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 11:22–27)
INI + AMEN.
Death isn’t good. It’s not what God wanted. I’m sure you’re thinking: “Well, thanks a lot. Isn’t that obvious?” Well, yes. Yes, it is. But, what may not be more obvious is this: the Lord hates death. It’s not just that He didn’t want it, but the Lord Jesus Himself hates death. Now isn’t that something you can agree with today? Charles and Beth, Debi, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, friends, co-workers, brothers and sisters in Christ, we all hate death today. Death has taken our beloved Billye from us. Or should I say, “Granny.” Death is gross, ugly, and saddening. There’s no getting around that, and there’s no getting around that we do and must hate it. No matter when it comes, we hate it. We certainly don’t look forward to its arrival one bit. This too is obvious to each us. We certainly give thanks for Billye’s life, for God’s gift of Granny. We celebrate it. We praise Him for it, but today, with an urn before our eyes, we can’t escape the fact that we hate death.
(3. Death is our enemy.)
We hate death because death is our enemy. Death takes our loved ones from us. This is something Jesus understands. The background and context for our text today is the death of Lazarus. Lazarus was Jesus’ good friend. When he became sick, Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus. They said to Him, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” This is how it goes with all people. Lazarus had his family. His loved ones. His friends. His acquaintances. His coworkers. Each of them had their own particular reason for loving him, and, when he got sick, they got worried and, at his dying, they all had reason to mourn, to weep.
Paul says that we don’t “grieve as others do who have no hope.” But we grieve. We mourn. We cry. Why wouldn’t we? Death is the enemy and, because of death, what we loved most about a person is gone, left only in memory. Jesus comes to Martha and Mary, and He goes to the tomb after our text today. And when He does, we see that our Lord Jesus Christ can sympathize with us today. For in Jesus “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died. Death affects people. It hurts the loved ones. His sisters wept. People were wailing and mourning. Mary, his sister, could barely stand, and when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
When loved ones die, we mourn. You mourn. Today, most of all. Granny, is gone. It’s a hard pill to swallow. She was still at work a week and a half ago—accounting away. Something which she’s done for decades. She was just like Moses, her eye was undimmed, and her vigor unabated. She served others—always putting them first. Her love of grandchildren, great grandchildren—and sports—will be remembered. Yet, her faith in Christ Jesus, most of all—her willingness to pray—ought to be remembered. Her faith which would agree with Martha. Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Faith says the same thing. “I know that I will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”
(2. Jesus is really resurrection.)
How can faith say this? Faith says this because Jesus says it. Listen again to what Jesus says, “I am the resurrection…Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live…” Faith says to this: “Yes, Lord. I believe this.” Granny’s faith, your faith, my faith says this. We just echo what Jesus Himself says. Jesus here says that He is resurrection. He is life again. He is life from death. He is life over death. He is new life that conquers the old foe of death. Jesus says it, faith believes it.
Faith not only believes this because Lazarus was raised by Jesus, because Jesus has the keys of death and hades, but also because Jesus raised Himself from the dead. For Jesus lived, shed His blood to cover sins, and died to conquer sin and death. When it comes to our loved ones and even ourselves, Jesus knows the whole truth. Jesus needs “no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knows what is in man.” In Lazarus. In you and me, and yes, in Granny too. But Jesus lived and died—shedding His blood—for Lazarus, for you, for me, and our beloved sister in Christ. Because of this we have a loving heavenly Father, and, because Jesus didn’t stay dead, we won’t stay dead either.
Jesus rose from death, and we will too. She will too. We can rejoice with Job: “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.” Yes, life from death. Resurrection: that’s Jesus. Jesus for you and for me, for her, and for the entire world! Jesus truly is resurrection—life in the midst of death, life from death, life over death. There’s no other way around it: Jesus is resurrection. Each of us can say with great joy: When from the dust of death I rise To claim my mansion in the skies, This then shall be my only plea: Jesus hath lived and died for me.
(1. Jesus is real life—eternal life.)
This resurrection promise of Jesus, that He Himself is resurrection points us to something far greater. Yes, there is a far greater than just life from death, something far greater than resurrection. It’s for our beloved sister in Christ, our granny, our mother, and friend, Billye. It’s for you and me too. Listen again to the words of Jesus, “I am…the life…everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Oh we shall die, but there is resurrection. But after there is resurrection, there will be life eternal. Death, our enemy, will be swallowed up in victory on the last day because Jesus is Life, real life—eternal life.
This is what Jesus is saying. One day death will be no more. “For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” This is exactly what Jesus says, when He says, “I am the Life.” There’s no other alternative.
Jesus is life from death—resurrection—but He’s also life—life eternal. He is the one who was dead, but now is alive forevermore because death no longer has dominion over Him. “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Yes, death no longer has dominion over us because we are in Him, baptized into Him. Sure we die, but that doesn’t keep us down—not forever. There is life to come. One day death will be undone, and on that day God, who loves each of us in Christ Jesus, “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Today, isn’t that day. You mourn. You cry. Jesus cried knowing that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. You cry even though you know that He will raise Billye on the last day. On that great and glorious day we will be dust no more. We will be at the wedding feast of the Lamb in His kingdom which shall have no end. We shall be there body and soul. The grave couldn’t hold Christ’s body, and it won’t hold any of ours either. Remember this today:
AS MUCH AS DEATH IS OUR ENEMY, JESUS IS TRULY RESURRECTION AND LIFE: HIS OWN AND YOURS.
This is true. It’s what Jesus says. Hear His words one last time: “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?” Yes, Lord. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.
INI + AMEN.