JULY 17, 2016
MAIN TEXT: JOHN 11:17-27
Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her,“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. o you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
BELIEF VS. UNBELIEF
The prologue in John introduces us to the person of Jesus as the incarnated word of God. In a world of evident darkness, John has a word of hope to share: the darkness has not overcome the light. Jesus is that light, and John writes because he desired his audience to believe this. In his opening words he writes John the Baptist “came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him” (John 1:6). And at the end of the book John writes that many signs were performed in the presence of the disciples which aren’t written down but the signs that are, are written “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30).
Chapters 1-12 are considered to be a book of “signs.” The main narrative thread here is that Jesus is the Son of God and he represents God the Father. The signs of power he performs demonstrate that reality. A distinct difference between John and the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke is the language John uses to describe the miracles of Jesus. He relates stories of Jesus’ miraculous power less as a deed of power, wonder, or miracle causing amazement and more as a sign or pointer to the person of Jesus, signifying his relationship to God the Father. The singular responses to his works are unbelief or belief. Whereas all the other Gospels contain demonic threats, exorcisms, and healings from demonic control, those themes are not in John. The real issue for John seems to be unbelief and how it oppresses unbelievers, snuffing out the light of freedom. His solution is a call to come into the light and life of the Father through Jesus.
THE TYRANNY OF DEATH IS REMOVED
Prior to Chapter 11, Jesus speaks about the eternal life he grants. But in our passage he shifts, bringing a new theme to the fore: he is the resurrection and the life. A common understanding of resurrection happening at the end of the age was prevalent within Judaism. But it is belief in Jesus that allows us to participate in this final resurrection.
Eternal life is also given to us now for those who believe not in doctrine but in the person of Jesus. “Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (5:25). This “life” doesn’t make humans immortal; we will all face our mortality one day. But we no longer live under the power of death. Jesus is offering, through belief in him, a way to live that moves us from a place of being under the tyranny of death into the light of life.
Jesus intentionally waited two days before going to Bethany. He doesn’t immediately go and perform this sign of his identity by raising Lazarus. It seems that there is something he is trying to accomplish in the disciples, and in Martha. Before he manifests his glory in raising Lazarus, he seeks to draw them deeper into relationship with him. Apparently this cannot be done by simply and quickly removing their sorrow over Lazarus. The dialogue is intended to lead to trust and a fuller awareness of Jesus being the life giver. Resurrection is not only a matter of the last day but of now, of participating in faith in the Son of God. It is this participation in his person that he desires for all his disciples.
WHAT IS THE LIFE THAT IS OFFERED TO US?
The nation of Israel came into being through resurrection in the lives of the patriarchs. God made a covenant with Abraham to bless him and told him that a great nation would be birthed through his offspring. But Abraham and Sara remained childless into old age. They tried to take matters into their own hands as Abraham had a child through Sara’s handmaiden, but God rejected this plan and continued to ask them to have faith, to believe, to trust in him. There was no way for them to bear children physically. And that is when the resurrection power of God manifested itself in their bodies. The fulfillment of God’s promises doesn’t depend on human resources but on faith in his person and power.
God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar. This is the son, the seed, the promise fulfilled. And now God is asking for his life. But the reality is he is asking again for Abraham’s life; he wanted to know if Abraham trusted in Yahweh or only in the manifested blessing. Is it God that we believe in or in his rewards and blessings? Abraham responded correctly and reasoned that God could raise Isaac from the dead thereby showing his trust in Yahweh.
His belief in resurrection power sustained him as he was building the altar and raising the sacrificial knife. The story continues and God demonstrates his resurrecting power all throughout the history of establishing the nation of Israel. Even when they are carried into exile by his orchestration he has a plan for their resurrection.
Belief in the person of Jesus as the manifestation of God on earth is central to the book of John. The “I Am” statement before us today further emphasizes the life and person of Jesus, still alive today, as the resurrection power available to us all.
The life available is both eternal and temporal. It is both now and future. It is the hope we have in final resurrection and the hope for living today through the trials of existence in a broken world.
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing to discuss the implications of the message.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: John 11:17-27
Where has Jesus been at work in your life? What is a testimony of His life invading yours? Share some stories of resurrection power demonstrated in your life.
Mental assent is not fully adequate to enter into the life that Jesus offers in himself. He desires to unite the totality of your life with
Maybe you would like to give full control to Jesus or maybe you feel powerless to make a change that will allow victory in your life. Discuss with someone what role you play and what role Jesus plays in enacting transformation.