Hello and welcome to Wednesday’s Foundation Podcast.
Today’s reading is John 11: 17-44. It’s an amazing passage of scripture which you can hear read in full at the end of this podcast. Today, we are going to focus on verses 25 and 26. These are Jesus words to Martha: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
These words come from a very famous passage of scripture – the raising of Lazarus. John, the author of this book, has been building his Gospel to this point . He records seven miracles (signs) – so far we’ve covered six – which all point, in his view, to Jesus being God. This, the raising of Lazarus, is the final and perhaps the greatest sign.
It’s such an incredible event. We read about Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up! You would think, wouldn’t you, that John would spend some time telling us about what happens next? About what Lazarus did and said after he was resurrected? What was his reaction to this amazing miracle? But we don’t get any of that. Today’s reading ends with Jesus saying to the people at the now empty tomb, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Jesus is the one squarely in view – not Lazarus. John wants us to focus on Jesus – who he is and what he says. That’s what we’ve been considering so far this week. Jesus says, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’
And do you know what? It’s possible to read those words, to go to church, to even say ‘I’m a Christian’ and not really, in our heart of hearts, believe the truth that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. That he actually rose again. That he defeated death. And that through Him we can have victory over death too.
As I wrote this podcast, I was drawn back to a time when that really hit home to me. I was having a conversation with my wife, Jo. I’d only recently come to faith at this point. For some reason we were talking about death. We have such fun chats in our house! I’d begun to explain my understanding (in reality lack of understanding) about what happens when we die. I vividly remember Jo turning to me at one point and saying, ‘Well if I know where I am going, why worry about this stuff?’ She said it with such certainty that it really took me aback. And I remember thinking in that moment – Wow, I don’t think I really know that. Because for many years whenever I had pondered what death was like, the whole thing frightened me. The finality of it. The uncertainty. The thought of not existing any more really just unsettled me.
For so many people, this is the reality. This is how people think. Quite often, we don’t want to talk about death because the whole thing just totally freaks us out. For so many people the fear of death is very real.
Then we read in today’s passage, Jesus saying ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’ And we see the demonstration of his authority and power to make that claim. He raises Lazarus. And what Jesus does for his friend, it’s a foretaste of what he will do for all mankind on the cross. He lays down his life for us and then three days later he takes it up again. He is the resurrection!
It’s true and that truth brings life . We often use the scripture here at STC – John 10:10. Jesus says, ‘I came that may have life and have it in all its fullness’. Through turning to Jesus, turning away from our sins and believing in him – we receive life. A real life with God now. But also Jesus gives us a forever life. An eternal life. John writes this later on in his Gospel, ‘This is what eternal life is that they (we) know God.’
We don’t have to fear death because we can know God! Death is not the end. We can know with certainty that there is a future for us, and for those we love who believe in Jesus, now and into eternity, and it’s with God.
Jesus says to Martha, ‘Do you believe this?’ I can’t remember exactly when but there was a point when I just accepted and knew this to be true. And I remember afterwards thinking, ‘I’m not afraid any more.’
Do we believe this? Jesus wants to give us that certainty of eternal life today as we read these scriptures. We can know that today. And if we can know that, others can too! What a message of hope we have to offer people! God, would you help us to live this day in such a way which reflects that we know who we are in you and we know where we are ultimately headed. May we be a witness to the resurrection life this day.
Jesus, thank you that you are the resurrection and the life. We come to you today and we say we believe it Lord. We want to know this new life, this forever life that only you can give us. It’s good news! God, in a world where everything seems so uncertain, would you spur us on to be a people, a church, that live lives which share this amazing news of a sure and certain future – a new life that is found only in you. Amen.
READING: John 11:17-44
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’
Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’
Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’
Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’
‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied, ‘I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.’
After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. ‘The Teacher is here,’ she said, ‘and is asking for you.’ When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked.
‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied.
Then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’
But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.
‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’
Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth round his face.
Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’