Summary: With the raising of Lazarus and with Jesus’ pronouncement that he is the Resurrection and the Life, the revelation is complete. Now the readers and hearers know the identity of this one born in Bethlehem. Now the meaning and message of Christmas has bee
Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life
John 11:1-6, 33-35, 38-44
The raising of Lazarus is the climax of John’s gospel. The first half of his story has been devoted to “signs” pointing to the identity of Jesus, called the Christ. The reader has seen that Jesus is called by many names: the Word becomes flesh, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the great I AJ, the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Good Shepherd, and now the Resurrection and the Life. This episode is the crescendo of the evangelist’s story, because the final enemy – death – has been overcome.
The story is the finale much as that in Hamlet. In that play Hamlet’s discovery of his mother’s complicity in his father’s death is the climax. The central question of who killed the king is answered fairly early in the drama; the rest of the action becomes only a matter of if, when, and how Hamlet will carry out his vengeance.
So it is here in John’s gospel. The author himself declares the purpose of the story: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (20:31). With the raising of Lazarus and with Jesus’ pronouncement that he is the Resurrection and the Life, the revelation is complete. Now the readers and hearers know the identity of this one born in Bethlehem. Now the meaning and message of Christmas has been unveiled. Now the reason that the “Word became flesh” is disclosed. After this time it is all decided. The stage has been set. Many confess their faith in him, while others feverishly and fervently plot his death and destruction. It sets the stage for the revelation of Jesus’ glory – crucifixion and resurrection.
I. The names tell the tale
a. Lazarus means “God helps.”
i. Lazarus and his sisters were good family friends of Jesus.
ii. The one who had “no place to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20) made it a point to visit and stay with this family when he was in the area.
iii. He enjoyed them and they, him.
iv. But, there would be no more visits with Lazarus.
1. While he was sick his sisters sent word to Jesus of the situation.
2. It is a statement of faith and a petition: “Lord, the one you love is sick”
3. They figured that Jesus would come and help the one he loved, and they begged him to do just that.
4. But Jesus stayed away until Lazarus had been dead four days.
5. Lazarus, “God helps,” is dead – beyond the help of man.
b. The second name that tells the tale is Bethany, which means “house of affliction.”
i. That is exactly what Jesus and the disciples found there that day – persons torn by the awfulness of separation, the pain of finality, the emptiness of loss.
ii. Many friends had come from Jerusalem to console the grieving family.
iii. When Martha heard that Jesus had come, she immediately went to see him.
1. Her message for Jesus was two pronged:
a. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would no have died.
b. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.
2. First, Martha almost attacked Jesus for not being there.
3. It is as kif she said: “You could have done something.
4. Lazarus was supposed to be the one you loved.
5. Why didn’t you come when you got our message?
6. Why didn’t you do something?
7. Then she kind of half asked Jesus to do something “even now.”
a. There was an implicit faith that all was not hopeless any time Jesus was present.
b. In her grief she displayed both her simmering anger and her lingering faith.
c. Jesus responded to the despairing petition with the pronouncement of his identity as the Resurrection and the Life and the demonstration of that truth.
i. The third name that tells the tale is Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life.
ii. The raising of Lazarus was a sign of the resurrection, while Jesus was the reality itself.
iii. In Jesus the last day becomes present reality.
iv. Faith in Jesus appropriates the victory of God in the present and the defeat of the grave in eternity.
II. What is the meaning of Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life?
a. The child born in Bethlehem is the proclamation of the death of sin.
i. Jesus said that a man cannot be so dead in sin that God cannot breathe new life into him.
ii. Hardened criminals have been charged by the life granting forgiveness of sin.
iii. Self-righteous people have opened themselves up to abundant life through the life of the risen Christ.