The ResurrectionRev. Philip Miller | April 4, 2021
Selected highlights from this sermon
Pastor Miller revisits the resurrection of Lazarus and shows us how that event undergirds, anticipates, and foreshadows Jesus’ own resurrection and its relevance today. Jesus is the key to life, not just here and now, but in all of eternity.
And if we’re living life our own way, we are dying inside. But Jesus has done everything required to make us right with God and alive forever. Let’s consider with Pastor Miller the important question that each and every one of us needs to answer: Is the resurrection life real in you?
Well, today is Resurrection Sunday. Amen? (applause)
On Easter what we traditionally do is go to the Gospels and to one of the resurrection stories, where we find the tomb empty and Jesus risen from the dead. And so today in my first ever Easter service at The Moody Church, I want to break with tradition (laughs). So I know that’s risky, but what I want to do is take a look at an event that took place just a couple of weeks before Jesus’ own resurrection. It is the time when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. And it is this story that undergirds and anticipates and foreshadows everything that will happen in Jesus’ own resurrection in just a few days. Jesus shows us the significance of His own resurrection ahead of time by raising his friend, Lazarus, from the grave. And so we’re going to be today in John, chapter 11. We’re going to look at verses 20 to 28, and 32 to 44.
If you would grab your Bibles and open them up to John, chapter 11, that would be great. If you didn’t bring a Bible and would like to use the blue pew Bible there, you can find today’s reading on page 897, 897.
Now, just by way of background as we get started here, Lazarus lived in a town called Bethany, which was just a couple miles from Jerusalem. He lived there with his two sisters, Martha and Mary, and these three were good friends of Jesus. Lazarus had contracted a deadly illness, and so his sisters sent for Jesus because He was a healer. But by the time Jesus had arrived, Lazarus had died. In fact, he had been dead for four days, and everyone believed that all hope was lost. But, friends, hope is never lost when Jesus is your friend. Amen?
So let’s listen in now to this very tender, honest story in John, chapter 11. Let’s bow our heads and ask the Lord to be our teacher as we turn to God’s Word.
Heavenly Father, we ask now that you would show us Jesus in all of His power, His love, and His resurrection strength. Help us to see Him and respond to Him today. We pray this in His name, amen. Amen.
John 11:20: “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ 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.’ 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?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.’ When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’”
Now skip down to verse 32: “Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.’ 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.’”
Thanks be to the Lord for the reading of His Word.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this scene is so gripping. It’s moving to my heart. It’s almost impossible to read it and not be moved. And at the very center of this account is a statement that Jesus makes. It’s in verses 25 and 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.” And this statement has really three phrases in it, and what I want to do this morning is tackle that central statement in each of those three phrases in turn. And what we’re going to see is the resurrection that is near, that is there, and that is here. The resurrection near, the resurrection there, and the resurrection here. And this statement is the key to understanding how Lazarus was able to walk out of his grave. It’s the key to understanding how Jesus was able to walk out of His grave a couple weeks later, and it is the key to understanding how you and I can walk out of our graves as well.
So let’s go. First, The Resurrection: Near. Jesus opens this phrase saying, “I am the resurrection and the life.” I am the resurrection and the life. Now Jesus’ statement is not, “I have the power of the resurrection and the life,” nor is it, “I can give you the resurrection and the life,” nor, “I have the keys to the resurrection and the life,” although all of those things would be true. What He says is, “I am the resurrection and the life,” which means that Jesus Himself, Jesus is the key to resurrection life. Jesus is the key to resurrection life. Jesus is the epicenter of resurrection life, if you will.
We think of—like an earthquake, right? All the power radiates from a central point, the epicenter. And of course it’s very destructive and tears everything apart, but what Jesus is saying here is, “I am the epicenter of life. I have life in myself, and it is like seismic waves pulsating from my being, not in destruction but in life-giving power. I am the resurrection and the life, and here I am. I have come near to you. I am right here. I am with you. I am the embodiment of resurrection life, and I am standing right in front of you.”
Now this is utterly audacious, isn’t it? I mean, who says stuff like this? It would be one thing if He said, “Let me give you the principle, so that you can have a resurrection life.” That’s not what He says. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” Either He is raving mad, friends, or He’s lying through His teeth, or He is in fact who He claims to be, that He is the resurrection and the life, come near to us in Himself.
Martha and Mary, of course, called the healer. What they never expected was the resurrection and the life. And yet, here He is. He is near. That’s The Resurrection: Near.
Secondly, we want to see now The Resurrection: There. Jesus says in the second phrase, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. Do you see what He’s saying here? He says, “If you believe in me (Jesus), though (we) he die (Out here, right?), yet he shall live.” So in other words, He’s saying, “After death, there is life in Himself if we will believe in Him.” In other words, Jesus is the key to resurrection life beyond death. Jesus is the key to resurrection life beyond death.
Remember what Jesus told Martha in the conversation in verse 23. He said, “Your brother will live again. He will rise again.” And Martha responded (verse 24), “I know he will rise again on the last day (the resurrection at the last day).” See, Martha understands her Bible. She knows her Bible well, that people were made for eternity, that we were never meant to die. And so God had promised, at the end of time, that He would resurrect everyone who had ever died, and some would live an eternal life in relationship with God forever, and others would be raised for judgment far from His presence forever.
And Martha thinks, when Jesus says, “Your brother will live again,” that’s what He’s talking about, that ultimate final resurrection at the very end of time. But Jesus has more immediate plans, doesn’t He? And I love the heart of Jesus that we see in this passage especially in verses 33 to 35 which say, “Jesus was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’” And then the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept.” Jesus wept.
This is so very different, friends, than the way we deal with death in our Western culture. We basically have two strategies in the west for dealing with death. The first strategy we have is we try to deny it. We try to deny that death is a real thing. We ignore it. We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t like to think about it. We change the subject. We look away. We are profoundly uncomfortable and embarrassed by death, aren’t we? Some of you are uncomfortable right now because I’m talking about death. And psychologists tell us that the more we deny a fear the more it has control over our lives. Right? This is not healthy.
The second we we try to deal with death is we sentimentalize it. We say, “Well, you know, death is just a natural part of life. It’s just a drop of water slipping back into the big ocean, and people who have gone on are like stars watching over us. You know, they’ll always be a part of us. They’ll live forever in our hearts.” But friends, the Bible doesn’t do either of these things. It doesn’t deny death, and it doesn’t sentimentalize death. The Bible is utterly honest about the reality of death.
The Bible will tell us three things about death. Number one: it’s an enemy. Death is an enemy. Notice how Jesus responds here in this passage. In verse 33 and 38 the text says He was deeply moved. If you were to look up those words, behind those, in Greek you would find it’s more than just being moved. It’s angry. It’s indignant and sorrowful rage. The idea here is that Jesus is bellowing mad at death.
In verse 35, Jesus weeps. He wept. Not little Oprah tears. No, He bawled, body convulsing, weeping. Why? Because death is an enemy. Death is an enemy, and you and I know that deep down, don’t we? We know this to be true, that death is horrific. It is a twisting, dehumanizing, monstrous thing. Our very being recoils at its presence because we know the second thing the Bible says is that death is unnatural. Death is unnatural. We were never meant to face death, friends. God made us in the beginning to live forever. It is because of our sin that we die.
The Bible tells us that death is an unnatural parasite, that is sapping life and goodness from this world. This is not the way it was supposed to be. And that’s why Jesus is angry, you see. That’s why He weeps. Death is leaving fang marks on His friends, and Jesus grits His teeth and says, “This must stop!”
The third thing the Bible will tell us about death is good news, is that it’s defeated. Death is defeated. The story in the Bible is that Jesus Christ came and He laid down His life on the cross. He went to the cross to pay for our sins, to defeat Satan and to put death to death forever, so that one day, as the Bible foretells, God will renew this planet, and even then, death shall be no more. This is what Revelation 21:3–5 say, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” “Behold, I am making all things new.”
So when Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,” He is saying that the key to life beyond death, to the resurrection out there, is available to us when we believe in Him, when we trust in Him, when we place all of our hopes in Him. The future resurrection out there can become ours in Jesus Christ.
Now, this is amazing. What Jesus is about to do is take a little bit of that resurrection at the end of time and drag it back into the present and enact it in the raising of the person of Lazarus. The resurrection and the life that has come near in the person of Jesus, the one that is promised one day out there, He will drag back and deliver here and now. This is The Resurrection: Here. Jesus wipes His tears. He prays to His Father, and then this Jesus who is resurrection life Himself, who offers resurrection life at the end of time, who bellows and rages against death, He looks death in the eye, and with the all-powerful voice of the Son of God, cries out, “Lazarus, come out.” And death yields to Jesus. (chuckles)
Now think with me (applause) or clap. (laughs) Think with me. Think with me for a moment. When did Jesus gain triumph over death? When did Jesus gain triumph over death? It was when He died and rose again. Right? Jesus raises Lazarus before He’s died and rose again, so He’s acting now in His future victory.
You realize Jesus raises Lazarus on the basis of His death which is to come. In other words, Lazarus lives because Jesus will die. Jesus, knowing full well what it would cost Him, lays down His life so His friend can live. Jesus died for Lazarus.
John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” See, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” which means He is the key to resurrection life, and He’s come near to us. Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet he shall live.” I am the key to resurrection life in the future. It’s out there one day, but I can give it to you. And then He says, “And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” In other words, Jesus is the key to resurrection life here and now. Jesus is the key to resurrection life here and now. Jesus is saying, “I can offer you a kind of life that even death cannot touch, a spiritual life on the inside of who you are that will never die. It is an everlasting, an eternal, spiritual life on the inside.
See, the Bible tells us that we were created for life, and it has two dimensions. There’s the physical exterior life that we have, and then there’s the spiritual interior life that we have. And just like we depend on food and drink to sustain our physical life, we depend on God, relationship with God, to sustain our interior spiritual life. But our problem, friends, is that we disconnected from God. We’ve each of us decided to live on our own and in our own way. It’s what the Bible calls sin. And the result is that we’re dying on the inside. When you unplug from the source of life, you die. But then Jesus, God’s own Son, who is life in Himself, came and died in our place and for our sake. He bore all of our sin and shame and He rose again to make us right with God so that, as Jesus says, “Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Friends, if we believe in Jesus, He promises us a spiritual life on the inside, right here and right now. How do we get it? How do we get it? Well, you have to get it the same way Lazarus got it. There’re three things you need. Number one, you need to be Jesus’ friend. Number two, you need to be hopelessly dead. And number three, you need to respond to His voice.
Don’t you see? When Jesus died on the cross for you, He forever settled that debate. You are a friend of Jesus. That’s why He died for you. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” You are a friend of Jesus.
Hopelessly dead. Well, that one’s pretty easy, right? We’re all dead in our trespasses and sin. You’ve got that one, check, right?
What’s the third one? This is really the only one you have to worry about, is to respond to His voice when He calls. That’s what Lazarus did. Jesus said, “Lazarus, come out!” and he heard and believed and obeyed. And he lives. That’s what we have to do.
John, come out! Anna, come out! Lisa, come out! Taylor, come out! Jesus is the resurrection and the life. When we respond to Him, we live forever.
So my takeaway for you (just put a cap on this) is: Is this resurrection life real in you? Is this resurrection life real in you? Not, is it real to your grandma? Not, is it real in theory? But is it alive? Is it living inside of you? Do you know what it is to have the life of Jesus inside of who you are? Have you ever responded to His voice?
Some of you right now are feeling a stirring in your heart, a longing to be alive like this. That’s not from me. I can’t do that. I can’t call you into life. That’s Jesus calling you. He’s saying, “Come out, come alive! Come into a whole new life in me.”
Now, how would you respond? Coming to Jesus is as simple as A, B, C.
- We Admit. We admit that we are sinners far from Jesus.
- We Believe. We believe that Jesus has done everything to make us right with God when He died in our place and rose again, and
- We Commit. We commit our lives to Him. Say, “Come, be my Savior. Be my Lord. Be my everything. I’m yours.
And when we do that (admit, believe, and commit) the life of Jesus becomes ours forever, because 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?” Do you believe this?
Now I would like to introduce you to my good friend, Deep.
“My name is Chusdeep Sharma, and this is my story. I come from a really strict Hindu family, like Brahmin family. After coming here, I was still doing that, worshiping all those gods and spending like hours in worship. But I knew that there was something wrong in there. I felt heavy, even while worshiping them. And I knew that I was a sinner. Everybody is a sinner here, because nobody’s perfect. But nobody told me ever what we’re going to do for that, to get out of sin.
“I started thinking that maybe I was right, like Hinduism is not going to get me anywhere. It was 2018, 2019. Those two years were like the darkest years of my life, drinking, smoking all day long, and then 2020 comes and the pandemic started.
“For one or two months that was the most confusing time of my life. On the same day, on July 5th, when I opened The Moody Church Youtube channel. I was like, ‘Okay, so this is the pandemic and I know that it’s infecting everybody.’ Pastor Philip was being introduced and I just started listening. He started the book of Ruth. Even the title of that series that said ‘Mercies in the Shadows,’ the title just stayed in my mind, so I kept listening and listening to two sermons, third sermon, fourth sermon. And by the time we came to the end, and he described how Naomi and Ruth were redeemed, I knew, I mean, if that’s how God is supposed to be working, that’s how a true God works.
“So I started reading John. There was this just two-words verse. ‘Jesus wept.’ And I’m thinking, ‘Son of God? God Himself? He wept for a sinner. Even He knew that He’s going to raise him from dead. He still wept for him. I mean, what else am I expecting from a god who knows His children?’ And then I came to the words when Jesus says, ‘I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and am known by my own.’ I knew that He knew me before I even knew Him.
“I’m still a sinner. I’m not perfect, but it is a completely new relationship for me with the Word of God. More importantly I have a new relationship with my sin. The sin I once loved, I hate it now, because I know the person of Christ. He walks with me everywhere I go. He’s always— He knows what’s in my heart and I don’t want to offend Him with anything I say or anything I do in my life. I just want to praise Him and glorify His name for everything I do in my life. I just pray for that, that you give me hunger for your Word, God.
“Before coming to Christ, before I knew Him, I was reading a lot of Hindu books about Shiva and how he can just burn us up. Now my day starts from John 3:16, ‘For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, and whosoever believeth in him shall never perish and have eternal life.’
“So I’ve come from staring at life from a deep dark hole in the ground, to into the light after knowing Christ and putting all my faith into Him.”
You know, following Jesus means taking one step closer to Him, and after a message like that, I want to invite you. Maybe you want to take a step closer to Jesus. We’re all in different spots, right? And so maybe for some of you, you’re kicking the tires on faith. You’re not really sure where you stand with Jesus but something awoken today, and you just want to come to Jesus. I invite you to do that. Don’t waste a moment. Now is always the right time to say yes to Jesus.
We’ll have prayer partners down front here, up in the balcony, we would love to pray with you, and we can help you meet Jesus for the very first time. We have a Bible for you and some follow-up stuff to help you get started in your walk with Christ.
Maybe for some of you, it’s time to get to know Jesus more. Maybe you know Jesus, but it’s been awhile and I just invite you, we’re in the middle of a series in the book of John. There’s 21 chapters in the book of John, and we’re going to do this little 21-day challenge, reading a chapter of the book of John together starting today. And so, as you go, at all the exits there are little copies of the book of John with a bookmark to help you kind of navigate the next 21 days. And if you will commit to do that, this is the best way to get to know who Jesus is. If you will commit to reading the book of John over the next 21 days that’s our gift, it’s our Easter present for you. We want you to take that as you go.
Maybe for some of you, your next step is to connect with Jesus’ family. You know, the pandemic has really messed us all up and we’re all out of rhythm. Maybe there’s some connection you need. You want to get back with people and follow Jesus in a community like The Moody Church. We would love to help you, and so at the end of this service, if you head out and go that way, over here you’ll see a room with big letters that say, “Love God and Love People.” That’s our connection center and we would love to help get you connected to Jesus’ family here at The Moody Church.
So three action points [Come to know Jesus, Get to know Jesus, Connect with Jesus’ family]. Take a next step toward Jesus today.