  Four days after his death, many of the Jews in Jerusalem made the two-mile journey and remained with Mary and Martha as they mourned Lazarus’ death.  The Jews were trying to console and comfort Mary and Martha on this tragic occasion.
            Now, Martha heard that Jesus was near, so she got up and ran out of the house and went to look for Jesus; Mary stayed seated in the house.  We may remember another occasion when Jesus was visiting and Martha was running to and fro in the house, while Mary say at the feet of Jesus and listened to Him.  Their personalities are consistently recorded.
            Martha met up with Jesus and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
            This was not a complaint so much as a frustration.  Martha knew that Jesus had miraculously healed others, and she believed that He could have healed Lazarus, but He hadn’t come, and Lazarus died.  And she didn’t understand why.
            We believe that God is our loving Father.  We believe that God is able to heal and does heal.  And so we pray and plead and cry out to God for our loved ones and ourselves to be healed.
            We can empathize, right?  Why are some people healed and not others?  God certainly has the ability to heal everyone.  Why didn’t God keep Lazarus from experiencing death then?  Why do our loved ones suffer?  Why are other people healed, and we are not?  We believe – we do not doubt.  Why haven’t You come here to heal the one we love?
            The Psalmist writes, “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Here is the sea, great and wide,    which teems with creatures innumerable, living things both small and great. There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it” (Psalm 104:24-26, ESV).
            And Paul worships, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:33-36, ESV).
            What does this tell us?  God is all-powerful and all wisdom.  Our minds cannot comprehend all that God has done and decided to bring Himself the greatest glory.  So, our appropriate response is to worship our great God and to trust that He loves us and knows better than we do what is best for us.
            We believe that God is able, loving, and true.  Jesus could have healed Lazarus so he would not die, but it was best – in the wisdom of God – to let him die and be very dead – before Jesus arrived.
            And so, we may not know why some prayers are answered “yes” and some are not, but we can trust God that He hears us and is wisely bringing all things to the end that He intends.
            But Martha continues:
“But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
Martha was a believer in Jesus; she was a disciple of Jesus.  She understood that death was not a hindrance to Jesus – just because Lazarus was dead did not mean that he could not live.  If Jesus asked God the Father, God the Father would do what Jesus asked of Him.
Jesus said, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13-14, ESV).
The question we must ask is what does it mean to ask “in Jesus’ Name”?  Does it mean to merely say “in Jesus’ Name” when we pray?  If I pray, “Almighty Father, I ask that You would put ten million dollars in our church’s bank account, in Jesus’ Name” – will it happen?
Some people say that’s true.  If we just think positively about what we want – if we pray confidently in faith – the universe – God – will give us whatever we ask.  But that is just silly.  And it certainly isn’t what Jesus means.  What if two people prayed in Jesus’ Name – one that Hillary would be elected president and one that Donald would be elected president – what would God do?
No, what Jesus means when He says that He will give us anything we ask for “in Jesus’ Name” is that He will give us everything we ask for that is according to His Will.  If we ask for anything that Jesus wants us to have and be, we shall receive it.  If we look at what the Scripture says – Jesus wants us to be holy, for example – so if we pray to God, “in Jesus’ Name,” that God will make us holy, then God will make us holy, because that is what God wants.  Whenever we pray for what God wants – as believers in Jesus as our God and Savior – God will give us those things.
And so Martha confessed that she knew that God would give Jesus anything He asked for.  If Jesus asked that Lazarus would be raised from the dead and it was God’s Will that Lazarus be raised from the dead, God would do it.
Second, we see that Martha believed that there is a physical resurrection.
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’”
“Yes, your brother will physically rise from the dead.” 
“Yes, Martha, you’re right – anything I ask the Father for, He will grant, and your brother will physically rise from the dead.”
Martha’s confidence wanes a bit here – she is not so sure.  When does Jesus mean that her brother would physically rise from the dead?
“I know that on the last day, God will raise all people from the dead in their physical bodies…” 
“Is that what You’re talking about, Jesus?  Are You trying to comfort me with the fact that death is only a transitional state – that nobody stays dead forever…?”
“No, what I am saying, Martha, is that I am the resurrection and the life.”
We remember that in these “I am” sayings, the Jews would have understood that Jesus was saying that He is God – as He refers to that most holy Name of God, “I am.”  So, Jesus was telling Martha something: “As God the Son and Savior, I am the Resurrection and I am the Life.”
What did Jesus mean?
When Jesus said, “I am the Resurrection,” He was saying that He is the One Who regenerates the spiritually dead.  It is the work of God to enliven someone who is spiritually dead.
Paul explains it this way: “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:4-9, ESV).
God the Father loves the people He chose to give to Jesus – and even when we were spiritually dead – absolutely incapable of doing anything spiritually good – not even to cry out to God – through Jesus Christ – by grace – which He gives us – through faith – which He gives us – He brings us back to spiritual life in Jesus – we are spiritually resurrected – that the world would see how immensely kind God has been to us.
When Jesus said, “I am the Life,” He was saying that He raises us, not just to life, but to a life that is lived in God – a better life than what we had before – in the sense that we are now spiritually alive and living for God – seeking His Will, and God is bringing us to the end of being glorified in His kingdom.
Jesus explained, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
For the believer – for all those who believe the Gospel – death is a temporary evil.  We shall pass from death into life.  Just as Jesus raises us spiritually, He also raises all we who believe with Him on the last day.  Even if we die, we will live – in our physical bodies perfected to never die – and in the Greek, it’s actually emphasized:  we will never, never die!  We will be raised in incorruptible bodies.
Peter explained, “since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;” (1 Peter 1:23, ESV).
We who believe are born again, born a second time, raised to spiritual life, enlivened, and, if Jesus tarries, we will all die in our physical bodies.  But, we understand – those of us who garden – we take these seeds that are effectively dead, and we put them in the ground and water them and put them where they will get sun, and God causes them to sprout – that which was dead is now alive – the dead seed produces a living plant – so we die and become like seeds, but, because we are believers, we are imperishable seeds and we will be raised imperishable – we shall never die or even be sick when we are raised to the fullness of life on the last day.
“But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10, ESV).
If we have believed the Gospel – Who Jesus is and what He did – we are spiritually alive, and even when our body dies, we are alive and will be raised again in our bodies to life.
Again, “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16, ESV).
Paul erupts in worship as he explains: “Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1
Corinthians 15:51-57, ESV).
            Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, so, my father, who came to faith in Christ, was raised to spiritual life and lived for Christ until my father died in his body.  And though his body is dead right now, he is alive and Jesus will raise him in his physical body – perfected – on the last day – to live, because death cannot hold him – because death could not hold Jesus – death is a defeated foe.  My father was raised to life, and though he died in his body, he is not eternally dead but has begun the new life in Paradise as he awaits the glory of the Kingdom.
            All of our friends and relatives who have come to faith in Christ have been raised to life in Christ and though they die in their bodies, like the seed we plant, they will never die again but be raised eternally to be with us and God our Savior in the Kingdom.
            Jesus asked Martha if she believed this.
            And we see, third, Martha believed that Jesus is God the Son and Savior.
“She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’”
How clear a confession she gave! 
She didn’t understand everything.  She didn’t understand why God chose to let Lazarus die, but she understood that Jesus knew the Will of God perfectly and would only ask God for what God wanted, so if Jesus asked for the physical resurrection of her brother – even after four days – she knew that He would listen and grant the request.
She didn’t understand everything, but she knew that God promised to physically raise the dead at the end of the age.  And Jesus explained to her that the truth is even greater:  all who believe are raised to spiritual life now – never to die again – death has lost!  And even those who die in their body will be physically raised in perfected physical bodies for everlasting life and joy in God’s Kingdom.
And she understood that Jesus is the Savior that God promised Adam and Eve in the Garden.  Jesus is God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity – God Himself enfleshed.  She understood that God came into the world in the person of Jesus to accomplish salvation for all we who believe throughout time and space.
Is this a joy to you?
If you believe, through Jesus, you have been raised to spiritual life, never to die.
If you believe, through Jesus, though you died, you will physically rise.
If we believe, through Jesus, and pray for anything in His Name – according to the Will of the Father – He will do it.
How amazingly kind God has been to us – that He would love us and save us and bring us to life – promising us all this while we still hated Him and loved being in our sin.  What an amazing God!  What a kind God!  What a loving God!  Our God.  Our Savior.
Let us pray:
Almighty God and loving Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we thank You for the history of Lazarus and the confession of Martha.  Help us to hold fast to these truths about life and death and all that You have promised us through Jesus.  Encourage and grow us through the workings of God the Holy Spirit in us.  And may the world see the amazing kindness You have shown us in us that they would be drawn to You through us.  For it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.

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