Calvary Road Baptist Church


John 11.25

I am so glad that my God is a personal God, that He deals with individuals as well as with groups, and that His infinite capacities and His interest in each of His creatures enables Him to address the smallest details of my life, as well as each of your lives. The God of the Bible, the God of the Christian faith, the Father of my Lord Jesus Christ, is not only the God of infinity, but also the God of the infinitesimal. He is the God of the big and the small. He is not only the God of the miraculous, but also the God of the providential, whose unseen hand moves without observation in the lives of men to accomplish His will and to fulfill His purpose.

It was Thursday of this week that I struggled with this morning’s message from God’s Word, recognizing that something was wrong with the sermon without quite realizing what the problem was. I then received a text message from someone I love very much who is suffering under God’s good and gracious hand, much as a flower’s petal is gently crushed to produce a lovely aroma. Her plight, her frustration, her discomfort, and her anger at her inability to remedy her pain without repentance erupted like a volcano, and suggested to me how I should approach the text of my sermon. My text is John 11.25.

The Lord Jesus Christ did not treat equally everyone He knew during His earthly ministry. Among His many disciples there were only twelve He called to be apostles, and an even smaller inner circle of three that He kept even closer than the twelve. Some disciples traveled with Him, while He told others to remain at home.[1] There were also others whose company He particularly enjoyed and around whom He seemed to find relaxation more than when He was with others. In Bethany, just outside Jerusalem lived just such friends; Mary, Martha, and their brother Lazarus.

Life seemed fine to Mary and Martha until their beloved brother was struck by sickness. Since it was obviously a serious illness, they hurriedly sent word to the Lord Jesus Christ, who they knew to be two day’s journey to the East. They had such confidence in Him. He would take care of Lazarus as He had ministered to so many before. After all, He did love the three of them so very much. However, as Lazarus’ condition grew worse and worse, Jesus did not come. Mary and Martha were worried. Then they grew puzzled. When their messenger returned without Jesus, they were shocked. Then Lazarus died and their world turned upside down. Everything they were certain about they were suddenly uncertain about. Thinking their lives had been on solid footing, Mary and Martha now reeled as sailors on the pitching deck of a small boat in a violent storm. They were in a daze when they buried their brother the next day, but still Jesus did not come as called. One day passed. Then another. Then another. He finally arrived, five days after Lazarus died, four days after they buried his body, at least one full week after they sent Jesus the urgent plea begging Him to come. He did not come.

By the time Jesus arrived, Mary and Martha were past fear and frustration. By the time the Lord Jesus Christ, their friend, their tender and beloved friend, their faithful and always reliable friend, had arrived they felt so far removed from the love of God and so remote from the tender care of Jesus. They had prayed . . . without answer. They pleaded with God . . . without comfort of any kind. They sent for Jesus . . . without a response. Oh, how they had sobbed. They were convinced they had been betrayed. Their hearts ached so much it was difficult at times to breathe. Then someone brought word that the Lord Jesus Christ was arriving soon. When they received word, Martha ran from the house to meet Him, somewhere near her brother’s tomb. Mary did not go to meet Him.

On the road to Bethany, Martha approached Him and stood, and as He approached she said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”[2] Her tone was accusing. She was blaming Him for her brother’s death. Perhaps the kindness and gentleness of His face softened her tone. She had trusted Him before this happened. She was convinced Jesus was God’s Son, so she said, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”[3] What did she mean by that? Do her comments suggest she thinks God will do anything Jesus asks Him to do? Why did she not indicate that Jesus could do whatever He wanted to do?

“Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day,” John 11.23-24. So, Martha believes in a general resurrection someday, when God will raise up the dead. Notice, however, that she pushes what she hopes for into the distant future, where little if any real faith is required. In my mind’s eye I see my Lord turn to face her directly her, and say, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”[4]

As if to dismiss her pat answer and her supposed confidence about something that will occur in the unspecified future to everyone, the Lord Jesus Christ seizes her attention and wrestles her away from a fuzzy consideration of God to intensely focusing on Him as her Object of faith, and from some generalized notion of a resurrection of her brother and everyone else in the future to what she believes right here and right now. Martha is grieving because her brother is dead. She is frustrated and confused because she does not have all the facts. She feels betrayed because she has used circumstances to interpret her Master’s love rather than using her Master’s love to interpret her circumstances. Most importantly, she has believed in God without believing in Jesus, which is no better than the faith of the demons according to James 2.19.

In short, what has happened to Martha is called life without Christ. Life is troubling. Life is confusing. Life is frustrating. Life is painful. Life is disappointing. Life rips loved ones away from you, because an undeniable aspect of life is death. Lazarus is dead and Jesus could have stopped it. Why did He not stop it?

My friends, whether on the surface where you can feel the raw emotions of pain and disappointment, or beneath the surface where they can sometimes be temporarily forgotten but never fail to affect you, what Martha felt you feel, and what Martha expressed you have in your own way thought yourself. Therefore, because Jesus is not only the God of the infinite but also the God of the infinitesimal, because Jesus is the Savior and Comforter of individuals and not anonymous multitudes, and because Jesus had earlier said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them,” I want you to hear Jesus’ answer to Martha, I want you to hear Jesus’ answer to you.[5]

In John 11.25, Jesus said to Martha, Jesus says to each of His own to answer their questions and to soothe their pains, Jesus says to you if you are one of His sheep (converted or yet to be converted), “I am the resurrection, and the life.” On this Easter Sunday, with the whole world arrayed against a proper celebration of it, with their secular Earth Day observations, with their vulgar and ostentatious religious celebrations, and with their spiritually compromising Easter egg hunts, let us take note, as we rejoice that Christ the Lord is risen today, that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

Four considerations for you to reflect upon today:


Notice three particulars about our text, “I am the resurrection, and the life.”

First, there is Christ’s identification of Himself as the covenant God of Israel. The Greek of “I am” is egw eimi, the phrase the LXX uses to translate Jehovah’s self-identification to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3.14, when He said, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” This phrase, which would never have been uttered by any Jewish man not claiming to be the God of Israel, was recognized by Jesus Christ’s enemies to be a claim of deity.[6] Do not think these two words did not immediately arrest the attention of Martha and everyone else who heard Him.

Second, there is Christ’s identification of Himself as the resurrection. Martha had this fuzzy concept of God raising people from the dead in the distant future on Judgment Day. The Lord Jesus Christ disabused her of that approach to faith. This One, who had raised people from the dead before, and who would raise her brother from the dead in a few moments, did not reveal Himself as the One who raises the dead, but as the resurrection! This is not something He does; rather it is something that He is.

Third, there is Christ’s identification of Himself as the life. There are definite articles placed before the words resurrection and life in our text. Jesus is not resurrection and life, but the resurrection and the life. Interesting, is it not, that He mentioned resurrection before life, instead of saying that He was the life and the resurrection? What do you suppose is implied by that placement of words? I think it is a purposeful emphasis, on Christ’s part, to reveal Himself in terms of the inconceivable. Thus, since He is the resurrection and the life, while it is conceivable for Him to die, it is inconceivable for Him to remain dead, because He is the resurrection and the life.

Following His Declaration, THERE IS HIS DEMONSTRATION

You and I both know that talk is cheap. It is so easy to say things without having any backup. However, the Lord Jesus Christ wasted no time to actually demonstrate what He had said to Martha. We read that He sent Martha away, secretly sent for Mary, who when she came to Him “fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”[7] Thus, two different people, with entirely different personalities and ways of dealing with grief and disappointment, expressed identical inward feelings about the cause of their brother’s death.

He then asked where Lazarus had been entombed, wept when He was taken there, directed the stone to be removed from the opening, expressed gratitude to His heavenly Father that could be heard by one and all, and then “cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.”[8] Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in front of many witnesses, demonstrating that He is the resurrection and the life.

More Important Than That Demonstration, However, WAS CHRIST’S RESURRECTION

Do you recognize the tremendous difference between one who avoids death and one who conquers death? As well, there is a tremendous difference between one who raises others and who is Himself raised up because it was not possible for death to hold Him. The reasons? There are several:

·               First, because He who is life and the author of life cannot remain dead, John 1.4.

·               Next, because God promised not to leave His soul in Hell or to allow His Holy One to see corruption, Psalm 16.10.

·               Third, because Jesus was raised for our justification, Romans 4.25.

·               Fourth, because there could be no prophecy-fulfilling exaltation of Jesus Christ apart from His resurrection, Psalm 110.1 and Hebrews 1.13.

·               Finally, for Jesus to fully function as our Great High Priest and to offer up His own blood for the remission of our sins, He had to be raised from the dead, Hebrews 12.24 and First Peter 1.2.

Consider the facts of Easter: Jesus Christ’s crucifixion for our sins is attested by the four gospels, is attested by the Jewish historian Josephus, is attested by the historian Lucian of Samosta, and is attested by the Jewish historian Mara Bar-Serapion. Hundreds of Christians witnessed His resurrection and were convinced enough to die for their testimony. Saul of Tarsus, the fiercest opponent of Christianity, became the most dedicated of Christians because he had seen the risen Jesus. Christ’s half brother, James, who had been a skeptic, became the most prominent leader of the Christians in Jerusalem because he saw Jesus raised from the dead. Add to that no contemporary in Jerusalem has ever been known to have denied the resurrection, and you have astounding historical proof. Jesus died over 2000 years ago, yet no one has ever referred to Him as the late Jesus. Not even the heathens. Nowhere in history. Nowhere has He ever been referred to in past tense, because He is the living God raised from the dead.


Of course, each sinner desperately needs the salvation from sins that only Jesus Christ can provide. Though some sinners have no perception of their profound need of Christ’s salvation, the need is nevertheless real, for without Christ’s salvation each sinner will suffer the eternal torments of the damned.

Consider the relationship of Christ’s salvation to Christ’s resurrection:

Ø   If Christ is not raised from the dead Christ did not conquer death.

Ø   If Christ is not raised from the dead Christ cannot forgive sins.

Ø   If Christ is not raised from the dead, God’s Word is not inspired and prophecies are unfulfilled.

Ø   If Christ is not raised from the dead He is not the proper Object of a sinner’s faith.

Ø   Yet, Jesus did rise, and was thereby declared to be the Son of God with power, Romans 1.4.

Ø   Jesus did rise, for our justification, showing His sacrifice to be acceptable to God, Romans 4.25.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so that we also should walk in newness of life, Romans 6.4.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so that our preaching and our faith would not be in vain, First Corinthians 15.14.

Ø   Jesus did rise, that He might be the first fruits, the first of many more to be raised from the dead, First Corinthians 15.20.

Ø   Jesus did rise, to ultimately destroy the last enemy, death, First Corinthians 15.26.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so His own might someday have bodies suited for eternity, First Corinthians 15.40.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so that His own might someday suddenly be changed, First Corinthians 15.51.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so His own can live the Christian life by the power of His resurrection, Philippians 3.10.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so that believers in Jesus Christ might have a lively hope, real confidence of future blessing based on the promise of God and the resurrection of Christ, First Peter 1.3.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so that Noah’s Ark (First Peter 3.20), and the ordinance of baptism (First Peter 3.21), would useful as valid symbols of the salvation found only through faith in Jesus Christ.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so that He could be exalted to His Father’s right hand until His enemies be made His footstool, Hebrews 1.13.

Ø   Jesus did rise, so He could give us the ascension gift of the Holy Spirit of God to indwell us, John 16.7.

Ø   Finally, Jesus did rise, so that He could return to heaven, reign in heaven, and someday return from heaven to establish His kingdom here on earth, fulfilling our prayer, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”[9]

Do you suppose Mary and Martha’s heartache and anguish, their confusion and disappointment, was alleviated once their brother walked out of that tomb wrapped in linen? How quickly their pain vanished, how rapidly their frustration evaporated as they embraced him.

Had Jesus changed in any way? No. Was His love for them altered one whit? No. Their mistakes, though understandable, are several, boiling down to one.

First, Mary and Martha had a fuzzy faith in God and an unfocused confidence that everything would turn out all right someday. However, that proved to be inadequate come crunch time, did it not? When tragedy strikes, good feelings and a generalized confidence in God is simply not enough. Is that the kind of faith you have? I hope not, because it is simply not good enough at the moment of death, yours or your loved ones.

Second, they were overwhelmed by circumstances. It happens to all of us. No one is immune from being overwhelmed by circumstances in life. Life is hard. Life is painful. However, Mary and Martha’s fault lie in using their circumstances to judge Christ’s love for them, rather than using Christ’s love for them to deal with their circumstances. Thus, they questioned Christ’s love when Lazarus died, rather than questioning Lazarus’ death. Have you done this? I think you have, since we have all done this to some degree.

A third thing to notice at this point is how very personal the Lord Jesus Christ was with the two sisters. This illustrates that the Savior’s dealings with each of us is just as personal, just as tailored to our personalities as we see He was to theirs.

In the end, I am sure the sisters realized that it had to unfold the way it did. Jesus had to declare that He is the resurrection and the life. He then had to demonstrate that He is the resurrection and the life by raising Lazarus. Then He had to die for men’s sins and rise from the dead Himself, the victor over sin and the Savior to cleanse and forgive, vital to accomplish and to show His great salvation from sins.

Therefore, you see, Easter is not at all about Easter eggs. What a travesty it is to introduce colored eggs to a celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. What nonsense to designate yesterday, of all weekends available throughout the year, Earth Day.

The pain to those sisters of their brother’s death was the sting of sin. Their heartache and confusion was compounded by their lack of faith in Christ. The same is true of you, and of me. We are sinners. If your faith is like Mary’s and Martha’s was, with a fuzzy trust in God and a generalized confidence of good things happening in the future, then like them you will someday see that such faith is not good enough to endure the really tough times, and is woefully inadequate for laying hold of the Savior who forgives sins.

You need real faith in Jesus, not some fuzzy belief in God. The Jesus you embrace is God (remember, He said, “I am”), and He is the resurrection and the life. To know Christ, to trust Christ, is to be in communion with the One who is God, the One who is the resurrection, and the One who is the life. It is His resurrection from the dead we celebrate today, because Christ the Lord is risen today. Hallelujah!

Is the risen One your Savior today? Are you sure? Would you like to make sure? Perhaps we can address the matter privately sometime in the near future.

[1] Luke 8.38

[2] John 11.21

[3] John 11.22

[4] John 11.25-26

[5] John 10.27

[6] John 8.58-59; 18.5-6

[7] John 11.32

[8] John 11.43

[9] Matthew 6.9-10

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