St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Jesus Challenges Us To Believe In Life

Sermon on John 11:17-27, 38-45

Text: On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 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.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.”
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

A good coach or teacher will sometimes challenge their athletes or students to do better. This is not to say that they have been doing a poor job up to this point. However, there is always room for improvement. For that reason, the coach may have his team work on a play until they get it perfect and can run it in their sleep. The teacher may challenge certain students in their class because they see the potential in them. They can achieve more than they thought, but they have to be pushed a little bit. It is not always easy or pleasant to be challenged like this, but the results are worth it. This morning, Jesus challenged Martha and challenges us, as well. JESUS CHALLENGES US TO BELIEVE IN LIFE. 1. He Is The Resurrection And The Life. 2. He Gives Life To All Who Trust In Him. 3. He Encourages Us To Trust In Him For Life.

Our text revolves around a very sad event in peoples’ lives, namely, a death. Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus had died four days earlier. Jesus and his disciples came to the village of Bethany. Mary and Martha were the sisters of Lazarus and, when they heard that Jesus had arrived, Martha went out to meet Jesus, while Mary stayed home.

In the middle of Jesus’ conversation, Jesus makes one of his “I AM” statements that John records for us. For example, Jesus had said, “I am the good shepherd” and “I am the light of the world.” Here Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (Verse 25) Jesus did not say that he is the giver of resurrection and life, but that he was the resurrection and the life. He is the embodiment of these things. It is because of him that we have our hope of resurrection on the Last Day and eternal life in heaven. If he had not come, there would be no resurrection to life, but a resurrection on the Last Day to eternal death. Physical death is a grim reminder that there is sin in the world. Ever since the Fall in the Garden of Eden, there has been death. Because of our sins, we deserve eternal death in hell. We see evidence of sin every day in our lives. We might think of the times when we did not trust that God would do for us what he said he would in caring for us. We might think of times when we refused to be as loving to others as we ought to have been, because of something that was said or done in the past. All sin is equally condemning, and we are all sinners.

However, Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He came to give us what we would not have had. He came to the earth to keep his Father’s will, including the times when he trusted in his heavenly Father to provide. Jesus was always loving, even to those who were not loving to him. Jesus, then, took our sins and went to the cross. In a couple of weeks, we will walk with Jesus from the courtroom to the cross. We will watch as he suffers the punishment that we deserved for our sins. We will hear him cry out, “It is finished” (John 19:30) and then listen as he confidently says, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) He laid down his life as a perfect sacrifice for us. He died, so that we might have life. We also will have the wonderful privilege in a couple of weeks of going to a tomb, like that of Lazarus’, but this tomb will be empty, because Jesus rose from the dead. The result of Jesus resurrection is told to us in John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live.” This is what Jesus was talking about when he told Martha, “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (Verses 25&26) Even though our eyes might close in the sleep of death, we have this assurance that not even death can separate us from our God. Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, we have a resurrection to eternal life to look forward to.

We note the faith of Martha in the conversation she had with Jesus. When Jesus arrived, she said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (Verse 22) Please note that Martha was not scolding Jesus. She is stating that, if Jesus had been there, she had no doubt that Jesus could have and would have healed her brother. Then she goes on to say, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (Verse 22) It does not seem as though Martha was asking Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead, as we note from later in the text where she tried to deter Jesus from having the tomb opened. Rather, this is one of those prayers that we probably have all prayed at one time or another. We do not know exactly what to pray for in a certain situation, so we pray that, though we do not know what to ask for, God will certainly do what is the best, either for us or the person we are praying for.

We further note the faith that Martha had been given, because when Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again,” (Verse 23) Martha responded, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (Verse 24) She had been given a faith that trusted in the facts of the resurrection at the end of time. This is not something that she would have had on her own. It was a faith that the Holy Spirit had created in her. She, like us, was born spiritually dead. However, as Jesus taught her, she had been given spiritual life. The same hold true for you and for me. We, also, were born spiritually dead. We have been made alive in Christ when we were brought to faith. Later in our text, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He came out of the tomb at Jesus’ mighty command. He, who was dead, was now alive. What an amazing miracle! However, Lazarus did die again. His physical life came to an end again. However, the life that we receive from Jesus, because of his work, will go on forever. We know that we will be with the Lord in the glories of heaven.

After Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die,” he asked her point blank, “Do you believe this?” (Verses 25&26) ‘Martha, you say that you believe in the resurrection. You say that you believe that God will do whatever I ask.’ “Do you believe this?” Jesus was not scolding Martha. He was asking her to search her heart and see what she truly believed. When you get right down to it, what do you believe? What a beautiful answer Martha gave! She said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (Verse 27) Whatever bad impressions of Martha we may have been left with when we hear the story of Mary and Martha, they quickly disappear as we hear Martha speak these words. She becomes the spokesman for believers who find their life in Christ Jesus and whose hope for resurrection is a confirmed part of their existence. Jesus asked, “Do you believe this?’ and Martha responded with a beautiful confession of faith. Her faith was not disappointed in that Jesus raised her brother from the dead. Her faith was not disappointed when she closed her eyes in death. As a believer, she is enjoying all that her Savior won for her.

Jesus asks you and me this same question, “Do you believe this?” It seems so easy to say “Yes, I do” at this moment, when everything is going well. What about when we face death head on, whether it be our own death or the death of a loved one? This is where Jesus encourages us to trust in him for life. It is kind of like if we were in a building that is on fire, and we are on the fifth story. The firemen below us are telling us to jump. Do you trust that they will catch you? When we stand on the precipice of death, whether our own or that of a loved one, we can have this confidence that Jesus will catch us. It is not an easy thing to do. It takes faith. It takes trust. However, we know that we can trust the one who did everything so that we could be with him in heaven. Jesus encourages us to trust in him for life.

We must admit that we are sometimes like the father who asked Jesus to heal his son. He said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” Jesus said, “‘If you can’? Everything is possible for one who believes.” To this the man said, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:22-24) We ask that Jesus would help in the same way. When the Lord challenges us, especially at the hour of death, we pray that the Lord would help us to overcome any doubts or misgivings we might have. We know that we can trust in him. He will not let us fall. Jesus challenges us to believe in life. This is not always easy to do. However, with the strength he provides, we will be able to meet this challenge and will receive the blessings of eternal life. Amen.