JESUS, THE RESURRECTION, THE LIFE by Dr. John Jun
JESUS, THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE
Key Verse 11:25
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”
Today is Easter. Jesus died for our sins according to the scriptures. He was buried and he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures (1 Cor 15:3-4). Today’s passage is the record of Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead. We will think about this passage in two parts. First (1-16), Jesus stayed two more days. Second (17-44), Jesus raised Lazarus. Through this passage, I pray that we can live with resurrection faith and win the victory in this world under the power of death.
I. Jesus stayed two more days (1-16)
Verse 1-4 records about the family crisis in Mary’s home. Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha (1). Mary was the one who poured perfume on Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. Sick Lazarus was her brother. These three siblings loved each other and relied on each other. One day, the head of the family, Lazarus, became ill and it developed into a very serious condition. An unexpected storm of life hit this peaceful family very hard. It was a crisis for the family. Jesus loved this family (3-5). During his messianic ministry, Mary’s family had served Jesus sacrificially. On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus used to stop by at Bethany to visit Mary’s family, teach them the Bible, and eat with them. These three siblings loved Jesus, and the house was full of peace and grace with Jesus. However, Lazarus’sickness instantly covered this family with anxiety. This sickness would soon lead him to death similar to cancer.
What did they do when they faced the crisis? Look at verse 3. “So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’”Mary and Martha immediately sent word to Jesus. Their family problem was beyond their control. They trusted Jesus’love and immediately sent a messenger and said, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”Therefore, families with crises must send word to Jesus immediately like Mary’s family.
We also believe in Jesus and trust in his love like Mary’s family. At the same time we also may face storms of life just like them. Then we must immediately tell Jesus in prayer. David said in Psalm 18:6, “In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears.”We must call to the Lord immediately like David when we are in distress. Our Lord intercedes for us with groans words cannot express, in all situations. (Rom. 8:26)
How did Jesus respond when he heard that Lazarus was very sick? Look at verse 4. “When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that Gods son may be glorified through it.’”Jesus proclaimed that the sickness would not end in death. A philosopher, Keirkegaard wrote the book, “The Sickness Unto Death”based on this passage. He said that sickness that ends in death causes despair. Mary and Martha thought that Lazarus’sickness would end in death and they worried and despaired. But Jesus said that Lazarus’sickness would not end in death but God’s glory. Jesus said that God would reveal his glory through the troubles in Lazarus’family. What can we learn from Jesus’word? What attitude should we have when we face an unexpected crisis? As children of God, we should not fall into fear or assume that the sickness will end in death. We must remember Jesus’word and accept it. In times of crisis we should not despair but rather glorify God. It is the opportunity to do God’s work and reveal God’s glory. Here the sickness does not refer only to physical sickness but also spiritual sickness. When this sickness infests the family, we must consider it for God’s glory, grow in faith, and glorify God.
Verse 5-11 records about Jesus who stayed two more days when he heard the news. What did Jesus do when he heard the news of Lazarus’sickness? Look at verse 6. “Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.”Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus (5). If he did, it would be common sense that he come to Judea immediately and heal him. But Jesus did not come that day. He didn’t come the next day either. Lazarus’sickness got worse and finally he died. Yet Jesus did not come even three days after his funeral. How great these two sisters sorrow and pain must have been! Why did Jesus not answer our prayer? This kind of doubt might constantly arise. We also experience similar things. We love God, but people lose their family members with cancer and other incurable diseases. There are many occasions that they die no matter how much we cry out to God.
Why then did Jesus stay two more days when he heard the news? He waited for God’s time. Jesus himself probably agonized over having to stay two more days. But he always followed God’s time. Jesus called Lazarus a friend (11). But Jesus didn’t love him superficially like worldly friends. Jesus waited until he died. He let these sisters experience the death, sickness, and tragedy of life. In order to let them experience the grace of resurrection, he stayed two more days. He loved this family with divine love. In our time, Jesus sometimes appears as if he is indifferent to our sufferings or does not answer our prayers. Sometimes he leaves us alone in the valley of death. Like Joseph, he lets us stay in prison for awhile. But when we endure hardship and keep our faith, we can grow as wise and mature disciples.
In verses 7-16, Jesus decided to go to Bethany two days later. Jesus said, “Let us go back to Judea.”(7) Suddenly the disciple’s faces became pale and they violently opposed it. “Rabbi, a short while ago the Jews tried to stone you, and yet you are going back there?”(8) Jesus answered to the disciples who were suffering with the power of death, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? A man who walks by day will not stumble for he sees by this world’s light. It is when he walks by night that he stumbles, for he has no light.”(9-10) Jesus called Lazarus “our friend Lazarus”and he said he was going to go wake him up (11). When God’s time came, Jesus decided to go to Bethany to raise Lazarus, risking his own life. He had a big clash with the Jewish religious leaders when he opened the blind man’s eyes on the Sabbath (10:31). The Jews were waiting to stone Jesus. Jesus’disciples escaped to the other side of the Jordan River and were trembling with the fear of death. Jesus is the light of the world. He did what he ought to do in God’s time regardless of dangers (Luke 13:22). Without Jesus, people are destined to suffer with the fear of death and anxiety.
Jesus told his disciples to go back to Judea. He told them why they had to go back. “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up”(11b).His disciples replied,”Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.”In general, if a person eats well and sleeps well, he is considered a healthy person. The disciples misunderstood that Lazarus would get better when they heard that he was sleeping. But Jesus regarded Lazarus’death as sleep. He told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead.”(14)
Jesus conquered the power of death and considered death as sleep (Matt 27:52). Sometimes students stay up all night and become very tired in order to study for a test. After the test, sleep is as sweet as honey. Medically, man can survive for ten days without eating. But man cannot survive for ten days without sleeping. In Jesus, there is no death. Jesus considers death as sweet sleep to restore our stamina (11). Yet, the disciples could not understand his teaching. Without resurrection faith, man cannot understand the meaning of Jesus’cross and resurrection. Jesus said to his disciples, “And for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”(15) Then Thomas, (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”(16) Thomas had no resurrection faith but he decided to suffer with Jesus. With this decision he could experience the power of resurrection. Without choice, the other eleven disciples had to follow Jesus.
II. Jesus raised Lazarus (17-44)
Jesus and his disciples arrived at Judea four days after Lazarus’death. In verse 17-27 Jesus planted resurrection faith in Martha. When Jesus arrived at Lazarus’house, the house was covered with the power of death.
How was the atmosphere of Mary’s home? Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days (17). The home atmosphere was full of sorrow and despair. In Judea, people buried the dead on the same day due to hot weather conditions and a seven-day funeral ceremony. Many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort in the loss of their brother (19). But their comfort and love could not overcome death. All they could do was to be sad together. Whenever we go to a funeral, we feel that life is so empty and meaningless. Without true hope and life, life seems to be nothing but darkness. When Martha saw Jesus, the first thing she did was complain, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.”(21) “You always came so quickly when I invited you for dinner, but why did you come so late when my brother was sick?”Those who are under the power of death complain even to loved ones. The world is under the power of death. So sometimes, even Christians say unbelieving words like Martha.
What is the influence of death to a man?
First, meaninglessness and helplessness. 1 Peter 1:24 says, “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall.”Mans body fades and goes when the season comes. Audrey Hepburn was so pretty and famous in the 1970’s especially in the movie, “Roman Holiday.”Yet, her beauty faded when she became 80 and she died. Every man is afraid of death and wants to live for eternity. The first Emperor of China sent 300 people to find a medicine for eternal life. But none came back. Power, honor, PhD, or whatever people think glorious, all fade away with death. Death makes man be empty or meaningless.
Second, fear and despair.The death of Lazarus turned Mary’s home into a home of fear and despair (19-31). Man is destined to die once and after that to face judgment (Heb 9:27). No one wants to die but everybody does. One scholar described life as a procession towards death. Death makes man fearful, sorrowful, and despaired. Literature tries to beautify the power of death, yet it cannot overcome death. We must win the victory over the power of death with resurrection faith.
What was Martha’s vague expectation to Jesus? Look at verse 22. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”She uttered an ambiguous expectation. Jesus wanted to plant resurrection faith. Look at verse 23. Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”(24) Based on that answer, what kind of resurrection faith did Martha have? She had theoretical and impractical resurrection faith. She loved Jesus and she asked Jesus to heal her sick brother. Now, Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. Martha despaired and she gave up. She spoke with vague expectation towards Jesus. Her faith didn’t apply to the present situation but the future. For the real problem at present, she wanted to deal with reason rather than faith. This kind of faith is called, “practical atheism.”We should not have this kind of theoretical and impractical resurrection faith.
How did Jesus plant resurrection faith? Look at verses 25-26. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”Jesus proclaimed of himself as someone who gives resurrection and life. Resurrection and life are only in Jesus. Jesus said he is the resurrection and he would raise Lazarus. Jesus is life and he is the giver of life (John 1:4). Through faith only, one can have this resurrection and life. A son of a widow in Nain whom Jesus raised from the dead later got old and died. Jairus’daughter lived a little longer, yet she died also. Therefore, their resurrection is not what the Bible teaches about the resurrection. Resurrection connects to eternal life. What the Bible teaches about resurrection is eternal life. Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?”(26b) Jesus wanted Martha to grow in faith from theoretical, to believing and confessing faith. He wanted her to believe the resurrection as it is and obey. Martha answered, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”(27)
In verses 28-32, Jesus comforts sorrowful Mary. Martha told Mary who was in deep sorrow, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”(28) When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him (29). Mary also complained to Jesus for his late coming (32). When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled (33). Jesus wept (35).
Why did Jesus weep?
First, he wept because of his compassion for ignorant people (33). He wept when Mary and Martha had no resurrection faith and complained to him. Jesus had compassion when they still could not believe Jesus’resurrection power and lived under the power of death even though they witnessed so many miracles and heard his teachings.
Second, he wept because of his compassion toward man’s limit (34-35).Jesus asked, “Where have you laid him?”And he wept. He didn’t ask this because he did not know where Lazarus’tomb was. He rather asked this to remind man where Lazarus was. He showed man’s limit that every man, wise or foolish, East or West has to go to the tomb. Men without Jesus end their lives in the tomb, just like Lazarus. Therefore we must think, “Where are our ancestors? Where are their greed, power, and honor now?”A famous philosopher Seneca who was the teacher of the emperor Nero once said, “Man who prepares his death is the wisest.”
In verses 39-44, Jesus raises Lazarus. Jesus went to the tomb. He said, “Take away the stone.”But Martha said, “But Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”(39) This means, “Let’s not take away the stone since the smell is awful.”How did Jesus rebuke Martha? Look at verse 40. “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”He said that she must believe and see the glory of God.
How did Jesus raise Lazarus? He first prayed. Look at verses 41-42. “So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 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.”His prayer is a thanksgiving prayer for God’s answer. He prayed for the gathering crowd so that they would believe. How did Jesus call in a loud voice toward the tomb? Look at verse 43. “When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”Then what happened? Look at verse 44. “The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”It was a majestic moment just like the creation of the world in the beginning. It was a moment that the power of death was destroyed and a myth that no one can come back after death was silenced. It was a moment of joy and amazement. Jesus proved through this miracle that he is the resurrection and the life. He overcame the power of death and gave life to man. He is the Lord.
In conclusion, man’s fundamental problem is sin and death. It is a sorrow, fear, despair, and meaninglessness from the power of death. However, Jesus is the resurrection and the life who overcame the power of death. We must have resurrection faith and live daily with resurrection faith.