Summary: Fifth of a seven week series on the "I Am" sayings of Jesus.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but just about one month from today, all of us must have filed our income tax returns for 2011. And every year when we complete our returns, we’re reminded of the old adage first made famous in one of Benjamin Franklin’s letters: “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Since Ben Franklin penned those words in 1789. Others have come up with some interesting takes on his words. Here are a couple that I came across this week:
The difference between death and taxes is death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.
- Will Rogers
The wages of sin are death, but by the time taxes are taken out, it's just sort of a tired feeling.
- Paula Poundstone
Death and taxes are inevitable, but death doesn't repeat itself.
This morning as we continue our journey through the seven “I am” sayings of Jesus in John’s gospel account, we’ll find that the words of Benjamin Franklin aren’t quite right – at least when it comes to death. We’ll also find that death is no laughing matter. So go ahead and turn with me to John 11.
Although it would be nice if we had time to read and comment on the entire chapter, we want to narrow our focus and concentrate on the relevant words of Jesus this morning. I think that most of us are probably at least somewhat familiar with the account of the raising of Lazarus that we find in this chapter, but let me briefly set the stage.
After the Jews had tried to stone Jesus for claiming to be one with God the Father, Jesus and His followers had crossed back over the Jordan River to an area known as Perea, where Jesus ministered for several months before returning to Jerusalem, where He was crucified. While He was in Perea, Word came to Jesus that his friend Lazarus was sick and about to die. Jesus continued to minster there for two more days, then He and His disciples began their journey to Bethany, which was just outside Jerusalem.
We’ll pick up the account in verse 17:
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
John 11:17-27 (ESV)
From the words of Jesus here, let’s identify…
IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF JESUS AS THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE:
1. The resurrection and life is a person
In the culture of Jesus’ day, there were a number of different views about the resurrection that would have influenced Martha’s understanding:
• The Sadducees did not believe in any kind of resurrection and understood that the soul ceased to exist upon death. We see this confirmed in acts 23 in the account of Paul’s appearance before the Jewish Council:
For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all.
Acts 23:8 (ESV)
• The Pharisees did believe in a bodily resurrection of the dead in the Messianic Age to come, an idea that we find expressed several places in the Old Testament, but most clearly in the words of Job:
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
Job 19:25-27 (ESV)
• The Greeks generally believed that certain heroic individuals were resurrected from the dead and made physically immortal but everyone else was destined for an afterlife as disembodied and dead souls
When Jesus told Martha, “Your brother will rise again”, Martha responded in a way that indicated that her understanding of the resurrection was closest to that of the Pharisees - I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day . As we read