John 11:17-44
I Am The Resurrection And The Life

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. About three kilometers from Jerusalem, in the village of Bethany there was a home which Jesus often dropped in on. It was the home in which the sisters Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus were living. It seems to be a family that had been especially familiar with Jesus. It was probably a place where Jesus could relax his mind and rest during tense situations when he was surrounded by the hostility of the Jews or his very life was in question.

2. Then, all of a sudden terrible sorrow came against their blessed home. Lazarus took sick. He was on the verge of dying. We don't like to think of how the power of death extends itself deeply into our lives, so we turn our eyes away from that fact and we always want to push it off out of our awareness. But, that doesn't amount to any solution. For, the controlling power of death appears by taking on many different forms, completely unrelated to our expectations. It shows up just like it did in Lazarus' house. We mustn't turn our eyes away from this. What we need is not some placebo, but salvation, and a savior who will bring us true salvation.

I Am The Resurrection And The Life

3. Mary and Martha sent a messenger to Jesus and said, "A person whom you love is sick." But, when Jesus got there, Lazarus had already been buried in the tomb and four days had passed. As Jewish folklore would have it, the soul of the deceased was said to hover around its corpse for three days. Therefore, "having been buried four days" meant that he was totally and completely gone out. It was too late. As seen from a human point of view, Jesus came into their total hopelessness. But, "the end" to a human often is "the beginning" to God. Indeed, a person may meet and see God and his glory at that point.

4. Upon hearing that Jesus had come, Martha went outside the town to greet the Lord and said, "My Lord, had you been here, my brother wouldn't have died. But, I know right now that whatever you ask of God he will grant it." Then, Jesus said back to her, as she spoke of her confidence in him, "Your brother will be raised again from the dead." Whereupon, Martha said, "I know that he will be raised from the dead at the time of the resurrection at the last day," (verse twenty-four).

5. The teaching that some will be raised to receive life and some to receive condemnation at the last day was an orthodox doctrine among the Pharisees back then. Martha is expressing her faith here as one of the Jews. At the least, she doesn't think that you die and it's all over. She is looking towards the time of the resurrection. But, that is the extent of her "I know ..." The world of the resurrection doesn't tie into the ground upon which she is standing. Thus, in any real sense then, her orthodox doctrine doesn't lead her to hope.

6. Jesus made an astonishing announcement to Martha about himself. He says, "I am the resurrection, I am the life. Anyone who believes in me, though he dies, will live. Anyone who believes in me, while he or she is alive, will never die," (verses twenty-five and twenty-six). That is, "I truly am this resurrection of which you are speaking; I am that eternal life," says the Lord.

7. Thus, the Lord says that the resurrection is not far off in the distance, neither is eternal life far off out there. The life of the resurrection has come right into this world that has been filled with despair. The person who believes in Jesus can take part in eternal life "in the here and now" and not "at that hour some day." When one participates in eternal life, "though you die, you are alive." And, "You will never die." Thus, the believer in Jesus begins to experience here and now the resurrection of the end of days. Jesus says he is this "resurrection" and he is this "life."

8. The Lord asked Martha, "Do you believe this?" The Lord is asking us that too. "Do you believe this?" This is a crucial question given to humanity in general. Then, the Lord showed more with his own actions about what he meant by his declarations about himself and what he required of her to believe, that is, about his statement that "I am the resurrection and I am the life." So with that, lets' read the next section of this story.

Lazarus, Come Out!

9. Martha went back home and called Mary. Mary was standing and came to Jesus. Mary was looking at the Lord and bowed down before his feet and gave the exact same plea as Martha, "My Lord, had you been here, my brother wouldn't have died." As Mary said that she wept. Also, everyone around them was crying loudly. Jesus' own state at that hour is described as follows. "Jesus looked at her crying and those Jews who had come with her also crying, he felt irked and was annoyed and said, 'Where did you bury him?' They said, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus shed tears," (verses thirty-three through thirty-five).

10. We often feel a sense of unventable ire in this miserable world of humanity which brings on death's ruling control. Jesus stops to place his attention on our sorrows, sighings, and ire. He feels our ire with us and cries with us. The Lord is not dispassionate about our troubles. The people said, "Look at how he loved Lazarus!" The Lord's own strong emotions and tears showed his love. Likewise, the Lord loves us, too. But, [as] Jesus loves us, he doesn't just feel emotions and cry with us. The Lord comes unto our sighing [as] the humans beings [we are] with his saving power. The one who loves us is also the one who can save us from death.

11. Jesus went to the tomb. The tomb was a cave plugged up with a stone. Jesus said, "Remove the stone." When they removed the stone, the Lord prayed to God the Father and cried out aloud. "Lazarus, come out!" The voice of Christ echoed over into the tomb. "Whereupon, the one who was dead came out with his hands and feet still wrapped in cloth." Is such a thing like this possible? What in the world took place here? People who read this will turn their thoughts to the weird and the inexplicable. But, John, who wrote this, finished this in one verse. He did not try to give a detailed proof of it because the main thing was to pass on what this event meant. It was "a sign" pointing to the truth.

12. It was the miracle at the wedding in Cana where he changed the water into wine that had been described as the first sign in this gospel account. "Jesus performed the first sign at Cana in Galilee, and revealed his glory," (2:11). Beginning from then on, there were seven signs told in this gospel. The miracle of his raising Lazarus from the dead is the seventh sign, that is, the last sign. The main thing it meant was that this sign became the direct cause to incite the Jews to murder [Jesus].

13. Today we read up to verse forty-four, but right after that the text says, "The many Jews, who came to Mary's and had been eyewitnesses of what Jesus did, believed on Jesus. But, among them there were some who went to the Pharisees, and informed them of what Jesus did," (verses forty-five and forty-six). Then, this [matter] grows into a debate at the Sanhedron, [the Jewish Supreme Court]. If they leave this man alone [as] he is doing this sign, everyone will believe him. That will lead to a crisis for the existing governing body. In speaking like that, then, it was the proposal of the high priest that they "would have him die." For that reason in verse fifty-three, the scripture says, "From that day they plotted how they might murder Jesus."

14. In fact, [though], this was not surprising at all, but an inevitable outcome. Since the time Jesus had arrived at Lazarus' home in Bethany, the Lord was already put in great danger. When the Lord had said, "Let's go again into Judah," (verse seven), the disciples were surprised and said, "Rabbi, even though the Jews tried to stone you to death just the other day, you are going to go there again?," (verse eight). Therefore, going into Judah again by ipso facto required resolve and determination even for the disciples. Thomas said to the other disciples, "Won't we die as well with him when we go too?," (verse sixteen).

15. In this tense situation, Jesus said, "I am the truth, and I am the life." This [statement] was none other than the words of Him who was on his way to the cross. As the one on his way to the cross, he performed this sign. Going to the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus "cried out aloud," says the scripture. It is only here that this expression is used of Jesus. Does it feel foreboding? The Lord cried out aloud because he knew what performing this sign would bring on him. You might say, this was Jesus' dear cry for life. In exchange for his own life, Jesus called Lazarus out from the tomb. "Lazarus, come out!"

16. As a result, this event is truly an event that points to the eternal life we are given in exchange for the death of Christ. Christ hung on the cross in order to atone for our sins. [He did it] in order to bring us forgiveness of sins, to grant us fellowship with God, and to give us eternal life. Since we are with the Christ of the cross, "though dead, we live." Since [we] are in fellowship with God the source of life through the one who is the resurrection and the life, [we] will "never die."

17. Even now the voice of Christ is echoing across to the world, -- a tomblike world that has lost its fellowship with God, that has lost the life of God. The one who is the resurrection and the life through the church his body is even now crying in a loud voice. "You should not remain in a world of sin which has lost the life of God. You should not remain in sin. That is not the place you ought to be. Come out of [your] tombs. Come forth unto life. Lazarus, come forth!"

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