Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life
Series: The Gospel of John
This week Pastor Matt dives into the BIG IDEA that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life
(1) What does it mean? (2) What do we do about it?
Baker Exegetical Commentary On the New Testament, 335, Andreas Kostenberger
Best Warfield quote I pulled from his emotional life essay: “But Jesus burned with anger against the wrongs he met with in his journey through human life as truly as he melted with pity at the sight of the world’s misery: and it was out of these two emotions that his actual mercy proceeded.”
MOTHER’S DAY – PASTORAL PRAYER
Good morning, my name is Matt and I’m one of the pastors of the church and I want to wish you moms a happy and joyful Mother’s Day. When I think of you moms, especially those of you that I know well, the portrait of the industrious woman in Proverbs 31 comes to mind (read Proverbs 31:25-30). Mom’s today we celebrate you and remember that God gives us the privilege of honoring you every day. For today’s pastoral prayer, moms, it’s my privilege to pray for you.
Father, we give you thanks and praise for our mothers and every mother in this room. Father, we praise you because as we watch the mothers in our church delight in their children, wisely instruct their children, and lovingly correct their children, we see a glimmer of the way that you parent us. Thank you for the way that they love, nurture, disciple, encourage, discipline, and delight in their kids. In a world that so often marginalizes children, we are so thankful for the way that the mothers in this church are showing off the incredible value that you place on children. Father, we pray that every mother in this room will have your strength to comprehend how wide, high, and deep your love is for them. We pray that each will be a woman who waits upon you. The Bible says that even youths, even young moms, grow tired and weary, but those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. O Lord, please free the moms in this room from the false guilt of comparison and accusation, and free them to wait upon you, sit at your feet, and live out their calling as mothers with renewed strength. Father, we also pray that you will comfort those who have lost mothers this year or are estranged from them. Thank you that you put orphans into families through the church family. Father, we also ask that you will be especially near to those who long to be mothers. At your right hand are pleasures forevermore, satisfy them with the love, value, and identity that can only come from your right hand and, if it be your will, give them the desire of their hearts to be moms. Father, above all we thank you for the gift of every mom in our church. Pray for the unborn.
From this moment to the time when this sermon is complete, over 3,000 people worldwide will have died. And one day each one of us will join their number. And for a moment, I want to invite you to not push such an unpleasant thought from your mind. My family and I love to walk and bike on the Cynwyd trail that connects Bala Cynwyd to Manayunk. There are cemeteries on both sides of the trail and my children love to read the years on the gravestones and calculate how long the person lived. And nearly every time they do, it strikes me that the grave is coming for everyone and everything that we love, including ourselves. We can try to put it out of our minds or we can try to slow its inevitable approach, but death keeps coming nonetheless. We have to face it.
At the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that the most logical and only intellectually satisfying explanation for the birth and explosive growth of the Christian movement is the physical, bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the grave – three days after he was crucified, dead, and buried. Death isn’t actually undefeated. Jesus rose from the grave. So, what does He say to each of us as we face not just aging, but the inevitability of our own death? The answer brings us right to the heart of our passage. John 11:25-26 – 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?” These verses bring us to the big idea of our passage this morning: Jesus is the resurrection and the life. In light of this big idea, I want to consider two questions this morning. Jesus is the resurrection and the life: (1) What does it mean? (2) What do we do about it?
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
I am going to walk us through our text and as we go we’ll see four distinct answers to what it means that Jesus is the resurrection and the life:
Jesus uses death
Let’s start at the beginning. One of Jesus’ closest friends is gravely ill. As we go, I want you to notice how John, the author of this Gospel, goes out of his way to emphasize Jesus’ love for Lazarus and his sisters. John 11:3-5 – So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” What will Jesus – the miracle working Messiah – do for the one he loves? 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.” What does Jesus do for the one who is suffering and near to death? He delays. Do you notice the first word in verse six? “So.” It’s a resulting word. Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, so he delays. He delays coming to them and removing the suffering. He delays so that Lazarus will experience the horror of death and his sisters the horror of loss. He loves them so he delays. That’s so counterintuitive. He loves so he delays. Why would he do that? If he loves Lazarus and can heal him from his sickness and spare them all this pain, why in the world does he delay? Look again at verse four: But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus delays so that they can see his love and glory. Jesus delays so that they can see his tender love and overwhelming power when he raises Lazarus from the dead. Jesus is using death to display his love and his glory. And that’s what it means that Jesus is the resurrection and the life – he can even use death to display his glory.
Question: Where in your life does it feel like Jesus is delaying? I know how very hard it can be to hear when you’re hurting so deeply – but Jesus’ delays because he loves you and wants to show you his glory. His delay doesn’t call his love for you into question. He delays so that you can know more of his comfort, more of his tenderness, more of his peace, more of his nearness, and, more of his power to heal your suffering and remove your death – whether now temporarily or later fully when he raises you from the dead forever. So if he delays, press into him instead of pulling away. He delays because he loves you. In this delay, show me your glory. And that what it means that he’s the resurrection and the life. He uses death. The second thing that it means…
He promises life
After delaying arriving at Lazarus’ tomb for a couple of days, out of love to use death to display his love and glory, the Lord Jesus took his disciples with him to Bethany, to Lazarus’ tomb. Let’s pick up the scene in John 11:20-24 – 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.” When Martha says that Lazarus will rise again on the last day, she is articulating very good theology. We often mistakenly think of heaven as a sort of ethereal place where our souls go after we die. Popular culture has duped us into thinking that heaven is some immaterial place where everything is white, where we are going to float around like angels, and nothing exciting happens. Martha knows better. Martha knows that the Bible teaches that our great hope is that a great day is coming, the last day. On that day the Lord will finally and permanently defeat his enemies. On that great day all who trusted in Him will rise physically from their graves. On that day the Lord’s people will not rise with their old decaying bodies. On that day it won’t just be our souls that live. On that last day those who died in the Lord will rise with glorified, imperishable bodies and live forever in a physical new heaven and new earth where death is no more. Marth knows that’s coming for Lazarus. But Jesus wants to turn Martha’s focus from this abstract belief to something more personal.
John 11:25-26 – 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?” The Lord Jesus turns Martha’s attention from how great the final resurrection is to how great He is. Jesus does not simply give resurrection and life. He is resurrection and life. We’ve seen this already in John’s Gospel. John 1:4 – “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” Jesus is life. In the absolute beginning, He was with God and was God. Jesus has life. He is the eternal “I am.” And the Lord Jesus is the resurrection. Though he died for our sins, three days later he rose. He is the resurrection and the life. And that means that what will soon happen to Lazarus is a parable and pattern of what happens to all who believe in Jesus. Jesus died and rose. Jesus is the resurrection and the life and whoever believes in him, like Jesus, though they die, they will live and never truly die. The greatness of Jesus is unfathomable. For those who believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, death is not the end. Death is the door to greater life than we’ve ever experienced. And that’s what it means that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
When Jesus first saved me, I really looked up to a man named Billy Graham. Billy Graham was an evangelist who preached the gospel to more people than any person in history. I wanted to be just like him. Billy Graham died a few years ago, but years earlier he said, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Jesus promises life – that’s what it means that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
He weeps over death
There are few passages in the Bible that provide a richer picture of the emotional life of our Lord than the next part. John 11:32-36 – 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!” As is often the case with emotions, it’s hard to nail down exactly what the Lord Jesus is feeling as he approaches Lazarus’ tomb. The Lord Jesus seems to be experiencing a combination of grief, empathy, anger, and anguish. John doesn’t tell us what the specific object of these emotions are (Lazarus, death, Mary, Martha, unbelieving Jews), but what he does tell us is that as Jesus approached Lazarus’ tomb and saw the mourners, he wept. The Lord Jesus seems to be experiencing the manifold complexity of emotions that David expressed throughout the Psalms. And the flood of emotions brings Jesus to tears, though he knows just what he is about to do to death.
And that’s what it means that Jesus is the resurrection and the life – he weeps over death. He doesn’t approach our suffering and our impending death with a stoic distance. He identifies with our pain and suffering. He participates in it to the point of weeping for us. I don’t where in your life you feel like Jesus is delaying on you, but whatever it is – Jesus isn’t stoic toward your pain. He doesn’t snap at us and tell us to stiffen your upper lip because resurrection is coming. No he weeps over death and suffering now. The one who promises life also weeps over death and that’s what it means that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Very practically, that means you don’t have to be a stoic either. Since Jesus weeps over your suffering, you can weep in his direction. If you don’t know how or words escape you, use the Psalms. They’re the words of grieving prayer that God has provided for us. Now we come to our final answer. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, what does that mean?
He defeats death
John 11:38, 43-44 – Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it…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.” The Lord Jesus defeats death with a word! He calls Lazarus by name and death is defeated. Look at how easily the Lord Jesus defeats death. “Lazarus come out…unbind him…let him go,” and it’s done.
And this is what Jesus can do for you. If you’re his follower, this is what Jesus has done for you. The Bible says that you were dead in your trespasses and sins, but He made you alive. Like calling Lazarus from the tomb, he defeated death when he died for you on the cross and rose again, and he raised you from the dead when he called you by name and gave you faith to follow Him. And that’s what it means that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He uses death, he promises life, he weeps over death, and he defeats it! It is truly true what he said, “I am the resurrection and the life!”
WHAT DO WE DO ABOUT IT?
Well, let’s return to Jesus’ famous statement. John 11:25-26 – 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?”
I want to tell you something that I think is very important. The phrase “believes in me” might be better translated, “believes into me.” In other words, there is nothing to do about it than to believe into Christ. You were born into a world marked by death and you’re dead in your trespasses and sins. Christ is the resurrection, not you. He has life, not you. He died and rose for you. Put all your weight into him. Believe into Him. Trust completely in Him. Surrender yourself and your life to Him. He has done it all so that all that is left for us to do is receive Him with the empty hands of faith.
I want to conclude with Jesus’ question to Martha: Do you believe?