I Am “the Resurrection & the Life” A Synopsis of the Sermon of Sep 5, 2020 John 11:1-43

At Veterans Memorial Chapel This is a synopsis, or quick review, of the sermon for September 5. I am only hitting the highlights of the message, not reproducing the entire sermon.

Our study of the Discourses of Jesus in the Gospel of John brings us to chapter 11. Here we find a narrative concerning the death and resurrection of Lazarus, a friend and follower of Jesus. Jesus has two very short conversations with Martha and Mary, the sisters of the deceased, followed by the greatest miracle of Jesus’ earthly career. On first look, one may ask, “Is this really a discourse?” Many of Jesus’ discourses were one on one conversations. However, others include dialogues or “sermons” to disciples, crowds or even opponents. But usually they are longer and more informative than these conversations with Martha and Mary.

I believe the reason we elevate these short conversations to a discourse level is the importance of Jesus’ claim in the conversations. “I am the resurrection and life!” The story begins with Lazarus becoming ill enough that Jesus is summoned from another providence (either Galilee or Perea), to come to Judea and heal Lazarus. But Jesus delays his arrival. It is not that He did not think the illness was significant, or that He had more pressing work elsewhere. Rather, He wanted to do His greatest miracle of His life, resurrection of a man dead four days. Never in all of recorded history had this type of miracles been done before. And even more significant, He wanted to demonstrate that He had power over death itself.

The lesson for us is that God is often not in as big a hurry to intervene in our circumstances, as we are for Him to rescue us from them. Sometimes He wants us to grow through a negative experience, not merely be saved from it.

Bethany is a village just over the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem, 2 miles from the Temple. Upon Jesus’ arrival at Bethany, Martha, that great proactive hostess who preferred preparing a meal to sitting and listening to Jesus (see Lk 10:38-41), hurried out to meet Jesus. She asked Him, “why did you not come sooner? You could have saved Lazarus from dying” (John 11:24, my paraphrase).

Jesus replies that Lazarus would rise again. Martha answers with the long held belief in resurrection “at the last day,” a belief that is characteristic of the saints of all ages, beginning with Job (Job 19:25-27). Jesus then makes another of His “I AM,” declarations. “I Am the resurrection and the life” and continues with the affirmation that anyone believing this will live forever (11:25-26). Martha affirms her belief with a pronouncement as clear Peter’s famed affirmation (Matthew 16:16). “You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world” (11:27).

Martha then goes to bring Mary to Jesus. As Mary comes, she too asks the same question as Martha did. This is that moving story where Jesus weeps with Mary, and asks to see the tomb. Upon arriving at the tomb, He again weeps with the sisters. Then He asks to have the tombstone rolled away from the cave door. Martha, in her normal “take charge” mentality, immediately objects. But Jesus insists. Once the stone was removed, Jesus calls out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, Come forth!” Suddenly Lazarus appears alive in the cave door, still wrapped in his burial cloths. I must admit, I look forward to seeing the rerun of this event when I get to heaven. Did he float out? Or hop along in his grave cloths? How did he get to the cave door?

Jesus’ miracle, as did His other miracles, proves He is indeed God. But in this case, he raises someone who was “long dead.” All other resurrections in Scripture or History are of persons who died that day, or “yesterday” to the resurrection. This demonstrates Christ’s ability to resurrect all of us at “the end of time.” This is a profound miracle, and we know from it that He can resurrect us in the “last day” too. That is why I called this His greatest miracle of all.

All who call out in belief to Him, that same confession of Peter and Martha, “You are the Messiah or Christ of God, and I am trusting (believing) you for my salvation” will too be resurrected in the last day.

The other great lesson of this discourse is that it shows why God sometimes puts us through a hard trial. Yes Jesus could have healed Lazarus before he died. He could even have done so by “remote control” while staying in Galilee. But He wanted to give greater glory to God, by letting Lazarus die and raising him four days later (11:4). By Lazarus going through the trial of death, he gave even more glory to God and Christ by being a participant in even a greater miracle.

So whatever the trial we are facing in our lives today, God has a greater reason for letting us endure it. He wants to get greater glory through it, than merely relieving us of our troubles. Something to remember as we continue to endure the trials of our lives. CH Jim Odell