The Resurrection and the Life

  • The Resurrection and the Life
  • John 11:25
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • April 16, 2017
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Easter Sunday Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Who is Jesus? I suppose that if we really want an answer, a great thing to do would be to look at how Jesus himself answered that question. In the New Testament gospel of John, Jesus makes several “I am” statements. Jesus gave us seven different pictures of who he is.

 

  • He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
  • He said, “I am the bread of life. If you eat of me, you will never hunger again.”
  • He said, “I am the gate”, or “I am the door by which you enter.”
  • He said, “I am the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep.”
  • He said, ”I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness again.”
  • He said, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If you abide in me, you will bear much fruit but apart from me you can’t do anything.”

 

Today, though, I want to look at the “I am” statement that best fits this weekend.  In John 11:25, Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” (NIV)

 

Easter is all about resurrection. Resurrection- when something that was dead comes back to life again. When Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life”, what a lot of people don’t understand is that he actually said it in the context of a much broader story about another guy who died, but didn’t stay dead.  His name was Lazarus.

 

I want to read you that story, then we’re going to look at some of the different ways that many of us die on the inside and see how the resurrection of Jesus brings what’s dead back to life.

 

John 11:1 is where we’ll start, “A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair.  Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, ‘Lord, your dear friend is very sick.’” This was the bad news in the middle of the good life.

 

Unfortunately, if I can pause for just a moment and acknowledge, although there are a lot of people that are celebrating a lot of great things in this season of your life, there are a lot of people that are hurting right now, that have heard similarly bad news.  In fact, maybe some of you have even heard maybe that very exact bad news:  “The one you love is sick.”  Someone that you’re close to has cancer or something bad.

 

Or maybe some of you heard the news that the job you love is likely going away.  Or your dream marriage turned into a nightmare, or a close may not work out.

 

Or the principal calls you to talk to you about your teenager and it’s not to tell you that he made the honor role. You know what I’m saying?  You received bad news, something that’s not favorable.

 

A couple of years ago I heard some news I didn’t want to hear. My Facebook page began to light up with people I knew posting prayers for my college roommate’s brother. Here was this brilliant, gifted physician, just a year older than me, who was fine one moment and the next he experienced a brain aneurysm. My heart sank. As a pastor I’ve been to the hospital before when someone has suffered an aneurysm and I knew that it ended in death. I immediately picked up my phone to contact my friend and I was so caught off guard I couldn’t think what to say to him. What do you say to a friend when it seems inevitable that his brother is about to die? “Lord, the one you love is sick.”

 

Now, in the middle of this, Jesus says something that’s amazing.  Watch what he says in verse 4, “4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, ‘Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.’” This very thing that you would never ever want to happen, God is going to bring glory to himself through the worst news that you could ever imagine.

 

Now, we’ll come back to that verse.  Let me give you a quick summary of verses 5-14; you can read these on your own if you’d like.  But basically, everybody believes Jesus is going to come to help, but what does Jesus do? Nothing. For two days he doesn’t do anything. He hangs out.  They’re “freaking out” and he’s “hanging out”.

 

Two days later, he said to his disciples, “Hey, let’s go back to Judea.”  They said, “No, if you go there, everybody’s going to try to kill you,” which would have been true.  But he said, “No, Lazarus has fallen asleep and we need to go wake him up.”  Now, he wasn’t saying Lazarus was tired and taking a nap.  He was speaking in a metaphor, “He’s dead and we need to go raise him from the dead.”

 

What I want to do is look at three different characters in this story. We’re going to see some different ways they were dying on the inside.  And perhaps, at this point in your life, some of you can relate to what they were going through, or maybe it may be at another time in your life.

 

Let’s start with Thomas. Some of you can relate to Thomas; he was dead in doubt. He’s doubting Thomas.  All through scripture, he was known as Doubting Thomas.  In fact, we see this in verse 16.   Here is “Sarcastic, Doubting Thomas.”  He said, “Let us also go that we may die with him.”  In other words, he’s doubting.  “This is never going to turn out well at all.”

 

I’m curious, on this Easter Sunday, how many of you would be honest enough to say that you’ve had spiritual doubts at some point in your lives? Raise up your hands.  Okay, thank you for your honesty.  Those of you with your hands down, you can just sit there and polish your halo while I talk to the real people for a minute.  Because, everybody I know, at some point, prayed some prayer and believed God could and thought he would but he didn’t and boom, they’re bombarded with doubts.  “Why didn’t he do this?”

 

Or perhaps, your story is you grew up with a real simple faith in God.  And then you went to your freshman Religion 101 class and some professor said, “This stuff didn’t really happen”.  Boom, all of a sudden you ask, “Well, is this real or is this my parent’s faith or is it mine?”  Then you were overcome with doubts.

 

Or perhaps you believed in God and something really bad happened to somebody that you really loved.  Then you thought, “Well, if God is good, why did he let that happen? If he’s all powerful, why didn’t he stop it?”  And suddenly, you’re a Thomas.  There’s something on the inside that’s a little bit dead in your doubts.

 

 

Or maybe, some of you are more like Mary. You’re not dead in your doubts, but you’re dead in discouragement.  You just don’t see anything good happening, and you just cannot seem to get a break.

 

Mary was very, very discouraged. In verse 20 we read, “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Jesus.”  But what did Mary do?  She stayed at home. She thought, “Why bother?  I don’t even need to go out there; I mean, he’s already dead.  There’s nothing you can do about this anyway.”

 

This maybe, honestly, where some of you are right now.  You think, “I can’t change anything.  I’m always going to feel alone.  I’m always going to be depressed. I’m always going to be stuck in this dead-end job.  I’m never going to have the marriage that I wanted.  I’m just kind of stuck.”  You’re discouraged.

 

That may be where some of you are right now. You’re not going to show it; it’s Easter.  You put on your good clothes, you come to church. “Glory to God.  He is risen.” You’re smiling on the outside, but on the inside, you’re really, really discouraged. Some of us are dead in our doubts, some of us are dead in our discouragement.

 

Maybe you can relate to Martha.  She was dead from the delay; God took too long. Jesus should have come back earlier and he didn’t.  Why did he take so long?

 

In verse 17 we see this, “On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.”

 

Why does it matter how long Lazarus had been in the tomb?  In the time when Martha was living, there was a commonly held belief that a spirit would stick around for three days after someone died.  This isn’t a Christian belief.  It was a folklore that at four days, the spirit left.

 

In her mind, Lazarus wasn’t just mostly dead, he was dead and then some.  So dead was he, that later in the story Martha tried to describe the smell of how his body would smell.  The King James Version — God bless the way the King James translators translated the Bible — when she described him, she said, “He stinketh.”  I love that; that’s a holy stink.  I’d say, “He was stinky.”  But the King James version, “He stinketh.”  That’s how dead he was, four days, the spirit’s gone, dead, not mostly dead, stinketh.

 

“Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died’” (John 11:21). She basically looked at Jesus and said, “You took too long.  Why didn’t you do this when you could have done something?”

 

Some of you right now can relate.  You feel dead in your delay.  You’re waiting on some answered prayer, some result.

 

Some, I know a lot of married couples, are praying for a baby, and they can’t seem to conceive.  They look at everybody else in their life and they’re all getting pregnant.  They’re sitting there praying “God, why?  We’re praying and waiting for a child and we can’t seem to have it.”

 

Some of you are praying for a loved one to experience the goodness of God.  The harder you pray, the more it seems as if they get farther away.  You wonder, “Why, God?”

 

I know a lot of people that are praying that God could actually heal someone.  Because I believe that we serve a God that says all things are possible, yet you pray and you pray and God is not healing.  You feel dead in the delay.

 

If that’s you today, I hope that this will speak to you, and you’ll never ever forget that God’s delays are not God’s denials.  Just because God hasn’t done something yet doesn’t mean that God is not still in charge, and has a plan that he may be glorified in the future through the very thing going on today that you never ever want.

 

Lots of bad things are happening in John 11 at this point.  Lazarus dies, Thomas freaks out, Mary’s depressed, Martha is mad.  Then, the whole tone of everything shifts.

 

I’ll read to you what Martha said in verse 22,  “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”  She looks at Jesus and says, “I know that even though we’re dead in our delay, dead in our discouragement and dead in our doubts that ‘Even now, God will give you whatever you ask.’”

 

Some of you need to have an “even now” moment with God.  You’re stuck in the bad news of your story and you need to let faith come alive and believe that even now, all things are still possible with God.

 

This is exactly what happened with my friend’s brother. I, along with many, many people were praying and believing that “even now” our God could heal him if God chose to do so. And when the doctors were absolutely convinced that there was no way that he would live, but something amazing happened. He didn’t die. He lived. Now after a substantial amount of time in a brain trauma rehab center and after extensive physical, speech and occupational therapy, my friend’s brother is alive and well.

 

Some of you need an “even now” moment.  Somebody say, “even now.”  Say it.  “Even now.”

  • Even now, when you are discouraged, the presence of God can come in and build your faith.
  • Even now, when you feel all alone, as if there’s no one there, the presence of the Holy Spirit can give you a peace that surpasses all understanding.
  • Even now, our God can reach into your messed up family and bring healing and harmony and forgiveness and restoration.
  • Even now, when everything looks impossible, we serve a God who says, “All things are possible.”
  • Even now, when your heart may be cold and callous toward the things of God, our God, in a moment, can soften your heart and draw you into his presence.
  • Even now, when there is something that is dead, the resurrection power Christ can bring it back to life.

 

That’s what Jesus did in verse 23. He told Martha, “Your brother will rise again.” Yes, Martha said, “He will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”  She was confused; she was thinking a different resurrection.

 

In verse 25, Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

 

You see, The resurrection is not an event. It is a Person. It’s not just what he does, it’s who he is.

 

Dead things don’t stay dead when the resurrection walks into the room.  The resurrection, Jesus, looks at the tomb where Lazarus is stinketh, and he said to the disciples, “Take the stone away.”  And when they did, in verse 43, “Jesus called out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out.’  And the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to him, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’”

 

I love to contrast these two stories.  Jesus is dead in the tomb; there’s a stone blocking it.  Lazarus is dead in a tomb; there’s a stone blocking it.  When Jesus goes to Lazarus, he tells the disciples, “Roll the stone away.”  When Jesus is in the tomb, the women walk up in the morning and think, “Ah, oh.  Who’s going to roll the stone away?”

 

Some of you feel dead on the inside.  You’ve lost faith, you’ve lost hope, you’re dead from the delay, you’re discouraged, you have doubts.  You feel trapped in a tomb and don’t have the strength to roll the stone away.

 

On this Easter, I want you to remember that Christ has rolled the stone away.  And the same voice that called Lazarus to come out is telling you to “Come out, come out.”

 

Some of you right now, I’m telling you, your life is stuck on Friday. Your life is stuck in the negative and the bad.  With one touch from God resurrection comes, and everybody is healed, your life is made right.

 

Some of you are dead in your sins.  That’s what the Bible says, “You’re dead in your sins.”   But because of what he did, and not because we could ever earn it or deserve it, our sins can be forgiven and you can be made brand new.

 

It’s called the gospel.  It is the good news that  God did something that we couldn’t do for ourselves because he is that good.  The tomb is empty; he is risen and the resurrection changes everything.  “I am the resurrection and

the life.  Whoever believes in me will never die.”