Jesus, the First Resurrection!

We interrupt the mundane theological debates at hand to proclaim to you Jesus, Our Resurrection! Those who believe will share, not only in his death, but also in his resurrection! Jesus is the First Resurrection (Revelation 20:4-5)! For more on this odd refernce, see Kim Riddlebarger’s sermon, “They Came To Life And Reigned With Christ For A Thousand Years”

Don’t forget, Easter–or “Resurrection Sunday,” if you prefer–is only two weeks away!

Christ is Risen!!! In John 11, we learn about Jesus our resurrection: let’s read about it together . . .  

The Death of Lazarus

·        Jesus’ ministry coming to an end; his greatest sign about to be given by which Jesus revealed the glory of God the Father (see John 17:1-6).

·        Jesus and his disciples are on their way to Jerusalem for the last time, to keep Jesus’ last Passover feast, the meal in which the Jews took part in the great work of redemption in the Old Testament, the exodus from bondage in Egypt. This last Passover will become Jesus’ Last Supper where he will update some of the symbols in the meal to communicate his ultimate work of redemption for not only Jews, but also for Gentiles from every nation.

11:1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

·        Jesus had some friends in Bethany, where Mary and Martha would take care of Jesus whenever he came that way. Mary will become famous for how she prepares Jesus for his burial in chapter 12.

·        The sisters send word that their brother is sick, but Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, knows that this is not the last anyone will see of Lazarus. But that what is about to happen will help Jesus glorify his Father in heaven.

Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11 After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12 The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16 So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

·        (5-6) Normally, if we call for someone to help, and if they are slow to come, we think they don’t like us much; but John wrote that because Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, he put off showing up for two days! That means God has a plan!

·        (7-10) When Jesus is ready he calls his disciples to follow him to Judea. Bethany is in Judea, as is Jerusalem, where the Jews wait to kill Jesus. The disciples fear the danger and remind Jesus, hoping he’ll just let Lazarus recover on his own, so they can stay safe. But Jesus tells them plainly that Lazarus is dead and Jesus is to go raise him to give them a sign that will strengthen their faith in him. Finally, Thomas speaks for the whole group when he resolves to follow Jesus even to the cross! This is how far God calls us to follow Jesus, too, and when that time comes, he gives us the grace to be willing to do so, if we believe (Hebrews 12:1-4).

I Am the Resurrection and the Life

17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about  two miles off (15 stadia), 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. [4] Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

·        (17-22) When Jesus and the disciples get to Bethany, they find that dead Lazarus has been buried for four days, and many people from Jerusalem had come to console Martha and Mary. When the sisters hear of Jesus’ arrival, Martha hurries to greet Jesus and reaffirm her faith in him, even though he didn’t do what she had originally asked for. We can rest assured that when we pray for something, if we don’t get it, we can know that it’s only because God plans to do something even better for your good and his glory (Romans 8:26-30)!

·        (23-27) When Jesus promises Lazarus will rise from the dead, Martha misunderstands, thinking that Jesus is talking about the end of the world when everyone will rise from the dead. But, again, Jesus plans to do something better than we expect! Jesus proclaims that he is resurrection himself, and we who believe in him will experience a spiritual resurrection, because of which, though we may die physically one day, we can be sure we will live in God’s presence forever (Romans 6:5)! Now I ask you what Jesus asked Martha: “Do you believe this?” Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, whom God sent to die because of your sins and to rise from the dead that you may live forever because God has justified you by giving you Jesus’ rigteousness?

Jesus Weeps

28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29 And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32 Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34 And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

·        Now Martha fetches Mary so she may greet Jesus and be comforted by her. Jesus felt sorry for Mary when she came and complained to him in tears. Jesus asks to see Lazarus’ tomb, and when he sees it, he weeps with Mary (Romans 12:15) over Lazarus’ death. This, as usual, serves to divide the people who witness Jesus’ works: some admire his love for Lazarus, while others complain that Jesus’ tears aren’t good enough.

Jesus Raises Lazarus

38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44 The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

·        When Jesus commands the stone be removed, Martha reminds him Lazarus’ decomposing body will stink, but Jesus reminds her of his words to her about trusting Jesus so she can see how he will glorify God the Father. Then Jesus prays for the Father to raise Lazarus, and he prays for this so that those who witness this sign will believe that Jesus is the Christ, sent by God the Father.

The Plot to Kill Jesus

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

·        Some of the Jews who saw the resurrection of Lazarus believed and so received a spiritual resurrection of their own in Jesus! They were raised to life by God and believed in Jesus! But others went and reported this miracle to the Pharisees, who, with the chief priests, gathered the Council to determine what to do next about this trouble-maker, Jesus. They feared that if they left Jesus alone, and everyone receives him, then the Romans would consider it a threat and would send troops to punish the nation of Israel. But John points out that the high priests words also prophesied about Jesus’ mission: it is better that one sinless man should die on behalf of sinners, than it is for the large group of sinners to die themselves. John uses the high priest’s words to teach us that by his death, Jesus would save not only Jews, but Gentiles from all around the world, too! Gentiles like me and you, who believe (Romans 9:22-26)! Out of hatred for Jesus, and fear of the Romans, they meant evil toward Jesus, but God meant good for his chosen people from all around the world (cf. Genesis 50:20).

54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

·        Jesus knew how much the Jews in Jerusalem hated him, but he desired to keep the Passover, so he waited in Ephraim to keep safe until the time of the Feast.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for [5] Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

·        Although the Jews want to arrest Jesus and kill him for their own good, God sent Jesus to die for sin, so that through believing in Jesus, sinners like you and me could be brought to life in Jesus, Our Resurrection!   

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