Jesus: The Resurrection and the Life

The Raising of Lazarus by Jesus

A sermon idea based on John 9:1-41.

The Big Idea

Everything is different because God has shown up in the form of his Son, Jesus, who himself IS the resurrection and the life. He offers the promise that there is more to life and more beyond this life than what we can know naturally.

John 11:2-45 NRSV

[1] Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. [3] So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” [4] But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” [5] Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, [6] after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

[7] Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” [8] The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” [9] Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. [10] But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” [11] After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” [12] The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” [13] Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. [14] Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. [15] For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” [16] Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

[17] When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. [18] Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, [19] and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. [20] When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. [21] Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. [22] But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” [23] Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” [24] Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” [25] Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, [26] and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” [27] She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

[28] When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” [29] And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. [30] Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. [31] The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. [32] When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” [33] When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. [34] He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” [35] Jesus began to weep. [36] So the Jews 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] Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. [39] Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” [40] Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” [41] So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. [42] I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” [43] When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” [44] The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

[45] Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

I think Paul McCartney and John Lennon summed it up well in the Beatles’ hit, Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da:

Ob-la-di, ob-la-da
Life goes on, brah
La, la, how the life goes on

Sorry if that’s now stuck in your head, but it’s a groovy tune… 

Life feels like that, doesn’t it? You can read any chapter of the book of Ecclesiastes from the Hebrew scriptures and know that you’re not the only one to feel this way sometimes – that we wake up, work, eat, stress out, rest a little, and then do it all again until we finally die.

Sounds bleak. And that is human life on planet earth when there is no such thing as resurrection.

But Christianity exists because of this game-changing, life-altering premise: Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life, and those who believe in him, even though they will die physically, will live on.

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were close personal friends of Jesus – perhaps even closer in friendship than any of the Twelve. They all trusted that Jesus, as Messiah, was going to fix this endless and hopeless cycle.

But Lazarus died. Jesus didn’t stop the cycle after all. Life still concluded for Lazarus the way it does for all of us – death. And that’s the end of the story.

Except, as we know, it’s not the end of the story at all. Jesus’ own death and resurrection is the end of the story, which changes the ending of everyone else’s story, including Lazarus.

So Jesus shows up, several days after Lazarus’ death, and resuscitates him back to his physical life. I have so many questions about what happened to Lazarus during the few days between his death and his resuscitation, but John doesn’t fill us in on those details. He focuses his attention on the exchanges between Jesus and his close friends, Mary and Martha. And in their conversation, three big truths emerge about Jesus’ power and identity as the resurrection and the life.

1. Because of who Jesus is, he is patient with our weak faith.

Martha’s greatest mistake here was to limit Jesus to time and space. She believed Jesus was a miracle worker, but only within what seemed to her like reasonable limits. He needed to be present physically in the right place geographically as well as there within a reasonable amount of time after Lazarus had been pronounced dead.

Instead of a miracle of healing, Martha settles for a ministry of comfort – “Now that you’re here, you’ll be of help.” But she does not believe He will resurrect her brother, as is evidenced by her protest when he asked for the tomb to be opened.

Jesus made a theological statement in verses 25 and 26 that are difficult to figure out at first glance. There are really several possibilities. Charles Spurgeon felt that in verse 25, the Lord was talking about everyone who would die before Jesus’ return to earth. Then in verse 26, to those who were alive when Christ came. James M. Boice felt that Jesus was simply saying that eternal life begins at salvation, not death.

The heart of the message is that every believer will rise again and Jesus is the reason why!

2. Because of who Jesus is, he feels pain when we hurt.

Mary of Bethany is an amazing character of the New Testament in this simple way: Every time we see her in the gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet. In Luke 10, Martha is serving and Mary is found at Jesus’ feet learning from Him. In the next chapter of John, she breaks the alabaster box of spikenard and anoints His feet with her hair. Here she is seen falling at his feet in her grief.

The Greek phrase translated in the NRSV as “he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” signified anger and agitation. It was a word used to describe the snorting or huffing of a horse. Jesus was angry. At what?

  1. Possibly at their unbelief.
  2. Possibly at the enemy, death.
  3. Possibly at what they had to face on earth.

I’m most inclined to go with option #3.

Jesus had never known grief in this way until he came to Earth. Now He fulfills His role as the Man of sorrows, the One who was acquainted with grief. But Jesus was and is, after all, the incarnation of the God of all comfort and consolation.

3. Because of who Jesus is, he has all power over life and death.

Our lack of faith doesn’t limit his ability or power to accomplish the supernatural. It merely prevents us from seeing and experiencing anything beyond the natural and physical. This miracle put Jesus’ power on display for all to see.

And this is the central issue of the entire Christian faith.

If Jesus was a great leader, a moral teacher, a philosopher, or a humanitarian, then we could celebrate his life and follow his legacy, but there’s no reason at all to gather with others who follow him to offer songs, prayers, and sermons each week in houses of worship all over the world. We don’t have worship services for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Mahatma Gandhi.

They were all great teachers of a higher moral code and accomplished a great deal of peace for their communities in their own generations. But they were all merely human. They sinned. They died. Their bodies await a final resurrection.

Jesus, on the other hand, is more than a teacher. Jesus was and is God in the flesh. He’s the Savior and Redeemer of the world. He’s alive from the dead and his resurrection is the ultimate promise that there is more to life than just life. There is real life, here and now. And there is real life beyond the grave, too.

And the key to experiencing Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life is to trust him. It’s to follow him wholeheartedly and to believe that he will follow through on every promise God has ever made to us.

 


About the Cover Art: Tanner, Henry Ossawa, 1859-1937. Resurrection of Lazarus, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

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