The Celebration of Life

Scripture: John 11 {Selected}

INTRODUCTIONS

Those of you who have attended COLS that I am involved in know that John 11 is my favorite chapter and I use it a lot at Celebration of Life Services but I have always had a desire to share it with the Sunday morning crowd…so here goes.

I. A COMMON PROBLEM

1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 
2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 
3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 

II. A STARTLING PROPHECY–“Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death.”

 4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 

III. AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE–“Lazarus has fallen asleep.”

11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” 
12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 
13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. 
14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 

15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” 


We humans have a problem: we view everything through the lens of time… We even project time into our thoughts of heaven but there is no time in eternity…if there was, there would be a starting time and finishing time. Jesus had His feet on earth but His head was in heaven: He could see both worlds. He could see the future as well as the past. Think of it as a continium…At present [Lazarus is sick]…then Lazarus dies…Future, Lazarus is alive and well. Death is a barrier for us–we can’t see beyond it–but it was not barrier for Jesus. What appears to be death to us is simple sleep to Jesus…a temporary state of repose…everyone dies but we do not stay dead. Yes, from our perspective, death seems and appears to be final but not from God’s.

IV. AN INFINITE POWER–“I AM the resurrection and the life.”

Notice the focus of Mary, Martha, the disciples and the mourners. They are focused on circumstances, problems, grief, sickness, mystery of unanswered prayer, dates, promises, prophecies about the future. There is nothing sinful about focusing on the great resurrection day in the future unless we are more focused on the date than we are the person of Christ.

Look with me if you would at these verses…

  • Verses 2-27–Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 
  • Verse 33–When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. [NASB,  He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled] The first of these two words [anger in NLT] means to snort with anger, to groan with displeasure or to sigh with chargrin. The second word means to be agitated, stirred up, troubled or distressed. To my knowlege, used only here in reference to Jesus.
  • Verse 38 —Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 

Over the years, hundreds have tried to discount Jesus emotional state at the tomb: some have even said that it was due to his grief that Lazarus was dead and others believe that he felt emphathy for Mary and Martha but this is clearly not the case. JESUS IS RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNATED over the unbelief of the entire bunch. No one there believes a thing He has said…He told Martha plainly, “Your brother will rise again.” He told His disciples plainly, “This sickness will not end in death.” And yet no one believes. Martha did not believe…When Jesus told them to roll the stone aways…she protested…”By now he stinks.”

What does this tell us? Unbelief is offensive to God. Hebrews 3:12–Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heartof unbelief in departing from the living God.

  • It was unbelief that kept Israel from the land of promise.
  • It was unbelief that caused the Jewish Religious Leaders to call for the crufixion of Christ.
  • It is offensive to God when we mistrust His word or even doubt it.

CONCLUSION

Let me tell you what I love about this story….No one in the cemetery that evening believed that they would be eating supper with Lazarus that night: no one but Jesus. Not even Mary or Martha believed that Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life. When Jesus commanded them to roll the stone aside, Martha protested….”By now there is a stink.”


It doesn’t matter what you think or what you believe about any given situation. The Jewish mourners believed that Jesus had failed his friends. The disciples believed that Jesus was committing suicide by returning to Jerusalem. Not one soul in this story believed that Jesus was going to raise Lazarus by the power of His spoken word. Practically all believed that Jesus was a healer but even Mary and Martha believed that He had showed up too late.


Here is what is important: God had a sovereign plan and Jesus carried that plan out. God intended to get glory this day and He did…in spite of the unbelief.

ARE YOU NOT GLAD THAT OUR IMPOTENCE AND FAILURE PUTS NO RESTRAINT OR RESTRICTIONS ON GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE.

Hallelujah, HIS Kingdom is going to come and His will is going to be done because it has been spoken and in spite of man’s sin, wickedness and unbelief—it will happen.

Advertisements

A Better Resurrection

Scripture Text: Hebrews 11:35

Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection.

INTRODUCTION

I want to plant two words in your mind “better resurrection.” Think about what this implies. If there is a better resurrection, there must be more than one resurrection to choose from.

Actually, there is more than one resurrection.

I. There is a spiritual resurrection

This resurrection that takes place upon regeneration. Paul said….

  • Romans 6:4-5… Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17… Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
  • Ephesians 2:11…For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

So there is a spiritual or metaphysical resurrection that takes place at conversion. I am not making light of this resurrection; it is essential. If you have no idea what I am talking about, you need to make an appointment because something is terribly wrong. Every believer experiences this spiritual resurrection in Christ.

II. There is the resurrection from the dead

Women received back their dead by resurrection. [Verse 35:a]

I can think of five women who received back their dead by a literal resurrection…

  • The widow of Zarephath–I Kings 17, Elijah raises her son from the dead
  • The woman at Shunem–II Kings 4, Elisha raises her son from the dead
  • The widow at Nain–Luke 7, Jesus raises her son from the dead
  • The wife of Jarius–Luke 8, Jesus raises a daughter [child] from the dead
  • The sisters of Lazarus–John 11, Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead

All these resurrections are miraculous and rare. They do not represent the norm. They do serve as examples of Christ’s power of death but they do not represent the best resurrection: there is something better because all these people had to die again. Lazarus suffered the trauma of death twice. I don’t really have a desire to go through it twice.

Just this past week, I saw a friend depart. He had been battling cancer for a couple of years. He had been attending our church for about three years. He was a servant, a skilled servant who knew how to motivate and lead. When a pastor sees a person of this caliber, they get excited. He told me a few months ago…”Bro. Jack, I am joining the church the next Sunday I am present and I want to rededicate my life.” He wanted to spend his retirement years helping our church minister to the hurting. I was so excited but he never got to come back; his chemo kept him too low to be in crowds and then the cancer spread. As I looked at him laying in the hospital bed, I had mixed emotions…”Lord if you raise him up, he will have to go through all of this again…not my will be thine be done.” My last prayer with him was “Father, give my friend Gary the best; don’t give him what I want, give him your absolute best.”

III. There is a better resurrection

They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection [Hebrews 11:35b]

This is not just a resurrection as in the case of Lazarus. He was raised to the same old life but the better resurrection is to a brand new life. Paul said, “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” I have always translated this verse, to live is Christ to die is a promotion. In the great resurrection, the better resurrection, we are going to be raised with perfect bodies, not subject to sickness or death.

I Corinthians 15

42 It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies.

45 The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. 46 What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. 47 Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. 48 Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. 49 Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man.