THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
Yesterday, we celebrated the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He came into this world, destined to suffer misunderstanding, judgment, insults, taunts, brutal beatings, lashings, and eventually an undeserved and cruel death. Yet He willingly sacrificed all for us. The story of Lazarus reveals the struggles that the disciples and followers had with believing and seeing Jesus as The Resurrection and The Life.
Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, became sick, so his sisters, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus, asking Him to come. When He received the message, He said to His disciples, "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it." So, He stayed two more days in the place where He was (John 11:1-6). Then Jesus said, "Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.” Not understanding what Jesus was saying, the disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get well” (vs. 10-13). Jesus said, “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless, let us go to him” (vs. 14-15).
Jesus had previously explained to His disciples that He was the Son of God who would suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and then be killed, but on the third day, He would rise to life (Matthew 16:21). It was for the unbelieving disciples' sakes and for those who would be present at the burial site that the Lord allowed Lazarus to die. He wanted all to believe in Him and to fully understand that He was the Messiah, The Resurrection and The Life.
When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she met Him and said, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You” (Vs. 17-22). Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha responded, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” But Jesus said, “I Am The Resurrection and The Life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Vs. 23-26) Jesus was telling her that The Resurrection and The Life was standing before her, but she still didn't understand.
Martha's sister, Mary, also went to Jesus and fell at His feet, saying, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled" (vs. 28-33).
The Greek translates groaned as "embrimaomai (em-brim-ah'-om-ahee)," meaning "to have indignation or to sigh with annoyance or displeasure." The root of the word (brimaomai) literally means, "to snort with anger." Jesus was offended, annoyed, angered, and exasperated with those around Him and with the disciples, because despite all that they had previously witnessed and known, none understood that He was The Resurrection and The Life.
He then asked, “Where have you laid him?” They said, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept (vs. 34-35). Although Jesus loved Lazarus, He was not weeping for Lazarus or for his family. He was grieved because of their unbelief. They didn't understand who He was. They addressed Him as Rabbi and Teacher. Did they only see Him as that? Just as Jesus grieved for their inability to see His deity, He had grieved and wept over Jerusalem and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes (Luke 19:41-42), because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you” (vs. 44). In other words, they did not recognize their long awaited Deliverer and Redeemer King while in their midst.
He was not recognized then, nor was He being recognized by His followers standing nearby, who said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” (Vs. 36-37 NLT) Again, Jesus groaned in Himself, as He approached the tomb and said, “Take away the stone (Vs. 38-39)
Jesus is again annoyed and angered by their unbelief. Martha adds to His annoyance by saying, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days” (Vs. 39). She didn't comprehend the deity of Christ and what was about to happen, so Jesus said, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (Vs. 40).
Haven't we all, at some point in our lives, been like Martha, Mary, the disciples and the onlookers, who doubted and questioned God. Maybe hopes and dreams were shattered, a relationship ended, a job was lost, an illness challenged faith, or a child abandoned their faith. However, what often appears as lost forever is really an opportunity to trust and grow in faith. A dream that died can be resurrected. A failed marriage can be restored. An illness can be impeded. That prodigal can return to faith in God. There is resurrection power available to us in all circumstances, if we believe.
The stone was removed and Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me (Vs. 41-42).
Remember, Jesus had told the disciples early on, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it" (John 11:4). Again, Jesus tells all those present that what He is about to do is for their benefit so they may believe on the One whom God sent. But did they comprehend His words?
Jesus' delay was not His denial, for His ways are above our ways and His thoughts are far above our thoughts. When we think that God has not heard us, all we need to do is to remember Lazarus. God always intended to raise him from the dead so that a greater purpose could be accomplished. That purpose was to transform lives from not believing to believing that He was and would always be the Resurrection and the Life.
God often waits to answer our prayers so that our faith may be tested. He is more concerned with our hearts then He is with our flesh. Sometimes the flesh has to suffer in order for us to see the level of our faith and what we really believe.
Jesus had demonstrated His power over death by raising people from the dead on numerous occasions (Luke 7:12-15,22; Mark 5:22-43, John 11:37). Mary and Martha and the disciples knew of these things. Yet they and the rest of the family and friends were weeping and mourning the loss of Lazarus, distressed that Jesus hadn't arrived in time. What had happened to their faith? Why did they not trust Jesus? How was it that they couldn't believe Him? Do we do the same thing, when it appears that our prayers are not being answered? When a family member or friend is suffering? When we are the recipients of pain, sickness, and suffering?
Four days in the tomb, Lazarus' body had begun to decay, along with the faith of the disciples, Martha, Mary, and all present. But Jesus' delay was to accomplish a greater miracle...the conversion of their hearts and a lesson in faith.
The number four in scripture means to rule over the world; a kingdom, dominion, creation, and all things in Heaven and earth. On that fourth day of Lazarus' entombment, Jesus was revealing to them that not only had the Kingdom of God come, it was standing before them with all authority, power, and dominion over life and death.
As the Lord approached Lazarus' tomb, He again groaned in Himself and reproved His disciples: "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" (John 11:40.) Still annoyed with their lack of faith, He thanked God for hearing Him, and said, "‘I knew that YOU always hear Me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that YOU sent me.' When He had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!'"
Resurrection power and life are in the Word of God. Jesus is the Word incarnate. If He had just said, "Come forth" every corpse would have been resurrected. In John 5: 28 we read, "...all that are in the graves shall hear the sound of His voice, and shall come forth." Therefore, He specifically called for Lazarus by name, and the dead man came out, bound with grave clothes. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:42-44).
Psalm 107:10-16 speaks of being in darkness and gloom, a prisoner in chains. Without Christ, we were in a tomb of darkness and gloom, a prisoner bound in grave clothes of unbelief and sin. But on that day, when we cried out to the LORD in our distress, He brought us out of darkness and broke those fetters of sin and bondage. We then received His resurrection power that allows us to be freed from bondage to deception, unforgiveness, unconfessed sin, addictions, immorality, lusts of the flesh, disobedience, lying, sickness, etc. "Christ has set us free. Therefore, we stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). Yes, choices, contrary to God, can enslave us once again.
That day at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus revealed to those present and all those to follow, that He was and is The Resurrection and The Life. This event would be a precursor to His death and burial. Although Jesus had foretold all that would happen before and after His death, the disciples still didn't believe, so after He had risen from the dead, "[He] appeared to the Eleven as they were eating [and] rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen Him after He had risen" (Mark 16:14). Even Thomas refused to believe that the Lord was alive until he touched the wounds in His hands and side.
Resurrection power was not just for Lazarus and those whom Christ had raised from the dead. Nor is resurrection power limited to Christ's resurrection. Jesus wanted His followers and all those who were afar off, to understand and believe that He is The Resurrection, and The Life. As followers engrafted into His branch, if we believe, we then have access to His resurrection power that enables all to be resurrected into eternal life. That same power resurrects families, relationships, health, dreams, goals, and whatever else that we thought was lost forever. For Jesus is The Resurrection and The Life. All we must do is believe.