Jesus, The Resurrection and the Life
The Resurrection and the Life
Easter 2020 is different from every other Easter of my life.
The year 2020 is different from every other year. Of course, every year is unique, but this year has been touched by the Coronavirus.
If we look back in the Bible to the time of Noah, we will see that prior to the flood everybody was carrying on with business and the practicalities of life. Jesus told us about those days when He said:
For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away... (Matthew 24:38-39 ESV)
This is exactly what we were doing until the Coronavirus came and changed everything. We were carrying on with business as usual. Now, we are waiting for things to get back to normal.
Life has interruptions. The Coronavirus has interrupted life on a global level, but in each of our lives, there are interruptions that take away our business as usual.
Death is one of those interruptions. It changes everything. The death of a loved one leaves an empty place that will not be filled in this life, and we all must at some point face our own mortality.
I want to take a moment to consider an interruption that occurred in the life and ministry of Jesus. We find the account in John 11. Jesus had friends named Mary, Martha and Lazarus. They were siblings who lived together in Bethany, which was a town about two miles from Jerusalem. When Jesus ministered in Jerusalem, He stayed with Mary, Martha and Lazarus in their home.
John 11:1 tells us that Lazarus was sick. Jesus was ministering some distance away when the sisters sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill. Jesus stayed a while longer where He was. Saying to His disciples:
This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. (John 11:4 ESV)
After two days, Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus had died and said:
... for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him. (John 11:15 ESV)
Nothing was unexpected for Jesus, but from a human point of view, this was an interruption. Jesus left where He was ministering to go to the place where Lazarus was. John 11:17 tells us that when Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days.
When Lazarus’ sister Mary reached Jesus, John tells us:
Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." 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. (John 11:32-35 ESV)
I want to focus on the first thing Mary said when she saw Jesus. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
From Mary’s point of view, death was final. From our human point of view, death is final. No one is seeking a cure for death. We are seeking a cure for the Coronavirus. We are seeking a cure for cancer. But all that stops at death.
Jesus is sensitive to our sorrow and the trouble death represents. Look at John 11:33 where it says, “He (Jesus) was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.”
Jesus knew that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He was not troubled over Lazarus as much as He was troubled over the human condition. We know this because Jesus had said earlier, “I am the good shepherd ... I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15 ESV) Jesus was concerned enough about the human condition to give His own life to save us.
Death is a great sorrow. It is the greatest of interruptions. God tells us in the Bible:
... it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment. (Hebrews 9:27 ESV)
Most of humanity carries on with business as usual even though we all know that we have an appointment with death. For many, this is because there is nothing anyone can do about it anyway. There is no cure. Some express the attitude reflected in the Bible when Solomon says:
... man has nothing better under the sun but to eat and drink and be merry. (Ecclesiastes 8:15 ESV)
Solomon reached this conclusion because as he says:
No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. (Ecclesiastes 8:8 ESV)
God gave Solomon great wisdom so that Solomon could explore these subjects for us, and what he found is recorded for us in Ecclesiastes, the most depressing book of the Bible because of the inevitability of death. Solomon points out to us what we all know and what many of us try to ignore as we carry on business as usual. “No man, or woman, has power to retain the spirit,” i.e. to prevent death.
Why am I being so depressing on Easter, a day of great joy?
Because to experience the joy, we must understand what we have been saved from, and because there are those who still do not understand the importance of the resurrection.
Jesus is sovereign over death. Regarding His own death Jesus said:
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. (John 10:18 ESV)
So, if Jesus is sovereign over death, why did He let Lazarus die and why did He weep?
As to why He let Lazarus die, we have already read the reason Jesus gave. He said, “for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.” (John 11:15 ESV) As for why He wept, it was for the same reason He wept over Jerusalem when He said:
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37 ESV)
People are slow to accept the truth about Jesus. As soon as we mention the resurrection, we lose some. In their minds, a resurrection cannot happen. Resurrections are the stuff of fairy tales.
The disciples and Mary and Martha had a hard time believing in a resurrection. Mary and Martha said the same thing when they saw Jesus. They both said, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Death was final in their minds. Martha even expressed that she expected a resurrection on the last day, but she was not looking for a cure for death.
It is at this point that Jesus says the most astounding thing. He says:
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? (John 11:25-26 ESV)
John tells us a number of “I am” statements Jesus made. Such as, I am the good shepherd, I am the bread of life and I am the true vine. These statements are comparisons of two things of different kinds in order to illustrate a truth Jesus is trying to teach. However, when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He is stating reality as it is.
Apart from Jesus, there is no life. If you do not have Jesus, you are dead even while you live. Please do not hide from this truth by burying yourself in “business as usual.” The Coronavirus interruption is a good reminder that we cannot cure death, but Jesus is the cure for death. God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. He cured death. This is why 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 says:
"Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV)
Jesus said He had authority to both lay down His life and to take it up again. He is the only one who has this authority.
For those of you who say that resurrections cannot happen, I would like you to consider the empty tomb. Just because you have never seen a thing does not mean it could not have happened. Those that were there wrote about it, were changed by it and died testifying to it, and yet since you were not there, you maintain that it could not have happened. The historical fact of the matter is that it did happen, and each person must decide whether to ignore it or embrace it.
The biggest interruption of business as usual the world has ever seen happened on Easter morning 2000 years ago. Because of this one event, nothing will ever be the same again. Death has been cured. Life has been given to all who will believe.
Jesus rose from the grave defeating death and the grave once for all.
He is alive and because He lives, we can live also.
Do you believe this?
If you do, stop and tell Jesus right now that you receive Him as your Savior and wish to receive His gift of life.
If you try to ignore the truth of the resurrection, when death interrupts your life, you will be confronted once again by this mighty truth.
He is risen!