I Am - Week 5: I Am The Resurrection and the Life
It seems that these days there are a lot of people who claim to speak for Jesus, and sometimes the things that they say in his name don’t sound at all like anything Jesus would approve of.
How do we keep from making Jesus into our own image where he sounds like us, acts like us, votes like us—and even looks like us? One sure way is to go to the very words of Jesus himself—particularly his “I Am” statements, where he declared to his followers who he was, and why he came.
Throughout this series, we have studied four of those definitive statements by Jesus as he conveyed to his followers who he was, and what he came to do.
Today we'll be studying what Jesus meant when he said, "I am the Resurrection and the Life." The story that we'll be exploring is from John 11---a story of how Jesus showed up to rescue his friend Lazarus... after it was too late.
As I was thinking about this week's sermon, I got to thinking about dramatic rescues where it seemed like all was lost. Here's a few stories that absolutely riveted the entire world...
2010 - Chilean Miners--two months underground before rescue.
1987 - Baby Jessica--58 hours trapped in a well.
1956 - Andrea Doria--sidestepping a Titantic disaster.
1945 - The Great Raid--Army Rangers rescued 510 POWs
What is it about these stories that captivate us so much? It's because we want to believe that there's a chance for hope, no matter what. We want to believe that if we were in need of rescue, that it would happen. Someone would come for us. The cavalry would arrive.
But what about all of our stories that don't end in a miracle?
What do we do when all is lost, the cavalry isn't coming, there's no fourth-quarter comeback, the diagnosis is just too dire, the relationship falls apart, our career ends, the money runs out, our loved ones die...?
This is where the story we're going to hear today takes place. It's not an eleventh-hour rescue story. It's something completely different.
And here's what I want you to hold on to today---if you forget everything else I tell you...
BECAUSE OF JESUS, THE WORST THING IS NEVER THE LAST THING.
Background on the story---Mary and Martha are friends of Jesus from the town of Bethel, which is just two miles away from Jerusalem. Jesus has been staying away from Jerusalem because he's had death threats.
But Mary and Martha send him word that their brother, Jesus' friend, is sick and about to die. Here's where we pick up the story...
5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
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.”
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
A bit about the Jewish belief that the soul lingered for three days...
18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] 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.”
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.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
This is a bold statement by Martha--it's one of the boldest by Jesus' followers so far in John's Gospel.
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.”
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.
This is one of the most powerful verses in the Bible. Jesus knows how all this is going to end, and still mourns with his friends.
36 Then 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 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 believe, you will see the glory of God?”
And then Jesus shouts to Lazarus, "Come out!" And the guy stumbles out of the tomb, like Boris Karloff in the old Mummy movies.
The resurrection that Martha had been longing for is embodied in Jesus himself--it is hope that comes after all hope is lost. He just needed an object lesson to prove it, and holy-moley what an object lesson!
The truth of Jesus' words to Martha would not be fully realized until Easter morning when the women arrived at the tomb expecting to find Jesus' body, and instead they find the stone rolled away, the tomb empty and in one of the accounts angelic beings who tell them the most wonderful words Christians can hold on to...
Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, he has risen... just as he said.
Here's what we take away from this:
No matter what has happened, no matter how it feels like all hope is lost… The Resurrection shows us that the worst thing is never the last thing.