The Resurrection and Life

Encountering Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  26:52
0 ratings

Jesus provides hope beyond the despair, because in him is found a new life that can never be take from us.


The despair

Well, the news ain’t pretty.
Our Facebook feed is almost entirely related to the pandemic. Which is not surprising given every single facet of life is being affected.
Look at the graphs and it’s just plain scary. Things are heading in a bad direction. We might be tracking slightly better than some countries, but not by much. And if we look at them, it is hard not to be filled with despair.
Now, that despair left unchecked has the potential to lead to bad places.
So we try lots of things to help us through.
There are some destructive behaviours, but leaving them aside for the moment, we could try things like humour.
Now humour is a great tool. It can sometimes give us a bit of a jolt. It can help us get to a point where we can almost see beyond the despair.
But humour alone won’t get us through.
Or better still we can cling to our friendships - although that’s made slightly difficult with the current insistence on social isolation.
Again, like humour, these close relationship are a wonderful means to help us through. In fact, I’d go as far to say that God has made us for relationships with other and so these interaction are essential.
But while friendships are super important and might help us to get through, I believe there is something more that our hearts cry out for.
Friendships might soften the hurt, but the despair remains. That which troubles us, continues to trouble us.
Now you perhaps don’t need to be Einstein to realise that I’m going to say it is Jesus that we need.
After all, I am doing a series called “Encountering Jesus”.
But what’s perhaps less clear is trying to understand how Jesus fulfils that role in our life.
You see, we are very good as Christians at explaining this in very abstract terms. We might talk about Jesus wrapping his arms around us. Filling us with words of life. How he is always with us. Or even using the language I did from last weeks sermon - he is our light in dark times.
Now all of those things are true. Jesus does do all those things. But unless you’ve experienced what Jesus actually does, it can sound like a whole lot of fluff.
So the question I want to ask is: in practice, what does it mean for Jesus to be our comforter in times of need?
Now I made a brief mention a moment ago that I’m in a series called “Encountering Jesus”, and as I’ve gone through I’ve been building a bigger picture of what it means to really have Jesus in your life.
Three weeks ago (when we were still allowed to meet in person), we looked at the account of Jesus meeting Nicodemus.
At this time, we begun to consider how encountering Jesus could change your entire way of life.
Then we looked at Jesus meeting the woman at the well. We considered this idea of Jesus providing us with Living Water. How we have this spiritual longing that only Jesus can satisfy.
Last week we began to put more flesh on what these ideas mean, and we saw that to experience the light that Jesus provides we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
And so we’ve been building this picture which has helped us answer this question of how Jesus can be our comforter in times of need. You see, he changes us on the inside. He satisfies our spiritual needs. He shed light on our situation.
But today we’re going to go even deeper.
So let’s look at today’s account as we consider what it really means for Jesus to be our comforter in times of need.

Raising Lazarus

Well the account we have occurs only shortly before the death and resurrection of Jesus. And so, opposition against Jesus is ramping up.
The opposition had certainly grown over the time of Jesus ministry on earth. If you look at the end of chapter 10, it describes in verse 39 how they tried to seize Jesus, but he escaped their grasp. And then at the very end of the chapter, he leaves for another area.

To Bethany

But with the backdrop of this opposition, Jesus’ attention is drawn back to the place where the opposition was most fierce. Jerusalem!
Well, not precisely Jerusalem, but a small town only a couple of kilometers from the Holy city.
It was in the town of Bethany that Jesus had some close friends. Possibly some of the closest friends he had outside the twelve disciples which Jesus had spent much of his time investing in.
They were Martha, Mary and Lazarus. They were three siblings, who I’m going to assume were probably all single on the basis that the appear to live together and there is no reference to any spouse for any of them.
Whatever the case, they’ve been shaken up because Lazarus has become seriously unwell - where not told exactly what with, but it was life threatening and they knew it.
They sent word to Jesus, probably because they thought Jesus might be able to do something, but also partly because they knew the relationship Jesus had with him.
Now there is something beautiful about the way Jesus responds. You see, when we are hit with bad news, normally our first reactions is to worry and panic. Certainly that’s been evident around the world in the last month or so.
You see, Jesus knows that whatever happens can be used for God’s glory.
You might think - well that’s all well and good for Jesus, he’s about to perform one of his big miracles. But I think the attitude can go deeper than that, and it’s an attitude that we can develop. You see, even though we aren’t Jesus and things aren’t always going to play out like they do in this account. But we can know that no matter what happens, if we trust in Jesus, then God will be glorified in all things.
Now there is something also very interesting that Jesus does next, or perhaps I should say - doesn’t do!
He stay where he was for two more days.
Now the disciples probably assume he’s doing this because he doesn’t want to go near Jerusalem - but that’s not the case. Jesus knows that he will not be touched before his hour comes.

The delay

It would rather appear that what he is doing is waiting for the right time - so that it can be without a doubt the work of God that will bring glory.
That is all the more significant when in verse 17 we’re told he arrives and finds that Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four day. The significance is actually based on a common understanding at the time that a persons spirit would hang around for three days before finally departing. Now the Bible isn’t validating such an idea, but in the eyes of those watching, if someone raises from the dead after four days, well, there can be no doubt. You see you can’t think - well maybe he wasn’t quite dead. If he raises to life, then God gets the glory.
And so Jesus heads down, knowing that Lazarus is now dead, to the territory where despair has now turned to grief. Where people have been overcome with emotion. They’re at that point where they are struggling to find any comfort.

Jesus and Martha

When Jesus comes however - there’s a small lift. It’s that lift you feel when someone you love enters. The burden is still there, but it feels a bit lighter.
You can see that sort of mixed emotion when Martha first addresses Jesus in verse 21.
There’s a sense of frustration: if only you had been here.
But there’s also a sense of hope: but even now, God will give you whatever you ask.
Martha is a woman of faith - but she also has her feet firmly planted.
Now this next little interaction is going to be very telling for us as we consider the question: how can Jesus be our comforter in our time of need?
You see, what I want to highlight is that while this account can be read in terms of the wonderful miracle at the end, that is, when Lazarus is raised to life - that actually isn’t the main point.
You see there is comfort to be found beyond whatever happens with our earthly bodies at this time.
There is this interesting little interaction between Martha and Jesus in verses 23 through to 27. At first it seems that Martha completely misunderstands Jesus.
After all, if you’ve been with me for this series of “Encountering Jesus”, then this has been a bit of a feature.
Nicodemus misunderstood Jesus reference to be born again.
The woman at the well misunderstood the reference to Living Water.
But on this occasion, it’s a bit different. I think it is us that misunderstands. And that’s because we think we’re a bit more sophisticated, and with the benefit of hindsight, we understand Jesus better,

The resurrection and life

You see, Jesus tells Martha that her brother is going to rise again.
And Martha quickly agrees because, well, she’s got an understanding of the resurrection that is to come on the last day.
But this is where we think - oh Martha, if only you understood that this time he actually meant it literally. Her brother will literally step out of the tomb, not just on the last day, but on the day Jesus spoke those words.
But interestingly, Jesus doesn’t stop her and try to correct her.
In fact, Jesus takes Martha’s line of thought and takes it deeper.
He tells her: “I am the resurrection and the life”
And continues, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”.
Now here’s the thing. There is a life that Jesus speaks of that is deeper than any medical expert can speak of.
Now on one level, we know that having life is more than just being medically alive. We might even talk about someone ‘having life’ as being active or energetic.
The life that Jesus talks about, though, is a life that moves out of the dead weight of sin. It’s the life that can experience a joy that defies the broken world we are in.
But it’s more than just a feeling. You see, this life is actually a connection with God. It is actually a returning of the state in which humanity had before sin entered the world. And because we have this connection with the world, we transcend death.
Now, that is not to say we won’t die. Because one things for certain - with the exception of the return of Christ, every single one of you will die.
In fact, even though we’re about to see Lazarus raised to life, he actually dies again. His body did eventually see decay.
But Jesus is able to say: “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die”.
So, in one sense, Jesus is talking about the new life we will receive in the next age. But here is the most exciting part - that life starts now!
Our new life with God is not something we have to wait for. If you have accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, then you can know that life now - and it is the most wonderful thing.

Jesus and Mary

Well, I’m going to come back to this idea, but let’s just follow the story to the end.
In verse 28, Martha’s sister, Mary, enters the story.
She is obviously with all the mourners, and it appears she tries to make a subtle exit, but despite her efforts, verse 31 tells us that she was noticed leaving, and so they follow her.
Well, when she gets to Jesus, she makes a similar remark to what her sister said. She expresses her feeling of wishing that Jesus had been there, knowing that he could make a difference.

The emotions

This time however, the account takes us down a different track. This time we see the emotions.
Mary is crying. And as Jesus watches her cry, we’re told that he is deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
Actually, one respected scholar suggests this translation is too weak. He gives evidence to suggest that the word translated as “deeply moved”, should actually be translated as “outraged”.
In other words, Jesus doesn’t just have some soft reaction, rather what he is seeing is really getting to him.
And in verse 35, we get the verse which is usually known as the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept”.
You see, Jesus is outraged, and he is brought to tears.
Now there is an obvious question in this. If Jesus knew what was about to happen - that is, Lazarus was to be brought back to life… why then was Jesus crying?
Well that’s a good question and could be discussed at length, but in short it would appear that it is the sin and consequent brokenness of the world. You see, Jesus knows what the world should be like - and it is far from it.
He knows that a miracle is about to happen - but even still, the brokenness remains.
And this is a good reminder in our own situation. Even though we know God is in control. Even though we know we don’t need to fear - what we are seeing is a result of a broken world. And it is right to weep.

Calling Lazarus

But it doesn’t end there. Now we come to the miracle.
Jesus asks for the stone to be removed - at the great horror of everyone because they know what a body is like four days after it has been in a tomb. But they do.
Jesus then stops and prays. Interestingly, the main thrust of the prayer is not for the raising to happen, but that God may be glorified.
And then he call out in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’
And at that Lazarus walks out, still with his grave clothes.
This is nothing other than an amazing miracle of Jesus.
Now we have to be careful to neither overplay, nor underplay the miracle.
We can overplay the miracle in thinking that this should become some sort of normative experience. In other words, as long as we have sufficient faith, God will heal us.
Sadly, with our current pandemic, we’ve seen some church leaders falsely proclaim that they are somehow immune from the disease because they have the blessing of God. This is wrong. We all will eventually die of something. In the case of the pandemic, we are not necessarily immune.
We should not think that just because Jesus showed his power in this way that we can always expect it.
But we can also underplay it in that this was a miracle then, but has little meaning to us now.
You see, what this miracle shows is the real power over life. It shows that when Jesus speaks about life - he’s not just talking fluff, he’s talking about something that he has real power over.

The Big Question

So let me come back to my big question: how can Jesus be a comfort during our time of need?
Well, the main answer I want to give you today, and the answer we can draw from this passage, is that he can show us what life really is.
He can show us a life that is above this life, such that, even though these earthly bodies will see decay, we still live.
There is a great comfort in this. It’s not a comfort in necessarily knowing you won’t get infected by COVID-19. I can’t make that guarantee.
It’s a comfort in knowing that no matter what happens, your life remains. And not just the burdened life that so many have - but a new life where there is no condemnation.
One of my favourite verses in Paul’s letters comes in Philippians 1:21 when he says “for me to live in Christ and to die is gain”.
For any of you who have accepted Jesus - you have a life that can not be taken from you. A freedom that will always remain. You have a life that will survive even death.
That’s not to say death isn’t sad - because we even saw Jesus crying.
Death is a reminder that the world isn’t right.
But Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
And it is the resurrection that points us to something that we will remember in just two weeks time.
While Lazarus raising to life is not of the same nature of the powerful resurrection of Jesus, it does foreshadow this amazing event. And it will only be two weeks and we’ll see this event that it foreshadows.


Despair is gripping our nation and even our world. But while it is right to grieve the brokenness of our world, we can take great comfort in Jesus who is our resurrection and life.
Our comfort comes from knowing that in Jesus we can have a new life that will not see death.
For anyone listening who hasn’t experienced this new life, can I urge you to call out to Jesus.
All you need to do is just acknowledge the brokenness in your own life, and ask Jesus to come in.
If you want to ask questions, you can either leave a comment on our Facebook page, or even send the church’s Facebook page a direct message, and I would love to be in contact with you.
There really is hope to be found in Jesus. Not just some wishy washy sentimental fluff. But in a life changing experience that extends beyond this life and into the next.
Let me pray...
Related Media
See more
Related Sermons
See more