Monday, 18 April 2011 12:33

I Am The Resurrection and The Life

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We have been studying the seven “I am” statements of Jesus which are all in the gospel of John. So far we have looked at four of them. Do you remember what they were? I am the bread of life; I am the light of the world; I am the door; I am the good shepherd.” Today we look at the next ‘I am’ statement where Jesus says, amazingly, “I am the resurrection and the life.” What so reinforces and underscores this fifth “I am” statement from Jesus is the miraculous setting and context of it. Jesus says it in the context of raising Lazarus from the dead, a most astounding miracle which also receives the most coverage of all miracles in the Bible, taking up at least 46 verses altogether. This confirms the fifth ‘I am’ statement is grand glorious gospel truth indeed! I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said. Let’s follow three main thoughts in studying this wonderful life-giving gospel word of the Saviour: a very considerate testimony, a very complete testimony, and a very comforting testimony given to us by the Lord Jesus.

When I say that Jesus’ words to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life” are very considerate, I mean very compassionate and kind and helpful, especially in the situation Martha was in and her state of mind at the time. What was her situation? John 11 tells us all about it. Martha and her sister Mary, together with their brother Lazarus, lived in a home in Bethany little more than two or three kilometers from Jerusalem. Jesus loved going there and they so enjoyed hosting Him at various times. But now what happened in their home? Lazarus had become sick, and he was so sick that he had died. The sisters had tried to send a message to Jesus who was on a preaching tour, but Jesus had not come, as they had hoped, to prevent the death of Lazarus. And now as Jesus was finally heading towards Bethany again, Lazarus had been dead already for four days! What grief for the family.

As people are mourning in the household of Martha and Mary, the news is told that Jesus is on His way, and almost there. Martha, the more impulsive and active of the two sisters, when she hears that Jesus is approaching their village goes out to meet Him and pours out her grief to Him as we read in the verses just before our text. Martha tells Jesus her deep disappointment that He had not come earlier, and expresses that her only comfort now is that there is a resurrection to come in the final day. I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” she says.

Dear friends, can you imagine Martha in her grief before the Saviour? We can say Martha stands before us here as a troubled comfortless believer. She believes in a general way the truths of God’s Word, but she doesn’t have present comfort from the promises of God. She, as it were, limits God by scaling down His promises having benefit for the future only but not for the present. She did not distrust the Lord, but neither did she believe with full confidence that He could and would help her then and there in her present need and sorrow. Martha also clearly attempted to limit Christ by place for she said, “If You had been here, that is, in Bethany, this death could maybe have been avoided.” What is implied here is that Jesus could not have healed her brother from a distance. Martha was sad and she had a shortsighted understanding of who Jesus Christ is as Saviour and Friend of sinners.

In the same way many of us too may limit Jesus, or not? Doesn’t it, in fact, happen all too often in your life and mine, especially when you are sad and discouraged in one way or another. You believe that the Lord is able to do all He says He will do. You know the gospel promises. And indeed, you hope in the end everything will work out for you, also between you and God, but you don’t experience present comfort and joy from the gospel so much. Is that maybe true of you?

Notice too how Martha not only limited Christ as to what He could do for her in the present situation, but she treated the words of Christ impersonally as well. Jesus told her, “Your brother shall live again, Martha”, but instead of taking that in the best and most personal sense as a promise that Jesus was about to restore her brother to her, Martha pushed the words off into the future as though to say they had no relationship to herself and her situation right then and there. She took Jesus’ words and turned them into a general truth good for the future and did not see that Jesus meant what He said as a personal word to her to be of real benefit to her at that very time, in her present sorrowful situation.

I wonder how many today don’t fall into that same trap, and maybe are in that same situation presently. You believe the gospel and you trust it is all true what the Bible says, especially as it applies to others, and as you think about the future. But personally, presently it doesn’t help you much nor comfort you a great deal. Is this possibly accurately describing you, dear friend? You hear the glad tidings of John 11 about Jesus as the resurrection and the life, and you believe it too, but all more in a general way. For you Christ’s promises are, as one put it, like antiques in the attic. Those promises have value, you are sure, but practically you get little out of them at this time? Well, that is the way Martha was, but now see how the Lord Jesus ministered to her. He went out of His way to have her see and experience the present benefit of the gospel and not just live with the future hope of the gospel. This is what the risen Saviour is all about still today, you can be sure, with His gospel Word and the Holy Spirit’s ministry through the Word. The Lord Jesus is out especially also on the Lord’s Days, ministering that His people, as many as trust in Him and follow after Him, with joy draw water out of the wells of salvation now already, and in the future even more and more, and forevermore!

Notice here too how Jesus ministered to Martha, and take note it is to Martha. See how very considerate Jesus proves to be to her in her need and little faith. The Lord Jesus doesn’t become angry with her or impatient, but He directs her to higher ground in the faith by revealing more of Himself to her. Jesus does so in a way that also will catch her attention. Martha, grieving over her brother who just died, is interested in resurrection and life! We have seen that before with the “I am” statements of Jesus, what simple and practical relevant descriptions of the Saviour they give. Jesus met her at the level where Martha was at and see how the Lord proceeds to instruct and elevate her mind. How graciously He bears with her passing fretfulness and shortsightedness; how tenderly He touches the still open wounds and then leads her from grieving over her brother to believe yet more fully in her Saviour. Do you see how Jesus, with His wonderful words of life, turns her attention away from dwelling on Lazarus’ death to trust more in Christ Himself, Who is the Lord of life? See how Jesus diverts her from thinking only of a far removed and general resurrection to confide in Him, the Lord Jesus, Who is even then and there, at that moment, the Resurrection and Life.

Can you imagine Jesus speaking with Martha somewhere outside the village of Bethany, gently guiding her further into the way of grace and truth? Don’t you agree that His testimony to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life”, is a very considerate testimony? Considerate of Martha in her needs with her feelings and in her discouragement and sad situation. For sure, Jesus’ ministry to her now is a demonstration of such loving-kindness from the Lord. The point to stress with this too, dear friends, is that Jesus Christ is still the same considerate Saviour today. Even as risen and ascended Saviour now, His invitation still stands. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly of heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” [Matthew 11:28]

But let us move on and notice next what a complete testimony Jesus gives when He says “I am the resurrection and the life.” How is it a complete testimony? Well, just think of the two terms in this statement and the order in which they are given. Jesus speaks of Himself as the resurrection first because the context was the death of Lazarus. And before Lazarus could have life, he needed resurrection to life. This statement is so complete, however, for spiritually speaking it fits so well too with coming to salvation and having everlasting life. For that to take place in our lives, we need resurrection in our hearts. That is, we need to be made alive from being dead in trespasses and sins; we need God’s life-giving renewing power in our lives in becoming Christians, and we need His life-giving support in remaining Christians. How wonderful that He is then the resurrection AND the life! If Jesus were only in Himself and through Himself the life, we could never be made alive. If He were only the resurrection, we would perish the moment we were made alive unto Him. But do not fear! Hear what Jesus says. I am the resurrection and the life.” There is so much hope for dead sinners spiritually speaking and for struggling saints too because Jesus is the resurrection and the life for all who come to Him and ever trust and follow Him.

This fifth “I am” statement of Jesus is so complete too for by it Jesus makes clear He is not only a human teacher of resurrection, nor One Who just gives resurrection and life to people, but He Himself is the resurrection and the life. Here Jesus declares Himself truly the divine Author of all resurrection, whether spiritual or physical, and the Root and Fountain of all life! Jesus declares Himself as the almighty conqueror of death and the life-giving Saviour of body and soul. In saying “I am the resurrection and the life” Jesus testifies, ‘I am the great Spring and Source of all life, whatever life anyone has - eternal, spiritual, physical - it is all owing to Me.’ The reality is that we in ourselves, because of sin, are born to die and headed for eternal death. But this “I am” saying of Jesus tells of a complete Saviour for otherwise spiritually dead and hopelessly doomed sinners like us. Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the life, yes, the alpha and the omega of our salvation; the beginning and the end; the first and the last; He is the All in all! This is what Jesus as Saviour of sinners claims about Himself and it is the absolute wonderful gospel truth. To live apart from Him is death. There is no life at all apart from Him. But in relationship with Him, in the way of daily faith and repentance, you find life and that more abundantly, life in body and soul, eternal life, for now and forever!

That this testimony of Jesus is indeed so very complete we can know too from what Jesus further says in verses 25 & 26. What does Jesus say? “He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” Do you hear how complete this is? First the believer is pictured at the moment of death, which of course again is fitting for the setting with Martha dealing with the death of Lazarus. Jesus assures Martha that through Him, Christ Jesus, death has lost its sting, and though a believer too dies physically yet shall he live, possessing everlasting life in glory in and through Christ Jesus. And then Jesus declares that everyone who lives, being spiritually alive believing in Him, shall never actually die. And literally the text reads very emphatically, “not ever shall die, never forever”! You hear then the completeness of what Jesus proclaims.

What further makes Jesus’ testimony such a considerate and complete testimony is that He said this all as He was about to actually physically raise Lazarus from the dead. Yes, keep in mind this glorious almighty context. What Jesus says to Martha was all to prepare her for the great miracle about to take place when Jesus would cry out with a loud voice before the open tomb where Lazarus lay dead for four days already, “Lazarus, come forth.” When Jesus so called out, we are told truthfully, literally, Lazarus was resurrected from the dead! Jesus gave this earlier instruction to Martha and for us all that when that miracle occurred it be seen not as an end in itself but as an illustration of Who Christ truly is and wishes to be for all who trust in Him. With Jesus’ instruction here, the miracle of Lazarus’ resurrection from the dead could be and can be seen in its true character, namely, as a sign pointing away from itself to Christ the Saviour showing the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory, yes, even as the resurrection and life indeed.

I always remember and delight in recalling too what I once read or heard about Jesus’ miracle here. Namely, that if Jesus hadn’t said, “Lazarus come forth” but just “Come forth” all the dead in that mountainside would have been raised right then and there! Oh, what an almighty Saviour of sinners Jesus Christ is and He is calling to us also through this word now. Are you hearing His voice today?

What is so striking further with this miracle of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is that by it the enemies of Jesus were so stirred up to a point that they determined Jesus must Himself be put to death. Verse 53 reads, “…from that day forth [from that day on] they [the Jewish leaders] took counsel together for to put Him to death.” Jesus knew that would be the outcome but He still went ahead with the miracle. Why? Because Jesus also knew that shall He truly be the resurrection and the life for sinners, as many as trust Him, then He Himself would have to lay down His life on sinners’ behalf. Yes, He would have to give His life a ransom for many as the once for all perfect sin-offering to God in the sinner’s place. He would have to pay the full wages of sin as Sinbearer, and even to the point of lying dead in the grave Himself And this Jesus was most willing to do for remember, as He said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.” [John 10:11] The great gospel news is, however, not only did Jesus have power to lay down His life but He had power to take it up again too. Yes, praise God, hallelujah! For exactly in this way, you see, Jesus Christ is for sure and for ever the resurrection and the life. Do you understand and trust in this wonder-working power of the gospel of Jesus Christ? What a Saviour of sinners the Lord Jesus Christ truly is! How important that you grasp this, dear friends.

In this regard notice yet something else showing Jesus’ testimony about Himself as the resurrection and the life being so complete. Consider how Jesus stresses in His words to Martha that it is only those who believe in Him that will benefit so richly from Him as the resurrection and the life. And see also how the Lord Jesus then goes on to press home the question. “Martha, do you believe what I am saying now [Believest thou this] that I am the resurrection and the life? You said you believe the dead will rise in the last day and that is good and well, but do you believe that I am the author of resurrection and the source of life? Do you realize and confess that I, your Teacher and Friend, am very God and have the keys of death and the grave in My hands”? Jesus wants to hear Martha acknowledge and confess in true faith that the Lord Jesus Christ is her one and only hope of salvation before God and in the last judgment day.

How would you answer that question? Martha, by the grace of God, gave a beautiful believing response to Jesus’ personal question as our text passage relates. Do you also wholeheartedly respond to Jesus’ question, saying, “Lord I believe You are so great a Saviour as proclaimed by You and that You will be such a Saviour even for me”? To believe in Jesus means to accept everything that Jesus says about Himself as absolutely true and to entrust yourself wholly to Him as Saviour and Lord! Is that what you do also, by God’s grace? Not to respond in trust and submission to Jesus means to remain in your sins and to live life still under the righteous condemnation of God. How important it is that this be your Christian conviction.

The Lord Jesus Christ of John 11 now stands before us urging all not so to perish in unbelief and sin, but to turn from sin to Jesus while it is yet the day of grace. Don’t turn from Him, Jesus Christ the Savior of sinners. Don’t neglect nor reject this Saviour Who in Himself is the resurrection and the life for now and forever for body and soul. Jesus Christ is the almighty Saviour and the splendid gracious Saviour. How shall you escape if you neglect so great salvation as made known in and through Him? “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus said. “Believest thou this?” Jesus’ question implies not to believe will bring upon you everlasting shame, but calling out to Him, “Lord I believe, help Thou mine unbelief”, you will not be put to shame but blessed now and forevermore.

We serve a risen Saviour, Who testifies still today, “I am the resurrection and the life”. We have looked at what a considerate testimony this is, and what a complete testimony too. Notice yet what a comforting testimony John 11:25 is. Surely it is comforting, isn’t it, to reflect on how Jesus, even before His crucifixion and resurrection, worked to make known that He is the resurrection and the life. How wonderful to realize that also now as resurrected and ascended Saviour the Lord Jesus is still occupied with ministering hope to have His people come to know and realize in truth, and more and more, that He is the resurrection and the life. When Jesus arose from the dead, He said to Mary Magdalene, [not now Mary, Martha’s sister], “Woman, why weepest thou?” In other words, “Don’t you know I am the resurrection and the life?” Hear Him say to the women on the way, “All hail” - all health to you - for I am the resurrection and the life! Hear Him say to the disciples, “Peace be unto you” for I am the resurrection and the life! Oh, you see, life becomes purposeful and increasingly hopeful when you remember Jesus is the resurrection and the life. When you meet with deadness of heart and when you faint and falter in spirit, is there not help to be found with the life-giving, spirit-renewing Saviour? When death looms, what is there to fear when Jesus Who is the resurrection and the life is your Saviour and Lord? The psalmist could say already in the Old Testament, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” [Psalm 23:4]. How much more reason to say that with confidence, knowing Jesus the Saviour is through His person and work the resurrection and the life. Paul could say in the New Testament “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain” and how much that makes holy and happy sense, remembering Jesus’ considerate, complete, comforting testimony, “I am the resurrection and the life.

Truly, our text proclaims when you and I believe in Jesus and are followers of Him; when we accept what He says about God and about life, about sin and salvation; and when you and I stake everything on Who Christ is as Saviour and what He has done for salvation for sinners, then in truth we have the resurrection life, even eternal life already here and now! Belonging to Christ in faith means we are forever freed from the fear and condemnation of sin and death, and we are delivered from the bondage of Satan and the snares of this world, and the awful threat of hell. Instead we may have peace with God in and through Christ, finding forgiveness of all sin in Christ and everlasting righteousness in Him before God; and having the Holy Spirit guiding us, we may live also in the sure promise of eternal life in the new heavens and earth one day, beginning with our last breath in this life. Death for the believer is not a punishment for sin, but only an abolishing of sin and a passageway to eternal glory. Oh, for sure, nothing at all can compare to belonging to Him, Jesus Christ the Saviour, He Who is the resurrection and the life!

I will end the sermon with a little story that I came across. One night a little boy was frightened by thunder and lightning. He left his own bed and crawled into bed with his parents on his dad’s side of the bed. The storm increased in fury and the thunder shook the house. The little boy could not sleep. Finally he said to his daddy, “Daddy, is your face turned toward me?” And the father said, “Yes, son.” Then the little boy said, “Daddy, may I put my hand in yours?” And, of course, the father told him he could. Soon the little fellow was asleep. This little boy knew that his father was watching over him and that his life was in his hands. Well, even so, dear friends, trusting in Jesus, Who is the resurrection and the life, you may know the Triune God is looking upon you in favour, and you are under His watchful care, and all your life and your death and eternal future too is all in His hands, yes, His nail-pierced hands even. Honestly, you just can’t find a more safe and secure blessed hiding place than with this Christ Jesus. He Who declares, “I am the resurrection and the life”. Hallelujah, what a Saviour for sinners! Are you trusting Him as your only Saviour and Lord too? Amen.

Hans Overduin, Radio Pastor

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