I am the Resurrection

July 29, 2012

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 him, he healed the blind man who was just a face in the crowd, 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,  John 11:21 Martha said to Jesus, “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, and you all know how an expert is
defined?  X being the unknown quantity,
spurt being a drip under pressure.  So if
we take the experts’ word for the distance and add to it the two days that
Jesus waited before he left 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”  “their suffering is over”  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. 
And Jesus looked at her again and said John 11:25 Jesus
told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will
live, even after dying.” 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 every
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. In his song “Prop
me Up beside the Jukebox When I die” 
Country singer Joe Diffie sings “I’m not afraid of dying it’s the thought of being
dead.”  I beg to differ with Mr.
Diffie, “I’m not afraid of being dead, I have an assurance of an eternity with
my God but I kind of agree with Woody Allen who said, “I’m not afraid to die, I just don’t
want to be there when it happens.”
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.
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.”  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.”  Last week we looked at what Jesus meant when
he said “I am the Life” and when he 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. 
“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 don’t believe Jesus when he said “I am the
Resurrection” if you don’t believe that was 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 sayThe
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) 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 all of a sudden this sorry lot become ninja’s 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
found a religion based on a high moral code of integrity and honesty.  Seems a little far-fetched to me.  But
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 disciple
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, remember 9/11 and all the suicide bombers we hear
about on the news.  They are willing to
die for their faith because they believe that it is 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.
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 are
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.   On my first trip to Africa we discovered
that if you asked the five of us who went to describe the trip you would find
it hard to believe that we had been together for 14 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.
While we were in
Sierra Leone I saw a monkey run across the road, the two guys in the backseat
missed it and the monkey was gone when the other vehicle passed by, does that
mean that there was no monkey?  I asked
our driver what type of monkey it was and he said it had to be a fast monkey
because the rebels had eaten all the slow monkeys.
Last summer
Angela and I went on vacation, if you asked some people they would tell you
that we went on an Alaskan Cruise. 
Other’s would tell you that we visited my cousin Lindy and her family in
Vancouver.  You might even hear that we
were at Whistler and Blackcomb.  Others
would tell you that we went to Seattle and reconnected with a couple who had
been in our Youth Group in Australia.  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 me?”  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.
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.