I like to have a good crowd on Sunday morning. Much of what we do as a church in done in the effort to enlarge our Sunday crowd. In fact, some accuse the American church of being so focused on drawing crowds that we’re tempted to water down the truth. Contrast that with Jesus. Whenever we read about large crowds following Jesus, it seems as though He often said something that made most of them leave. That’s because Jesus gave people the uncomfortable truth.
“From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.’” - John 6:66-68 (NIV)
When people hear uncomfortable truth, they do one of two things: 1) They avoid being confronted with it; 2) They allow themselves to be changed by it. Today we’re going to look at uncomfortable truths. Remember when Jesus was before Pilate? He asked the people the question, “What should I do with Jesus?” Pilate knew if he believed Jesus was who He said He was, it would change everything. And so he washed his hands. But you can’t wash your hands of Jesus any more than a person overlooking a cliff can wash their hands of gravity. The ultimate question can’t be ignored. So let’s look at some uncomfortable truths and then answer the ultimate question. (READ TEXT)
Lazarus is sick. There’s nothing else to be done for him. Doctors have done everything they can. But he’s such a good friend of Jesus, that his sisters don’t even have to use his name. They just say, “The one you love is sick.” Lazarus isn’t going to get better . . . there’s nothing anyone can do . . . he needs to be saved. And that’s an uncomfortable truth for you and me as well. For you see . . .
1. We Need to Be Saved.
You’re sailing in the ocean when a storm hits. Waves thrash your boat and you’re tossed overboard. But you have your cell phone in your hand. You flip it open and are happy to see you have a signal. But then the battery warning comes up. You realize you have just enough juice for one call. With that one call what are you going to ask for? Are you going to ask for food because you’re getting hungry? A raise at work so you can buy a bigger house? Are you going to ask someone to marry you because you really want to be married? No, the request you make is, “SOMEBODY SAVE ME!”
The reason we don’t ask to be saved is we don’t know we’re drowning. But we are. And you may be going under for the final time.
The Bible says all of us have sinned. It’s one thing everyone has in common. And the Bible also says the punishment for our sins is death. Not just physical death - our sins condemn us to eternal separation from God in hell. Hell is a place of outer darkness. And the truth is all have sinned and unless we’re saved - hell will be our eternal reality.
Now, though the Bible teaches this, most don’t believe it. The reason they don’t is because they don’t want to. They may even say, “I believe in God - but I don’t believe in a God that would send people to hell.” But what if that’s the real God?
Imagine you walk into a restaurant and you see a friend having a candlelit dinner with a woman who is not his wife. You ask him who the woman is and what he’s doing. He says, “I am on a date.” And you say, “What about your wife?” He responds, “Oh, well, I still love her too.” So you walk away disgusted. You decide someone needs to tell his wife, so you call and tell her. He comes home from his date and you’ve already told his wife. She meets him at the door and says, “Hi, honey, did you have a nice time on your date?” And he says, “You know that I have been on a date and you don’t even care?” And she comes over and kisses him on the cheek and says, “Oh I love you - even if you do date other people.” How absurd would that would be? As soon as that guy walked in the door from his date, he should fear for his life!
Now, a man can choose to believe in a wife who is happy for him to have candlelit dinners with other women; but the truth is, a real wife is waiting at home, and she’s going to have something to say about it!
There is only one true God and He has made it clear that the wages of sin is death. Any other God is pretend. The truth is, we need to be saved; which leads us to another uncomfortable truth:
2. We Can’t Save Ourselves.
Many think they’re going to heaven because they’re a good person. But we can’t earn the salvation we need from sin. You may be good and do nice things; but the Bible says we’ve all sinned and the penalty for our sins is not one we can pay.
Lazarus’ sisters sent word to Jesus, hoping He’d come to save their brother. But when Jesus heard the news, He waited two days.
When He and His disciples arrived, Lazarus had been dead and buried four days. Everyone’s weeping. Martha heard Jesus was coming and went to Him, but Mary stayed home. “Lord,” she said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Some versions have Martha say, “If only you had . . . been here.” How would you finish that sentence? “God, if only you had . . .” Have you had some “If only” moments with God? Have there been times when God didn’t come through for you the way you thought He should? Like Martha, you feel like He’s let you down. But here’s a truth that doesn’t often get talked about: just because you follow Jesus doesn’t mean life will be easy. Or could I put the uncomfortable truth this way:
Sometimes Jesus Doesn’t Save the Way We Think He Should.
If only You had . . . kept my parents together; given us a child; made the tests come back negative; given me the job; saved our marriage; found me a spouse. If only . . . and we have all these things that we think Jesus should do. And Martha wasn’t alone. Verse 37 says some of the Jews who were mourning also said: “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
And maybe you’ve become disillusioned. You say you’re a Christian, but to be honest, your relationship with Jesus is like the cousin you see a few times a year. Sometimes in an effort to build a crowd, some churches are guilty of teaching if you follow Jesus all your problems will be solved. And so we get wrong ideas of how Jesus should save. We think salvation should included everything from opening a space in a crowded parking lot to funding our retirement to straightening out our kids to giving us a negative biopsy report. Like Martha, we focus on the temporary - but Jesus is thinking far beyond that.
In verse 23, Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” She thinks Jesus is saying, “He’s gone on to a better place. You’ll see him again someday.” It’s what we say at funerals - but she’s not talking to just anyone. Jesus said to her, “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. Do you believe this?”
That’s the ultimate question. Do you believe this Jesus is the resurrection and the life? With this one statement Jesus is not only claiming to be God. He’s making two other important claims.
1) He claims to be the life. The Bible says that everything we need for real life and real living are found in Him. Jesus says, “I am what you have been searching for all along.”
2) He claims to be the resurrection. He says, “I am the one who has power over death. I am the one that gives eternal life.” Do you believe this? Martha replied, “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
Then Jesus walks over to the tomb and says, “Take away the stone.” Martha objects: “He’s been in there for four days, the odor is going to be horrible.” After the stone is removed verse 43 says . . . Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.”
And a funeral turns into a party. Weeping turns to celebration. Jesus says, “I am. I am the resurrection and the life.” If you believe that and trust in Him you will live forever. Because here’s the truth . . .
3. Jesus Alone Can Save us.
We needed to be saved, we couldn’t save ourselves, but the Bible says God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever
believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.
All of us will have a day like Lazarus. One day we will die. In fact, now that we’re at the end of the message, we have about 30 minutes less to live. But here’s the good news: this story is a preview of what was to come. Not long after this Jesus would be arrested, beaten, and put to death for our sins. But on the third day He came back from the dead just as He said He would. And because He conquered death we can live forever in love relationship with Him.
Jesus backed up His claim to be the resurrection and the life. When a man walks out of His own grave, He is who He says He is and what He says is true. That truth isn’t always comfortable, but the Bible says the truth will set us free. So the question is, how will you respond to the truth? Will you continue to avoid being confronted with it; or will you allow your life to be changed by it? What will you do with Jesus? How will you answer the ultimate question?