Do You Believe This?

Do You Believe This?

Mar 23, 2017

By Rev. Herbert E. Saunders

In C. S. Lewis’ fantasy, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the great lion, Aslan (the representation of God and his Son who has been sacrificed by the white witch) rises to life again. The first place Aslan goes after his resurrection is to the citadel of the white witch. He then breathes on the stone statues of animals and beings the white witch has cursed and they become living beings again.

The idea of resurrection is scary! If God’s Son is really alive then I will have to deal with Him. I have no choice.

A family was living in a caretaker’s house in a cemetery. They were able to live there provided they did some upkeep for the cemetery. They finally found a house to purchase in the town in which they were living. They told a co-worker to tell a pastor friend that they would be moving and added, “it’s not every day someone moves out of a cemetery.”

That’s true…but we know Someone who did. And because He did, we shall.

This is the message of the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

George Matheson writes: “It is not resurrection that has made Christ; it is Christ that has made resurrection.”

The biblical narrative from John eleven starts with Jesus and His disciples located in what was known as Perea. They had been to Jerusalem for the Feast of Dedication, but returned to Perea to avoid some of Jesus’ conflict with the Jews.

The narrative begins: Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary and Martha, along with their brother Lazarus, were three of Jesus’

closest friends besides the disciples. Bethany was on the opposite side of the Mount of Olives from the Holy City, just a couple of miles away.

So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” When Jesus heard it, He said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

Jesus didn’t immediately rush to Bethany and Lazarus’ bedside — in fact He stayed in Perea two more days. Then He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples, not too sure this was a good idea, suggest: “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” The disciples are aware of what lay ahead for Jesus if He returned to Jerusalem. But Jesus was insistent: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples, confused, as they often were, by Jesus’ words, said to Him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus explained to them, rather emphatically: “Lazarus is dead.”

Jesus, against the warnings of His disciples, journeyed to Bethany. Martha ran to meet Him on the way. Through tear-filled eyes and with a hint of perhaps justified anger Martha said: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus, with obvious compassion in His voice, responded: “Your brother will rise again.”

Then Martha, in words she had perhaps repeated over and over to herself, said: “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Thus begins one of the most powerful stories from the human life of Jesus. There aren’t many others, including raising Jairus’ daughter and raising the widow’s son at Nain, that measure up to the impact of this particular event. Jesus loved Lazarus but He stayed two more days in Perea for one reason: “For God’s glory!”

Facing a weeping friend who couldn’t understand why He didn’t come immediately, Jesus said to her: “I AM the resurrection and the life.”

Maxie Dunnam in his study of the “I AM” sayings of Jesus entitled JESUS’ CLAIMS — OUR PROMISES, writes: “This is no promise of some obscure, future hope, but victory over death now and eternal life in the present.”

In Jesus’ own words, “I AM the Resurrection! — I AM the Life!” And Jesus added: “Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” What a remarkable affirmation!

Billy Graham wrote: “When we preach atonement, it is atonement planned by love, provided by love, given by love, finished by love, necessitated because of love. When we preach the resurrection of Christ, we are preaching the miracle of love.”

Jesus then looked Martha in her tear-filled eyes and asked: “DO YOU BELIEVE THIS?

Perhaps this is the ultimate question each of us as Christians has to answer: “Do You Believe that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life?” This isn’t some “pie-in-the-sky” dream — it is an immediate reality.

Martha still did not understand: “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

The one coming into the world? Martha was still looking, still hoping. Jesus stood on her doorstep and she still doubted the reality of His presence — was He, or was He not, the Messiah?

As Paul Harvey always said: “Here’s the rest of the story.”

Martha returned home to tell Mary. Mary, who for reasons we don’t know, chose to remain at home. When Mary arrived she said the same thing Martha said: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Whereupon Jesus asked the grieving women where Lazarus had been buried and joined them in their grief. In one of the shortest verses in the scriptures and one that many a Sabbath School student has used as a memory verse: “Jesus wept!” These were His close friends – He undoubtedly spent many a day with them as a guest in their home when He visited Jerusalem — He loved them deeply. Even though He knew exactly what was about to take place, He joined the sisters in their grief. Those in the crowd said: “See how he loved him!”

Jesus joined Mary and Martha in a sad procession to the tomb, but without hesitation commanded: “Take away the stone.” Martha, who still wasn’t convinced that Jesus was who He says He was, objects: “He’s been dead four days, the stench will be unbearable.”

Whereupon Jesus said to her and to the disciples who accompanied him: “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” At this the people removed the stone. Jesus, conscious of His surroundings and aware of all who were looking on, turned His head upward and prayed: “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

Then, without hesitation Jesus shouted: “Lazarus, come out!” Immediately, to the amazement of all, the dead man emerged from the tomb, still covered with the grave cloths that had been used to bury him.

Then Jesus said: “Unbind him and let him go!” Here Jesus was affirming that not only was Lazarus released from the tomb and the grave cloths, he was released from the prison of the evil one to live again. It is similar to Aslan, the Lion, breathing new life into the cold statues the evil white witch had at her citadel. Imagine Lazarus’ life story from that time on — “I’m alive, and believe it or not, let me tell you how it happened.” End of story!!

John writes that it is the Lazarus miracle that triggers the wrath of Jesus’ opponents and leads them to agree to their deadly strategy against him.

Don Shelby writes: “When we tell ourselves ‘I can never change,’ or ‘That will never happen,’ we presume too much and believe too little. In Jesus Christ, God renders all of our final conclusions premature and all of our talk…as simply bad faith. In Christ, God opens closed doors, brings resurrection, reveals possibilities, reclaims the lost, liberates the cursed and possessed, and changes the unchangeable.” This one miraculous act changes the way we think about God’s purpose, God’s plan, and God’s power.

Jesus said: “I AM the resurrection and the life.” He proved it by raising Lazarus from death — the climactic miracle of our Lord’s earthy ministry. Then as if to add an exclamation point to the reality that He is the “I AM” — He rose from death to life himself!

Frederick Beuechner affirms that the Bible simply “proclaims the resurrection as a fact. Christ is risen!”

Martin Luther: “0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory? This is so true that even Satan cannot deny it. Christ’s resurrection and victory over sin, death, and hell is greater than all heaven and earth. You can never imagine his resurrection and victory so great but that in actuality it is far, far greater.”

Jesus Christ defeated this horrible enemy, death, totally and permanently.

Calvin Miller in THE BOOK OF JESUS writes: “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the epicenter of Christianity. During his three-year ministry, Jesus raised at least three people from the dead. But these resurrections really amount to little more than resuscitations. Jesus’ resurrection stands for this truth: death, which could not hold Jesus in the grave, will also not hold those who believe in him.”

Case closed!! All the rest is glorious hope for an eternal future for all of us. We believe in the Resurrection. We believe that Jesus is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

Alfred Lord Tennyson expressed his belief in the resurrection in his poem, “Crossing the Bar.” He gave specific 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.

The most famous clock in the world is London’s Big Ben. It stands by the Houses of Parliament and towers above Westminster Abbey, a familiar landmark. The chimes play the tune of the hymn: “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth.”

We believe in the resurrection — in the one who is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki in her book, Bearing Our Sorrows, writes: “The edges of God are tragedy; the depths of God are joy, beauty, resurrection, life. Resurrection answers crucifixion; life answers death.”

Jesus — God — the “I AM” is the “Way, the Truth and the Life.” Jesus — God — the “I AM” is “the Light of the World.” Jesus — God — the “I AM” is the “Good Shepherd.” Jesus — God — the “I AM” is the “Bread of Life.” Jesus — God — the “I AM” is the “Messiah.” Jesus — God — the “I AM” is the “Resurrection and the Life.”

He is who He says He is. There is no other WAY. No one else knows the TRUTH. We can depend upon Him for LIFE, abundant, full, free and eternal.

Why? Because we believe that He is the RESURRECTION and the LIFE for us. This earthly life is not “all there is!” We have an eternity awaiting. What it means for us is what Paul affirms in his letter to the Corinthians: “So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body.”

Christ is the promise of our resurrection and our new life!!

Maxie Dunnam writes: “‘Hope’ for the Christian is not hoping in the normal sense of that word: it is not wishful thinking. It is the very substance of faith which gives us our greatest certainty…In the resurrection, the power of God prevails. In that event, God said, ‘No more! Never! Never again will you be separated from me.’… Because Jesus is the resurrection and the life, we are not victims, either of circumstances or of death. We are victors.”

Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life, is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Hallelujah!


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