Today many TV shows offer new life in interesting ways: Tear down a needy family’s old house, and build them a beautiful, well-furnished new one.
Throw away all of a person’s old clothes and give them thousands of dollars to buy new ones for a new look.
Present all kinds of ways to lose weight, achieve “optimal” health and wellness.
Reclaim, fix up old unused cars, publicly repurpose them for another family.
The promise in all these new and reclaimed and re-purposed things, of course, is not just a makeover but the big opportunity at something more: a new life.
But do, can, temporary, superficial fixes really bring the joy that people crave?
Who would not want that big opportunity at something more – like a new life?
John 11:17-27Amplified Bible
17 So when Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb [a]four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away; 19 and many of the Jews had come to see Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning [the loss of] their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet Him, while Mary remained sitting in the house. 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give to You.” 23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise [from the dead].” 24 Martha replied, “I know that he will rise [from the dead] in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “[b]I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in (adheres to, trusts in, relies on) Me [as Savior] will live even if he dies; 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me [as Savior] will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed and continue to believe that You are the Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed), the Son of God, [c] He who was [destined and promised] to come into the world [and it is for You that the world has waited].”
The Word of God for the Children of God. Gloria! In Excelsis Deo! Alleluia! Amen.
Everybody needs comfort and security!
And we need it today, as well as tomorrow.
We need it always.
Martha and Mary, however, did not have much comfort and security and peace at this present time, even though they had some measure and degree of peace of mind and heart regarding the resurrection of their brother in the future sense.
But right now, in the moment of grieving, mourning, they had very little peace.
Everyone acquainted with the Bible knows the story so well.
These two sisters and their brother Lazarus were special friends of our Lord.
He stayed at their home many times.
Here He likely could relax after a busy schedule.
A deep relationship of friendship had been established.
But now Lazarus becomes sick.
And though he may have been better one day than another, his over-all condition is worsening.
Soon he is critically ill.
And Jesus is away in Perea, some 20-25 miles east or one day’s journey by foot.
Of course, they couldn’t give the Lord a telephone call urging Him to come immediately, nor drive out there to get Him.
A messenger, likely their fastest “runner,” is sent out, with haste, urging Christ to come at once.
But Jesus has no haste.
He tarries, to the confusion of the disciples.
How Martha and Mary must have been looking and waiting for Him!
But He just did not come in the instant they desperately desired.
And their brother, Lazarus died and was buried and sealed in a tomb.
Martha and Mary have problems.
Big problems – as all people, believers or otherwise, do when they lack faith.
The two sisters have several problems.
First of all, there was that problem of the “if.”
If only Jesus had been there, when Lazarus was so sick.
The If implies that they had no peace or comfort at that time, and they don’t have it now.
If has to do with the hypothetical, the conditional, that which is uncertain.
But the two sisters have more problems.
Jesus means something to them and would have meant a lot more to them, only when He is physically near to them – available at the exact moment of notice.
A Savior who is absent from them physically really means little or nothing to them.
He would have meant so much to them if He had been there and helped them physically by healing their seriously ill brother.
There are so many people like that.
They look for Jesus, pray to Him when they need Him for some physical help.
Otherwise, they can get along quite well without Him.
They treat God the same way.
Someone once said, “He’s like a handy man around the house.”
We like to have Him near when we need Him.
We like to have Him on our “speed-dials” on our smart phones.
We would love Him as our Face Book friend then we could “face-time” with Him in an instant – the same with any instant “social media” platform.
Such people use the Lord, and that almost exclusively for themselves.
And they call that religion! And they consider themselves to be religious.
They believe in God!
But in this moment of greatest “life and death” crisis,
Do they believe in the life Jesus offers as much as they believe in God?
Martha and Mary are like that here.
But aren’t we all like that so often, and altogether too much?
But the two sisters have still another problem.
Their faith in Jesus means something and will take on added meaning in the future.
Martha believes that Lazarus will rise from the grave someday, in that final day.
She does not doubt that at all.
But that will be “someday” in the “far off future day of the Lord”.
She has nothing now, in and for the present.
Jesus, the friend, Jesus the Master Rabbi, means nothing to her now, right now.
It’s obviously way, way, too late. Her dear brother is gone. He’s simply dead.
What does Jesus do?
Immediately go to the grave and raise Lazarus?
By no means.
He will teach them something first, preach to them, and the miracle will confirm the Word. After all, this was always the purpose of the miracles.
John 11:25-26New Living Translation
25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. [a] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?
Martha and Mary, the Jews, you and I, must know what Jesus means when He says, I AM the resurrection and the life.
Not I will be, some day in the future, no, no; NOW I am the living One.
Jesus speaks and acts already on the basis of what He is as the Son of God and what He will do and be as the One who will one day be risen One from the grave.
These two women must also know and believe that He is such a Savior, whether He is present with them physically or not.
He is and will be the ever-present spiritual Lord, to help them physically and spiritually.
They must know and believe that He gives comfort and promises it not only for the future, in that last day, but here, now, right now, in the immediate sense.
Now Martha, I AM the resurrection and the life.
He is the resurrection because He is the life, the eternal Son of God Himself.
All the weight of this text should take on much more immediate meaning for us, who live after and know about His cross, resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit, have the complete written Word of God and believe in that Word of God.
Having given this grieving, sorrowing, Martha this assuring word, the Lord now goes on to apply this wonderful truth to her in her present needs and to all of us.
In the contemporary sense, in the modern times we all find ourselves living in,
First of all, He shows that He is aware of the Christian’s sorrows and needs at each moment of life being “lived” and at the time of death.
He is also aware the Christian’s deep concerns and fears about living out the daily grind of “resurrection life,” the grave, and about rising from the grave.
With that in mind the Lord speaks those immortal words, “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.”
These words refer to that future time when the body comes alive, then will die.
But he who believes need not worry.
He will live again.
Christ here reaches out to that great and final day of His return when all the dead will be raised.
Surely the Lord knows how much we are afraid of the grave, returning to dust.
But be assured, He means to say, you won’t stay there, your body won’t.
You SHALL live again, be assured of that.
On what basis can He say this and give that kind of assurance?
Because He IS the resurrection and the life.
Today He is the risen, exalted Savior and Lord in heaven.
He is alive, as the risen Son of God.
He won’t leave our bodies in the grave.
Martha and Mary then, whatever our name is now, He means to say, “I won’t forget you. I won’t forget my people, my sheep. Never! They all shall live.”
That will take place someday in the future.
But how about the present?
After all, “Martha and Mary” and us too, needs comfort right now, especially when we are in that time and season of afflictions, sorrows and special needs.
This Jesus knows only too well.
And being aware of it and desirous to comfort these His people there in Bethany He further adds: “And whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
With these words Jesus refers to the present.
He is speaking about those who believe and are alive.
Those who have the new life, with new hearts.
Paul calls them a new creation.
Those people never die, not really.
Not with their new hearts, their new inner life.
Through Jesus who is the resurrection and the life those people constantly receive the Spirit and life that is in Him.
They have that whether Jesus is in Perea or not.
They have that whether they live in America, or England or Ukraine, or Russia or wherever else it might be, or whatever circumstances they find themselves.
They have that when they are healthy, but also when on their deathbeds.
This eternally living Lord is always with them.
Even the death of the body does not affect this relationship.
They simply never die.
They possess that new everlasting life.
C. S. Lewis said once, “Christians never say goodbye.”
This Martha and Mary and all of us, must believe Jesus, as the Son of God.
Notice how Jesus adds to this powerful brief sermon a definite qualification.
It is not for everybody.
No, only for believers.
But even then, it must not be something that is objective.
It must be a soul-searching matter, one that brings us to self-examination.
Therefore, Jesus asks: Do you believe this?
He wanted these women then, all of us today to believe His words, constantly to believe and to trust in Him.
And those who do so may be assured that He who can say, I am the resurrection and the life, is their Savior and Lord. And His promises are for them.
He will be the resurrection and the life when they die, when their bodies are in the grave, but also for their souls and hearts, for every moment of everyday, for all time, from the very present moment of their existence, even unto eternity.
Never is there or will there be a time when they do not belong to Him.
That’s the answer to all the fear, problems, and anxieties of the two dear friends in Bethany.
And for everyone who believes.
Then Jesus goes to the grave to raise Lazarus.
These people, and we with them, must know that Jesus knows what He’s talking about.
Also, that He can “back up” His words.
Also, when He says, just a few days later,
Let not your hearts be troubled. Peace I give unto you, peace I leave with you.
This is true for all believers, for all time and in all circumstances, bar none.
The new life Jesus speaks of goes much deeper.
Two main questions help us believe and understand and experience the new life that Christ offers:
First, do I trust in Jesus as my Savior?
If I admit with all of my heart and all of my soul, to God that I am a sinner, deserving only punishment, and if I have faith that by his death on the cross Jesus paid for my sin, then God’s promises are 100% mine, and so is new life.
Second, do I promise to live for Jesus as the Lord and only Love of my life?
Have I genuinely, with all of my heart, all of my soul and all of my strength surrendered my wants and choices to Jesus’ will and what he wants of me?
With all of my heart, all of my soul and strength, do I cultivate a lifestyle in which the character of Christ is demonstrated in my speaking and doing?
With all of my heart, all of my soul, all my strength, do I truly pledge myself to grow in knowing God through Bible reading, prayer, and Christian fellowship?
If I answer yes, Jehovah God is with me, then Jesus empowers me by his Spirit to live and do these things to the best of my “limited” abilities, to the glory of God.
In the name of God, the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit,
Let us Pray,
Dear Father in heaven, to you we entrust everything, for you have given us life and will call us to resurrection. You will help your children, your people, to reach what you have called them to. Protect your church on earth. Let her soon see your glory. Let her see Jesus Christ intervening in people’s lives and destinies until, shaken and trembling, they have to recognize that they should love and honor Jesus alone, to your honor, O Father in heaven. We thank you for all you have given us in your Word, which enables us to become your children and to find your way for us on earth. Bless us and give us the Holy Spirit. Protect us in these most precarious of days and seasons. Protect us so that nothing evil can divide and harm us. Alleluia! Amen.