2012 03 25

Easter Possibilities

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

March 25th, 2012  www.FirstPresTucker.org

John 11:1-27                                                                                   English Standard Version

1    Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.

2    It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill.

3    So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

4    But when Jesus heard it 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.”

5    Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

6    So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.

7    Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

8    The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”

9    Jesus answered, “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.

10  But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

11  After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.”

12  The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.”

13  Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep.

14  Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died,

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

16  So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

17  Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.

18  Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off,

19  and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother.

20  So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.

21  Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

22  But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

23  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24  Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

25  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

26  and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27  She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.[1]

The Gospel of John is not a comprehensive story of the life of Jesus as are the other three synoptic Gospels. It’s a theological composition with a stated purpose.

The purpose is stated plainly in John 20:30-31 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Holy Spirit worked through John the Apostle to write a book that will bring us to faith in the promises of heaven, glory, salvation, Fatherly love and fellowship. These are more than just platitudes or empty promises, they are realities through Jesus.

There are real spiritual possibilities which we should give greater consideration.

It’s like when a doctor explains the possibilities with your health options. If you go through life with certain habits then you are at a higher probability for diabetes, heart disease, etc.

But, if we follow a doctor’s advice then good health is a higher probability.

John the Apostle enumerates the possibilities of good spiritual health, and eternal life, that are promised to those who by faith embrace Jesus as John describes Him.

Who is this Jesus?

At this point in the Gospel of John Jesus has already provided four of the seven “I am Claims” about Himself.

  • John 6:35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”
  • John 8:12 Jesus spoke to them saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  • John 10:9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
  • John 10:11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John is presenting an epic figure. Jesus occupies a unique genre of personhood.

Jesus is the personification of the Divine attributes. Jesus IS love and grace, mercy and forgiveness, tenderness and healing, light to lead us out of darkness, Jesus is the open door to heaven and the food to satisfy our soul.

Question: Can one person who lived 2,000 years ago deliver on that many expectations?

You can imagine that the people in this story had that same question as they walked through these events with Jesus.

The family of Lazarus was asking this question., They were unmentioned in the Bible until this chapter. They were a prominent family within the community. They didn’t tell Jesus to drop everything He was doing to come and meet their needs, but the message carries that expectation.

Verse 3 Lord, he whom you love is ill.” They assumed that this message would motivate Jesus to hightail it to Bethany and heal His friend. Jesus had already healed the nobleman’s son, healed the lame man who waited at the pool and cured a man who was born blind.

Certainly, Jesus could have healed Lazarus. Mary and Martha knew this in their hearts. They knew that Jesus could take away pain and suffering. He has the power and possesses the authority to command sickness and disease to leave our bodies.

And the possibility of being healed was real.

We hold that same promise as true for us. We believe that there is strength in the name of the Lord. There’s power in the name of the Lord. There’s hope in the name of the Lord. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord. Messiah brings healing to the nations.

But we don’t feel like a nation. We feel more like lost sheep. And Jesus has promised to us to bring us into His care and safety. He loves His own. But if He loves us so much, then where is God when things are at risk of dying?

Where are you Jesus!? Where did you go when my son needed you, when my daughter needed a protector? With the word of your power you could heal the nations and provide the light to lead us out of our misery and suffering.

But what we don’t consider is the possibility that God wants us to go through the battle. God might want us to go through the fire. God might will for us to die.

But Jesus still loves us! Verse 5 Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. God would say the same thing about us. God loves us. You are the apple of His eye. The fire isn’t meant to destroy us but purify and make us holy. God lets things get dark so His light is contrasted all the more.

And in suffering we learn God’s eternal perspective. Lazarus died but from God’s point of view it wasn’t the end of his existence. There are two kinds of death. There is the death of our bodies and the death of our souls. The body of Lazarus was going to die and begin to decompose in the earth, but he wasn’t annihilated. He lived on.

Jesus knew that the resurrection of Lazarus would provide a greater testimony to the glory of God than saving Lazarus from death. Jesus had already done that for others. No, Lazarus would go through the darker storm for Jesus loved him more and intended to display more of His glory through His friend.

That’s the possibility of Easter. That on Good Friday God the Father might actually turn His back, turn His favor away from His own Son.

God loved Jesus so much, that the Father allowed His Son to go through Hell while on the Cross that the Pure and True Glory of God might be publically displayed forever and ever by what Jesus suffered for us.

Your dark journey isn’t your end. It is your open door to understand something of the suffering of Jesus, something of the sorrow and pain that He paid for you to be saved.

Philippians 3:10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.

There is a real possibility that we will have to die if we wish to share in the resurrected life with Christ. And the Bible actually makes this plain.

 Romans 6:5 If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

The disciples were hearing this from Jesus. Verse 8 The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?”

Does following Jesus mean we too will have to put ourselves in harms way? Will we have to die to our desires, our own ways and plans?

Verse 16 So Thomas said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” That’s exactly the cost that we must pay if we want to also be raised to newness of life. Easter holds the promise for a new life. Eternal life. It’s the beginning of the new creation.

In this passage Jesus puts on the table His fifth I am Claim when He tells Mary in verse 25-26 saying “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?

I’ve been asking myself this question lately. What do I believe? And do I believe it in a way that changes my obedience and response, or it it just a nice thing to believe.

Mary believed her brother Lazarus would be raised by God someday. Verse 23  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  And Mary responds with a polite word of faith “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

But Jesus wasn’t asking her to believe in a nice socially accepted doctrine. Jesus was soliciting personal faith. Jesus wanted Mary to say, “I believe you Jesus can resurrect my brother right now for you are the resurrection personified. Jesus, you hold the keys of Heaven and Hell. You are the open door, the bread of life and the light of the world. You comfort and protect like THE Good Shepherd. Lazarus and Martha and I are going to be O.K. because even death holds no claim over us. You love us. In the midst of our storm we are sure of your love. And we know that we are safe because you love us.”

And Martha says that to Jesus. Verse 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.

What do you believe is possible because of Easter? Is it possible that your life could be united with Jesus in His death that you might be united with Him in His resurrection? Thomas would say it was more than a possibility.

Is it possible that His love will sustain you in your trial and by that trial you will gain deeper fellowship with Jesus in His sufferings and that you will bring great glory to God? Mary and Martha would affirm that possibility.

And is it possible that the Lord of light will raise you up into the light of His own resurrection? With great credibility Lazarus could affirm that possibility.

These are more than possibilities. This is the path these disciples walked with Jesus.

And Jesus saw our suffering and wept. Jesus goes through the valley of the shadow of death with you, that he might share with you His glory and joy.

What do you think is possible this Easter? Are you still willing to believe in the promises of a new life in Christ because of the resurrection? Are you ready to go with him into the valley?

May God begin to work a fresh work of faith in our hearts that we will be willing to die with Him, that we might be united with Him in His resurrection, ascension and eternal glory. Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

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