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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
 www.frcsr.com/fellowship/melville/
 
Title:Believe that Christ is the resurrection and the life
Text:John 11:25-27 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2018-09-30
Added:2021-12-12
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Bible Translation: ESV

Book of Praise: 2014

Psalm 16:1

Psalm 4:2

Hymn 68:1,4,8

Hymn 31:1,2

Psalm 16:5

 

Read:  John 11:1-46.

Text:  John 11:25-27

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Up until his death in March 2018, Stephen Hawkin was regarded by many to be the smartest man alive.  As a physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawkin developed clever theories about black holes and quantum gravity, and he wrote the book “A brief history of time.”  Widely regarded as an amazingly gifted and clever man, Hawkin developed a cult-like status among many, and the things that he said and theorized about were regarded with awe.  Stephen Hawkin was a scientist.  He had great faith in science, believing the study of science would eventually solve the world’s questions and that through science we might know “the mind of God.”  But when Stephen Hawkin spoke about “mind of God”, he did not mean to say that he believed in God.  To the contrary, Stephen Hawkin died as an atheist.  He once said,

“I believe the simplest explanation is, there is no God.  No-one created the universe and no-one directs our fate.  This leads me to a profound realisation that there probably is no heaven and no afterlife either.”

And at another time he said,

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail.  There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

And so when Stephen Hawkin died of motor neurone disease at the age of 76, he died believing that there was no God.  He died believing that he was on the way to knowing the deepest secrets of the universe and he died believing that his own cleverness had done away with the need for God.  Stephen Hawkin died as an atheist.  Which, in God’s eyes, makes Stephen Hawking not clever and certainly not wise but a fool.  Psalm 14:1,

“The fool says in his heart, There is no God.’”

And Psalm 14:2,3

“The LORD looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.  They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.”

But why is that so?  Why would men such as Stephen Hawkin conclude that there is no God?  Why would they believe that “there probably isn’t an afterlife” and why would they trust their inflated view of their own cleverness and not the received Word of God, the Bible?

  For all his cleverness, Stephen Hawkin could not truly peer into the dawn of time.  For all his cleverness, Hawkin wasn’t there when the earth was formed, nor did he come down from heaven so that he might have a clear and right understanding of how the world was formed and what happens when we die.  But what Stephen Hawkin could not do, the Bible says that the Lord Jesus did do. 

“In the beginning was the Word” John 1:1 says, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

And in John 3:13 the Lord Jesus said,

“No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.”

Jesus Christ was there in the beginning, with all things being created through Him.  And Jesus Christ has come down from above, He has come down from heaven so that in Him we might truly know the truth about life.  And He came not just to teach us about the truth about life and death, but He came to give life because He is life.  As He said to Martha in John 11:25,26

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die."

It is, therefore, not some abstract theory about God that we called to believe in, but in the God who has come to us in His Son Jesus Christ, the God through whom we may have life. 

I preach God’s Word to you with this message:

Believe that Christ is the resurrection and the life.

  1. Martha’s complaint.
  2. Christ’s claim.
  3. Martha’s confession.

1. Martha’s complaint.

Rather than place our faith in some cold and impersonal scientific theory, the Bible calls us to place our faith in the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Although the Christian faith is rational and it makes sense, we are not called to place our faith in a system of doctrine as such, nor in a number of statements.  Rather, we are called to place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who is the resurrection and the life.  It is in Jesus Christ and in His life and work that the glory of God has been made manifest.  And the glory of God in Christ can be seen in all its brightness when the Lord Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead in John chapter 11.

John 11 takes us to Bethany, to a town just outside of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives.  Certain friends of Jesus lived there:  two sisters, Mary and Martha, along with their brother Lazarus.  The Lord had evidently spent time in the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus in times past and a special relationship had been formed between them.  But now in John 11 we learn that Lazarus was sick.  And so Mary and Martha sent word to the Lord Jesus, who at that time was on the other side of the River Jordan, and they said to Him,

“Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

When Mary and Martha sent word to the Lord Jesus, they would not have done so flippantly.  The reason why Jesus was away on the other side of the River Jordan was because the Jewish leaders of Jerusalem wanted Him killed.  In fact in John 10, they had taken up stones with which to stone him.  But Mary and Martha were desperate:  Lazarus was sick and if he didn’t get help from Jesus soon, he would die.  And so they cried out to Jesus for help.

But when He heard the news, the Lord Jesus did not seem to be too disturbed.  Instead He said,

“This illness does not lead to death.  It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God might be glorified through it.”  (John 11:4.)

From this it appeared as though Lazarus would not die.  And then the Lord Jesus did nothing for two days but stayed where He was.  “Jesus loved Martha and her sister, and Lazarus”, John 11:5 tells us, but His love for them didn’t seem to hurry him along: He stayed another two days where He was.

But then after those two days the Lord said to the disciples,

“Let us go to Judea again.”  (John 11:7)

(Judea is the region around Jerusalem and Bethany.)

But now His disciples were not too keen.  What would the purpose be?  What was the point of travelling to Judea?  Wouldn’t that be too dangerous?  So they said to Jesus in verse 8,

“Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”

But the Lord Jesus had a good reason to return to Judea and to go to Bethany.  Indeed, He had to go to Bethany if God was to be glorified through what had happened and would happen to Lazarus.  Besides, until the time had come for Christ to be handed over to be crucified, it was still day, and no one would stop Him from doing what God the Father had given Him to do.  That’s what Jesus meant when He said in John 11:9,

 “Are there not twelve hours in the day?  If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.”

Now it was daytime and so now Christ would continue to work.

And then Jesus told them why He was going to Bethany and what He would do there.  John 11:11,

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”

But the disciples did not understand what Jesus meant and, not knowing that Lazarus had died, they said in verse 12,

“Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”

The which the Lord said to them plainly,

“Lazarus has died.”

And then Jesus said this, in verse 15.

“But for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe.  But let us go to him.”

“I am glad,” Jesus said, “that I was not there, that I was not there to heal Lazarus, that Lazarus is now dead.  I’m glad,” the Lord Jesus said, “so that you may believe.”

  But what does the Lord Jesus mean by all of this?  How will Lazarus’ death lead the disciples to believe?  And to believe what, exactly?  What is it that had happened, what is it that would happen?  And how would the glory of God be revealed through all of this?  The disciples did not understand.  As far as the disciples were concerned, Lazarus was dead and if Jesus went to Bethany, He too might soon be dead.  But Thomas said to his fellow disciples in John 11:16,

“Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

And so they went to Bethany.  But when they got to Bethany they found that not only was Lazarus dead, but he had been in the tomb for four days.  That Lazarus was already dead for four days is an interesting piece of information.  When you first read John 11, you might come to the conclusion that the reason why Lazarus died before the Lord got to Bethany was because the Lrod Jesus had stayed two more days in the place where He was. 

  However, that isn’t true.  If that was the case, then Lazarus would have been dead for a maximum of two days before the Lord Jesus came to Bethany, but as it was, Lazarus had already been dead for four days.  Perhaps, as some people think, that means that Lazarus had already died before the Lord Jesus received the first message that he was sick.  Or alternatively, perhaps the Lord Jesus was more than two days away from Bethany and that Lazarus died very soon after the Lord Jesus heard the news.  Whatever the case might be, Jesus knew that Lazarus would die and His decision to remain where he was for an extra two days was not a sign of indifference to the suffering of Lazarus or his sisters Martha and Mary, nor was it the reason why Lazarus died before He got there. 

  But what was the reason for the Lord Jesus to delay His coming to Bethany by an extra two days?  Why was it that He waited until Lazarus had died and why was it that Lazarus was dead for four days before the Lord Jesus brought him back to life?  The answer that the Bible gives us to this question is to tell us that this was how the glory of God would be made manifest.  Four days would have been long enough for the initial shock of Lazarus’ death to come home to Martha and Mary and for them to accept that he had truly died.  By day four the numb-ness of the initial shock would have turned to grief so that Martha’s – and Mary’s – complaint of “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” was a heartfelt cry.  Four days would also have been long enough for many people in Jerusalem and elsewhere to hear that Lazarus was dead so that by the time the Lord Jesus came the mourners had already been with Martha and Mary for some time.  And after four days, now that decay had begun to set in, there was no question as to whether or not Lazarus had truly died.  For Lazarus to be raised from the dead after being in the grave for four days was a miracle such as the world had never seen.  Indeed, only the One who had the keys to death itself, only the One who had the power to grant eternal life could do such a thing.

And so the Lord Jesus came to Bethany.  And hearing that He had arrived, Martha went and met Him, and she poured out her complaint.

 “Lord,” she said, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  (John 11:21)

“If only You had been here, Lord! But now it is too late, because Lazarus is dead.”

We can understand Martha’s complaint.  We can understand her cry.  How they had hoped – and no doubt prayed – that the Lord Jesus would get there on time, that He would come and lay His hands upon Lazarus, and that Lazarus might be healed.  But the Lord had not come, and now Lazarus was dead.  ‘If only, Jesus!  If only You had come!”

This was Martha’s complaint.  This was the outpouring of her grief.  But even as she said this to the Lord Jesus, Martha’s complaint was not a criticism.  Martha is not blaming the Lord Jesus here for Lazarus’ death.  As things stood, even in the Lord Jesus had come to Bethany immediately after hearing that Lazarus was sick, Lazarus would still have been dead for two days before he got there.  So Martha is not criticising but she is grieving, and she is voicing that oh-so-human reaction,

“If only!  If only Lazarus had not died so soon!  If only the Lord Jesus had been here, Lazarus would not have died.”

But Martha’s faith in the Lord Jesus was still strong.  For all her saying “if only” and for all her complaint, Martha was still thankful to see the Lord Jesus at last, and she still trusted that He could help.  The Son of God would be glorified through Lazarus, the Lord Jesus had said.  Martha could not have known how that would happen but she believed that it could.  And so she said further to the Lord Jesus in John 11:22,

“But even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.’”

Martha still trusts the Lord Jesus, she still believes in Him.  “Whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”  Martha’s complaint is as much an expression of faith as it is an expression of grief.  Martha is not expecting Lazarus to be raised from the dead any time soon.  But she still trusts the Lord Jesus, she still clings to Him in faith.

And soon Martha would get to trust in the Lord Jesus and to know Him in a way that was greater than ever before.  Soon Martha would learn what it means to truly believe in Jesus.  Soon Martha would see in Jesus the glory of God.  Soon she would see that the Lord Jesus is the One He claims to be.  We’ll see this in our second point.

 

2. Christ’s claim.

When Martha came and spoke to the Lord Jesus, Jesus said to her in verse 23,

“Your brother will rise again.”

To which Martha responded in faith,

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

And what Martha said here was a wonderful confession concerning her hope in the resurrection of the dead.  There were some in Israel, the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection, but Martha was sure that Lazarus would not remain in the grave forever:  one day, on the last day, he along with all God’s people would be raised to eternal life.  Lazarus was dead, but he would not remain dead forever: when the trumpet sounded, he would be raised.

  But even though this is all very true, what the Lord Jesus wanted Martha to understand is that “the resurrection” is not just a distant hope; rather, “the resurrection” is a present reality.  And so Jesus said to her,

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.  And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”  (John 11:25-26.)

And do you see what Jesus is saying here?  Martha has rightly confessed that she believes in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting, but now Jesus is teaching her – and us – that He is the resurrection and the life.  When the Lord spoke to Martha, He did not simply tell her to cling to a future hope, nor to hold out in the hope of the life to come – true though these things are – but He told her to cling to Him, he told her to believe in Him, to recognise that He is the resurrection and the life.  Or, as it says in John 1:4,

“In Him, [that is, Jesus Christ], was life, and the life was the light of men.”

This is what Stephen Hawking failed to understand.  This is what he didn’t get, what he did not accept.  When we believe in God and when we believe in heaven, in the afterlife and even in the resurrection, we are not believing in our version of reality, nor are we simply holding on to a list of things we hold as true.  But rather, when we believe in the resurrection and the life, we believe in a Person.  We believe in the one who has come into this world.  We believe in Him who is both the Son of Man and the Son of God.  We believe in Jesus Christ, the great I AM, the One who is God of God, Light of light, true God of true God.  We believe in the One who for us men and our salvation , came down from heaven.  We believe in the One who died and rose again so that when we believe in Him, though we die, yet we may live, and so that we who live and believe in Him should never die but have everlasting life.  Stephen Hawking, the man many have called the smartest person in our generation, did not believe this.  He did not know the Lord Jesus and so, to the best of our knowledge, he has entered into an eternity outside of Christ and the life that Christ came to bring.  But do you believe this?  Do you believe that Jesus is whom He claims to be?  Do you believe that He is the resurrection and the life?  That brings us to our third point,

 

3. Martha’s confession.

When the Lord Jesus declared Himself to be the resurrection and the life, He asked Martha,

“Do you believe this?”

To which Martha replied,

“Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming  into the world.”  (John 11:27)

Martha said, “You are the Christ.  you are the Messiah, the Anointed One, the One whom God the Father ordained to save us.  And you are the Son of God, you yourself are God, you truly are the great I AM.  And you are the One who is to come into the world.  You are the Saviour we’ve been waiting for.  You are the fulfilment all that the prophets foretold.  You are all you have ever claimed to be.  You are the Christ.  You are the resurrection.  And You are the life.”

Did Martha understand it all?  Did she really comprehend what she was saying here?  Did Martha know Christ as we may know Him?  To an extent she did, but until the Lord Jesus went to die for our sin, until He Himself lay in a tomb for three days and until He rose from the dead, Martha’s full comprehension of who the Lord Jesus Christ is would not have been complete.  But Martha made the good confession and what she said was true.

And now what about you?  What is your confession?  What do you believe concerning the Christ, the Son of God?

Although Martha’s confession was right, she still struggled to live from what she confessed.  Although Martha knew what was true and although she believed that “whatever the Lord Jesus asked of God, God would give to Him”, she struggled to comprehend what it really meant for the Lord Jesus to be the resurrection and the life.  And so when the Lord of Life commanded that Lazarus’ tomb be opened, Martha objected since her brother had been dead for four days.  But Martha would see Jesus stand in front of her brother’s tomb.  Martha would hear Jesus pray to God, thanking Him that He would always hear Him and Martha would hear Christ cry in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”  And Martha would see him who had died come out.  And Martha would believe that Jesus is the Christ, that He is the resurrection and the life.

But now what about you?  What do you believe concerning the Christ?  What do you believe concerning the One who came down from heaven for us and for our salvation?  What do you believe concerning Him who died and who now lives?  When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,

“many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him.  But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.”

Many believed, but others refused.  But do you believe?  Do you believe not just in the existence of God, do you believe not just in the hope of an afterlife, but do you believe in the Person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God?  Do you believe in Him who died and who rose again?  Jesus said,

“I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.  Do you believe this?”

To which we must all say, “Yes, Lord!  I believe.  You are the Christ, the Son of God.  You are the One who is to come into the world.  You are my Saviour.  And You are my life!”  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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