************ Sermon on John 11:25-26 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 20, 2003
"I Am the Resurrection and the Life"
"I am the resurrection and the life." That's what Jesus says to us on this Easter Sunday.
"I am the resurrection and the life." Don't forget, this is one of the seven "I Am" statements to be found in the Gospel of John. In these statements Jesus wants us to think of God speaking to Moses out of the burning bush; at that time God identified Himself as "I Am Who I Am." By using the same expression, Jesus claims divinity, He claims to be God's equal, He claims to be part of the eternal God-head.
"I am the resurrection and the life." What is Jesus saying about Himself?
I Resurrection and Life
A On this Easter Sunday we need to listen carefully to these words of Jesus about Himself.
"I am the resurrection and the life." Usually, when we think of Easter's resurrection, we think of something that happened to Jesus. We think of Jesus as a patient; the doctor – in this case, God – performs the surgery and the patient gets better. Or, we think of Jesus as a victim – He has no say and choice in the matter; the resurrection is something that happens to Him or is done to Him. This is the way it was with all the other resurrections we read about in the Bible. Jesus stopped the funeral procession of the widow of Nain's son and commanded the young man to get up (Lk 7:11-15). Jesus took the hand of the daughter of Jairus and commanded the girl to get up (Lk 8:51-56). Jesus commanded Lazarus to come out of the tomb (Jn 11:43). The same sort of thing happened with the Old Testament resurrections. Elijah, for instance, stretched himself three times on the son of the widow of Zarephath and cried to the Lord (1 Kings 17:17-22). Elisha did almost the same thing with the son of the couple from Shunem (2 Kings 4:18-37). And, a man came to life when his body was thrown into Elisha's tomb and touched Elisha's bones (2 Kings 13:21). All of these people were acted upon by forces outside of themselves and beyond their control. They were given no say in the matter.
But Jesus does not speak of Easter's resurrection as something that happened to Him as if He were a patient or a victim. He says, "I am the resurrection and the life."
B So what happened that first Easter? Did God have to go into the tomb and shake Jesus awake? Did He have to call Jesus out of the tomb? Did He have to command Jesus to arise? Did He have to tell the onlookers to take the grave clothes off of Jesus as was the case with Lazarus (Jn 11:44)?
When we look at the Easter story we see none of that. Yes, the stone had been rolled away – but that was so the disciples and the women could get in rather than Jesus get out. We see that the strips of linen that were wrapped around Jesus' body were still laying in the exact place Jesus' body had been placed in the tomb; not only were they in the exact place, but they still kept their shape as if Jesus' body was still within. However, it was the head cloth that gave the real story; it was laid to the side, neatly folded – not because Jesus needed to be unwrapped but so the women and the disciples could see that the body inside of the burial wrappings was gone.
What happened that first Easter? Jesus did not have to be let out of the tomb. Jesus did not have to be unwrapped from the burial wrappings. Jesus did not have to be shaken awake. Jesus did not have to be called out of the tomb. His body came back to life. He passed through the burial wrappings in the same way as He later passed through walls. He passed through the stone blocking the entrance to the tomb. He greeted Easter morning's sunshine. Jesus arose. He arose from the grave in the same way as we rise up from a night's sleep.
C "I am the resurrection and the life." Not – I experience the resurrection. Not – I am given life. Do you get the picture. It is not something He does. It is not something He experiences. It is something He is.
"I am the resurrection and the life." Notice, Jesus does not merely tell us about and bring us life, He is life. He not only speaks of and gives us the resurrection, He is the resurrection.
"I am the resurrection and the life." Think of what Jesus is telling us here. Jesus is telling us it is in His power to withhold life and to bring death. It is in His power to give life and to raise a dead body from the grave. It is in His power because He is the great "I am" Who holds all power in His hands.
We see this great power displayed in our Scripture reading, don't we?! The great "I am" Who is the resurrection and the life, called Lazarus out of death, out of the grave, out of the tomb. He did the same thing at every funeral He attended. He had the habit of breaking up funerals with resurrections. And, on this Easter we celebrate that this happened at His own funeral too.
II Shocking News
A Now, hardly a week goes by that we don't hear of shocking news. Look over the bulletins for the last couple of months. They are filled with news about breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, tumor, death, surgery, heart problems, blocked arteries, hernia surgeries, irregular heart beats, miscarriages, still-births, chest pains, and so on.
These are all horrible moments. Depending on how close you are to the persons involved, you experience different degrees of shock, dismay, and even despair. You shake your head. Possibly you feel tears forming. You pray the sick may get better. You pray the dying may be comforted. You pray but you wonder what will happen.
B Jesus received shocking news like this about Lazarus, a dear friend, who is described for us as the one He loves (vs 3). Jesus not only loved Lazarus but also Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus (vs 5). The sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick (Jn 11:3). We can safely assume that Lazarus had more than a cold or the flu. We can further assume that whatever he had seemed life-threatening.
Yet, when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, He stayed where He was two more days (Jn 11:6). Why? If Jesus loved Lazarus and Martha and Mary so much, why did He stay put for two whole days? Why didn't He rush over to Bethany to be with the family? Why did He seem so unconcerned?
When we look at the extended passage we realize that the disciples did not expect Jesus to go to Bethany, and Martha and Mary probably shared their attitude. As verse 8 shows, the disciples did not want Jesus to go anywhere near those hostile Jews who were now seeking His life. The last two confrontations with the Pharisees had been the last straw. In the images of the gate and the good shepherd Jesus did not draw a very flattering picture of the scribes and Pharisees; in fact, He condemned them. In response, the Pharisees were baffled and enraged and even picked up stones to stone Him to death. Were Jesus to turn up in Bethany, just a few miles away from Jerusalem, the Pharisees' police force would be out in force, and the disciples knew it.
After two whole days had passed Jesus said to His disciples, "Let us go back to Judea" (Jn 11:7). When the disciples realized they could not talk Jesus out of this dangerous trip and situation, it was Thomas who said, "Let us also go, that we may die with him" (Jn 11:16). In other words, they fully expected Jesus to be killed if He went anywhere close to Jerusalem. And, as we know, that is exactly what happened.
If Jesus was planning on going to Bethany anyways, why did He wait two whole days before He went? Jesus answers this question for us in verse 4:
(Jn 11:4) "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 waited two whole days! He waited until Lazarus not only was dead but had been in the grave for four days. Jesus waited because this would best glorify God and Christ. Jesus waited, because this would best show the truth of His words: "I am the resurrection and the life."
C All these questions that I am going to ask have the same answer:
-What is it that gives a widow courage as she stands beside a fresh grave?
-What is the ultimate hope of the disabled, the amputee, the abused, the burn victim?
-How can the parents of brain-damaged or physically disabled children keep from living their entire lives totally and completely depressed?
-Why would anyone who is blind or deaf or paralyzed be encouraged when they think of the life beyond?
-How can we see past the martyrdom of some helpless hostage or devoted missionary?
-Where do the thoughts of a young couple go when they finally recover from the grief of losing their baby?
-When a family receives the tragic news that a little daughter was found dead or their dad was killed in a plane crash or a son overdosed on drugs, what single truth becomes their whole focus?
-What is the final answer to pain, mourning, senility, insanity, terminal diseases, sudden calamities, and fatal accidents?
You know the answer. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life." Jesus, the Jesus Who arose from the grave, the Jesus who called Lazarus out of the grave, is the only One Who gives us comfort and hope in situations like these.
D There is a part of the Easter story that has always intrigued me. I am talking about the scars. Why did Jesus keep the scars of His crucifixion? He could have had any resurrection body He wanted, and yet He chose one that showed the scars. Why?
I believe the story of Easter would be incomplete without those scars on His hands, His feet, and His side. When or if we fantasize about the perfect body, we dream of pearly white, straight teeth; wrinkle-free skin; sexy ideal shapes without scars and blemishes and holes. So why did Jesus pick a resurrection body with scars?
I take hope in Jesus' scars. They represent the worst thing that ever happened in the history of the universe. Yet, that event was turned into a victory by Him Who is the resurrection and the life. Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, the tears we shed, the blows we receive, the pain we feel, the surgeries we undergo, and the loved ones we lose become scars. Scars – as Jesus shows us – never completely go away, but they don't hurt anymore either because He has conquered the grave, because He is the resurrection and the life!
III Do You Believe This?
A Did you notice how Jesus ends His statement. He asks, "Do you believe this?"
If you were to die tonight and appear before the Lord Jesus Christ and He asked you the same question He asked Martha, what would you say?
You have two choices.
First, you can say, "No, I don't believe that. I don't believe that You are the resurrection and the life." Many people are quite willing to admit that they do not believe that Jesus Christ gives eternal life to all who trust in Him.
Second, you can say, "Yes, I believe. I believe You are the resurrection and the life. I know that You died on the Cross for all my sins, paying the full and complete price. I am trusting in You alone. And, since You promise eternal life to all who believe in You, I know that I have eternal life. Yes, I believe You are the resurrection and the life."
B Let's get back to Martha. Did she answer "No," "Yes," or "I don't know"? Here are her words: "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world" (John 11:27). She said yes! Not no. Not maybe.
These words of Martha do not always receive the attention they deserve. Whenever the church thinks of Martha she tends to think of the time Jesus had to admonish her for being anxious and troubled about many things (Lk 10:41f). But Martha, with all her faults, was a woman of faith. She agrees with what Jesus has said.
C Let's leave Martha and take a look at ourselves. After all, that is why these words are recorded in God's Holy Word. "Do you believe this?" Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life? You have only two choices: "Yes" or "No."
Do you believe this? That's the question Easter asks of each one of us.
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