AGCC Sun. a.m. 11/8/98
One subject that we tend to avoid is the subject of death. We live our
lives as though it is something that will happen to other people, but not us!
The latest polls taken however have demonstrated an amazing percentage: Human
death rate = 100% at some point in time!
Though it is true that all will die someday, there is hope that this is
not the end!
ILLUS: As a young man, D.L. Moody was called upon suddenly to preach a funeral
sermon. He hunted all throughout the four Gospels trying to find one of Christ's
funeral sermons, but searched in vain. He found that Christ broke up every
funeral he ever attended. Death could not exist where he was. When the dead
heard his voice they sprang to life. Jesus said, "I am the resurrection,
and the life."
The greatest hope for Christians is found in the very person of Christ,
for He is the resurrection and life! He is not just the one who can give life,
He IS life! It is no wonder that those who have Christ living in them have
eternal life, for where Christ dwells His life gives power to live
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us
that our only hope for eternal life is in Jesus Christ, He alone is the
resurrection and the life!
I. REALITY OF DEATH 11:10-16
A. Comprehensive 11:1-15
1. The touching story of Lazarus and his sisters and their relationship to Christ reveal to us the agony and triumph of the greatest truths about human beings:
a. #1…that we all one day will die.
b. #2…that in Christ there is hope for life!
2. The human heart tries to avoid the reality of death at every turn, we tend to avoid talking about it, we avoid dealing with it via all kinds of ways to make ourselves look younger than we really are, etc.
a. It is so strange how people deal with death. It is even stranger how
some people hope to avoid death, instead of turning to Christ who promises a way
to live they will try and trick their way around death in their own way!
Number of deceased people frozen in hopes of
someday being brought back to life: 50 Price for these services, including
storage: $120,000 Price for freezing and storing only the head of the client:
$41,000 -- Health, 1-2/93.
"To Verify," Leadership.
b. Most people live their lives like they think they will either never die or they hope they can work out a solution themselves for eternal life.
3. How much simpler to turn to Christ who is the resurrection and the life!
4. The facts are overwhelming, 100% of everyone who is born will one day die! Since God has made a way of escape from death it only seems right that we seek Him out to find it!
5. Even Jesus' best friends experienced sickness and death!
a. Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus about Lazarus being very sick.
b. Being Jesus' best friends did not exempt them from tragedy and pain.
c. It is almost unsettling to read here that when Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick and in trouble, He deliberately stayed away and thereby insured Lazarus' death!! (Read 11:5-6)
(1. How many times in our lives have we wondered why God permitted terrible things to happen?
(2. God's ways are not always ours, but His ways are always good!
(3. We cannot always judge the goodness of God by today's experiences.
d. Christ had a plan, sickness and pain, and even death is the not the final word for those who love Christ, Christ has a wonderful surprise in store for them, and an even greater one for us!
6. Not even the disciples understood Jesus here!
a. They understood Jesus' words that Lazarus had "fallen asleep" as meaning the fever had broken and he was on the road to recovery!
b. Jesus finally has to spell it out to them, "He's dead!"
7. The purpose of letting Lazarus die was to demonstrate Christ's power
over death, and being only a very short time before His own death this was
important for them to know.
B. Courage 11:16
1. Ironically, the one guy in the group that demonstrates any sense of courage is Thomas!
a. While obviously not understanding Jesus' purpose in going back to Judea he is ready to die for Christ!
b. This is hardly the picture of a doubter we normally think of him to be! It is too easy to box up a personality based on a single incident in their life, but we are usually much more complicated than that as people. The "doubter" Thomas that later showed up, is here the brave Thomas ready to die for the cause!
2. It is too bad the world forgets the voices of the courageous, how
quickly we forget their voice as time goes by!
The most famous clock in the world is London's
Big Ben. It stands by the Houses of Parliament and towers above Westminster
Abbey. It is a familiar landmark. The chimes play the tune of a hymn. The hymn
is "I Know That My Redeemer Liveth."
-- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows,
(Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
3. Jesus did want them to return to face death…but to see it conquered! In Christ there is courage to face death because He has conquered it!
a. And because He lives, we shall live also! John 14:19
b. In Him we move and have our being..
II. REALITY OF DESPAIR 11:17-37
A. Confusion 11:17-24,28-37
1. As Jesus arrives back in Judea he finds exactly what He expected, Lazarus had been dead for 4 days! (a day to travel to tell him Lazarus was sick, Jesus waited 2 days where He was, and another day to travel back to Judea)
a. He finds a grieving family and friends
b. Everyone there had accepted the fact of death, but also the sadness that came with thinking that Jesus might have made a difference had He come sooner!
2. It is Martha who first approaches Jesus just before He actually arrives, she meets Him some ways yet from the tomb.
a. Martha is the practical one in the family, she was the one making the meal while her sister Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus later.
b. It is the practical one that expresses her sadness that Jesus had not come earlier while there was still a chance to save him.
c. Yet, even in her practical understanding there is a glimmer of faith in Jesus as something greater than just a healer, for she states, "But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." 11:22
3. Jesus tells her that her brother will indeed rise again….and she is certain of this too…at the last day however.
a. it is clear that they still don't quite understand the nature of Christ, while they could accept His power to heal, they didn't quite see that He is the VERY LIFE that can resurrect even a body that was dead for 4 days.
b. It is imperative that they understand that Jesus is God, not just a miracle worker.
4. Her sister Mary didn't do much better, even though she was the adoring one rather than the practical one, she too was confused about Christ's power over a man dead for 4 days.
5. It is interesting to note that BOTH the practical Martha and the devotional Mary thought exactly alike! Both said to Jesus the same thing: "if you had been here our brother would not have died."
a. Sometimes we think we are so different, but in reality no matter our gifts we tend to feel the same kinds of confusion and doubts.
b. Even the crowd of unbelieving mourners said the same thing!! 11:37
b. We are more alike than different.
6. Confusion is the normal state of human beings!!!
A letter came from Health and Human Services
to a resident of Greenville County, South Carolina: "Your food stamps will be
stopped, effective March 1992, because we received notice that you passed away.
May God bless you. You may reapply if your circumstances change." -- S. Bowen Matthews, Wilmington,
Delaware. Leadership, Vol. 17, no. 3.
B. Comfort 11:25-27
1. In the midst of the confusion Jesus states that He is the resurrection and the life, that anyone who believes in Him will never die.
a. Here was the declaration of hope!
b. But Jesus asks Martha if she believes this, do we?
2. Her response was correct, she says she believes that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.
a. This is the comfort we have when thinking about death, Jesus is God, and He NOT only can bring life to the dead, but HE IS THE LIFE that gives us hope.
b. Death is not the victor, Christ is!
3. It is important that we identify to the world that Jesus IS the "way, the truth, and THE LIFE". (John 14:6)
a. There is no other life, and no other focus than Christ as our
ILLUS: Nearing his journey's end,
Calvin gave strict instructions that he be buried in the common cemetery with no
tombstone. He wished to give no encouragement to those who might make it a
Protestant shrine. Today, his grave site is unknown.
-- "John Calvin," Christian History, no.
b. The only way to celebrate any hope over death is through Christ!
4. Christ alone is the central truth to life over death. It is Christ that
we celebrate as the victor over death. He should be at the very core of
everything we hope in!
ILLUS: Alfred Lord Tennyson expressed
his belief in the resurrection in his poem, "Crossing the Bar." He gave
instructions that it was to appear in every book of his poems that should ever
be published, and always at the end of the book. He wanted all who read his
works to see this assertion of faith in the face of death. -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio:
Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
III. RESTORATION FROM DEATH 11:38-44
A. Conquered! 11:38-43
1. Jesus asks those standing by to remove the stone barrier, to open up the tomb…to face death!
a. It is Martha the practical one again that remarks how unpractical this move is…for Lazarus has been dead for 4 days, his rotting body would smell badly!
b. It is just like us to think in terms of human limitation instead of Christ's power.
2. Jesus reminds her and those standing by that by faith anything can happen, and so they roll the stone away.
a. Jesus identifies the need to speak His prayer openly so that they may believe.
b. Jesus simply speaks forth a command to Lazarus to come forth.
c. Jesus could not only heal the sick, He can raise the dead!
(note: In the truest sense this was not as much a resurrection as a resuscitation for Lazarus died again later, the resurrected will never die again - it is in this sense that Jesus was indeed the "firstfruits of the resurrected")
3. The power of Jesus' Word alone brought life, because He Himself is LIFE!
4. No matter the feelings and thoughts of man, the power of Christ as the
resurrection and the life cannot be ignored … Christ is the resurrection and the
ILLUS: The Russian word for Sunday,
woskersicnye, means resurrection. Every communist, every atheist, must speak of
the resurrection when referring to the first day of the week! -- Robert C. Shannon, 1000 Windows, (Cincinnati, Ohio:
Standard Publishing Company, 1997).
5. When Christ commanded Lazarus to come to life, there was no power in Hell that could prevent this, for the very RESURRECTION AND LIFE had spoken!
a. This of course was meant to raise the level of faith in the disciples for the coming weeks' events.
b. If Jesus can raise a man who had been dead 4 days, surely he can raise
Himself after 3!
B. Confidence 11:44
1. While only Christ gave life, He instructs the ones standing by to "unwrap Lazarus and let him go."
a. Part of our responsibility as brothers and sisters in Christ is to help remove the "death clothes" that would keep us in bondage after Christ has given us life.
b. There is a responsibility on our part to help unbound one another now that we have Christ's life in us.
2. Certainly the confidence level in Christ rose significantly that day…and indeed many people became believers (see 11:45).
a. Faith however is not static, and possibly some of these same people only a week or so later will be in the crowd yelling "crucify Him".
b. We must keep our faith active in Christ!
3. True confidence in Christ is found in those who every day cast their faith in Him who is the resurrection and the life.
4. It is not a difficult thing for God to raise the dead, though it seems
impossible to us, nothing is impossible with God!
ILLUS: A workman of the great chemist
Michael Faraday accidentally knocked a silver cup into a solution of acid. It
was promptly dissolved, eaten up by the acid. The workman was terribly disturbed
by the accident. The chemist came in and put a chemical into the jar, and
shortly all the silver was precipitated to the bottom. The shapeless mass was
lifted out and sent to the silversmith, and the cup was restored to its original
shape. If a human genius can do a things like this, why should we doubt that God
can raise the dead? --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House
Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 166.
5. Do you believe?
CONCLUSION: Man's greatest enemy death is defeated by man's greatest friend, Christ! Jesus never conducted a funeral because in His presence death fled! He is the resurrection and the life, so all who are in Him will never die. Is His life in you?