Summary: I am the resurrection and the life is God’s promise for a new life in the midst of the most painful of all situations
The processional hymn will be "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" and among other sons will be Wondrous Cross and an older Petra song, "Grave Robber". I don’t know will preach but I hope texts include John 11. And I hope whoever preaches includes an invitation for people to hear God and commit themselves to Christ. Afterwards there will be ice cream. It doesn’t matter how long a service but ice cream will be served at my memorial service.
Most of us have done a poor job of planning for such things. Even my own desires aren’t written down anywhere other than in this sermon. But a lot of people have done even less when it comes to a universal experience for us, namely death.
A few have vague ideas of what they’d like but far more believe that if they don’t talk about death, death won’t happen. Some have talked things over with their spouse and family but far more simply say, "I don’t want anything". The simple fact is, that death, like a major 7+ earthquake is going to strike and there is little we can do about it except be somewhat ready for it.
Jesus was no stranger to death. Death could seem almost common place in the first century. Those who have buried a child tell me how wrong it is, yet not so long ago, many families lost one or more children long before adulthood. Both of my grandparents buried children at an early age. Death was and even today can be a scary situation to face.
Here is how Jesus deals with death. Jesus knew Lazarus was sick. His sisters sent a message to Christ saying, "Lord, the one you love is sick." It was a ploy to get Jesus to come heal Lazarus as he’d done others. Jesus doesn’t go. In fact, Jesus waits two more days till he announces his decision to return to Bethany.
In that time Lazarus had died. When he arrives Lazarus’ been entombed four days. There is nothing to do except join the mourners and comfort his sisters, or so most people thought. Jesus had other plans. From the get go Jesus declared Lazarus’ illness was not to death but, "it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it. (v. 4)" In verse 14, He explains Lazarus’ death will be teaching tool for His own disciples, "so that they might believe". And even when first meeting Martha he reminds her "your brother will rise again. (v.23)" Both sisters greet Jesus with a very thinly veiled complaint, "Had you been here our brother would not have died!" The other mourners wonder "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying? (v. 37)"
Into the accusations and mob scene of wailing and mourning Jesus injects hope. He is not captive to the crowd’s view of the world. Jesus isn’t forced to accommodate Himself to a shallow sense of reality which His disciples and others had. No Jesus, fully aware of His authority tells Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
Are there places in the Bible you’d like to have witnessed first-hand? Are there times you’d love to hear Jesus say certain words? Well, this is one of those times for me. I can’t help but wonder if the air around Jesus didn’t seem to spark in anticipation, hope, expectation and even fear both as he visited with the woman and as he stood before that sealed tomb.
Jesus promises us that when we face grief, loss, discouragement and even death, He is in charge not us. The promises application isn’t automatic for Jesus asks Martha and us; "Do you believe this?" I am the resurrection...do you believe this? I am the one who restores a life worth living. Do you believe this? I am the one who gives life not just existence. Do you believe this? Do we believe? Do we so trust in and rely on Jesus that our lives have been refocused on Him and in that process find release from our fears and grief?
It’s not easy to believe this because so many would believe Jesus AND something else. Believing Jesus is nice, but we feel better adding our two-cents worth like; good works, church membership, being polite, keeping our cool, not being too radical etc. Our additions to Christ end up leaving us bound tightly in the dark tomb of regret, disease and discouragement.
Only Jesus can call us out of our tombs. Only Jesus can command us to be "unwrap him" and we are found healed and transformed. When we try to