He is...We Are To Be: The Resurrection and the Life - John 11:17-27
Have you ever had one of those moments where your spirit is just so deeply disturbed because of a person’s words or actions, that you want to scream, or weep? Maybe it is with a child, trying to get them ready to go out of the house on a cold morning? Maybe the conversation goes a little something like this:
“Put on your coat, It’s time to go.”
“I don’t like my coat, I want to wear my grey jacket.”
“It’s too cold for your jacket, put on your coat.”
“I don’t want to wear my coat, I want to wear my jacket.”
“Look, it is really cold outside, it is cold enough to snow.”
“Snow? It’s snowing outside. I want to see the snow.”
“No, It’s not snowing, it is just that cold. It is too cold to wear your jacket, you need to put on your coat. Understand?”
“Yes sir. Can I go see the snow now?”
“There’s no snow, we need to go now, let’s get your coat on.”
“Okay.” And he picks up his jacket to put it on.
“Not your jacket, your coat.”
“But I don’t want to wear my coat.”
Now the Scriptures do not tell us that Jesus said, “Aaaggghhh,” but shortly after our passage this morning, as Jesus is still dealing with the death of his friend Lazarus, we read that twice Jesus was greatly disturbed in Spirit. Many of us have grown up thinking that reflects Jesus’ sadness over the loss of Lazarus, that this being “greatly disturbed” is just how much sorry filled His heart. However, in looking into the Greek words translated as “greatly disturbed and deeply moved,” we find that the words are translated in a variety of ways, none of which are sorrowful, but more of anger and agitation…”to snort with anger,” “to rebuke sternly,” to “murmur against,” and then one that many of us husbands have experienced and heard when we have done the wrong thing yet again, “to sigh with annoyance.” We almost have to wonder if there was a little eye-roll that went with Jesus’ sigh.
What was Jesus frustrated with, what was he sighing about? It was the fact that He was surrounded by folks that just did not get it. They had been around Him. They had listened to Him. He had taught, and he thought they had taken it all in. Yet first, in the first part of this story, Jesus and the disciples go back and forth as at first Jesus tells the disciples upon learning that Lazarus was sick questioned Jesus, and figured since Jesus favored Lazarus so much, they would be hurrying to Bethany. Jesus, however, said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Jesus then hung out where he was for two days. The next thing we know Jesus is telling them it is time to go to Bethany because Lazarus is asleep and Jesus needs to wake him up. The disciples say, “Well Lord, if he’s asleep, he’ll wake up.” Jesus responds, “Guys, don’t you get it, he’s dead.”
He gets to Bethany and out comes Martha, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus tells her that Lazarus will rise again, prompting Martha to say, I know that on the final day of history, he will rise in the resurrection.
Jesus responded with the next of our “I Am” statements, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Martha says, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Martha then calls for Mary and tells Mary that Jesus wants to talk to her…we don’t read that, maybe He did, or maybe Martha just wants Mary to try and figure out what Jesus is getting at talking about being the resurrection and the life and all. Whichever is the case, Mary, with tears running down her face says the same thing that Martha had said, “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
This is when Jesus, possibly about ready to pull his hair out, sighs. As they take Him to the tomb and He sees the rest of the people weeping He sighs again. Why does He keep sighing? I am thinking because he is a loving caring Savior who sighs to relieve the frustration instead of yelling, “DON’T Y’ALL GET IT…I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE…LAZARUS IS STILL CONNECTED TO ME…HE HAS NOT PERISHED FOREVER…HE SLEEPS WAITING FOR THE DAY OF RESURRECTION.” Jesus, though, did not yell at the people, he simply tells them to move the stone, and after giving Martha a “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see God’s glory” when she complained that Lazarus would stink, He turned to God and said, “Father, you always hear me, You even know what I am about to ask, but so that these folks who just don’t get it may believe, let’s do this thing.” Then Jesus, turning from talking to God sets a long distance record for giving rescue breathing saying, “Lazarus, come out!” Suddenly, a resuscitated Lazarus appears.
We have discussed each week in our journey of Jesus’ identification with God by using the “I Am” statement that would harken the listener’s ears back to God’s appearance to Moses at the burning bush. We admitted it would be controversial for them, for they would have heard Jesus identifying Himself with God. However, that is not controversial for us, living on this side of the empty tomb, for we know that Jesus is God made flesh who dwelt among us. We though, have wrestled with our own controversy, because we realize that we can no longer use the excuse for doing what we want by saying, “But I’m not Jesus,” because we understand that Jesus gave to us the same mission that God the Father gave Him and Paul reminds us that we, as the Church, are the living breathing Body of Christ in the world today, so that with each one of these “I Am” statements that Jesus makes, we are to understand that we, as the Church, are to be those very things in the world today.
We have already reflected on “I am the Bread of Life” promising true fulfillment of our hungers; “I am the Light of the World” shining God’s ordering, revealing, gathering light into the darkness; “I am the Gate” as the entrance to eternal, abundant life; and “I am the Good Shepherd,” as the one who leads us to the abundant life and protects us from that which would seek to separate us from God.
So today we come and hear Jesus in the midst of a gathering of mourners say, “I am the Resurrection and the Life, those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” Then we watch Jesus grow frustrated as those around Him just don’t get it…the just don’t understand the point He is trying to make. He gets frustrated because all they can see and hear and feel and touch is death. Their sole and soul focus point is death. They were looking for life in the places of death and only seeing death.
We know the end of the story. We know that Jesus resuscitates Lazarus and his life goes on…that is until Lazarus has to die again. We do understand that Lazarus was not resurrected to eternal life, he was just resuscitated. He would have to die all over again—we know this because if he was still walking around he would have appeared on every talk show, television show, and news broadcast we have ever watched. We know the end of the story, so we get it. Or do we?
Again, the problem with Martha, Mary, and those around the tomb was that they were looking for life in a place of death—in the cemetery, in the grave yard, in the tomb. There was no life to be found there, and they knew it, so they mourned and wept. How often do we do the same? How often do we look in the wrong place, even the places of death, trying to find life?
It happens when we look for life and the renewal of our life in our bank accounts and retirement funds. If that is where we look for life, then one day we will find ourselves weeping when we look and the balance has hit zero (or negative)…when the stocks crash and our investments are wiped out.
It happens when we look for life and the renewal of life in our jobs and careers…only to have a day come when we get laid off, fired, or even retire…and what we claimed was life or life-giving is no longer there…and we weep outside the tomb.
It can happen when we look for life and the renewal of life in our families and friendships, because one day one of those friends or family members is going to disappoint us…they will fail to show up when we need them, they will do things that disappoint us, and even if neither of those things happen, one day they will, like Lazarus, lie in the grave…leaving us to mourn.
It can happen when we look for life and the renewal of life in pleasure, in what makes us feel good…because eventually we will need more and more and more of whatever earthly thing is bringing us pleasure and we will find that rather than being life-giving, it is life stealing…leading straight to our death.
It can happen when we look for life and the renewal of life in popularity or fame—because eventually, whether it is mere seconds or a number of years, that fifteen minutes of fame will come and go and folks will see our picture and say, “who is that?” And hearing that, we experience the pain and sorrow of death.
It is in these places of death that Jesus stands and says, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life…Lazarus come forth…Lee come forth…Ed come forth…Ken come forth…Tami come forth…Ruth Ann come forth…” To each one of us, He calls and says, come find life, find abundant life, find a renewed life in Me. Come to me and when the things of this world try to leave you wasted and without life, they will lose because I will give You life.”
It is only Christ who will never leave us, never desert us, never disappoint us, never fail us. In Him we find the love of God that is greater than anything in this world, even death itself cannot separate us from the love of God...for just as God brought Christ back triumphantly from the tomb, so He has promised each of us. Yet we do not have to wait for that Day of Resurrection to experience a new and resurrected life in Christ…if we surrender our lives to Him, then we will find that He raises us daily and gives us new life. If we have surrendered our lives to Him, then when fame fades, power plunges, pleasure perishes, families and friends fail us, and careers careen, we will find that we still have life.
And as Jesus gives us life, He calls us to be the Resurrection and the Life. He calls us to be centers of life renewing and life giving power. We are to be a people that do not steal life—through harsh words and hatred, through betrayal and backstabbing, or through broken promises and belittlement. We are to be places of hope, joy, love, and peace. Our words and our actions should be life-giving. As the Resurrection and the Life, we are to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, touch the outcast (whether they are cast out because of disease, sin, age, or skin)…we are to visit the sick, bind up the broken-hearted, and cast out the demons (of addiction, self-loathing, and hopelessness). We are to go to the places of death, just as Jesus came into the places of our death, and through our actions shout, “Come out…” and then help take off the burial clothes that still bind the folks as we witness a new life begun.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.