Jesus as the Resurrection and the Life
Rev. Charles Westby, Pastor
John 11:1-44
February 16, 2020

Way back at the beginning of the human journey, Eve took some of the fruit and ate, and gave some to her husband, Adam, who was with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6). God had commanded them not to eat of that fruit, and He assured them that if they should eat of it, they would taste death (Genesis 2:17).

They lost faith. They disobeyed God’s command. They elevated themselves and what they wanted to do over God’s word. They exalted themselves over God. They ate. They changed the fabric of human existence. Death came.

Now death is so common that we cannot imagine life without it, though we don’t want it. It has become the new normal. In terms of what God created us to be, however, it is not normal at all. We know this because death does not cease to be painful, even when it is expected. It is the Devil’s way, and the way of sin, to make a new normal out of something that God never intended to be part of what it means to be human; that God never intended for us to experience.

So, the Gospel reading today is not telling us about an unusual scene. Jesus gets word that His good friend Lazarus is on his death bed. A couple of days later He travels to Judea to go to Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.

Lazarus has died. Jesus arrives on the scene. Mary and Martha have a lot of company. People from their community are there, supporting them in their grief, mourning with them.

Jesus has a conversation with Martha about resurrection. She believes in the resurrection on the last day (John 11:23-24). Jesus tells her that He is the resurrection and the life in His own person. And that in Him, she will see the glory of God (John 11:25, 40). She makes the great confession about Jesus: you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world (John 11:27).

We may recall that Peter had made this same confession (Matthew 16:16). Now Martha confesses the same thing. This confession is for all Christians. It is our confession.

So we confess that the one who formed Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life is on the scene. He is on the scene in the flesh and blood that He created so long before. The promised Son of Eve, who would destroy the work of the devil, has come (Genesis 3:15). He is Son of God. He is the resurrection and the life.

So what does it mean for Him to be these things for us in this scene? First, He is there in the middle of it all. The one who created us does not shun us. He does not shun meeting us in the worst of it. He is there with us in the midst of it. He is there as life sustaining us in the midst of death.

He is listening.

As He listens, He is deeply moved with human feeling over the situation. He is moved with human feeling, because He is human. Son of God, yes. Fully human, yes.

Mary, where have you laid Lazarus to rest?, He asks. Mary shows Him.

He weeps.

Some of the most important Bible verses involving Jesus are real short. It is finished, Jesus said from the cross (John 19:30). He is risen, the angels say to Mary and the other women on the third day. Here God’s Word says, Jesus wept (John 11:35).

The Son of God, the resurrection and the life, knows first hand about the human love that is friendship. He knows firsthand about the sting and pain of death, as His good friend has died. The resurrection and the life sheds very human tears. He feels very human pain. He feels the pain of His own judgment against sin. Here is Son of God we can relate to. Here Son of God relates to us as one of us, and joins us in our pain.

Lazarus was a good man and loved as a dear friend by Jesus. But he was also a sinner. This is evident because he died. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)

Now the resurrection and the life takes action. Roll the stone way from the tomb, He commands.

But Lord, says Martha; Lazarus has been dead for four days. There will be a stench, the stench of death.

Martha, says Jesus. Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God? (John 11:40).

This is a wonderful thing. What is the ultimate glory of God? It is to give life. It is not to crush and to kill in awful wrath. He must crush the arrogant and those who refuse to yield to His rightful reign and truth. He must give to sin the wages it deserves. But that is an alien work for God. What He really wants to do is to forgive and heal and give life. His glory is to reverse death in Christ. But not just to reverse it, but to give indestructible life; to raise us into an existence where death is no longer heard of anymore.

Lazarus will be brought back to life in this world, in this same mortal existence. But Jesus wants to show who He is and to give us a foretaste of the true resurrection, of which He Himself is the first fruits, the Leader, the one who goes before us. So He does.

The stone is rolled away.

Jesus calls forth with a  loud voice. “Lazarus, come out of there” (John 11:43)

The dead man is no longer dead. He obeys the command. It is Jesus’s word that gives Lazarus life. He was lying there dead before Jesus spoke with the authority of the Son of God. He is acted upon by Jesus’s command and now lives. He gets up in the power of Jesus’s word and walks out of the tomb.

Though Lazarus is wrapped-up in burial cloths, he is no zombie. He is completely alive, as you and I are. Jesus tells them to unbind him (John 11:44). Though he was a dead man and is now walking out of the tomb, he is no walking dead; he is fully alive, as you and I are.

Jesus reveals who He is. He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, as Martha exclaimed. He is the resurrection and life, as He said He was.

As the resurrection and the life, He tasted the pain of death, as a real human being. As the resurrection and the life, He spoke the command that gives life. Our brother has our life in His hands.

As the resurrection and the life, He will hang on a cross in His own death, our death, to win our pardon with God; to destroy the sin that brought death; to therefore destroy death.

And as the resurrection and the life, He will take life again on the third day. But this time He will take life that is no longer subject to death at all.

And one day, He will stand upon this earth, this same earth upon which He stood that day. And He will issue the command. And He will raise all the dead. And those who believe in Him, He will raise in the resurrection of immortality. Death will no longer apply. And you and I and all of our loved ones who have gone before us in faith in Him, will be made new. And we will live in the eternal life He gives. And death will be no more. Praise be to God.

Amen.



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