I Am the Resurrection and the Life

February 2, 2020 ()

Bible Text: John 11:1-44 |

Series:

I Am the Resurrection and the Life | John 11:1-44
Brian Hedges | February 2, 2020

All of us in our lives sometimes come to turning points, turning points that are decisive moments in life where everything changes. Those can be either positive or negative, but when you encounter a turning point there is a distinct before and after in your life from that time forward.

Positively may be the day you met your future spouse or the day you got married, it may be when you had your first child, or indeed with every child that has been born into your family. It may be when you started the most significant part of your career, when you completed your education. All of those are turning points; they are those decisive milestone moments, those markers in our lives, that change things.

Then sometimes there are negative turning points. Maybe when your parents divorced. Maybe when you found out that you a member of your family was diagnosed with a lifelong chronic illness or even a terminal illness. Maybe when there was a death in your family. Those are the negative turning point moments, and when you’ve encountered those, there is a before and after. You remember what it was like before, and then the news came, the event happened, there was the tragedy, there was the hard thing, and everything’s slightly different, sometimes dramatically different, after that. These turning point moments are the hinge events in our lives.

This morning we’re beginning a new series of messages, and for about seven weeks we’re going to be looking together at John 11-12. These two chapters are the hinge in the gospel of John. They represent major and significant turning points in the lives of several people, especially in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ himself.

Now, I should perhaps explain why I’m starting a series in John 11. You might be thinking, “Why not start in John 1?” The answer to that is that if you’ve been around Redeemer for any amount of time, you know that we work slowly through books, kind of the regular diet for our church is to teach through books of the Bible; and what we will do is take several books a year and work through a section of a book. So we’ve actually, in the past several years, worked through John 1-5 (that was a short series), then we worked through John 6-10 (and that was a short series). So we’re coming back, we’re picking up that thread.

If you weren’t here for those messages and you’re curious about what went before, you can actually go online and you can hear those messages. You could also just read your Bibles up until John 11-12, and you’d be somewhat caught up with what’s going on.

We’re going to focus for just seven weeks on these two chapters, John 11-12, and I think you’ll see that these two chapters sort of divide the gospel of John. It’s the middle point. Up until this point, Jesus has been exercising his earthly ministry and there have been a number of signs, often that have been accompanied by particular sayings or even sermons, discourses of Jesus. These signs, these miracles (John calls them signs) have been given to show us who Jesus is and what he came to do.

All of this has been in anticipation of an hour that is coming. That hour would be the hour of Jesus’s glorification but also the hour of his betrayal, his suffering, and his crucifixion that comes near the end of this gospel.

When we get to John 11-12 we are nearing the end, and what happens in these two chapters is the decisive turning point in the life of Jesus that leads directly to the final week of his life. In fact, John 13 through the end of the book take place in the final week of Jesus’ life and then in his resurrection.

So, in these two chapters we’re going to be looking at these events, we’re going to look at what transpired, and it all begins with the seventh sign. The seventh miracle recorded in this gospel is the most powerful of all: it’s the resurrection of a man named Lazarus from the dead. It takes an incredible amount of space (most of John 11 is taken up with this sign, so we’re actually going to take two weeks to look at it together, taking a look at two different angles of this sign).

This morning, the way I want to do it is simply this: I want us to see that, as with every good story, this story presents us with a problem, then it raises a tension in the story, and then there’s a resolution. I want us to just kind of trace the narrative itself, the story, and as we do I think you’ll see that there are several lessons for us about how we encounter Jesus Christ.

1. The Problem

First of all, let’s look at the problem, and we’ll just begin in John 11:1-3. The problem is the problem of sickness and death. John 11:1-3 introduces us first to this cast of characters.

“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, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’”

Now, these characters appear for the first time in the gospel of John right here—Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and Lazarus is sick. These characters are somewhat familiar to readers of the gospels, because they’ve been mentioned before in other places, at least Mary and Martha have.

In Luke 10 you have Jesus in the home of Mary and Martha, and you remember how Martha is the busy, serving, industrious, kind of the extroverted personality, she’s in the hustle and bustle of getting the meal ready; and Mary is there sitting at the feet of Jesus. She’s the quiet, contemplative one, she’s communing with Jesus. Martha is all upset because Mary isn’t helping her, and Jesus gently rebukes Martha and says, “You are cumbered with much serving, but Mary has chosen the good part, the good thing, and it will not be taken from her.”

Well, it’s these sisters. It’s Mary and Martha and their brother. Here we learn they have a brother, and the brother is sick. As we keep reading the passage, we’re going to see that indeed, he dies. He actually dies. So the problem that we’re encountering in this story is the problem of sickness and death.

Now, this is a problem that every single one of us encounters, isn’t it? All of us are touched by sickness, and eventually we are touched by death. It’s not something we are particularly comfortable talking about. Death has been called “the last obscenity.”

In our culture, people are pretty frank and open talking about other things that used to be unspeakable. People talk about sexual matters very openly today (probably too openly), but the one thing that people are very uncomfortable talking about is death. It is, perhaps, the most uncomfortable subject that we ever have to think about.

It’s uncomfortable partly because it’s a mystery. What happens after death? It was Shakespeare who called death “the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns.” We don’t really understand what happens after death. As Christians, we have some information from Scripture, but the general public just kind of assumes that maybe there’s an afterlife, but we don’t really know. We don’t really know what’s going to happen after death, therefore there’s mystery to it.

Not only that, but death is scary. It’s terrifying. One person called death “the worm at the core of human pretensions to happiness.” It’s that one thing that’s just always eating away. No matter how successful you are, no matter how happy you are, no matter how healthy you are, no matter how good your life is going, you still know this: Death is coming. We all will die sooner or later.

Usually we live in the denial of death, but we are confronted with it, aren’t we? Daily, weekly. There are tragic, unexpected deaths, such as Kobe Bryant and his daughter just a week ago. There are violent deaths, such as the almost daily reports of either terrorist attacks or school shootings or other kinds of mass violence. Then there are personal deaths, when our friends and our family members die.

Of course, there’s sickness that often leads to death, whether it’s the Corona virus or cancer. These are constant reminders of our morality. We all face it.

One author and evangelist, named John Blanchard, puts it this way, “Death is no respecter of time or place. It has neither season nor parish. It can strike at any moment of day or night, on land, on the sea, or in the air. It comes to the hospital bed, the busy road, the comfortable armchair, the sports field, and the office. There is not a single spot on the face of the planet where it is not able to strike. The whole world is a hospital, and every person in it is a terminal patient. What we call living can be just as accurately called dying. As soon as a baby begins to live, it begins to die. One writer comments, ‘Death borders on our birth, and our cradle stands in the grave.’”

Death is inevitable. You are going to die, and I am as well. It’s coming faster than we think.

I’m just amazed sometimes; the older I get, the faster life seems to go by, and I know that those of you who are 20 or 30 years beyond me feel that even more acutely. It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve lived here for 17 years. It’s hard to believe that some of my children are now teenagers, growing up so fast. It just seems like yesterday that I moved here! It’s going by so fast.

Indeed, this is how the Scripture describes our lives. It’s a mist, James says. Your life is a mist; it appears for a little time and then it vanishes. It’s a shadow. Our days on earth are a shadow, we read in Job 8. Or listen to this word from the book of Psalms: “As for man, his days are like grass. He flourishes like a flower of the field, for the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” Our lives go by so quickly! Time is running out! Death is coming! It’s inevitable.

Maybe just to push the point a little bit further, someone once calculated mathematically a schedule that compares the average lifetime (say, 70, 75, 80 years) to a day beginning at seven o’ clock a.m. and then ending at midnight. Listen to how this works out.

If you’re 15 years old, the time is 10:25 a.m. If you’re 25, it’s 12:42 p.m. If you’re 35, it’s 3:00 p.m. If you’re 45 (that’s my age), it’s 5:16 p.m. If you’re 55, it’s 7:34. If you’re 65, it’s 9:55. If you’re 70, it’s 11:00.

The clock is ticking. The sand in the hourglass is running out. Death is inevitable.

This is the problem. This is the problem for human existence. This is the existential crisis every one of us faces. “I’m here on this planet for a short, little period of time. It’s going to end; I’m going to die. What’s the answer?”

In this passage, Jesus is confronted with that problem in the lives of his friends. We see it in verses 12-14. “After saying these things, he said to them [this is his disciples], ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.’” I just love that. Jesus renames death; he calls it sleep. There’s a reason for that.

“The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep he will recover.’” These guys are so dense; they just don’t get it, you know. They never quite understand what Jesus is saying, so Jesus has to be very clear. Verse 13 says, “Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Lazarus has died.’” There it is. Death on the scene.

That’s the problem. That’s the problem in the story, it’s the problem in the world, it’s the problem in my life and in yours.

What’s the solution? Well, the interesting thing in this story is that before you get solution, before you get a resolution to the problem, the problem actually gets more complicated. It gets worse. There’s a tension in the story.

2. The Tension

The tension is that Jesus delays going to Lazarus. He delays. Look at verses 5-6. “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?! He loved them, he heard that Lazarus was sick, therefore he didn’t go, he stayed two days longer! If your version, by the way, does not start verse 6 with a “so” or a “therefore,” then it’s missing an important word, because it’s right there in the Greek. This is important. There is a connection between the love of Jesus in verse 5 and Jesus delaying in verse 6.

What John is telling us here is that because Jesus loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus, because he loved them, he delayed. He stayed two days longer.

Why did he delay? Is it that he was detained? Did he not realize how serious the sickness was? Was he caught by surprise? Not at all. In fact, we know from Matthew 8 that Jesus could have right then just spoken the word and Lazarus would have been healed across many miles. Jesus did this at times. He would heal someone from a distance. He didn’t even have to be there in person.

No, the delay is intentional, and the motive is his love. Look at verses 5 and 6 again. I don’t want you to miss this. I want you to see the connection, because this has important application to our lives. “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.” The motive was love.

What it meant for Mary and Mary is that they begin to have to grapple with what the Puritans called "the mystery of Providence." The mystery. It’s a mystery! Why does God delay. When he could help, when he could change things, why does he delay? Why not prevent death? Why not heal Lazarus at once?

Do you ever feel this way? Do you ever feel frustrated with having to wait on the Lord? We sang this morning about waiting on the Lord and how strength rises when we wait upon the Lord; but when you’re actually in the middle of waiting, waiting can be really hard, it can be really frustrating.

Sometimes when there are unanswered prayers—you’ve been praying for weeks or maybe months or even years, maybe for a lost family member to be saved, maybe for healing of a chronic disease, maybe for financial provision because you just feel under the weight of debt, unpaid medical bills, or whatever.

Maybe it’s some desire in your life, some longing that has not yet been met. Maybe you want to be married, but there’s no spouse on the horizon and it’s been years since you’ve been on a date. Maybe you long for children and you’ve struggled with years of infertility. Maybe you’re not in the career of your dreams, and you’ve looked and you’ve looked and you’ve looked; you’ve searched and you’ve searched and you’ve searched; and you just keep getting a door slammed in your face.

What happens, I think, for us often is that these delays begin to morph into a dull, dreary disappointment, and sometimes even bitter dejection, because we misinterpret the delays. We think that if God delays it means that he’s indifferent, that he doesn’t care, that he’s not really for us.

The reality is this, that Christ’s delays are not indications of indifference, they are indications of his committed love. There’s always a purpose. There’s always a purpose in the daily, and there’s a purpose here. You see the purpose in verses 3-4, when the sisters send the word to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

Listen to what Jesus says in verse 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.’”

It’s for the glory of God. This is the key to this narrative. What Jesus will do for Lazarus, Mary, and Martha will exceed their expectations. It will be not just healing—that’s what they want. It will be not just healing, it will be resurrection! But it’s more than just a miracle. It’s a sign. It’s the seventh sign in John, and it is a real miracle. This historically took place, it really happened, but it’s more than just a miracle; it is also an acted-out parable. It is a sign that signifies, that points to a deeper spiritual reality, and in fact points to the reality of who Jesus Christ really is. That’s why it’s recorded here in this passage.

That means that there is a uniqueness to this miracle. It served a specific purpose in Jesus’ earthly life and ministry. Listen (we need to understand this), the Scriptures do not encourage us to pray for or expect resurrection as a normal, everyday occurrence in our lives here and now. Sadly, there are some people who actually think that that’s the case, and I think really mislead people by praying for resurrections. There’s been a recent reporting of that happening in a church that I think is pretty misguided in that respect.

The Scriptures don’t encourage that. The Scriptures encourage us to look with hope and with anticipation to the resurrection at the end of time because of what Jesus has done in the middle of time. The lesson of this passage is not that when we face death we should expect to be raised like Lazarus in the here and now; and in fact, Lazarus, though he is raised, will die again. As we’re going to see next week, Lazarus is raised to life, but even in being raised to life there are new troubles that come with him. No, this is a pointer to something else, to something more important. It’s a pointer to Jesus. It’s a pointer to who Jesus is and what Jesus does and the life-changing, eternal implications of that for our faith.

3. The Resolution

So that leads us, then, to the resolution of the story. The resolution we’re going to see in really the second half of this narrative, and we’re going to see it in three stages. We’re going to look at each one of these briefly.

There are three encounters from verses 17-44. Each one of them is important, each one of them is unique. They’re all slightly different. There’s an encounter with Martha, then there’s an encounter with Mary, then there’s the encounter with Lazarus himself, dead in the tomb.

In each one we see something about Jesus’s response to the tragedy of death and his response to grief. We see something of Jesus’ response to the problem of death in the world. Let’s look at each one of these quickly.

(1) The Ministry of Truth: Jesus and Martha

First of all, we see Jesus and Martha. Here what we see is a ministry of truth. I’m using Tim Keller’s language here, a ministry of truth. Look at verse 17, when Jesus finally arrives on the scene in Bethany.

“Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brothers.” They’re now in the weeklong grieving process common for Jewish people. Lazarus is already buried; he would have been buried the very same day that he died because of the rapid decomposition of the body, so now they’re in their mourning.

Verse 20: “So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house.” Again, you see a little glimmer of their personalities. Martha, as soon as she hears, rushes out to meet Jesus, and she has lots on her mind. She’s going to say what she thinks. Mary, the quiet, contemplative one, hangs back.

Verse 21: “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!’” She just seems to blurt it out. Maybe she’s even doing so in a scolding tone. It doesn’t mean there’s no faith there, because in verse 22 she says, “‘But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’” This is a promise. “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha believes it, but she misunderstands exactly what Jesus means. Look at verse 24. “Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.’”

This is orthodox Jewish belief. The Pharisees especially, and many of the Jews of that day, believed that there would be a final resurrection, a resurrection at the end of time, a resurrection on the last day, spoken of in Daniel 12. Jesus refers to people being raised again on the last day, and in fact, in John 5 and again in John 6 claimed that he will be the agent who will raise people up on the last day. He will actually be involved in that.

But look at what Jesus says to Martha. What he says is so remarkable, it’s one of the great “I Am” statements in the gospel of John, and in saying it he is transforming Martha’s understanding of resurrection in several ways. Look at what he says, verses 25 and 26. “‘I am the resurrection and the life, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’”

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.’”

Warren Wiersbe has commented that Jesus here transforms Martha’s Jewish doctrine of resurrection in three ways. He brings it out of the shadows into the light. It was a Jewish belief, but it’s not a prominent belief in the Old Testament. It’s kind of in the shadows. It’s not a prominent belief as it is for Christians today. Jesus brings the doctrine of resurrection out of the shadows into the light.

Not only that, he brings it from the future to the present. She expected resurrection at the end of time; Jesus is going to perform a resurrection right here in the middle of time, and it is a resurrection, of course that anticipates his own conquest of the grave, his resurrection three days after his crucifixion.

Most importantly, Jesus relocates resurrection from the page of Scripture to his own person, and he tells her essentially, “Martha, resurrection is not just a doctrine to be believed. I am resurrection.”

You see, it’s one thing to believe the truth; it’s another thing to experience the power of the truth in relationship to Jesus. That’s what Martha needed most of all.

N.T. Wright puts it this way. He says, “The future has burst into the present, the new creation, and with it the resurrection has come forward from the end of time into the middle of time. Resurrection isn’t just a doctrine, it isn’t just a future fact, it’s a person, and here he is, standing in front of Martha.”

It’s a ministry of truth, it’s a truth encounter, and Jesus asks her, “Do you believe this?”

Look at her confession. “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” It’s one of the greatest, clearest confessions of faith anywhere in the gospel of John, and she makes it before Lazarus is raised from the dead, because Jesus here is revealing himself to her.

One of the applications of this is very simply the uniqueness of Jesus’ astounding claim. When Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life,” he is saying something astounding. Nobody talks like this except Jesus!

C.S. Lewis and others have commented on this, that if you look at the founders of every other religion in the world, they will say things like this: “This is the way, I’m pointing out the way; walk in it.” But none of them say, “I’m the way.” “This is the way to life!” None of them claim, “I am the life.” Nobody makes claims like that, but Jesus does. They are unique claims, they are utterly astounding claims, and they leave us with a choice: to believe it and to worship him, or to denounce him as a complete imposter or someone who was off his rocker, because sane men don’t talk like this.

Jesus makes this claim, “I am the resurrection and the life, and whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” Even right there, Jesus is saying, “If you believe in me, you’re still going to experience physical death, but you will live!” What does that mean? It means you will have eternal life. “And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” What does he mean by that? He means death will not have the last word. He means there will be future resurrection, there will be eternal life. You will not be touched by what the Scripture calls the second death.

This is the ministry of truth to Martha. I wonder if you’ve wrestled with this claim of Jesus, the resurrection and the life.

(2) The Ministry of Tears: Jesus and Mary

Secondly, quickly, look at the ministry of tears. Again, I’m using Keller’s language. Here we see Jesus and Mary. This is verses 28-36, and it’s interesting because in these verses you have a window into what Warfield called “the emotional life of our Lord.” You see Jesus responding to grieving Mary very differently than he responds to flustered, agitated Martha. Martha needed a truth encounter; Mary needs sympathy and comfort, and that’s what Jesus gives. Look at these verses. Pick up in verse 28.

“When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, ‘The Teacher is here and is calling for you.’ When she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him [exactly the same words that Martha used], ‘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.”

The commentators tell us that the wording that’s used here is wording that suggests anger. It suggests not just troubled in the sense of disturbed, but that he’s really upset, that it angers Jesus. Why is he angry? He’s angry because he’s seeing the consequences of sin and death in person. He’s seeing them upfront and personal, and it angers him.

Verse 34. “And he said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” It’s one of only three times in the Scriptures where Jesus is seen to be weeping. He weeps. He weeps when he sees death.

“So the Jews said,” verse 36, “‘See how he loved him!’” It is a poignant picture of the real humanity of our Lord and it is a demonstration of his ministry as the sympathetic high priest. We weeps with those who weep.

Now, listen. Here’s application for us. We need both of these things. We need ministry of truth and we need the ministry of tears. We need Jesus both as Prophet, who comes and speaks the truth to us; and we need Jesus as Priest, who sympathizes with those who are suffering. You see Jesus doing both in this passage.

It teaches us a lot about how to deal with grief, and especially the grief of death, in our world now. There is a place for teaching and instruction about what the Scriptures say about death and resurrection of Jesus; there’s also a place for just weeping with those who weep, consoling or comforting those who mourn.

Again, I’m drawing this from Tim Keller. Here’s one quotation. He says, “Everybody needs a ministry of truth and a ministry of tears at different times. Sometimes you need more of the bracing truth, you need to be shaken by a loving friend who says, ‘Wake up and look around you!’ Other times you really just need somebody to weep with you. But Jesus Christ is never strong when he should be tender or tender when he should be strong. Yet it isn’t just that he is the perfect, wonderful counselor; he is the truth itself come in tears. He is deity incarnate in the flesh.”

(3) The Ministry of Power: Jesus and Lazarus

There’s a ministry of truth, there’s a ministry of tears, and then thirdly, there’s a ministry of power. Now we see Jesus and Lazarus.

I only have time to basically read it and make a couple of comments, so we’re going to look just at the miracle itself and the aftermath next week; we’re going to see more from the resolution of this story. But let me read verses 38-44.

“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.’”

Stop right there. It’s important, these four days. You want to know why Jesus didn’t come on day one? Why not come on day one and raise Lazarus from the dead the day he died? He could have done that. Here’s why. This is what the commentators tell us.

In Jewish rabbinical sources that are dated somewhat later than the gospels but probably reflect common beliefs of the time, there was a common belief among the Jewish people that the spirits of the deceased, three days after a person died, the spirits would come back and would linger at the tomb, to be sure the body was really dead. But when the body had really begun to decompose, finally the spirit would leave.

Now, Scripture itself doesn’t teach that, but Jesus understood. Jesus understood what they were thinking. He understood these common beliefs. Jesus waits four days, because if Lazarus had been raised on, maybe, day two, it’s possible that people just would have said, “Oh, he was just in a coma. It wasn’t really a resurrection.”

Jesus waits four days, because he is displaying the power of his resurrection life by raising Lazarus when he is unmistakably, irreversibly dead.

Verse 40. “Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?’” Again, this is the point of the passage, to see the glory of God through the power of Jesus Christ.

“So they took away the stone,” verse 41. “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.’”

I love what commentator Matthew Henry said. He had to say, “Lazarus, come out,” because if he’d just said, “Come out,” everybody in all the tombs would have come out! So he says, “Lazarus, come out.” Look at the result in verse 44: “The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth.” Just think of a mummy coming out of a tomb. “Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’”

It is a powerful sign that points us to who Jesus is and to what Jesus would accomplish through his own death and resurrection.

There’s a lot more for us to uncover, so I hope you’ll come back next week. We’re going to study in more detail the resurrection of Lazarus and what it means.

I want to end in this way. Let me just ask you some questions. Do you fear death? Are you living with the disappointment of God’s delays? What do you need right now? What do you need this morning?

If you live in the grip of the terror of death, if you live with the lingering disappointment that God hasn’t come through for you yet, what do you need? This is what you need: you need an encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ. “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?” Can you say with Martha, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who is coming into the world.”

I invite you to step into that confession, that faith, to trust in Christ. Don’t just believe the doctrine of the resurrection. Meet Resurrection in person; trust in Jesus today. Let’s pray.

Father, we thank you for this story from your word, we thank you for the truth it contains. We thank you especially for Jesus and for the confidence given to us through history and through Scripture and then sealed into our hearts by your own Holy Spirit: that Jesus, though he died, yet he lives. He was raised bodily from the grave. Though he died for our sins, he conquered those sins, he conquered death, he conquered this great enemy. Because he lives, because he reigns, we can have genuine hope in the face of death. We have the hope of eternal life and of future resurrection.

I pray that you would seal that hope into our hearts through your Spirit, that you would open our eyes to see the glory of the risen Christ, and that we would meet Jesus himself, who is the resurrection and the life. Grant faith this morning.

Lord, as we come to the table, we pray that you would continue to minister to us. You speak to us through the word, you feed us at the table, so we come with faith, believing that through your Spirit you will work. We pray that you would. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.