In Isolation Thoughts 2

Hymn: How great Thou art

Bible Reading: John 11.17-44

Jesus said, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life’

Life and death have been very newsworthy in the past months, so I thought we would look at what the Bible says about it. Death came into the world because of man’s sin, Genesis 3, however there are many OT references that allude directly and indirectly to death and afterlife, as well as a coming to life again. These two, in Ps 16 and Dan 12 are quite specific:

Psalm 16.10 ‘because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one to see decay’

Daniel 12. 2  Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

The literal meaning of resurrection comes from the Latin ‘resurrectio’ and is: "coming alive again’. Historians state that when Christianity started as a religious movement in 1st-century it retained what the New Testament itself claims was the Pharisaic belief in the afterlife and resurrection of the dead. Whereas this belief was only one of many beliefs held about the ‘world to come in’. This belief was notably rejected by the Sadducees but accepted by the Pharisees (cf. Acts 23:6-8). This was dispute that is recorded several times in the NT. Belief in the resurrection became dominant within Early Christianity and is seen in the Gospels, Luke and John especially, as including an insistence on the resurrection of the flesh. Most Christian churches continue to uphold the belief that there will be a final resurrection of the dead and an eternal world to come.

What is your belief about life and death? Do you think there is life after death or do you think death is the end, your life finishes and then there is nothing?

In our passage, we have the basis for this belief as Jesus made a bold, clear statement that He was ‘the Resurrection and the Life’. What led up to this statement? Jesus had been teaching in the area of the Jordan, the area where John the Baptist had preached. A message came to Him that Lazarus was ill and obviously his sisters, Mary & Martha, wanted Him to come and heal their brother. This family had a close relationship with Jesus and the disciples, so the disciples were surprised when Jesus did not immediately rush to Bethany to deal with the situation. There was some discussion, Jesus explained that Lazarus would sleep, the disciples took this literally, so Jesus had to say that Lazarus would die, yet he promised that Lazarus would awaken.

The Ritual

At Bethany the mourning was well under way, Lazarus had died and as was the custom in hot eastern countries, he was buried the same day. Jesus is told that the burial had taken place four days before. Obviously, the family were well-known as many had gathered for the burial and stayed to comfort the sisters in their grief. We need to bear in mind the social structure of those days in Israel, it was a maleocracy. The two women were now in a different situation, no male head of the house, their standing in the community would be much lower.

Look at the turmoil, Jewish funerals were noisy not sombre and silence as in the west. It would seem that louder the noise, the greater would be the comfort. What or who gives you comfort at times of sorrow and death?

The Rebuke

Martha heard that Jesus was approaching and went out alone to meet Him. She did not mince her words! ‘If you had come my brother would be alive!’ Perhaps she was a little embarrassed at her forthright outburst, so followed that up by saying, ‘I know that God will give you what you ask’. A strange statement to make, what was her underlying hope? She knew that Jesus did miracles, she would have known about the raising of the widow’s son at Nain, the daughter of Jairus, so had hope that Lazarus would be next. But, unlike the other two, he had been dead four days and had been buried.

The Reality

Jesus responded, saying that Lazarus would rise again. Martha confirms the Jewish belief in resurrection at the Last Day, the end of the world. Jesus now states that, ‘He is the Resurrection and the Life, anyone who believes in me, will live, even if they die, a belief in me will mean they never die.’ Martha is challenged as to her belief, ‘Do you believe?’ She responds stating that she does as she knows Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. She goes home to Mary. Mary is told that Jesus had arrived and wanted to see her. Mary went to Jesus; she had a similar conversation as her sister. She claimed that if Jesus had been there earlier, then Lazarus would still be alive.

We need to stop and unpick what Jesus had just said to Martha.

  • I am the Resurrection and the Life
    • First is the claim to be God
    • Implications of being God, the giver and controller of life
    • Power to raise from dead and give life
    • Creator of man from the dust of the earth, a creation into which God breathed life, so man became a living being.
  • One who believes in me will live
    • An indication of the result of faith in Christ
    • A promise of life rather than death
  • There is death to be faced
    • Death for man is a certain outcome because of sin
    • This is unavoidable
    • Death is when breath is stopped
  • Belief will bring life, even when dead
    • The assured hope that even in physical death there is eternal life
    • Judgment for sin is death
    • Promise for faith is life
    • Resurrection will conquer all, including death.

In the light of this statement, we must move away from death is the end, finality and begin to see that there is life after physical death, eternal life, promised by Jesus. Jesus is asking you, ‘Do you believe?’

The Resurrection

Jesus now asks to be shown the grave of his friend, Lazarus. Standing there He shows His humanity as he weeps at the tomb of Lazarus. This v 35 is the shortest verse in the Bible. This act had an impact on the crowd, they recognise the love He had for His friend. Even in their sympathy they had to have a dig at Jesus. the comment is made, ‘if he gives sight to the blind, why not stop this death,’ There was always some opposition or cynical comment at His words and acts. Jesus moves on to the tomb, He gives a command to remove the stone. This causes consternation to Martha, she protests that in the four days since the burial, his body will have decayed and putrefied. Jesus responds reminding them of His promise of showing them the glory of God. They open the tomb. In this prayer we see one of the reasons for this miracle. Jesus prays to His Father, ‘You have heard me, you always hear me, this is that the people here might believe you sent me.’ It was to undermine their disbelief. Then Jesus speaks with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’ there must have been a heart stopping moment as they waited to see what would happen, nothing quite like this has happened before, would anything happen, it was impossible. No-one has come out of a grave after four days. Then came the shock, from the gloom and darkness of the grave came Lazarus, completely wrapped in the grave clothes that he was wearing when buried. Lazarus was alive! Gone was any worry about decay and smell, here he was fully restored. Jesus tells them to release him from the restraints of the clothes. Jesus had shown his power over death and life. It is a picture of what happens when one has faith in Christ. In Resurrection, Death is conquered, and you are released from the binding of sin.

The purpose we have seen in this passage is to show everyone that Jesus is the Son of God, sent to this world to die, to rise again victorious, triumphant and give eternal life to all who believe. Resurrection defeats all and give life. Who are you trusting, in whom is your faith? Jesus is the only one to promise eternal life, forgiveness of sin and the reality of peace with God.

Prayer

Hymn: Thine be the Glory

 


Page last updated: 24th July 2021 7:15 PM
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