On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. "Lord," Martha 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." Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." -John 11:17-27
So the I am statement we're looking at this morning is the one where Jesus says, I am the resurrection and I am the life, we could probably almost separate that into two statements, but they really are tied together and he makes them as one statement, so we look at them side by side. But this morning, it's in the context of this story of Lazarus, Jesus' friend, to this family of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. Now, we've encountered Mary and Martha before. There's a story about Jesus having visited their home in the gospel of Luke, where Jesus comes to visit and Martha is working away in the kitchen because there's a lot of people there since Jesus showed up, and Mary... Marys out sitting on the floor at Jesus' feet, just taking in every word that he has to say, Martha gets frustrated, comes out and says, Jesus, you need to tell my sister to get in the kitchen and help me, and Jesus kind of calms her down and says... It's okay, she's chosen a good place to be. Well, we see in our lesson this morning in the Gospel of John that whatever it was about the nature and the character of Mary and Martha, it's played out in John as well, because Mary in Luke's story was the one that was quiet, contemplative, wanting to listen, and she is the one that stays at home.
But on that day when Jesus is finally coming, Martha, who is probably the busy body, the go-getter, the one who has to take action, the one working in the kitchen is the one who jumps up and out to meet Jesus before he even gets there. And Jesus greets her. And she says, Jesus, where have you been? All of this wouldn't have happened if you had been here. Now, I don't know about you, but... Well, you really must need to know Jesus pretty well, if you tell him what he's done wrong, Jesus, I don't know where you were, but if you've been right here, you could have done something about this, you better explain yourself. And Jesus, even before he went, the disciples said, Hey, Jesus, Lazarus is sick. They've sent us a word. Don't you think we need to get going? And Jesus delays and says, Ah, we'll get there when we get there. This is gonna be for God's glory. Don't worry about it. Well, Lazarus dies, and in fact, they took their time getting there, that were told that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days before Jesus arrived. Now, again, Jesus is saying, there's some purpose behind all of this, but one of the things that is very clear that if Lazarus had died and they had whatever time, they took probably a day or so to prepare his body and then placed him in the tomb and he'd been in the tomb for four days, he was dead.
No question about it. Lazarus was dead. Martha had moved on past that, Martha was stuck on the what if… Jesus What if you had been here? You could have stopped this from happening, but what was done was done, and yet Jesus says to her, Your brother will live again. Now, Martha is still fixed on the fact that Lazarus is dead, now as a faithful Jewish woman, she still had an expectation and anticipation of a promise that God would gather his people up one day. And she says, Yes, I know that he will rise again on that last day, somewhere down the road, somewhere out there in the distant future that we can't even begin to understand. I know that it will happen. I know that he will be resurrected on that day, and this is where Jesus takes the opportunity to begin speaking his truth in her life, and from there into the lives of others, but he says, Alright, Martha, are you ready for this? That resurrection that you believe in, that resurrection, you're hoping for that resurrection promise that you believe will be true for your brother isn't an event.
It's not something that's gonna happen down the road, that resurrection... I am the resurrection, I am the one that makes this new life possible. I am the one through whom this new life will come to be. And then Jesus continues and says, those who believe in me though they die, well, live. Now, this is mind-blowing news for anybody, Martha is still dealing with the grief of her brother and Jesus unpacked in just a few sentences, this idea of this world that was beyond imagination to anybody, Martha or anyone else, and yet he then says... So what do you think, Martha, do you believe this? Now that you've had the time to sleep on it and ponder and really think deep and long about this.
No, he just says, matter of factly, I'm the resurrection, I am the life. Do you believe this? It's a testimony to her faith, it's a testimony to what she saw as possible in and through Jesus. When she says, Yes, I believe you're the Messiah, the one from God, the one coming into the world. But she simply could have said yes, that would have answered his question to believe this... Yes, but when she says, I believe that you are the Messiah, the anointed one of God who has come into this world. She said, Yes, I believe it's true, and I believe it's true. Because of who you are, you are God's Son, You are the anointed one, you're the one that he sent. And so it was out of that affirmation of what she believed about Jesus, that she says, Yes, Jesus... These things that you've said, I know they're true. Because of who you are.
So what does that mean for us? The story continues, Jesus goes to the tomb, they pull the stone back and they're like, Are you sure you want us to do that, Jesus? He's been dead a long time, probably stinks in there pretty bad, Jesus has them rolled away and he yells and calls Lazarus out, and Lazarus comes sampling out of the grave, bound up in the grave clothes, and Jesus says, set him free. The thing about what happens in this story, the thing about what often happens, because there are a number of stories of people who have died and been brought back from the dead, the prophet Elijah brings that widow son back from the dead, the daughter of Jarius, the centurion, Jesus brings his daughter back. There are a number of stories of people who were dead that were called back to life. Now, the conversation that Jesus is talking about is, I am the resurrection. But we need to understand that resurrection that Jesus experiences is a little different than what happened to all of those people, because when someone died, and whether it was Jesus or one of the prophets that called them back, that was more of what we would term a resuscitation, a dead corpse that has new life breathed into back into it, and so it is that same body, that same physical being that has new life breathed into it.
But when Jesus says, I am the resurrection. And in fact, when Jesus rises from the grave on Easter, it's not just the same dead body that was placed in the tomb that rises, but rather it's a Transformed, It's a glorified, It's a sanctified body that is somehow different. When Jesus called Lazarus from the grave, it was a bodily raising up, that that physical body had new life brought into it, when Jesus experienced resurrection and the resurrection that we look to as a people of faith is one that's not just about a body. There will be a body, it will be changed, it will be different, it will be glorified in some way, but it's also a spiritual event, it's a spiritual event, and in that we are born into a new life, a new body and a new life because of Jesus. That resurrection that we look to isn't something that we need to look that far to see, because when Jesus says, I am the resurrection and I am the life, he's offering that promise to us here and now in this moment.
That in fact, each day that we wake up and each moment that we decide to follow Jesus as our Lord and savior, we experience and live into that resurrection life, because just as He told Martha, those who believe in me, even though they die well live, that resurrection has already happened. That new life has come, that new life that is made possible in and through and because of Jesus.
So this is where the rubber meets the road for us, if you turn on the news, there's nothing good about any of it that we see on TV, and yet in these stories of Jesus, we do have the good news. The good news is that the one who proclaimed that I am the resurrection and I am the life, has given us not just the ability but the means to stand strong and firm and confident in the face of whatever bad news we see on the television. That in spite of what challenges that we face in this life, we don't have to play the what-if game, we don't have to be like Martha saying, what if this, or what if that... Jesus says, I'm the resurrection and I'm the life. These things are gonna happen. But don't be short-sighted, don't be focused only on what is in front of you, because the thing about the resurrection and the life that Jesus proclaims and offers to us is that it's one that always looks forward, it always looks to that next moment, that next day, that next opportunity, because that is a life that cannot and will not ever be defeated.
Martha got stuck at that moment when her brother died, and they placed him in the tomb, she had a faith, she had a belief that there was something out there, but she wasn't sure what. Jesus when he said to her, I am the resurrection and I am the life. Was telling her, Martha, you can step confidently right now into this moment, this death of your brother was not a finality, the death of your brother has already been overcome because of me, may we have that same confidence, that same deep conviction that Martha did, that in spite of what the world may throw at us. When we have a Savior that says, I'm the resurrection and the life, I'm the one that has overcome death and I'm the one that offers full and abundant life to you. Do you believe it? Well, each day that we choose to walk with him is a day that we're saying, Yes, I believe it. Yes, I trust you. Yes, because you're God's son I know that it's true.