Today, we’re wrapping up a short, two-week series that’s all about Jesus. This series may be short, but there is nothing more important than what we’re talking about in this series. We are talking about the defining truth of Christ and of Christianity. We’re talking about the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
The resurrection is what sets Jesus apart from any other religious leader who has ever lived. It is what sets Christianity apart from any other faith that has ever existed. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the center point. The truth of Christ and of Christianity all hinges on the resurrection.
When Jesus walked out of that tomb, the entire axis of human history shifted. In that moment, everything changed. And what we’re going to see today is that the resurrection didn’t just change the course of history. It changes us in ways that would never be possible if Jesus was still in that tomb.
We’re in John 11 for this series. We’re exploring a conversation between Jesus and a woman named Martha.
Starting in John 11:25, John wrote, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27, NIV)
Last week, we talked about the audacious claim that Jesus made. When He said, “I am the resurrection and the life,” He was making an exclusive, eternal claim. But He backed it all up after He was crucified when He walked out of that tomb.
Last Sunday, of course, was Easter Sunday. And in the midst of getting everything ready before church here at the hotel, I sat down for a minute to catch my breath. And I thought I would scroll through Facebook for a minute, just to see what everyone was saying about the day.
Here’s what my wife, Nicki, posted.
“He has Risen! #gamechanger”
And that’s exactly what it is. The resurrection is the game changer.
Until the resurrection, death was the end. But through His resurrection, Jesus changed the game.
Rick Atchley wrote, “Jesus entered a tomb and turned a cul-de-sac into a thoroughfare!”
Death is no longer the end, because Jesus defeated death through His resurrection. Because of Jesus, death is just a thoroughfare that takes us on to eternal life. It completely changes our eternity.
But it also changes our lives in the here and now. The resurrection is the ultimate game changer. And today, we’re going to see just how the game has changed because of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Let me pray for us as we get started.
For a lot of us, the resurrection is something we believe in our head. We believe the resurrection actually happened. We believe it is a documented, historical fact. The resurrection is an intellectual issue for us. We believe it in our head. But the head knowledge hasn’t made the transition to heart knowledge.
I think I’ve showed this to you before. This is something my dad made for me years ago. My dad is a master wood craftsman, and this is one of my favorite pieces that he has ever made. I love the covered bridge scene that he burned into this piece of wood. But what makes it even more awesome is that the wood came from an actual covered bridge.
There was a covered bridge close to where I grew up in Brown County. It had been there seemingly forever. But during a huge flood, the bridge was completely destroyed. This bridge that people had crossed for years was now gone. And there was no way to get from one side to the other.
Maybe that’s what has happened to you. Jesus is head knowledge. He is something to be studied. But somewhere along the way, a flood came along and the bridge from your head to your heart has been washed away.
You believe in your head that Jesus died and rose again. You believe in your head that He conquered death. But in your heart, that truth just rings hollow. For some reason, the connection from your head to your heart just isn’t being made. The bridge is out.
That’s where Martha was. In this series, we’re exploring a conversation between Jesus and Martha in John 11. But to really understand the conversation, you have to understand the context. You have to know what was going on. Martha was hurting. The bridge from her head to her heart had been washed out.
Martha’s brother, Lazarus, had died. And obviously, Martha was in pain after losing her brother. But that pain was multiplied because it just wasn’t supposed to work out this way. Jesus was supposed to change things.
Here’s the way it started. Starting in John 11:1, John wrote, “Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.)
So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”
Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (John 11:1-7, NIV)
Think about this scene. Lazarus was very sick. He was on his death bed. So his sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus about his illness. Jesus had performed countless miraculous healings. Mary and Martha believed He could do the same thing for Lazarus. And they didn’t just believe that Jesus COULD heal Lazarus. They believed that He WOULD heal Lazarus. So they sent word to Jesus, believing that He would come and heal their brother.
Now, let’s read again what John wrote, starting in verse 5. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.” (John 11:5-7, NIV)
This doesn’t add up, does it? Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was dying. And John tells us that Jesus loved Mary, and Martha, and Lazarus. And in the very next sentence, John wrote that Jesus stayed where He was for two more days. And it was in that two day span that Lazarus died.
What the heck?!?!?!
This was NOT the way it was supposed to go. Mary and Martha loved Jesus. They believed in Jesus. John even told us that, in an incredible act of worship, Mary had poured perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped His feet with her fair. They loved Jesus. They believed in Jesus. They worshipped Jesus.
And after Jesus heard that their brother was dying, He did absolutely nothing. He stayed right where He was. He didn’t even send word back to them. He didn’t even take the time to say, “Hey, got your message!”
Jesus remained silent. Jesus remained distant. And their brother died.
And somebody here today is saying, “That’s exactly what has happened to me. I believed in Jesus. I loved Jesus. I worshipped Jesus. But now, I can’t even find Jesus. He is distant. He is silent. I am hurting, and He doesn’t even seem to care.”
In your head, you may still believe in Jesus. You may believe in your mind that He is good. You may believe in your head that He was powerful enough to conquer the grave. But the pain in your life has washed away the bridge that connects your head and your heart. In your head, you believe it’s true. But in your heart, it just doesn’t seem like it’s true for you.
That’s where Martha was. Look at what she told Jesus when He finally showed up.
In verse 21, John wrote, “Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.’” (John 11:21, NLT)
Can you hear the pain in those words? Can you hear the disappointment in those words? Can you hear the anger in those words?
A lot of you can hear it loud and clear, because you’ve been saying the same thing. You’ve said the exact same words that Martha said to Jesus.
God, if only You had done this. God, if only You had answered my prayer. God, if only I had seen you come through for me. But it just hasn’t happened.
Those two words, “if only,” have the power to destroy the bridge from your head to your heart. You might still believe that Jesus loves, but you really don’t see how He loves you. You might still believe that Jesus is all-powerful, but you don’t see His power at work in your life. You might still believe in your head that Jesus is the answer, but in your heart, Jesus feels a whole lot more like a question.
Those feelings are normal. It’s natural. Anyone who has been a Christian long enough has experienced a crisis of faith. A time when God didn’t come through. A time when Jesus didn’t do what He was supposed to do.
Jesus was supposed to heal Lazarus. Martha believed that He could. And she believed that He would. But He didn’t. And all that was a left was a faith crisis in Martha.
Look at the rest of the conversation. Martha had just told Jesus, “If only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
Then she went on to say, “But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
“Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” (John 11:22-24, NIV)
Martha still believed in Jesus, in her head. In her head, she believed that God would do whatever Jesus asked. And when Jesus said that Lazarus would rise again, she believed in her head that he would rise again in eternity. But in her heart, she didn’t believe Jesus would do anything in the here and now.
And I think that’s where a lot of us land. We believe in Jesus when it comes to eternal things, but we have a hard time believing in Him when it comes to present things. It happens all the time.
Why do people who believe in Jesus refuse to tithe? They believe He can save their soul for eternity, but they don’t believe He can bless their finances now.
Why do people who believe in Jesus get derailed by worry? They believe that Jesus can handle eternity, but He can’t handle what’s going on in my life right now.
Why do people who believe in Jesus completely reject what Scripture says about a particular issue? They believe that Jesus is powerful enough to save their souls, but He isn’t smart enough to know how to handle this issue right now.
It sounds insane, but we all do it. Martha did it. You do it. I do it. Things don’t go as planned. They haven’t worked out like they were supposed to. Life just didn’t follow the script that we wrote, and a crisis of faith is what follows. The bridge from our head to our heart is gone.
But I want to start laying the foundation for that bridge to be rebuilt today. If your God is alive, then the game has changed. But the resurrection has to come off the pages of your Bible. It has to leave the realm of worship songs and sermons. It has to become REAL in your life.
If your God is REALLY alive…if Jesus REALLY did walk out of that tomb…if sin and death REALLY are defeated…that changes the game forever. Nothing can ever trump that. Nothing can ever take that away from you.
The resurrection isn’t just something to be studied. It is something to be lived out. It isn’t just a historical fact. It is a life-changing truth.
Go back and look at this exchange between Jesus and Martha.
“Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
“Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.” (John 11:23-24, NIV)
In Martha’s mind, she’s thinking, “Yeah, I know. He will eventually rise again, when everyone else does too. And that stuff about eternity is great, but it doesn’t do anything for me right now.
But look at what Jesus said next. Martha said, “Yes, he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. (John 11:25a, NIV)
Notice the tense that Jesus used. This wasn’t future tense. “I WILL BE the resurrection and the life.” He used present tense. “I AM the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus doesn’t just want to give you life in eternity. He wants to work in your life right now.
But only a God who is alive can do that. Jesus died on a cross as the full and final payment for our sin. But three days later, He walked out of that tomb. The empty tomb points to a God who is alive. A God who conquered death. And a God who wants to do something in your life.
That doesn’t mean that life won’t be hard, because it will.
A couple of weeks ago, I saw a very well-known preacher on a national TV news show. I won’t mention his name, but if I did, you would definitely know him.
And on this news show, he said, “When you honor God, your life is going to go better. Life goes better when you put God first.”
Tell that to Martha. She put God first. She believed He would come through. But her dead brother caused her to doubt everything. She was hurting. Life didn’t go according to plan. And the whole time, she had put God first.
I’m not going to give you some fluff-and-puff message that just says, “Put God first and everything will work out. Just love God, and everything in your life will be puppy dogs and sunshine.”
That’s not how it works. And the other issue I had with the interview with this famous preacher is that he never used the name of Jesus once. Not one time. He had a national television audience, and he never once referred to Jesus by name. He made references to “God,” but not one reference to, “Jesus.”
In our hyper-spiritualized culture, we are surrounded by generic references to all kinds of “gods.” But the message we preach, and the message that changes us from the inside out, is that our God has a Name. His Name is Jesus.
Jesus came as God in the flesh. Jesus died on a cross as the sacrifice our all our sin. And Jesus rose again three days later. Jesus is the one who defeated death. And Jesus is the one who wants to work in your life.
It doesn’t mean that life won’t be hard. It absolutely will be. It doesn’t mean that life won’t be confusing. It absolutely will be. It doesn’t mean that as long as you put God first, everything will always work out perfectly. It absolutely will not.
Later on in the book of John, Jesus Himself promised, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b, NIV)
In this world, you will have trouble. Jesus stated it as a fact. It’s a sure thing. In this world, you will have trouble.
“But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Jesus didn’t say, “Take heart, because I’m going to remove all the trouble from your life.”
Or, “Take heart, because if you put God first, life will always be smooth and easy.”
Or, “Take heart, because I’m going to make your life look like a Thomas Kincaid painting.”
Jesus promised that we will have trouble. But the reason we can take heart isn’t because He is going to remove our trouble. It’s because He is greater than our trouble. It’s because He is with us in our trouble. Because of His resurrection from the dead, He has overcome this world of trouble. And any trouble that we have in this world will not last forever. Because of His resurrection, we have something much better waiting for us.
Go back to Jesus and Martha. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:25-27, NIV)
The crisis of faith that Martha is in is starting to crack. The bridge from her head to heart is starting to be repaired. But she’s not there yet.
Fast-forward a few verses. Here’s what happened at the tomb of Lazarus.
“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (John 11:38-39, NIV)
In ancient Palestine, they didn’t have a method for embalming a body. Bodies were usually placed in a sealed tomb on the day that the person died, because the body started decomposing immediately. And a decomposing body smells really, really bad.
Lazarus had already been in this tomb for four days, so when Jesus told them to take away the stone at the entrance to the tomb, Martha objected. “By this time there is a bad odor.”
Or, as the old King James Version says so poetically, “Lord, by this time he stinketh…” (John 11:39b, KJV)
Jesus was trying to do something powerful in Martha’s life, but Martha couldn’t see past the fact that, at that moment, life really stunk.
Sometimes life just stinkeths, doesn’t it? And when life stinketh, it can blind us from the fact that if Jesus rose from the dead, there is nothing in our lives that He can’t handle.
Here’s how Jesus responded to Martha. “Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40, NIV)
Martha was in pain. Martha was confused. Martha was disappointed. Martha was angry. And Jesus didn’t yell at her for that. He didn’t scold her. But He did remind her of an incredibly important truth.
Her pain would bring God glory.
This completely changes our perspective. It reminds us of this foundational truth.
Your life is not about you.
When life is about you, then pain derails everything. When you suffer, you become confused and hopeless. You are sure that God has abandoned you. Because if your life is about you, then you should never experience trouble or hurt or heartache or loss or confusion or pain. That doesn’t make sense if life is about you.
But your life isn’t about you. Your life is about Jesus. And if you understand that your life is about Jesus, your perspective completely changes. When you hurt, you wait to see how God is going to use that hurt to glorify Himself. When you go through times of discouragement and confusion, you expect to see Jesus use it for His glory and for your good.
Now, I want to make sure I’m being clear. It doesn’t mean that you hurt any less. It doesn’t change your pain, but it absolutely changes your perspective.
The times when we hurt can become the times when we see the glory of God. If we believe that Jesus was powerful enough to conquer death, then we patiently wait to see His glory in our lives.
That’s what happened to Martha. Here’s what happened next.
“So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” (John 11:41-44, NIV)
Martha’s pain was a vehicle for Jesus’ glory. He was glorified when He brought Lazarus back from the dead. Life had not gone according to plan, but it wasn’t about Martha’s plan. It’s about Jesus’ glory.
Life is not about my plan. It’s about Jesus’ glory. And I want to be honest. I have really forgotten this truth in my own life. I still know this truth in my head, but the bridge between my head and my heart has washed out.
I am really dealing with some things that just have not gone according to plan, and it has taken a heavy toll on me.
I’ve told you before that if you want a church with a pastor that has it all together, you need to go find another church. That is especially true right now. I’m struggling. I’m really struggling, because of some things that just haven’t gone according to plan.
But I have completely forgotten the truth that my life isn’t about me. It’s not about my plan. It’s about Jesus’ glory. The hurt and the disappointment and the discouragement in my life are vehicles for God to reveal Himself to me. They are avenues for God to work in me. They are opportunities for God to glorify Himself in me.
That’s not an easy answer. That’s hard for me to accept. But that doesn’t make it any less true.
Martha went through a time of pain. Jesus didn’t show up when she thought He should. Jesus didn’t respond like she thought He would. But eventually, God used her pain for His glory and for her good.
And we have that very same promise. In Romans 8, the Apostle Paul reminds us of this truth. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, NIV)
Now, this verse gets twisted and contorted and abused a lot, so let’s make sure we see exactly what it says. Paul didn’t say that “all things are good.”
It is incredibly naïve to pretend like all things are good. Actually, it’s not just naïve. It’s idiotic. And for someone who is going through a tough time, it’s incredibly hurtful. It’s really hurtful for someone to say, “Well, you know, the Bible says that all things are good.”
No it doesn’t, and you’re a moron for believing that it does.
Lazarus’ death wasn’t good. The painful situation in your life isn’t good. The things that I’m struggling with in my life aren’t good.
But that’s not the promise. The promise is not that all things are good.
The promise is that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
We have been called according to His purpose, meaning that our life isn’t about us. It’s about God. It’s about His purpose. It’s about His glory.
The promise is that God will work everything together for His glory and for our ultimate good.
And that’s not just an empty promise. It’s a promise that is backed up by a God who died and rose again.
When Jesus died on the cross, it looked like it was over. Jesus’ followers mourned because it was over. Jesus’ enemies rejoiced because it was over. But it wasn’t actually over.
God glorified Himself in the crucifixion because three days later, there was resurrection.
That is crucial for us to remember when we’re in a season of crucifixion. When Jesus is present, crucifixion ALWAYS turns into resurrection. It reminds us that Jesus is always working for His glory and for our good. So if glory and good haven’t come yet, that means it isn’t over, yet.
It isn’t over because Jesus is still exactly who He said He is. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25a, NIV)
That is as true for me today as it was for Martha over 2,000 years ago. That is as true for you today as it was all the people who watched Lazarus walk out of that tomb.
Jesus is the resurrection. No crucifixion can keep Him down. No season of darkness can extinguish His light. No evil can conquer His goodness. And no pain can overcome His healing. He is the resurrection.
And He is the life. Life is not about me. Life is about He. He is the life. My life is about His glory. That truth never changes. In the darkest, hardest, most confusing and disappointing times of my life, this truth never changes. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. And that means that He is working for His glory and for my good.
I know there are a lot of unanswered questions today. There are a lot of questions about why God is or is not doing this or that. I get it, because I still have the same questions. The truth we’re exploring today doesn’t change the questions. But it does remind us of the ultimate outcome.
Jesus will get His glory. And His glory also works for my good. And that means that even in the low points of my life, I can trust Him. Even when my faith is shaken, He will never stop being faithful. Even when I believe Him in my head but not in my heart, He never walks away from me.
And every week, we give you a chance to respond to Jesus here at Connect. We have some men and some ladies who are always ready to talk with you and to pray with you. They are here to serve you, in whatever way you need. Whether you’re ready to give your life to Jesus or you have no idea what is going on in your life, we’re here for you. And we invite you to come during this last song.
This song really sums up the truth that we’ve been exploring all morning. My life is not about me. It’s about Jesus getting His glory.
No matter what happens in my life, God is still God and God is still good. To God be the glory.