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This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.

Scripture: John 11:17-44

Sermon prepared by Rev. Jake Corvers, Taber, AB

Brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ. On Easter Sunday we remember and rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He was put to death for our trespasses and he was raised for our justification. Easter is a day of rejoicing, because he who died for us, lives again and someday all the graves will be opened and those who have died in Christ will rise to a new life in the presence of God. We will rise at the call of our Lord Jesus Christ. We may live in his presence forever.

But even before Easter Jesus already showed that he had power over death. He raised three people from the dead: the daughter of Jairus, the young man of Nain and Lazarus of Bethany. Now it is with the raising of Lazarus that Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life." He not only raises the dead, but he is the resurrection and the life. He is not talking about the resurrection in the end of time, but he is the resurrection today and the life. Now in order to appreciate what this all means, let us look at the time and place when he said this. The Bible says that Lazarus, who was the brother of Martha and Mary, was ill and his illness was so serious, he died. Lazarus was evidently not married, nor is there any evidence that his sisters were either. We take it that they were in the early years of life. Now Lazarus is taken away by an early, or untimely death. The grief of Mary and Martha is intensified by the fact that Lazarus was cut off in the midst of his days.

When these things happen, you think what a waste, so much to live for and now it is all over. Mary and Martha may well have felt the same about the death of Lazarus. Their grief may have been intensified by the fact that Jesus, who often came by and healed the sick, was not there when he was most needed. They had even sent a message to him that Lazarus was ill, but he hadn’t come and now Lazarus had died and was buried.

Then Martha is told that Jesus was coming and she went out to meet him and as she came to him she said, "Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." Then Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." In the simplest way Jesus tells her what is about to happen, but Martha does not grasp the significance of what is said. She applies it to the resurrection in the end of time. She says I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.

Martha is looking way into the future and there at the end of time there will be a general resurrection and then all people will rise: she knows that and believes it, but that won’t bring her brother back today. Then Jesus says to her, "I am the resurrection and the, life, he who believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and, believes in me shall never die."

Martha had expressed her faith in the resurrection at the last day, but that did not comfort her now when there was an empty place at home; the tie between her and her brother was broken; he was in the grave. He would soon turn to dust and there he would lay for ages. Martha believed in the resurrection as a distant event.

But Jesus draws the resurrection near. He takes it out of the future and puts it into the category of faith in him. Jesus brings the resurrection near to the time in which we live. He says I am the resurrection and the life. Don’t keep looking into the future I am the one who gives life today. Jesus raises people to a new life in the Spirit. He is the light and the life of the world.

When a person is raised to a new life in Jesus, that person is fully alive in Christ. Jesus is the life and the resurrection of you and I today. We have been raised to a new life in Christ. We have life abundantly because he lives. There is no greater joy than to come out of darkness into the joy of the gospel and know Jesus as your Lord: being made alive by him.

Of all the New Testament writers, none speaks more often of this than the apostle Paul. Of all the apostles, he is the only one who had actually hated Jesus and wanted nothing to do with him. He even tried to destroy those who believed in him. Then as he was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians Jesus met him and Paul became a believer. Paul was raised from the dead and made alive in the Spirit.

The other Apostles had been made alive by the Lord. But their faith in Jesus came gradually and their conviction that he was the Son of God came over a period of time. They believed even though they were sometimes weak in the faith and they ran away in Gethsemane. They loved Jesus and followed him.

But, with Paul that was different. He was an enemy of Jesus; he voted in favor when Christians were put to death for their faith in Jesus. Now, he, of all people, was a chosen instrument of God to go and preach the gospel—telling Jews and Gentiles that the Son of God died for the sins of God’s people, that he was raised from the dead and that he is now the source and fountain for new life in the spirit. Paul was a living example of that spiritual resurrection.

Jesus not only healed the sick and opened the eyes of the blind and make the deaf hear and the lame walk, but he also raised the dead. By raising Lazarus he showed he is in control of the grave. He can open the grave and make the dead come back to life again: He did it then and he can do it now. But, for Martha all hope was gone when her brother died; it was already four days now. She even tried to stop Jesus from having the stone rolled away. After all, he has been in the grave four days; decay has set in. No use rolling the stone away; it’s over.

She believed in Jesus. She believed he was the Christ, the Son of God! She believed in the resurrection but, she couldn’t believe that it would happen right there and then. She had faith, but when it came to her brother she didn’t see her way out.

She looked at her brother: four days in the grave. "Lord you’d better leave the stone on the grave, decay has set in you know." Martha puts a fence around the power of Jesus. Even though she believes that he is the Christ the Son of God. Then as that stone is rolled away the Prince of life prays and then he calls with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out," and the dead man came out and the people were amazed.

When Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus she had just died and he took her by the hand and said to her "Talitha koum" that means, ‘young lady, arise.’ She sat up and he gave her to her parents. And then he raised also the young man of Nain who had died that day. He was being taken out to be buried and Jesus touched the bier and said "Young man, I say to you arise" and the dead man sat up and began to speak.

But here with Lazarus we are not dealing with death which had happened a few hours ago: it says he had died four days ago: decay had set in. Jesus didn’t touch him, he simply said Lazarus come out and he did. Jesus’ power over death has no limits. What he did then by the grave of Lazarus he will do someday at the end of time. He will call his people back to life. Those who sleep in the dust of the earth will hear the call of the Lord and will rise never to die again.

But what he did then and what he will do someday—he does today by raising people from a life of sin and death—to a life of faith and joy in the Lord. Jesus is the resurrection and the life for today.

Martha said, "Lord, don’t bother, he has been dead four days already; it is too late." Don’t we do the same with people who have wandered away from the Lord already years ago? Don’t we put a fence around them and say, "Oh well, what’s the use?" He or she has been like this for so long, there won’t be any change. If there was going to be we would have seen it by now.

And yet we believe that Jesus can raise the dead: even when they have turned to dust. Even though those who have gone down with a ship to the bottom of an ocean we believe that at the call of Jesus they will rise from the deep. Yet, knowing all that, sometimes we still put a fence around the power of Jesus: can he raise my son from a life of sin and unbelief? Can he raise him to a life of faith? Can he do it after all those years?

Well, if he can do it to Paul who hated him, and if he can raise a man who was decaying in the grave then he can raise your son or daughter, or your brother or sister, to a life of faith and obedience. He can do it to the people in your community as well. Let’s not put a fence around the power of Jesus: He can raise the dead because he is the resurrection and the life: "Just believe!"

The lesson of the power of Jesus was brought home to me many years ago. I worked with a man who was a very nice person to work with but he lived without God and so did his wife. They did not care about God or the church or anything. They had lived like that for a long time and I must say to my shame that I did not talk to them about Jesus and their life style. I didn’t think I would get anywhere. I had put a fence around this couple and therefore also around the power of Jesus. He is the resurrection and the life, but I had not built on that. I had put a limit to that power. Then I went to college and about four months later I came back and met this couple and he said to me, "Jake, I met the Lord, my wife and I have been converted. We were watching Billy Graham on TV and we gave our life to Jesus. Later on they joined a Baptist church and they have been faithful members ever since.

And the reason I mention it is that I had given up hope. I didn’t try, because decay had set in; they lived already for some years like this. They were stone dead to Christ and his church. But he who calls himself the resurrection and the life made them come alive again. Jesus opens the grave, he did then and he will someday, but he is doing it also today: by raising people to a new life of faith. Jesus can open a closed heart and give new life. I hear it said sometimes that so-and-so needs to go to a Christian counselor to get straightened out. Sometimes we act as if you can talk someone into repenting of his sins and turn his life around, as if you need a good talking to do that.

Believe me you can’t talk anybody into becoming a Christian, a person must be raised from the dead by the Lord. He is the resurrection and the life: he can do it. He can make a man dead in sin and trespasses come alive in the Spirit so that he turns to God in repentance and faith.

We’ve got to preach the gospel and pray for people and if possible pray with them, but you can’t make them believe. No one can open a closed mind or a hardened heart; you can talk, plead and threaten but you can’t change a person’s mind. The grave will remain closed, until Jesus comes and raises the dead and gives them a new heart and a new spirit and causes them to walk in his ways. I am sure that you have members in this congregation who for all practical purposes have turned their back on Christ. I know when you talk with them they say they are believers and they probably mean it. But their way of life does not bear it out. All your talking and pleading has up till now has not made any change in the way they live. As the years go by and that way of life becomes routine, then decay is beginning to set in and we don’t quite believe that a change will come after all these years, because of the time they have lived this way. You tried in the past to talk with them and turn them around and it didn’t work: will it work now after all these years? Don’t forget Lazarus was dead four days and he was raised. Jesus can make people alive no matter how long they have been living in sin. Even if they have calluses on their soul he can raise them from the dead.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He raises people out of the gutter and makes them instruments of his grace. Look what he did with Paul, a man who was a persecutor and a killer of Christians. Jesus met him and said, "Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?" Jesus opened a closed heart and Paul became a missionary. Now if Jesus can do that for Paul and for Bishop Augustine and for the millions all over the world, then he can do it for your son or daughter, your brother or sister, or your parents. He can do it for anybody: but are we still praying for that to happen? Or have you told Jesus that he had better leave the stone where it is because that person has been in the grave for so long: decay has set in. Don’t limit the power of the one who is the resurrection and the life. He can raise the dead and make them the children of God. John the Baptist once said to the Pharisees: "Do not say to yourselves, we have Abraham as our Father, for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham." And that is exactly what the Lord has done for centuries, raising the dead and making them alive in the spirit; they are the children of God. With Jesus nothing is impossible! He is the resurrection and the life!



Suggested Order of Worship

Call to Worship: The Lord is in his Holy temple,
Let all the earth keep silent before him
Silent Prayer: followed by Hymn # 624 "Hear our Prayer, O Lord"
God’s Greeting: We pray that the Grace and peace from God our Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ be with us all. Amen
Hymn #146 "Praise The Lord! Sing Hallelujah"
Law and the Summary,
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 44:21-22
Hymn #32: 1,2,5 "How Blest Are They Whose Trespass"
Scripture Reading: John 11:17-44 Text: verse 25
Sermon: I Am the Resurrection
Hymn: #391:1,2,4 "The Strife I s O’er, The Battle Done"
Hymn: #557 (old tune) "My Jesus, I Love Thee"
Benediction: We pray that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen
Doxology: #638 "Praise God, from Whom All Blessings Flow"

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