Where is he? Where? Where is he? How many times had she asked that question over the past four days? Her only brother had come down with some mysterious virus, and nobody could do anything for him. Well, nobody except for their friend Jesus. How many times had he reached out his hand and the blind had seen, or the lame had walked? If there was any hope for Lazarus, it would only be through Jesus.
Granted, she hadn’t actually asked Jesus to come; she had only sent word that His friend was deathly ill. If Jesus was the friend that he professed to be, wouldn’t he have come. But she had waited, and Lazarus got worse, and she waited, and Lazarus died, and she waited and Lazarus had been buried. Jesus had healed the paralytic and he didn’t even know he healed the blind man who was just a face in the crow; surely, he would come for his friend.
And still, the thought tormented her: where was he? Surely, she couldn’t have misjudged Jesus so badly. He had eaten at their table and slept under their roof. Surely that had meant something to him, or maybe not.
And then a murmur began to weave its way through the crowd that had gathered to mourn with the two sisters, “The master is here, Jesus has arrived.” And Martha couldn’t help herself; she was on her feet rushing to meet her friend.
The thought that had burned in her heart was already on her lips, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.
I don’t think it was said with a mean or vindictive spirit, but I don’t think it was simply a statement of fact either. I think she was disappointed in Jesus and felt betrayed, and I’m sure the question, even though unasked, could be read in her eyes, “When you heard he was sick, why didn’t you come then?”
Max Lucado says that “The grave unearths our view of God” And he’s right. How often have we heard, “God, if you existed, my child wouldn’t have died, if you’d have answered my prayers, my life wouldn’t be empty if you cared my mother wouldn’t have developed cancer.”?
How often are we guilty of dealing with God in that very same way as Martha, demanding to know why he doesn’t do it the way we want it done when we want it done? The experts tell us that it would have been a two-day walk from where Jesus heard the news to Bethany.
So, add those two days to the two days that Jesus waited before he left, and we come up with a grand total of four days. The exact number of days that Lazarus had been in the grave. So, it really wouldn’t have made a difference; even if Jesus had headed out as soon as he heard the news, he still would have been two days late.
And then, as Jesus looked into the grief-filled eyes of Martha, we read John 11:23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Well, Martha had no doubt about what Jesus was talking about; she knew that he was just doing the funeral home pleasantries, you know “Well they are in a better place” or “their suffering is o.”r”. And she responded and said John 11:24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
You see, even though Martha was a woman of faith and she had no doubt that God could handle the future, she wasn’t all that sure that he could handle the present. She trusted God with tomorrow, but she didn’t know how she was going to get through today with her grief and sorrow. She knew in her heart of hearts that she would see her brother in the next life, but she missed him in this life.
This is the final message of a series that began in January. When we looked at the various times in the book of John using the words, I Am.
We began with Jesus’ claim in John 8:58. Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I AM!” And Jesus wasn’t saying that he existed before Abraham; he was saying he existed before anything existed. He was saying he was God. And the religious leaders who heard his words knew exactly what he was saying because they picked up rocks to stone him for blasphemy.
And from there, we looked at Jesus’ words when he metaphorically described himself as the light of the world, the bread of life, the gate, the good shepherd, and the way the truth and the life.
So here we are in the story of Lazarus and his sisters. Let’s pick up the story in John 11:25. Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”
It’s Easter Sunday, the day that Jesus’ words are fulfilled. That day that Jesus became the resurrection.
If you don’t know the rest of the story, Martha takes Jesus to meet her other sibling Mary, and Jesus asks them to take him to their brother’s grave. And it is in this part of the story that we discover the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 Then Jesus wept. If you ever wanted to know how Jesus feels about the death of your loved one, the death of your spouse, or your parent or your child it is summed up in these three words, Then Jesus wept.
Even though Jesus knew that he not only could raise Lazarus from the dead but would indeed raise his friend from the dead, he still wept.
Death is a terrible thing; it may be a transition to a better life but often times it is a painful transition.
Grief is a human emotion, even when we know that our loved ones have gone to a better place that grief and sorrow needs to be expressed. Mourning is a natural part of the grief process, and if we skip it, then it will eventually return to haunt us. There will come times in our life when we need to take time to cry.
This is probably a good spot to plug The GriefShare program. If you are dealing with grief, I would encourage you to visit www.cornerstonehfx.ca/griefshare
But then the story takes an unexpected turn. Jesus demands that the tomb be opened.
Remember in that day and age tombs were often dug in the side of a hill and sealed with a large rock, and entire families would be interred together.
The sisters objected, “He’s been dead for four days, the smell will be terrible.” In the King James it says “He stinketh”, and sisters still say that about their brothers.
And Jesus responded and said John 11:40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” And you know the rest of the story, Jesus stands before the open tomb and calls out “Lazarus come out.” And he did, Jesus did what nobody else could do, he gave life were there was no life.
With one command Jesus proved the reality of his words John 11:25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. And the response to that is found in John 11:45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. Well, who wouldn’t believe? Well apparently, not everybody or they wouldn’t have crucified him.
And you are thinking “If I saw Jesus raise somebody from dead I’d believe. That would be all I need.”
When Jesus gave life back to Lazarus and the widow’s son and Jarius’ daughter he showed that he could perform miracles, but he didn’t just say “I am the Life”. He also said “I am the resurrection” and that is the very heart of the matter for us today, on Easter Sunday. “I am the resurrection!”
And the issue of the resurrection isn’t just one of those doctrines that we can accept or not accept it is at the very core of who we are as Christ Followers. Paul told the early believers in the Corinthian church 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.
My question would be: If you can’t believe Jesus when he said, “I am the Resurrection”. If you don’t believe his words were proved in his resurrection, then why would you call yourself a Christ Follower?
Who is the Christ you are following? Because if you can’t believe the resurrection then you are just following another dead prophet.
And maybe you are thinking: “I want to believe but there are issues.” And those are probably the same issues that others have had.
Some say The Resurrection is Impossible. On the face of it this is probably the most common objection to the resurrection. Dead men aren’t alive, they are dead. And I will be the first to admit, it is impossible. But then again if it wasn’t impossible, it wouldn’t mean a whole lot would it. Within the scope of things Christians have never denied this point. As a matter of fact it is the foundation of our faith.
Our faith acknowledges that a person cannot come back from the dead, but our faith doesn’t believe that Jesus was just a person; instead, we believe that he was God. And if God put the rules of nature into force, then God can step outside the rules of nature. We see that time and time again throughout the Bible, they are called miracles and you either believe in the supernatural or you don’t. We believe that his birth, the virgin birth was miraculous, and we believe that his resurrection was miraculous.
And we believe it not just because one person said it happened but because the bible records numerous people who witnessed it. The first were the ladies who are mentioned as being the first to the tomb, and then we read that Christ appeared to the 11 remaining apostles and then other disciples. Paul spells it out for us in 1 Corinthians 15:4-7 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles.
And perhaps you are thinking: Ok, I’ll buy into the fact the tomb was empty, so what? There could be other explanations. And there have been various theories presented throughout the years.
Maybe the Women Went to the Wrong Tomb. Obviously, the women were upset, they had witnessed the brutal execution of a close friend, it was early in the morning and maybe in their confusion and in the dark they arrived at a tomb that hadn’t been used yet and thought that it was the tomb that Jesus should have been in but wasn’t.
But let’s think it through, Jesus wasn’t buried in an unknown tomb, two thousand years later we even know the name of the man who donated the tomb, it was Joseph of Arimathea. And we are even told in Luke 23:55 As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed. They had been there just two days before and even if they had gotten mixed up and went to the wrong tomb don’t you think Joseph or someone else would have pointed out their mistake? Instead, we read that Peter went to the tomb and it was empty.
And if this was indeed the wrong tomb then logic would tell us that there had to be a right tomb, a tomb with Jesus body in it. And if there was a right tomb with a body then it would have been a relatively simple thing for the Jewish leaders and Roman authorities to say, “Hey dummies, you went to the wrong grave, here’s the right grave with the body of Jesus right where it’s supposed to be.” But they didn’t, why? Because the woman had gone to the right grave and there was no body in it.
3) Maybe It was the Right Tomb but the Body Had Been Removed. Ok, the question then begs to be asked; Who stole the body? A) The Romans B) The Jews or C) the Disciples.
Well, we can deal with the first two together because the Romans and the Jews had nothing to gain by removing and hiding Christ’s body and everything to lose. The Jews and the Romans didn’t want an empty tomb to bolster the claims of the Christ Followers, they wanted a body. They wanted to be able to say, “Hey look everyone, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead here’s his body and he’s still dead.” But they couldn’t do that because they didn’t have a body.
Instead, we read this account of what happened after the tomb was found empty Matthew 28:12-13 A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’
So maybe the disciples did steal the body. But why? When Christ was arrested the apostles all scattered. We only hear about two of them actually following Christ and John hid in the shadows and Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.
So, suddenly, this sorry lot become ninjas sneaking up on a group of highly trained Roman soldiers, roll aside the stone that sealed the tomb and disappear into the night carrying the body of their friend.
And then they use this act of deception to start a religion based on a high moral code of integrity and honesty. Seems a little far-fetched to me. And there is no record of the soldiers being punished for falling asleep on duty, no record of the apostle’s being forced to tell where the body was hidden.
Add to that the fact that every one of the disciples eventually faced persecution and death for their faith and not one of them broke and admitted where they hid the body. They were a braver bunch then I would have been, I hate pain, I probably would have made up secrets.
I know that there are all kinds of people who are willing to die for what they believe in. Four years ago, I stood on the steps of Saint Mark’s Cathedral in Alexandria Egypt, the day before we had stood outside of Saint Georges church, in the city of Tanta.
Two months earlier, on Palm Sunday, suicide bombers killed themselves and forty-five others on Palm Sunday at those same churches.
They are willing to die for their faith because they believe that it was true, but if the apostle had of stolen the body of Jesus, they would have been willing to die for something they knew was false.
Maybe Jesus Wasn’t Really Dead and it was all a Ploy Some people have called this the swoon theory. There are some people and even some churches that teach Jesus wasn’t dead, but he was simply unconscious and in the coolness of the tomb he revived, and people thought he had been raised from the dead.
If you understood the reality of the crucifixion, you would realize just how implausible this theory is. The Romans crucified people all the time, and it was done to kill people not just render them unconscious. They knew the difference between “He’s Dead” and “He’s simply sleeping.”
Think about it, by the time he got to the trial he had already been awake for 24 hours, then he was repeatedly beaten, flogged by a Roman soldier, forced to carry a cross to his place of execution, had a crown of thorns pressed into his head, was nailed to a cross and left for hours in the Palestinian sun and then had a spear thrust into his side.
A Roman centurion who supposedly had all kinds of experience at this kind of thing pronouncing him dead, he pulled down off the cross and stuck into a cold tomb where apparently with no medical help he spontaneously revives, moves the rock in front of the tomb, slips by the Roman Guard and then this half dead bedraggled man in desperate need of medical help convinces his apostles that he is the risen Lord and conqueror of death.
And the reason people teach this is because they find the resurrection hard to believe. OK.
Some Object Because The Resurrection Accounts Seem Contradictory. And if we read the accounts in the four gospels, they do all contain different details. But if they were all the same their objection would be that they were obviously just copying one another.
The question should be are the key elements the same? And they are, they went to the tomb and they found it empty. Who arrived there first or second is really irrelevant. Were there angels inside or outside? Depends on who you ask and when they got there.
When I went to Egypt, we discovered that if you asked the four of us who went to describe the trip you would find it hard to believe that we had been together for 10 days. You would hear things from me that you wouldn’t hear from the other four and vice versa does that mean those things didn’t happen? No, it means that event had more meaning for some of us, or we noticed something that others didn’t.
I had let my beard grow out before the trip and one evening as we were leaving Cairo we were stuck in traffic and a street vendor came over to our car and gave our driver some figs and told him they were for the holy man in the passenger seat. But the rest of the team was in another car and they didn’t see what happened. Does that mean it didn’t happen?
Last summer Angela and I went on vacation. If you asked some people, they would tell you that we went to Grand Manan and went kayaking and whale watching. Others would tell you that we visited my sister and mother in Saint John. You might even hear that it couldn’t have been a vacation because I preached at Beulah camp. So, who was correct? They all were.
So where are you at this morning? There are two questions that you need to answer before you leave here today. The first one is “Did Jesus truly rise from the dead?” Remember the scripture that we started with 1 Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.
The second question of course is even more important, and this is “If Jesus truly did rise from the dead what does that mean for you?” It’s not enough to believe here, in your head if you don’t do anything with it here, in your heart.
When Jesus said “I am the resurrection” he didn’t say “I will be resurrected”, he said “I am the resurrection” and he is our resurrection and that promise is as true today as it was when he said it.
The phrase we began with in January is linked with this one. You have to believe them together. If you believe Jesus is God, then you have to believe in the resurrection, and if you believe in the resurrection, then you have to believe Jesus is God.
But it must become more than simply believing.
A lot of people are going to miss Heaven by a matter of inches. They’re good people, maybe attend church weekly, and have even read the Bible and agree with it all. But they’re still going to miss Heaven by a matter of inches, because they believe in their head, but they haven’t received in their heart. They have a knowledge of who Jesus was, but they have no experience of who Jesus is. And that’s tragic.