I am the Resurrection and the Life

The promise that Jesus is the resurrection and the life brings eternal hope.

George Wright
May 17, 2020    38m
In this sermon Pastor George Wright reminds us that the promise that Jesus is the resurrection and the life should bring us eternal hope even in the face of the reality of death. He explains that this is a truth we can lean into during this time of fear and uncertainty that we are all facing. Video recorded at Columbia, South Carolina.

messageRegarding Grammar:

This is a transcription of the sermon. People speak differently than they write, and there are common colloquialisms in this transcript that sound good when spoken, and look like bad grammar when written.

George Wright: 00:01 Today, before we step into this message, I just want to let you know that we are working on our plans for how we can re-gather together again in person as a church. As things are starting to open up slowly around us in our community, we do want you to know that we are prayerfully considering the right steps to take and the right timing for when we can get back together in person. If you want more information about that we've got it on our website, and after this service we just encourage you to go check out the video that we made, and some of the details that relate to our reentry plan. So thank you for praying for us. Thank you for your patience with us as we continue to move forward in this process, and in this very unusual season. And we are seeking God's wisdom, and looking forward to the day when we can see one another again, face to face.

George Wright: 00:49 But for now let's grab a Bible and let's step into today's message, and we're going to be in John's gospel chapter 11. And if you're new to Shandon, or if this is your first Sunday joining us for one of these services online, we want you to know we're in the middle of a series right now that is simply titled, 'Who is Jesus?'. And we're trying to see from the word of God itself, and from the mouth of Jesus himself, who Jesus is and why he came. And in John's gospel we see seven specific statements that Jesus makes about himself, these are called the "I am" statements of Jesus.

George Wright: 01:26 And today we are looking specifically at the fifth 'I am' statement of Jesus in John's gospel, John chapter 11 verses 25 and 26. And I would like to invite you, as strange as this may feel, to stand wherever you are as you join in for this service. And the reason we stand, is so that we all can be reminded that the word of God is the authority for the people of God. It is the foundation that we are built upon, and the word of God reveals to us what God says is right and good and true. So we stand in reverence to the Holy scripture. John chapter 11 verse 25 and 26, "Jesus said to her, (speaking to a woman named Martha) 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?" The word of the Lord.

George Wright: 02:37 Pray with me as we consider God's word together today. Father, we are grateful for the opportunity to have a time like this where we can turn our attention to your word. And in the midst of all this going on around us, and in the midst of all the things that we have been walking through, we've had this beautiful privilege of hearing from you. And so I pray, Lord God, that you would open our eyes to see as you want us to see, open our ears to hear what you want us to hear, and use this time, Lord God, to draw near to us as we seek to draw near to you. We need to hear from you, so have your way among us. I pray, that we are not the same as a result of that which you say. We commit this time to you in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. And if you were standing, you may be seated. Go ahead and get comfortable as we step into this very important, and very beautiful scripture.

George Wright: 03:47 This statement of Jesus, in John chapter 11, that he makes about himself is so incredibly relevant to where we are today. In fact, I would propose to you that the statement Jesus makes in John 11 is an absolute game changer, because Jesus is speaking to one of the greatest issues of fear that mankind wrestles with. It is the fear of death. He is stepping into the reality that we all must come face to face with at different points in our life, as it relates to others around us, and it's certainly a reality that we all will face in our own life someday. What do we do in the face of death? Jesus confronts this head on. If there's anything that this season of uncertainty has provided for us all, it has brought us face to face with our own mortality. And we've been seeing images, and hearing stories, and recognizing the fragility of life. That a disease can literally come in at any point, and ravage a life. That's a sobering thought. None of us know the number of our days, and this idea, this topic of death and our own mortality is something we often try to avoid, but certainly we've been navigating a time right now where it seems to be everywhere we turn.

George Wright: 05:32 The fear of death is one of the most prominent fears that humanity faces. John 11 is a story of death. We see Jesus stepping into a scene of death, in the death of a man that Jesus knew well. In fact, the death of a close friend of Jesus, a man named Lazarus. Go back to the beginning of John chapter 11, and let's set the stage for what is taking place in this story. John 11 verse 1 says, "Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, to Jesus saying, Lord, he whom you love is ill." This is not just a stranger, this is not just any person that is sick and at death's door, this is a good family friend of Jesus, a close brother to him, someone that he loved dearly. Martha and Mary, Lazarus's sisters, they send for Jesus. And they say, Jesus, your friend, your close friend, the one that you love, he's sick, he's ill, he's not doing well. We need your help. And certainly, since this is a close friend of Jesus, we would think that the next verse of John chapter 11 would tell us that Jesus immediately, urgently, left all that he was doing and made his way to Bethany as quickly as possible so that he could be at the side of a friend in need.

George Wright: 07:35 But the scripture actually shows us something very different altogether. Look at the way Jesus responds to the request that has been made of him to come see Lazarus in his time of need. John chapter 11 verse 4, we go back to the word of God, it says, "But when Jesus heard this, he said, this illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. Now, Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus, so when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was." What in the world is taking place here? I mean, certainly this is a typo in the scripture, right? Are we reading this right? That Jesus does not immediately rush to be with Lazarus at his bedside in his urgent time of need? Jesus does not drop everything to go to a friend in need. How in the world could this be right? But not only that, the scripture makes it clear. John is intentional in the language that is being used, as he pens this story inspired by the spirit of God. It is because Jesus loves him, that he does not immediately go. It is because Jesus loves Martha and Mary and Lazarus, that he stays two days longer, right where he is instead of going to them immediately and urgently in their time of need. This just does not seem to make sense at all. Why in the world would Jesus delay going to see someone in a time of need? If Jesus truly loves them, why does he not give them what they ask for in the moment on the spot? If Jesus truly loves them, why does he not do for them what they want from him?

George Wright: 10:08 After all, does it love always give us what we want? That's what we want to believe, is it not? In fact, many people believe that the only way that they can truly experience love, is if they get exactly what they want. If someone really loves me, they're going to give me what I want. If someone really loves me, they're going to do what I want them to do. You know, this is the way our kids believe, right? Dad, if you really love me, give me some ice cream. Dad, if you really love me, show me that you love me by giving me what I want. I'll tell you in our house, my two daughters McKenna and Anna Beth, they are really good at trying to play the love card with their daddy when there's something they want. You know, they come to me with a beautiful smile, acting all sweet. Hey dad, because you love me, don't you want to take me to Starbucks? Hey dad, because you love me, don't you want to order me this from Amazon? Hey dad, because you love me, don't you want to give me some money? To which I love to respond, no. It's because I love you that I'm not going to do exactly what you want. It's because I love you that you can't have everything that you want. It's because I love you that I actually know better for you than what you know for yourself. But don't we so often want to believe that love is all about getting what we want. It's not easy for us to accept, that sometimes, love is not just about what we want. Sometimes true love, it really is going to be pointing us to what we need.

George Wright: 12:15 In this story, it's not easy for Martha and Mary. They are asking Jesus to give them something that they want, but at the same time it appears to be something that they desperately need. Right? I mean this is not some trivial request for ice cream, or money to go out and do something fun. No, they have a urgent need, their brother is sick. And since you love our brother Jesus, and since you love us, Jesus, please come and help us in this legitimate requests. Jesus please! And yet, Jesus intentionally stays two days longer before he begins their journey to see them. Why would he respond this way?

George Wright: 13:11 To help give us a little better understanding into the way Jesus is responding in this story, I want to encourage you to turn in your scripture to the Old Testament, to Isaiah chapter 55. Isaiah chapter 55 verses 8 and 9, listen to what the word of God says about God, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts then your thoughts." This is an incredibly important passage of scripture. Challenging verses to consider for sure, but of the utmost importance as we seek to understand the deep theological truth about our God, and why he does what he does. For the scripture reveals, God sees more than we see, and God knows more than we know. And God has a plan, and God has a purpose in all things, even when we can't see it, and even when we don't understand it. So the question is, are we willing to believe, in faith, that God knows what best, even when it is different from what we want? This may be one of the most important questions we ever ask. Are we willing to believe in faith that God is in control, even when things don't go the way we want them to go? Are we willing to believe in faith that God is sovereign and reigning over all things, even when we can't understand why things are happening the way they are happening around us?

George Wright: 15:30 We turn your attention to a quote from pastor Greg Mott, who's the pastor of Houston's First Baptist Church in Texas, in a book he wrote that is titled, I Am Changes Who I Am. Listen to this, he writes, "Jesus' delay is a calculated move towards what is most glorifying to God, not what is physically preferred for Lazarus or emotionally preferred for his family. God's eternal preference is always for his glory. (Don't miss this.) We might as well settle it right now, our preferences will always be trumped by his glory. There will be countless times in our lives when God's glory supersedes our convenience, change of circumstances, or comfort. In those moments, it is a battle to depend on God, but his strength is sufficient for those who lean heavily upon him." There is so much in that statement of deep importance as we recognize that God sees what we can't see, and God knows what we don't know. And while we are limited and confined to a space in time and our perspective, God is not limited by time and space, and God sees the big picture in all things, and God is at work for his glory. Our preferences, what a statement, our preferences will always be trumped for his glory.

George Wright: 17:29 In delaying going to see Lazarus, Jesus is actually confronting death head on, and showing that God is at work for greater things, even though those who are crying out to him in that moment don't see it. Jesus is showing us that death does not have the final say. This is so important, especially now as we are being confronted with the reality of death in a way that we often try to avoid. Jesus is showing us that yes, death is inevitable for us all. But for those who are in Christ, death is not final, and death is not ultimate, and most importantly, death does not win. Jesus is challenging us to consider our perspective of death, because it is only when you live in confidence in Christ in the face of death, that you will truly live in the freedom that he desires for you to enjoy. Knowing that your eternity is secure, and your future is certain.

George Wright: 19:06 Listen to this quote by C. S. Lewis, written many years ago, around the time of World War II. When again, death was at the forefront of many people's minds. Lewis writes, "If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world, were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world, that they have become so ineffective in this." What is Lewis saying, Lewis is saying that the Christians who fix their eyes on eternity and know that their future is secure, are the Christians that live to make the most of this life and every moment that God has given them in this world. Because they know that death is coming, but death does not have the final word.

George Wright: 20:17 This is where Jesus is pointing us in this encounter with Lazarus and his sisters as Lazarus is on death's door, Jesus delays going to visit Lazarus, because he wants to reveal a very important truth about death. And we see that as we continue in the story, and lead back to the 'I am' statement of Jesus in John 11 . Let's first hit verses 17 and 21 of John 11 as we approach this great statement that Jesus makes. John 11 verse 17 says, "Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days." So by the time Jesus gets to where Lazarus was ill, he has been dead and in the tomb for four days. Jesus delayed going to see them, it took them time to travel, and so as he gets here, Lazarus is unequivocally dead, there is no question about it. In verse 21, "Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Lord, if you had been here, if you had done what we asked, if you had came when we called, Lord, if you had done this for us, Lazarus would still be alive. I am so grateful for the transparency of scripture, because this is a devastating scene, this is a scene of intense grief. Martha is crushed, her brother that she loves has been in the tomb four days, no question he's dead, no hope of seeing him again. And yet, she knows Jesus could have done something. So she's very honest. Jesus, I'm disappointed. Jesus, if you had been here, Lazarus would still be alive. Have you ever felt disappointment like this? Jesus, if you had done something to change my spouse's heart, I'd still be married. Jesus, if you had done something to change the way that went down at the office, I'd still have a job. And Jesus, if you are the great healer, if you are the great miracle worker, and you had done something, I would still have my loved one who is now gone. This is painfully transparent, Martha is grieving, she does not understand. Jesus, why did you not do what you could do, when I asked? And we feel the angst and the disappointment in her words.

George Wright: 23:45 But look at the next statement that she makes, the next words that come out of Martha's mouth, John 11:22, "But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” This is an amazing statement of faith. Martha is saying, I don't understand, but I still believe. I don't understand, but I still have faith in you, my God. This just might be one of the most important statements that we could ever say. I just don't get it, but I trust you. I just don't see it, but I still believe in you. You have the power to do what you know is best, because you see not as I see, you see far more clearly than I. You know not what I know, you know far more than I. You are God. I am not. I don't understand this, but I will trust in you

George Wright: 25:10 And is that that statement, that Jesus then says these beautiful words. John chapter 11 verses 23 and 24, he starts to give Martha a totally new perspective of death. Look at what the scripture says, "Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” You see Martha's coming to Jesus from a traditional Jewish perspective, believing that those who are faithful to God on the last day will rise, will be with God. That is an ancient Jewish perspective that Martha was holding on to as a person of faith.

George Wright: 26:02 But Jesus is using this scene to show her a brand new perspective all together, he wants her to see something about death and the power of the resurrection that she has never seen before. And this leads us back to the 'I am' statement where we started this morning, John 11 verse 25, "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?” This is one of the greatest statements of hope in all of the scripture, one of the greatest statements of hope that anyone could ever hear. This beautiful, ultimate, gift of confidence in the face of uncertainty and in the face of death, is the promise of Christ and his authority over life and over death. You see in Jesus Christ, death does not win, it is not ultimate. In Christ, there is a promise of life everlasting, a promise that he alone can provide. Because this statement of Jesus is actually a prophetic preview of what he is about to endure, so that you and I in Christ might live. He has given his life at the cross. He has gone toe to toe with death in the arena, and he has come out victorious on the other side in the power of his resurrection. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and all who trust in him receive not only the gift of eternal life, but the gift of confidence in this life because we have the assurance of salvation in the only one who has given all so that we might live. For those who are in Christ. Jesus is saying, death is simply the beginning of experiencing the greatest gift that we could ever receive. Because in Christ, we have an eternal hope, that says the resurrection and the life has the final say.

George Wright: 28:47 Turn your attention to one final quote, as we prepare to conclude this message today. This is from Dr. Russell Moore, he writes, "The worst thing that could possibly happen to us has already happened, we're dead, dead in our sin. We were crucified at skull place under the wrath of God for our sin. And the best thing that could happen to us, has already happened, we're alive in Christ and our future is seated at the right hand of God." This is your reality, if you are a follower of Jesus. He goes on, "Jesus is marching onward, with or without us, and the Gates of Hell cannot hold him back." So why on earth would we be panicked? Times may grow dark indeed, but times have always been dark. Nonetheless, the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not, the darkness will not, and the darkness cannot overcome it. This is the promise of the resurrection and the life. This is the confidence that we have in the face of death, because of what Jesus Christ has done for us that we could never do for ourselves. Do you have this confidence? Do you know this hope? What Jesus is saying to Martha, he is saying to each one of us, "I am the resurrection and the life, and whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he shall live."

George Wright: 30:51 And then to put the icing on the cake, to put the cherry on top, we continue in John 11 as we conclude this message by looking at verses 43 and 44, as Jesus confronts death head on. It says, "When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go for death has no authority here, and death will not have the final say." This beautiful, prophetic, preview of what would take place just a few days later, as Jesus would go to the cross and die for your sins and mine. And be prepared for burial and placed in a tomb, where he would remain for three days in the ground, as it appeared like death had won. Jesus says, Lazarus, come out of the tomb, and I'm coming out too. Because I am the resurrection and the life. A dead man lives in the power of Christ, and provides this beautiful picture of the victory that we have through the resurrection and the life of the Lord and savior Jesus Christ, who came walking out of the tomb to defeat sin and death once and for all.

George Wright: 32:57 The question for you and for me, is simply, do you believe it? Jesus spoke to Martha and said, I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he may die, yet he shall live, and all who are in me shall never die. Do you believe it? In the face of death, in the fear of death, do you believe that there is one called the resurrection and the life, who is inviting you into the gift of life right now through his death and resurrection, and inviting you into the gift of eternal life forevermore, that there would be confidence now in this life today to live for the glory of God above all else, because you know in Christ death does not have the final say? Do you believe when Jesus Christ says, he is the resurrection and the life and he invites you to come and find life in him?

George Wright: 34:29 With that in mind, let's pray as we conclude our time together, reflecting on the good news of what the word of God reveals to us here today. Father God, I am so very grateful for this beautiful story, in the face of such a sobering reality. Thinking about death is never fun. Seeing a loved one endure death is devastating. Coming face to face with our own mortality, and seeing death around us is incredibly sobering, and so often terribly frightening. And yet, you in your love and your grace toward us, did not shy away from death or run away from death. But you stepped right into the middle of death. to show that death would not have the final say, because of the gift of the resurrection and the life that is found in Jesus. Lord, I pray for those today whose confidence has been shaken, who are living in fear of death, living in anxiety because of the fragility of this life. Lord, I pray in the power of your spirit, that you would build them up in the promised hope that we have through Christ, and use your church to show the world around us that there is hope even in the face of death.

George Wright: 36:26 Father, I pray now for those who are joining us today who have never trusted their life to Christ, and as they think about what happens beyond this life, they are tremendously frightened or full of questions and concern. I pray, Lord God, that today would be the day that they recognize there is a savior, his name is Jesus, he is the resurrection and the life. And I pray that today would be the day, that they would place their trust in him and simply say, Jesus, I am ready to follow you. I am trusting my life into your hands. I am believing that there is an eternal hope for me, because of your forgiveness and grace that comes through the power of the cross, and the resurrection of my Lord. I trust Jesus. I believe it.

George Wright: 37:35 Oh Lord, how grateful we are for the promised hope that we have in Christ, and for the certainty and the clarity that we can have as we think about the gift of eternal life that comes to us through the resurrection and the life. Give us the confidence to walk in faith as one who knows that our eternity is secure. We thank you for what you have done for us in Jesus Christ, our Lord. It's in his name, I pray. Amen. God bless you and look forward to seeing you again real soon.

Recorded in Columbia, South Carolina.
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Shandon Baptist Church
5250 Forest Drive
Columbia, South Carolina 29206