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Resurrection Sunday, 04/01/2018
“Is This All There Is?!”
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
Through the Written Word,
And the spoken word,
May we know Your Living Word,
Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
So far today, in this “hour” or worship, we have re-enacted the events of Maundy Thursday, when Jesus and His twelve disciples celebrated the Passover, and Jesus instituted what has become Holy Communion. We prayed and sang our way into Good Friday and were present at Jesus’ crucifixion – and we prayed and offered our own sacrificial giving with our tithes and offerings. And now we come to the part of the service where we remember what this day is really all about!
So, get your phones ready, I’m gonna give you some super Tweetable quotes:
- You may still have a son at home in bed – but God’s Son is Risen from the dead!
- Your Easter Basket is full – but the tomb is empty!
- He can put your life back together when it is in pieces – but some of you are still focused on the Reeses!
- Do you love Jesus? – When Jesus is born I get presents; when Jesus dies I get chocolate! Of course, I love Jesus!
Back in the day, we had a church member whose husband only came to worship on Christmas and Easter; and then one year he didn’t show up for Christmas, and then he didn’t come on Easter, so I asked the church member where her husband was; this is what she told me: “Nick stopped coming to church because every time he came he heard the same two sermons over and over again!”
So … we have now got all the one-liner, same-sermon, topics out of the way … let’s look at a non-Easter Bible passage, with a real-Easter message wrapped inside!
Let’s turn to John, chapter 11 (page 760 in the pew Bibles). This is the story where Jesus’ good friend Lazarus dies, because Jesus takes three days to get to him. When He heard that Lazarus was sick and dying, Jesus said, straight out, “this will not end in death” … but then Lazarus died! And Jesus wept! That’s the story. When Jesus finally shows up, Lazarus has been dead for four days! Listen to this brief excerpt, a conversation between Jesus and Lazarus’ sister Martha: John 11:21-27 …. —-
21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (What do you think she was saying here? Did she expect Lazarus to come back to life?)
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (Now she’s baiting Him, right? There was a denomination of Jews who believed in an end-times resurrection – that’s what she’s talking about.)
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (Altar call….)
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
You see how this is not an Easter story – Jesus does not resurrect in this story – no one does! Not even Lazarus! Lazarus does come back to life – like the flesh and sinews that grew back on the bones in Ezekiel’s day (Ezekiel 37, “dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones”) – but it’s not a “resurrected” body, it is merely a revived body, a resuscitated body, a body that will, someday, get sick or old or injured, and die again! You see the difference? One offers life eternal; the other offers life for awhile longer.
But you also saw the real Easter message wrapped inside? Jesus says, “I am the resurrection … and the life. If you believe in me, you will live … and whoever believes in me will have life eternal.”
There are three Greek words which all might be translated “life” in English.
- “Bios” means, literally, bodily-life – biology life, the life we live in our bodies.
- “Psyche” means, literally, soul-life – psychology life, the life we live in our thinking and feeling.
- “Zoe” means, literally, living-life – zoology life, not just animal life, but life beyond what we do and how we think or feel.
“Zoe” is the word Jesus uses here.
And when He says, “I am the resurrection and the Zoe-life” Jesus is identifying Himself with God and offering that life which goes beyond our timeline on planet earth. There’s a special way to say “I am” which is the Greek version of the Old Testament Hebrew word “YHWH” = God’s name. That’s what Jesus does in this passage.
I imagine Lazarus coming out of his tomb, alive again, but wondering, “Really? Now what? Is there something more to this than just breathing and moving and reproducing, more than just thinking and feeling?”
That’s exactly what Jesus is telling Martha. “Yes!” He says, “There is so much more. I am the Resurrection and the Life. Do you believe this?”
As C.S. Lewis observed, our longings run deeper and reach further and aspire to things far higher than anything this world can offer. Are we really ready to settle for only what we can gain in this temporal existence, when so much more is offered through a relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit? That is Jesus’ question to Martha: Do you believe?
If there is nothing more than our struggles and hurts and disappointments in this life, or even our victories and successes and joys, if there is nothing more, how much trouble do we really want to put into it? But if what Christ is offering has any value, why would we ever put it aside?
Jesus goes to the Cross on Friday, dies for my sins, and yours, and ours, and on Sunday His tomb was empty because He has conquered that separation from God we call death, not by merely resuscitating, but by His resurrection – new body, new thinking, new Life! And, simply by belief, He offers that eternal treasure to us!
Jesus boldly proclaims that each person’s eternal destiny depends on whether one receives Him by faith as He offers Himself to us in the Gospel or rejects Him to stand before God on the final judgment with only our condemning conscience as counsel.
Jesus comes to the world because “God so loved the world that He gave His one and 0nly Son”, and He offers His gift of life to all, at any age, in every nation, after any life event, to innocent children and to thieves on crosses.
“I am the resurrection and the life,” He tells Martha. “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Then He put the crucial question to Martha, and to each of us: “Do you believe?”
Baugus, Bruce B.; “Is This Life All There Is?”; TableTalk; August 2017; Pp. 28-29.
Crist, John B.; “Pastors on Easter Be Like…”; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1XsrJ3687aM .