Where to Find the Key to Life

Resurrection, Easter, Lazarus, Purpose, Meaning, John

I am confident that everyone here knows that Easter is more than a day for family celebrations, candy, dress clothes, and attendance figures at church that boost the yearly average. This is a day that we celebrate the cornerstone of our faith. This is the day we celebrate life in all of its fullness.

It may seem strange but most of the people you and I know are looking for life. They believe they will find fulfillment if they can

  • Make more money
  • Achieve a certain rank
  • Find their special someone
  • Sell that manuscript
  • Pay off a debt
  • Own more acres
  • Get to an ideal weight
  • Beat a physical problem
  • Do enough good deeds to get to Heaven

People are looking for something that is lacking in their life. Things may be good but everyone recognizes that there has to be something more. Like Solomon (In the book named Ecclesiastes in the Bible) we pursue many different things only to find that they are essentially dead ends. They satisfy us for a little while, but the feeling doesn’t last.

This morning I believe Jesus tells us the secret for finding the life we have been looking for. We are going to look at a Resurrection story this morning but it wasn’t Jesus who died or rose from the dead. It was actually a friend of Jesus’ by the name of Lazarus. Lazarus died and Jesus brought Him back from death. In this story Jesus points to the key to a fulfilling life.

The Anger of Jesus

I want to take you to the middle of this text first because I want you to be aware of something as we read the story.

33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

Did you get that? Jesus was angry. But what was He angry about? This seems odd because Jesus knew Lazarus had died and he had told His disciples that God was going to use this event for His glory. Jesus knew He was going to call Lazarus back from the dead. So . . . why is He angry?

He became angry when He saw the grief of his friends. He was angry when he arrived at the tomb of His friend. I believe Jesus was angry at the effects of sin. He hated the destruction that sin had brought into the world. Grief, pain, and suffering, are all effects of the fall of man. Jesus, He was angry at the Devil who sought to encourage greater and greater sinfulness.

This isn’t hard to understand. You and I will say we hate cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes, Muscular Dystrophy, Diabetes and so much more. We hate them because we have seen the effects of these diseases on people we love and it angers us.

If you attend a funeral for someone who died because of the recklessness of someone else or even because of bad choices of the individual who died, we might be angry at what we consider to be a “waste”. We are angry that these actions created such pain for the family and friends.

This, I believe is how Jesus felt when he looked around and saw all the grief and sadness surrounding Mary and Martha. Death, pain, destruction, grief were all so unnecessary. They were perversions of the design of God that came about because of sin.

Keep this in mind as we look at this Biblical account. Our Lord aches with us. He hates the things that cause us pain. He yearns with us for the time when we will be completely delivered from the harsh realities of life in a sinful world.

Background

We are told Jesus heard that his friend Lazarus was sick. It was clear that the desire was for Jesus to come and bring healing to this sick friend. Jesus was a few days journey away from where Lazarus lived.

However, instead of heading right out to help his friend, Jesus waited. He waited a couple of days and then announced to his disciples that it was time to go. He also told them that Lazarus had died. I am sure this confused the disciples. What made things more confusing was the fact that Jesus was a marked man. Everyone knew the religious leaders were trying to find a reason to have Jesus arrested. The town of Bethany (where Lazarus lived) was just outside of Jerusalem. It seemed like a foolish choice to go to Bethany when there was “nothing they could do”. This is where we pick up the story.

17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. 18 Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, 19 and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. 20 When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

The fact that Lazarus had been in the grave for four days is significant. Rabbis believed that death was irrevocable three days after a person died. (I don’t know what they thought might happen before this time). In other words, after those four days any hope was extinguished. Jesus waited the extra days to make sure that what was going to happen next was not going to be explained away by some natural explanation.

Jesus arrived and Martha came out to see Him. It is hard to discern her state of mind or the tone of her words. Was she glad to see Him as a friend who brings comfort in a time of grief? Was she ticked off that He didn’t get there sooner? We don’t know. In verse 21 and 22 Martha noted that Jesus could have healed Lazarus. Was this a rebuke? She seems to be saying she knows He can STILL heal Lazarus. However, when Jesus tells her that her brother was going to rise again she assumed Jesus was talking about Heaven. I believe Jesus was talking about much more.

Life Beyond the Grave

It appeared Martha was missing what He saying so he spelled it out:

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.”

What amazing words these are. They may not have seemed like a great deal of help to Martha at that instant (kind of like saying, “your loved one is in a better place”. That may be true but it does not help to mitigate grief). But Jesus wasn’t merely mouthing a platitude—he was saying something incredibly profound and significant, something that would bring Martha genuine comfort and has encouraged countless lives since.

Notice that Jesus does not say “I facilitate resurrection”. He says “I AM the resurrection and the life”. The person of Jesus is key to understanding life beyond the grave. He is THE way (the ONLY way) to life beyond the grave. His death and His resurrection open the door to eternal life for all of us. In other words, Jesus is OUR resurrection. Through Him, because of Him, and IN Him, we are able to live beyond the grave. He makes it possible for sinful people to be made right before God.

32 When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

….But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

Jesus walked to the tomb of Lazarus. As he did so, people were criticizing him. They said if He had been a better friend, He would have kept this from happening by healing Lazarus like He had already healed so many.

Jesus told them to roll away the stone that sealed the tomb. Martha protested that the decay of the body would have begun and it would stink. Jesus told here in essence . . . “Hang on and watch what I am going to do.”

He said a prayer and then He shouted. He SHOUTED “Lazarus, come out”. It has been well documented that some suggest that the reason Jesus called Lazarus by name was because if he didn’t, every grave would have emptied!

So Lazarus came stumbling out the tomb (I imagine looking somewhat like a mummy). And Jesus said, “Unwrap him!” Lazarus was back. The people were stunned. God was glorified.

Present Life

It is a powerful story that gives a certain hope of life beyond the grave. However, I believe when Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” and when he said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” He was saying more than, “I am the one who can lead you to Heaven. (Even though that is true).

Perhaps you remember that when Jesus came into the world proclaiming the message of the gospel He did not say, “the Kingdom of God is Coming”, He said, “the Kingdom of God is upon you.” It’s arrived. It’s here right now.

Jesus came to pay the penalty of our sin and to break the power of sin on our lives. And that freedom and new life starts the moment you believe. In John 10:10 Jesus compared His purpose with that of Satan and other false teachers:

10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

I still like the older translations: “I have come so that you might have life and have it abundantly”! So, do you see that Jesus was not talking just about life in the future (when we get to Heaven). He came, He lived, He died, and He rose again so that you and I could experience the very life we have been looking for. Jesus came to give us eternal life that begins RIGHT NOW.

We spend our lives trying to “grab the gusto” and “live for the moment”. The problem is that we don’t know what we are looking for. One moment we are trying to find pleasure. The next we are trying to numb pain. We run from activity to activity in the hope that one of these activities will give a measure of enduring satisfaction, but in truth, they are all just amusements. They don’t last.

True life comes from being right with the True and Living God. The only way for that to happen is through the work of Christ. When a person becomes a follower of Jesus; when we put our hope and our trust in Him; when we name Him as the ruler and leader of our lives; some great things happen,

  • We discover purpose in our living
  • We become children of God rather than living as enemies of God
  • We are forgiven our sin and viewed as perfect
  • We find strength for the difficult times
  • We find peace in the depth of our soul
  • We have hope in the knowledge that this life is not all there is
  • We find joy in serving rather than in lording it over others
  • We can stop pretending to be something that we are not because the Lord loves us as we are.
  • We can do what we have been equipped to do knowing that we are doing what God wants us to do; rather than always trying to be like everyone else.
  • Through Christ we find wholeness.
  • We sing a new song that the world around us doesn’t understand.

The life you are looking for can only be found in Jesus.

Conclusions

Easter is really good news. It is good news for the grieving. It is good news for those who are standing on the edge of the chasm of death. Easter reminds us that this is not the end . . . it is only the end of the beginning. Those who die in the Lord never really die at all.

But I also want you to see that the story of Easter is also good news for the here and now. It shows us, it provides us what we have been looking for all our lives. In the death and resurrection of Jesus we are given the key to life itself both now and forever. The resurrection is the key that unlocks the meaning and purpose of life.

Jesus asked Martha a probing question. After making his bold declaration of being the resurrection and the life he asked, “Do you believe this?” This is where “the rubber meets the road”. For Easter to have any real meaning it has to be personal. Pastor Tim Keller wrote,

The essence of Christianity is personal pronouns. If you are here this morning saying, “The Son of God was born, he died, he was raised, he ascended, and he’s coming again, that doesn’t make you a Christian. But if you say, The Son of God was born for me, he died for me, he was raised for me, he was ascended to the right hand of the Father for me, and he’s going to come again for me,” that’s the essence of Christianity.[1]

I hope you will take the question of Jesus personally. Do YOU believe this? Do you see the relevance of Jesus for your life? Have you turned to Him as YOUR Savior? Do you look to Him as the One who gives life both now and forever?

If not, I encourage you to think hard about the implications of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. His arms are open to you. He wants to deliver you and me from the heartache that is the result of sin and death. The question is: Will you let Him save you?

I hope you have a wonderful day today. I hope you are able to spend time with family and observe some of your Easter traditions. However, if that is all Easter is to you, you have sadly really missed the point. Easter declares that what you have been looking for, what you race around trying to find, is available to you as a gift. Jesus is what you need and what you have been looking for. If you want to truly find the life you were meant to live, you need to stop running around and instead follow the One who brings life from death and who brings meaning, purpose, peace, and joy to life right here and right now.

[1] Timothy Keller sermon archive

Scripture:

John 11:17-44