Pete continues our series in Jesus' 7 "I am" statements, speaking on the meaning of Jesus as "the resurrection and the life" in John 11:17-44.
Modern atheists try to convince us that death isn't really important.
Steve Jobs said 'Death is very likely the best invention of life. It is life's change.'
He's basically saying that death clears the way of the old to make way for the new. This is an atheistic evolutionary view of the survival of the fittest.
However, we instinctively know that the atheistic view is wrong. The theory might sound plausible from a lecture theatre, but when a loved one is dying we know it's not right. Otherwise, why are we spending billions trying to protect ourselves from the corona virus?
Death is important.
Brian Cox may think we turn to star dust, but putting 'star' in front of dust doesn't change the fact that we eventually turn to dust.
The Bible states that death is an enemy. It is approaching everyone of us whether we like it or not. The grave is always hungry.
The truth is that the corona virus doesn't take more lives than are going to die anyway. Taking precautions may protect us from the virus but it won't protect us from death which is the real enemy.
If we are looking for something or someone who can overcome death, there is only one serious contender.
Out of all the brilliant minds of science, medicine, philosophy, religion, politics, the only serious contender in the battle against death is Jesus Christ.
He makes the claim that he has overcome death, and Christians around the world utterly believe this as the truth. Such Christians include eminent thinkers, philosophers, scientists, doctors, political leaders, along with ordinary people like you and me. Millions of Christians believe that Jesus defeats death.
Over the past 3 weeks, we have been looking at the 'I am' statements of Jesus
So far we have been discussing Jesus's statements: 'I am the bread of life' and 'I am the light of the world'
Today we are looking at Jesus's statement: 'I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.' John 11:25-26
Jesus is claiming to have power over death, which means that he is the resurrection, the giver of life, the beginning of life, the source of life.
If you take a walk in the countryside at the moment, you will notice that the current isolation measures have allowed nature to flourish as never before. There is abundant new life in our natural surroundings. In the same way, out of barrenness, Jesus brings life.
Jesus's statement, 'I am the resurrection and the life,' was made in the context of Lazarus's funeral. Lazarus had been in the grave for four days. The scene is very moving and there are important truths to set this statement in its glorious context.
This scene shows grief and mourning. Two sisters are mentioned. They are mourning over the death of their beloved brother, and we are meant to be taken into their grief.
The episode emphasises that death is significant. There is nothing to be ashamed of in expressing our hurt and sorrow at the loss of a loved one. It is natural, and right. Yet it is remarkable how many funeral poems take an atheistic stance.
Here is an example:
'Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.'
[Henry Scott Holland]
If death is 'nothing', why do we gather to mourn at a funeral?
Here is another:
'Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow.'
[Mary Elizabeth Frye]
Such poems are actually 'star dust' stuff.
However, when you delve into the bible it is much more realistic.
In the event described here in John's gospel, we are told:
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
That's real grief because death matters. Jesus was outraged at the pain caused by death.
And it is here where we find the shortest verse in the Bible 'Jesus wept' V35
Death isn't nothing. Death is the terrible consequence of turning away from the giver of life.
'For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in[a] Christ Jesus our Lord.' Romans 6:23
When we leave God out of our life, we are effectively giving in to all the lies, false news, false promises that the world would have us believe.
But how can we possibly be in control when Death has the final word?
To turn from the living God is to turn from life to death. Life is fragile , and can be taken away in a moment, even by a tiny unseen virus.
2000 years have passed since Lazarus's funeral. So much may have changed in terms of progress, but actually we, as humanity, have not changed, because we are still going to die. We need to recognise that there is something fundamentally wrong with the human race. Sin brings death.
But this passage also brings a message of hope and happiness. When Jesus turned up at this funeral, it made all the difference in the world.
Jesus arrived and asked for the grave to be opened:
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was cave with a stone laid across the entrance. Take away the stone,' he said. 'But, Lord,' said Martha, the sister of the dead man, 'by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days. ' Then Jesus said, 'Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?' So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.' When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!' The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, 'Take off the grave clothes and let him go. '
Here the power of Jesus was displayed. Here was a miracle that showed his power to reverse death.
Jesus was not saying that death will not come at the end of our earthly life. But he was declaring that we will have an eternal life with Him. If we believe in him.
Now that is really living!
Jesus died to take the wages of our sin. How do we know? Because he died. Then he rose again. He's paid for our sin.
C S Lewis wrote:
'He has forced open a door that has been locked since the death of the first man. He has met, fought, and beaten the King of Death. Everything is different because he has done so.'
Everything is different now. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He has reversed the effects of sin and a fallen world.
D.L. Moody wrote:
'Some day you will read in the papers that D.L. Moody of East Northfield, is dead. Don't you believe a word of it! At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now.'
In John 11:26 Jesus asks Martha a question 'Do you believe this?'
If you carry on reading this chapter you will see that many people believed this.
Nevertheless, a different group of people were plotting to kill him. Isn't unbelief phenomenal!! They have just seen Jesus raise a dead body, and they've heard his claim to be the resurrection and the life. And they are plotting to kill him!
What will you do with Jesus?
Will you believe in him for life, or will death be the decay of you, the end, the full stop, the darkness, the hell?
Do you believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life?
Why not take time to investigate these wonderful claims of Jesus?
John 11:17 - 11:44
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So 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 also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”