A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on April 13, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether “I Am the Resurrection and the Life” John 11:17-27, 28-45As God’s children it’s sometimes hard for us to understand why He lets us go through so much pain.  I mean, we get it that He works in all things for good, but what about when the pain is over the top and no pain medication can help?  But there is worse pain than physical.  If we’re struggling against sin and fall anyway, there’s the pain of guilt and perhaps the fear that God is done with us.  Another kind of severe pain is loneliness topped by a false belief that we’re not good enough for anyone to truly love us.  A parent would do anything to keep his/her child from suffering.  What is Jesus doing?  He answers that in our text this morning.  He says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”  1.  These words are real comfort even when it seems God has failed us.  2.  These words are real hope even in the face of death.    We read in our text, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”  4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death.””  Apparently Lazarus had been sick for a while.  And you know how it is: we always hope tomorrow we’ll feel a better.  But suddenly Lazarus got very sick.  Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus who was a day’s travel away.  Anyway shortly after the messenger left, Lazarus died.  The messenger would not have known that when Jesus tells him, “This sickness will not end in death.”  So, the messenger gets back to Mary and Martha the next day and tells them what Jesus had said.  This had to be a real blow for them.  Not only were they mourning the loss of their brother, but it appeared Jesus’ word had failed.  Has a word of God ever seemed to have failed you?  When we’re in the middle of something, that lasts a very long time, yes, it might feel like that to us.  We read on, “5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, 7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”  8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?””  Notice Jesus loved this family and that’s why He waited two more days.  Just kind of file that thought away.  Anyway the disciples were afraid to go back because they knew the Jews would want to kill Jesus.  Jesus reassures them.  ““Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.  Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead”” Jesus’ point here is He is the light of the world and as long as He is with them, they have nothing to be afraid of.  Thomas doubted that.  He said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”” Thomas’ understanding of the Old Testament was that Jesus was going to make this world a heaven on earth.  If Jesus were murdered in Jerusalem, in his mind God’s Word would have failed, and then what would the point of being a believer?   We read, “17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.  21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.””  Mary and Martha did have a strong faith.  Evidence was how they buried Lazarus.  In ancient times the custom was to wrap the body with strips of linen.  The legs would be wrapped together and the arms would be wrapped close to the chest.  In the hope of the resurrection, Mary and Martha had Lazarus’s legs and arms wrapped separately perhaps thinking that would make it easier for Lazarus to move after Jesus brought back to life.  However when Jesus delayed in getting there, they lost hope.  In the past the people Jesus had raised were only dead for a few hours.  Lazarus had been dead for four days, and in that climate his body was already seriously decaying.  We read, “ 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.””   Martha believed in the resurrection of all the dead, because it’s clearly taught throughout the Old Testament.  For example Job lived 4500 years ago, and he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and the in the end he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes.”  Do you suppose Job’s flesh has been destroyed?  Absolutely, but God’s is going to restore Job’s flesh!  But we might wonder where did Job get his beliefs from?  They were passed down from generation to generation all the way back to Adam.  God had told him, “In the day you eat of it, you will die”, but then God also promised a Savior, which implies that Adam and his descendents would live after they die!  Jesus affirmed that to be true.  Jesus said to Martha, ““I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me, will never die.””  The first part of this verse Jesus is about believers who die.  They will live again physically.  The second part of the verse is about believers, who are still alive physically.  Both here and in eternity they will never be apart from Jesus.  As a result, a person might have doubts like Thomas and Martha did, but God will not turn from us.  A person might shake his fists at God, because so great is his pain, but God will remain our loving heavenly Father; and Jesus, our brother.  But then why does God sometimes wait 4 days to help us, or even 40 years or more?  The answer is in what Jesus told Mary and Martha’s messenger.  “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  Jesus waiting 4 days to raise Lazarus would accomplish a couple of things.  Jesus’ miracles were getting progressively more glorious.  His first was changing water into wine.  Impressive, but not to those who refused to believe.  Later in His ministry Jesus would raise a 12 year old girl who had just died.  Glorious, but someone might argue, “She wasn’t really dead yet.”  Lazarus’ corpse was bloating and stinking.  But Jesus would prove that He is the resurrection and the life!  However Jesus’ glory wasn’t the only thing that was progressing.  So was the Jew’s hatred of him, and this miracle would turn their hatred into murderous frenzy, which God would use to put Jesus on to the cross.  We read, “34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.  “Come and see, Lord,” they replied.  35 Jesus wept.  36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!””  It might seem odd that Jesus would weep knowing that in a few minutes He would be raising Lazarus.  So why wouldn’t just be excited?  Because Mary and Martha’s pain bothered Him that much.  When we suffer, our pain bothers Jesus too.  Yet if Jesus feels with us and for us, why does He sometimes allow our suffering to drag on and on?  It has to be that way, so He can accomplish in us the blessings He wants t accomplish.  But His Word hasn’t failed us.  His love hasn’t failed us.  And the proof of that is Jesus own death and resurrection.  You see, the wages of sin is death.  But the Father had lain all of our guilt on Jesus, and so Jesus had to die.  But when He rose, that shows that all our sins, the sins Jesus was carrying, were paid for, and so because Jesus lives, we must live.  Now, because we must live, because our sins are paid for, when you suffer, do not think that God is punishing you, or that as soon as you improve this or that about yourself, God will give you everything you want, up to and including heaven on earth.  God does loves you.  Your sins are forgiven.  And now He is working in all things so that we and many more with us may believe.  We read, “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.   “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” 40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”  41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”  43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.  Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.””  Notice how even a strong faith waivers.  Martha had just had her faith strengthened with Jesus comforting words, “I am the resurrection and the life.”  But now at the last moment she panics that Jesus can’t raise him.  However Jesus doesn’t withhold His blessings, because of her doubts.  Instead He strengthens her faith again by reminding her of what He had said and by praying aloud so Martha could listen in.  And then He does it.  He raises Lazarus.   God deals with us in the same way.  Our faith grows slowly.  But that’s why God places us in situations where we have to walk by faith, not by sight.  This is also why we need to keep prayerfully reading God’s Word.  If we don’t give up on it, we will be blessed.  However the time to grow in the Word isn’t just when we’re on our backs and everything is going wrong.  Also grow through the Word when life is good, in fact that will strengthen us, so we don’t give up if things get bad again.   Finally whether we have mostly ups or mostly downs, or just some of each, keep your focus on Jesus.  He will say to our dust and ashes on the last day, “Come together”  And then He will say to our restored bodies, “stand”, and he will put our souls back into our body – this one, the one we have now.  However not only will God do this for us, but He will do this for all our loved ones, who believe and then He will give us back to each other.  Since this is what we’re looking forward to, since this is our certain hope, let’s continue to bear whatever crosses God may allow in our life.  And whenever they seem too heavy to bear to the point that God’s Word is failing us and even in the face of death, keep these words of Jesus ever before you.  “I am the resurrection and the life.”

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