Posted by: Pastor J Jacobs on Tue, Dec 11, 2018
When Jesus was on the earth, he had many people who wanted to be around him. He also had people who hated him and wanted him dead. On the last day of his life, it was hard to tell which group was which.
But Jesus had friends. He had people that believed in him and what he was doing. He had a group of disciples that went with him when he traveled and stayed with him while he taught. As far as we can tell, only Judas actually betrayed Jesus and it was only Judas that left the 12 primary disciples.
Jesus had friends that helped him in his ministry. There was a family consisting of two sisters and a brother that lived in the town of Bethany not far from the city of Jerusalem. They were apparently financially comfortable and were able to help Jesus’ ministry in that way. He apparently stayed with them from time to time.
So, when the brother, Lazarus, falls sick, Jesus delayed going to see him. Remember that Jesus was healing people everywhere he went. He was even healing people at a distance. Yet, he did neither in the case of Lazarus. It seems inconceivable that Jesus would let his friend die and help others he did not even know. Yet, there it was. Lazarus died. He was dead and buried before Jesus even decided to show up.
I have stood before the graveside of dozens of people, both as a pastor and as a friend or relative of the dead. I have heard the words, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” I have said those words. Yet, what Jesus said after that is the point of the message today…what Jesus said and then what he did.
Jesus said to his friend, Martha, “Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Do you believe this?”
Martha’s answer was something like many of us would say. She said, “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” Then she went away.
You have to realize that when Martha was speaking to Jesus, she was not simply upset, she was wailing. She was screaming these words. They were words of frustration, pain, and loss. She was deeply hurt and she was expressing it to someone she loved dearly.
Soon, Mary comes to him and basically says the same thing that Martha said. Jesus has a reaction that is a little unexpected. Most of the translations do not do justice the language. Jesus wasn't just troubled, he was angry. The New Living Translation does a good job of expressing that. Most of the others simply say he was ‘moved’ or something like that and does express the deep emotion that Jesus was feeling as he walked toward the tomb of his friend.
Why was Jesus angry? Was he angry because of disbelief or because of the unfairness of the death of his friend? I don’t really know the answer to that, but I lean toward his feelings in the loss of his friend and the grief that the death imposed on those who loved him.
Death represents a loss. The severing of a connection with someone that is loved. I understand this very well. My grandparents, my parents, four brothers and two sisters, 14 aunts and uncles, a number of cousins, and one nephew and a niece have been taken by death. I am well-acquainted with the darkness of death.
On top of that, I have stood in the home of people whose loved ones have died. Both young and old. I have held the head of a 22 year old woman who put a bullet in her brain as she slipped from this life.. I have performed the funeral of a young man whose wife was pregnant with their first child. I have performed the funeral of another young man whose sister committed suicide. He was killed in a drunken car accident exactly one year later. Some of these were joyous, but most were very sad. But all were dead and the connection was broken. Over and over, I have said to them, “I understand your grief. Jesus understands too.”
I know that when someone tells me that someday I will see my loved one again it is received on two levels. First, I understand that I will see them again after the resurrection, but secondly, I cannot see them now. I can’t talk to them. I can’t have a conversation. I know that they are gone and I will not see them in this life. Mostly, knowing that I will see someone again decades from now is not that comforting.
I know that Jesus understood that too. Martha had probably heard the same thing that Jesus said a hundred times in the previous 4 days. It is interesting that Jesus actually did something about it. To me this is proof that Jesus will do what it promises.
Death is a stranger to some of us and it is familiar to many.
When my son, Greg was four year old, my brother died. The conversation that Greg and I had went something like this:
Greg: Why did Uncle Bud have to die?
Me: I am not really sure, Greg, but everyone dies eventually.
Greg: (his eyes wide) Everybody?
Me: Yes, everybody.
Greg: You mean Grampa and Grandma are going to die?
Me: Yes, they will.
Greg: Is Mom going to die and are you going to die?
Me: Yes, Greg, Mom and I will die but probably not for a long time.
Greg: (Eyes wide again) Am I going to die?
Me: Yes, Greg, someday you will die but not for a long time.
Our son is very sensitive and even then I know he felt that sting deeply. For a moment I resented my brother’s death because it was not the conversation I wanted to have with a four year child. But I wasn’t going to deflect it or be dishonest either. My son spent the next hour crying uncontrollably. All I could do was try to console him and let him know I was there. I couldn’t bring my brother back. I couldn’t do anything. All I had were words and the close comfort a loving father.
I know how Jesus felt that day at the tomb of Lazarus. He was angry that death caused so much misery. He was angry at the brokenness of this world. He was angry with tragedy that stalks every person in all of history. He was angry that people had to go through this. He wanted to show them that he was a victor over this common end result. He proved it that day and even more so not much later when he himself was a victor over death.
In this series of messages, we have looked over some of the “I Am” statements that Jesus made in the book of John. This is the second one where he states that he is the “Life”. That, in itself, should make us look a little closer. He told us that he came that we could have life and that life would be abundant and full.
Christians can look death in the face and not be afraid. Jesus proved that. Death has no permanence to the Christian. Death is something we will all experience, but it’s not the end. Yes, we may see our loved ones at some point, but death moves us into a different place. What is that place like? It must be good, Jesus has been working on it for quite a while.
“Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Do you believe this?” Do you?
Is it a myth, a fairy tale, a story to comfort us? Is it real? Is it worthwhile?
The Apostle Paul fought with this idea less than a generation after Jesus’ death. Even while there were those who were alive and saw the risen Jesus. They doubted the miracle and tried to make it mean something else. Here’s what Paul said:
“But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave. But that can't be true if there is no resurrection of the dead. 16 And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins. In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost! And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.” I Corinthians 15:12-19
So, do you believe? If so, what are going to do about it? Believing and not doing something is not really believing.
You can bet that Lazarus believed. I don’t know what was going through his mind when he walked out of that tomb. But I bet he had a great story to tell.
What was Jesus’ last word on the subject of Lazarus in John 11? He said, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
You can’t do much is you are wrapped in the world and tied up by your problems. We need to be open to what God desires. Once you are unwrapped and unencumbered by whatever it is, you are free to do what he wants.
Jesus showed us that death will not win.
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