"THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE"
Text - JOHN 11:1--44
GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR RESURRECTION AND OUR LIFE - OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS THE CHRIST.
On the day our text took place, Jesus spoke the most powerful and comforting words ever heard by human ears – “I am The Resurrection and The Life”. And the way He said those powerful words and the situation in which He said them enabled people to understand Who Jesus is– as never before.
The month before Jesus spoke those words, He and His disciples were in Jerusalem where the opposition toward Jesus was growing steadily more violent. Each day, they crossed the Kidron Valley and entered the Temple where His opponents were at their strongest. Each evening, they went back across the Kidron Valley and over the Mount of Olives to stay at the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus in Bethany of Judea. Staying in their home — so close to the Holy City — did little to calm the growing fear the disciples had for Jesus.
They were so happy when - after yet another attempt on His life - Jesus led them back across the wilderness, past ancient Jericho, and across the Jordan River to the far safer confines of Bethany of Perea.
Their joy was short-lived. The sisters sent a messenger to tell Jesus, “Lord, Your close friend is sick” Would Jesus not drop everything to rush to that family so near Jerusalem no matter what the personal danger? From so many stays in their home the disciples truly knew and loved Lazarus and his two sisters, but their love for Lazarus and his sisters was overshadowed by their love for Jesus and their fear for His safety.
Then to the disciples’ amazement and relief, when Jesus heard the message, He said, “Lazarus’ sickness won’t result in death. Instead, this sickness will bring glory to God so that The Son of God will receive glory through it.” His disciples breathed a sigh of relief.
On a clear day – though it takes more than half a day to travel between the two Bethanys – you can see from one to the other. Mary and Martha must have taken turns sitting on the hillside awaiting Jesus return with words of comfort.
Then, after two days, Jesus said, “Let’s go back to Judea.”
His disciples pleaded with Him not to go back where His life was in such jeopardy. “Rabbi, not long ago the Judeans wanted to stone You to death. Do you really want to go back there?”
Jesus answered, “Aren’t there twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day don’t stumble, because they see the light of the world. However, those who walk at night stumble because they have no light in themselves. ….. Our friend Lazarus is sleeping and I am going to Bethany to wake him.”
The disciples knew what every Judean believed – a patient falling into a peaceful sleep means the crisis is past and the patient is recovering. The disciples protested why go now when Lazarus has finally fallen asleep and the crisis is passed? “Lord, if he’s sleeping, he’ll get well.” Why tempt Your enemies and their violent plans by going to Lazarus now.
Then Jesus spoke plainly, “Lazarus has died, but I’m glad that I wasn’t there so that you can grow in faith, let’s go to Lazarus.”
It was Thomas who said what all the disciples were thinking — but with more sarcasm than the rest of them would utter — “Let’s go so that we, too, can die with Jesus.”
Then, as Jesus and His disciples approached Bethany of Judea, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him. … Martha told Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died.”
It was so easy to know her thoughts —wondering what He Who had healed so many others could have done for Lazarus had He come right away - thinking of that special relationship they had. How much comfort and strength she and her brother and sister had always received from His love —until now when they needed Him most. And, yet, with that glimmer of faith in Him and trust in His love, she said, “But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask Him.”
Jesus told Martha, “Your brother will come back to life.”
Martha answered Jesus, “I know that he’ll come back to life on the last day, when everyone will come back to life.”
Jesus said to her, “I am The Resurrection and The Life. Those who believe in Me will live even if they die. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." And Jesus asked Martha, "Do you believe that?"
She said she did. “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are The Messiah, The Son of God, The One Who was expected to come into the world.”
She said she believed — and the disciples, silently in their hearts, echoed that confession – the one Simon Peter had proclaimed so powerfully at Caesarea Philippi – the one Martha so confidently spoke now. But did Martha – or even Simon Peter and the other disciples – fully understand what they were confessing as their faith.
Jesus wept. All the mourners – including His disciples - thought Jesus’ tears were for Lazarus, but they were for Jesus’ followers - for how much growing their understanding and faith still needed to do. They truly believed in Jesus, but were still failing to put everything in His Hands without question.
Deeply moved again, Jesus went to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone covering the entrance. Jesus said, “Take the stone away.”
The disciples were shocked. Mary and Martha were shocked. All the mourners were shocked. Shocked speechless! It was Martha who finally gave words to what everyone was thinking. “Lord, there must already be a stench. He’s been dead for four days.”
“Lord,” they all thought, “what can be gained now by opening that tomb after Lazarus has been four days in an airtight tomb? Cannot Your prayers for Lazarus’ soul and the mourners’ comfort be said in the porch in front of the tomb?”
And Jesus did pray — this time more for everyone’s hearing than for His heavenly Father’s. “Father, I thank You for hearing Me. I’ve known that You always hear Me. However, I’ve said this so that the crowd standing around Me will believe that You sent Me.”
After Jesus had said this, He shouted as loudly as He could, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out. Strips of cloth were wound around his feet and hands, and his face was wrapped with a handkerchief. Jesus told them, “Free Lazarus, and let him go.”
Now Mary and Martha and the disciples and many of the mourners understood what it means that Jesus is The Resurrection and The Life — with Absolute Power and Authority over life and death. Now they knew what it means to put all things in His loving hands – a lesson they would not have learned had Jesus come to heal a sick man before Lazarus died.
Now they knew the perfection of Jesus’ love - willing to suffer through those days with those He loves that they might truly know victory over death in His Divine Presence.
As we view this most powerful of texts, the season of Lent is drawing to a close. Next Sunday is Palm Sunday and the beginning of Holy Week when we focus on the way Jesus suffered and died for us – and then comes Easter
when The Resurrection and The Life Who raised Lazarus from the dead on his fourth day in an air-tight tomb Himself rises from the dead to boldly proclaim the eternal victory He has won for us all.
There are few – if any – more comforting words than those Jesus spoke at Bethany of Judea - “I am The Resurrection and The Life. Those who believe in Me will live even if they die. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die." From the moment we believe in Jesus Christ and are baptized – whether asleep or awake, whether physically dead or alive – we live in Christ – our Resurrection, our Life,
THE PEACE OF GOD WHICH PASSES ALL HUMAN UNDERSTANDING KEEP YOUR HEARTS AND YOUR MINDS IN JESUS CHRIST — THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE OF ALL WHO BELIEVE IN HIM. AMEN.
Fifth Sunday of Lent
April 7, 2019
Dr. Kurt Borows
Pastor, Resurrection Lutheran Church, Catawba Island, Port Clinton, Ohio