Sermon for Jericho Road Church on March 24th, 2019. Notes below:
As we entered 2019 we began a series digging into John’s gospel. We wanted to behold Jesus together as a congregation in this season between Christmas and Easter. John’s gospel is especially helpful towards this end, as John 20:31 says:
 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
In the midst of discerning God’s will over the past couple years, we desire that Jericho Road Church would experience deeper life in Jesus’ name by beholding and trusting him. To that end, we’ve looked at a number of passages, most often called the “I am” statements, where Jesus declares who he is:
- We saw that Jesus is the bread of life, the fulfillment of the manna from heaven in the wilderness.
- We saw that Jesus is the light of the world, the fulfillment of the pillar of fire and cloud that would lead God’s people to the Land of Promise.
- We saw that Jesus is the LORD God, the I AM, the one who appeared to Moses at the burning bush to initiate the exodus from Egypt.
- We saw that Jesus is the door of the sheep and the good shepherd, the fulfillment of the prophesied new Moses, the new Davidic leader who would shepherd God’s flock.
Last week, Charlie helpfully unpacked John 10:11-21 for us, where we saw that Jesus, as the good shepherd, knows his sheep and his sheep know him. Jesus protects his sheep. He laid down his life for them. The wolf could take him, but the wolf wasn’t going to take the sheep. Life is found with the good shepherd.
Reading of the Word
This morning we want to continue looking at the life we find in Jesus, specifically in the context of resurrection. If you have a Bible, you can turn to John chapter 11, and we’ll be looking specifically at verses 17-27.
When we come to this passage, Jesus has been sent to by two sisters, Mary and Martha. Their brother, Lazarus, was ill. Jesus knew them and he loved them, but rather than leaving at once, he waited two days before beginning the journey. Jesus knew that Lazarus had died. Our passage this morning captures the interaction between Jesus and Martha once he arrived.
Borrowing from Charlie last week, I’ll read this through once and we’ll spend a moment in silence, asking the Holy Spirit to illuminate God’s word to us. Then I’ll read it again and we can dig in.
John chapter 11, beginning in verse 17. This is God’s word:
 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off,  and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.  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.” (ESV)
Verse 17 says that, “Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.” We see later in verse 39 that there is hesitation to remove the stone in front of the tomb because, “by this time there will be an odor.”
It seems John mentions this to tell us that Lazarus is most certainly dead, and has been dead for some time. There would have been an odor. He would be in a state of decomposition. This is how we experience death. To say death is unpleasant feels like a flippant understatement. This is the setting of the Creator of life meeting with a grieving sister.
Verses 21 and 22 capture what 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.” It’s easy to hear a hint of accusation in her words, but there might not have been. Martha seemed to have utter confidence in Jesus, trusting that he could have healed Lazarus.
Martha believed God. We see her say in verse 24, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” She knew, like the Pharisees and the majority of first-century Jews, that at the end of everything God would raise his people. What she missed was that Jesus meant to show her something much more than just the final resurrection.
I am the resurrection and the life
Jesus responds to Martha’s expectation of the resurrection on the last day with a remarkable statement. We see in Verse 25 that:
 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.
Jesus both fully affirms Martha’s response and proclaims something far more significant. Yes, there will be a resurrection on the last day, but Jesus is the resurrection. Yes, Lazarus will raise to life again, but Jesus is the life. How could he possibly claim something like this?
We have the obvious benefit of being on the other side of the cross. We know more of the narrative than Martha did at this moment. Remember back during Advent where we saw in John 1 that:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Jesus can make this incredible claim because Jesus was there in the beginning. Jesus made everything. And he could do that because in him was life. Life finds it’s origination in him. He made life. Remember back in January when we looked at Jesus’ statement that he is “the bread of life”? John 6:40 says:
“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Jesus can say that he is the resurrection because he is the one that will be doing the resurrecting on the last day. The creator of the universe and all life within it has the authority to raise life from death. When Jesus says, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” he really means that. There really is going to be a resurrection from the dead. On the last day, if you’ve believed in Jesus, you really will be given a new body with new life. That should blow your mind. Doesn’t that excite you?
Not only that, Jesus says, “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” But that doesn’t quite seem right, does it? He just mentioned believers who die. Lazarus died. Twice, poor guy. The apostles died. Countless saints have died over the past 2,000 years. Did Jesus misspeak? Was he being misleading?
Jesus has eternity in mind. He’s looking to the end. He’s looking to Revelation 20 and the second death. He’s looking to those that will never experience fellowship with him. And he’s looking there and saying to all those that believe in him, “That’s not going to be you.” Does that not just utterly floor you? You really are going to have genuine eternal life in fellowship with Jesus. Forever. That’s what eternity means. You’ll never die.
Do you believe this?
After a number of stunning revelations, Jesus turns the conversation back to Martha. Verse 26 ends with Jesus asking:
 “Do you believe this?”
Jesus had just shown Martha that her view of Jesus needed to get bigger, making incredibly bold statements about who he was that absolutely affect how she lived her life. Jesus is saying that in him is life, which necessarily means that apart from him is death. Now he was asking her if she believed him. Of course, if Jesus is who he says he is, Jesus isn’t just asking this question to Martha.
If we want any hope of life at all, Jesus is asking this question to us as well. So, what’ll it be, Jericho Road Church, located in Wheaton, Illinois, in the year 2019, 6,000 miles and 2,000 years removed from when Jesus asked Martha this question? What is our answer? How would we respond to Jesus? Do you believe this?
We know how Martha answered him. Verse 27 says that:
 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
Her response shows that she believed that Jesus existed before anything else. That his coming was expected, since he was savior. That he was descended from David, and was therefore king. That he was uniquely God’s Son. And all of that is true. And yet Jesus is trying to show her, and us, so much more.
How we answer this question is of utmost importance. Jesus said that only those that believe in him would live and never die. Belief is required. Sometimes English fails us when we translate from another language, and this might be one of those times. That word translated as “in” when Jesus says, “believe in me”, normally means “into”.
In English, it would feel grammatically awkward to say, “Whoever believes into me…”, and so we translate that word as “in”. But we lose something by doing that. There’s a sense that genuine faith in Jesus brings you “into” him. We rest in him. We become united with him.
This is what it means to “believe in” Jesus. When Jesus asks, “Do you believe this?”, he’s asking not just whether you believe in the resurrection. But do you believe in him? Have you been brought “into” him? Are you united with him? Do you trust him? Personally?
Our hope in Jesus
Just like every other “I am” statement we’ve looked at so far in this series, Jesus is making a claim to deity. He is claiming to be God. That would not have been lost on those who heard him make these proclamations. These were serious claims, so serious that the council of the chief priests and the Pharisees decided to arrest Jesus and try him for blasphemy. Jesus was killed by men who did not believe these claims to be true.
But we know that Jesus was exactly who he said he was. We know that Jesus is indeed the resurrection and the life because we know what happened three days after his own death. Jesus didn’t stay dead, but conquered sin and death by raising to life. The fact that Jesus himself raised changes everything. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.”
We believe in a risen savior, who laid down his life so that he could take it up again. This same Jesus, who had power over his own life, has power over all life. This same Jesus, who created everything in the universe with a word, can raise lifeless bodies from the dead. The voice of the omnipotent creator speaks, and even Lazarus’s dead body obeys.
The resurrection and the life said, “Lazarus, come out.” The stench and rot and shame of four days of decomposition and death was instantly reversed, and out walked a man brought back to life. This is what Jesus does. He resurrects. He rehabilitates. He renews.
Do you want that? Do you want resurrection, now and on the last day? Do you want rehabilitation? Renewal? Jesus is the resurrection. Do you want life? Real, true, life? Life in abundance? Life forever? Jesus is life.
You can experience this resurrection and life right now. Jesus said:
 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.
Believe in Jesus. Find resurrection and life as you’re brought into him, united with him. We can find resurrection and life no where else.
A benediction from Hebrews 13:20-21:
 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,  equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.