Job 19:25-27; John 11:17-27
The famous American evangelist and publisher D. L. Moody (1837-1899), the founder of Moody Bible Institute, was called on as a young preacher, as the story was told, to preside at a funeral. Moody decided to search the four gospels in order to find one of Jesus’ funeral sermons. He found out that Jesus never spoke at a funeral. In fact, Jesus broke up every funeral He ever attended. Wherever Jesus went, He pushed back death. When the dead heard His voice, they sprang to life. Jesus didn’t do funerals. He is the Resurrection and the Life. This is why we don’t believe in the finality of death. Jesus is life and new life is His gift. The resurrection from the death is at the very center of Christian faith, and that is why you and I get comforted when death takes away someone who is dear to our hearts, a spouse, a son, a daughter, a mom, a dad, or a friend.
This morning we continue our summer series on the seven “I am” statements of Jesus recorded to us in the gospel of John. The fifth statement is found in John 11:25, “Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
The setting or the context of this fifth statement is the death of Lazarus. Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha, were friends of Jesus. Jesus had a very close connection with this family. He often visited with them, found peace, rest, and comfort at their house in Bethany, just a couple miles outside of Jerusalem. One day Lazarus got sick. The sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 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.” So Jesus stayed two days longer in the place where he was. When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.
Jesus: The Giver of Life
All through his gospel, John presents Jesus as the GIVER OF LIFE. In the prologue of John’s gospel, in John 1:4, he wrote, “In Him was life; and the life was the light of all people.” That’s actually both physical and spiritual life. Jesus is both our creator and our savior.
If you look at the gospel of John, you will see Jesus as the giver of life. This is the life Jesus offers to Nicodemus, the religious leader who seemed to have it all (3:16). This is the life He offered to the Samaritan woman at the well, whose life was so empty (4:13,14). This is the life He offered to multitude after He fed them with bread (6:35). This is the life He offered to the worshippers in Jerusalem at the Feast of Booths (7:37,38). This is the life He offered to a man born blind and those who were like him spiritually (8:12). This is the life He offered to His flock (10:10). Now Jesus offers this life to a man who is in the ultimate state of death, Jesus presents Himself as life in its ultimate expression – resurrection life. Yes, resurrection and life are possible in Jesus!
In the events of John 11, Martha and Mary came to believe in Jesus in a much deeper way. The Lord took their faith to the next level. I believe the gospel story and this Fifth “I am” statement invite us to join them in this faith journey. What might it mean for us to believe Jesus as He says to us today, “I am the resurrection and the life”? Please allow me to underscore a few observations, but for the sake of time I will highlight just one today and say more on the same topic next Sunday, Lord willing.
The Shocking Reality and the Good News
Today, I have a shocking reality to share with you but I also have some good news to share. The shocking reality is that every single person in this room is dying. Every man, every woman, every child is dying. Whatever differences may exist among us, this one thing we share in common with one another: we are all dying.
Yes, I know it sounds a bit grim and depressing. But the fact remains, we ARE all dying. In time, sooner or later, assuming Jesus doesn't first return, we will all be dead. I am sure that many of us have recently buried a loved one. In our story today, we see two sisters grieving over the death of their brother. Their names were
The encounter between Jesus and Martha is stunning. Listen to it one more time. “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’”
If this is the reality, here is the good news: Jesus is the resurrection and life. Note that Jesus didn’t say, “THERE IS a resurrection and THERE IS life.” He said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” In John 11:23-24, Jesus said to Martha, “Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.'" At one level Jesus’ words "Your brother will rise again" could be taken as no more than a devout doctrinal declaration designed simply to comfort Martha in her grief. He points her attention to the final day of resurrection at the end of the age. Death will not have the last word, “your brother SHALL rise again.” That is how Martha understood Jesus' words. She believed, as did all devout Jews of the day, that a resurrection would occur at the end of the age. But note what Jesus says. “No Martha, resurrection isn't just something ‘out there.’” It is right here! I'm it. Martha, I AM the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus then said to her, “those who believe in me, even though they die, will live” (v. 25). He doesn't say, “whoever believes in the resurrection of the body,” but “whoever believes in ME!” Jesus' concern is to divert Martha's focus from an abstract belief in what takes place on the last day, to a personalized belief in Him who alone can provide it.
The focus of our faith must not be in a principle or object, but in a person. There is and will be a resurrection because there is and always will be a person named Jesus who himself has conquered death and is himself life and resurrection!
The final point I want to bring to your attention this morning is how Jesus puts Martha on the spot. He asks, "Do you believe this?" (v. 26). “You, Martha, not others. You. Do YOU believe this?” He doesn't say, “Martha, what does your sister Mary think about all this?” Jesus is asking Martha personally. Jesus is asking you and me personally. "Do YOU believe this?” Note her answer in v. 27 – “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” She declares her personal, confident, believing trust in Jesus as the Son of God, Messiah, apart from whom death will win, apart from whom there is no hope or life! “Do YOU believe this?” I hope and pray you do today. Amen.
First Presbyterian Church of Blackwood
21 E. Church Street
Blackwood, NJ 08012
Sermon Notes (Sunday, August 11, 2019)
Rev. Dr. Mouris A. Yousef, Pastor