12 July 2007

"I AM the Resurrection and the life (part 1)"--John 11:25-26

If you listen to the words of some of the greatest hymns, you come to realize that being a great hymnist isn’t so much knowing how to write a SONG, as it is knowing how to write a sermon. For example, in the most well-known of these sermons, John Newton wrote that GOD’s grace is most amazing, and a sweet sound. It saved him when he thought he was unlovable, it found him when he was lost, and gave him sight when he was blind. He tells us that he has made it through many dangers, toils and snares. That it was grace that got him through all these things, and it was grace that would lead him home. In John chapter 11, we find the story of Lazarus. What He told Martha--and us--is that He isn’t simply the one who came to give eternal life. He IS eternal life.

I think many of us know the story of Lazarus. He got sick, he died, and he was buried. Four days later, Jesus arrives at the tomb, one of Lazarus’ sisters, Martha, is there. She’s upset, knowing that if Jesus had been there, Lazarus would not have died. Jesus tells her in verse 23, that Lazarus will rise again. Martha, like a lot of people, didn’t quite get what Jesus was saying. In the next verse, she said, “Yes, I know, at the resurrection on the last day.”

Then, in John 11:25-26, “Jesus said to her, “I AM the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”Notice what Jesus DIDN’T say. He didn’t say “I bring resurrection, and I bring life.” Jesus said, “I didn’t just come to bring people back to life. I came to BE their life.” And we’re going to look at His death and resurrection through the words of some great old hymns. Ya know, it wasn’t just HIS cross, HIS death, and HIS resurrection. It was OUR cross, OUR death, and on that last day, it will be OUR resurrection. And we’re going to see that through the words of some of the greatest hymns ever written.

"In Christ alone, who took on flesh; fullness of GOD in helpless babe. This Gift of love and righteousness; scorned by the ones He came to save." (From "In Christ Alone" written by Keith Getty and Stuart Townsend, recorded by Newsboys.)

The Jews had been waiting for so long for their promised Messiah. And when He came, He showed Himself to be that Messiah. He opened up the Scriptures to them, showing them from the Law and the prophets that He was indeed their Messiah. But the ones who should have known, the ones who knew the OT backwards, forwards, inside and out; to them He was a fraud.

So what did they do? They arranged for a sham of a trial, that went against the very Law of Moses they were so gung-ho about keeping. They examined Him, questioned Him. But they did it using human methods. There are a lot of people today that do the same thing. They don’t believe, or they don’t want to believe, so they take GOD, and they try to put Him under a microscope. They’ll say, “Well, I don’t believe these miracles could have happened because, blah blah blah.” They try to explain Him; they try to tell those of us who believe to “prove” He exists. Prove GOD exists? I wish I could. But you know, there would still be people who wouldn’t believe. I read about an atheist one time who said that even if they found Noah's Ark, brought it down from the mountain, and parked it in the middle of Main Street, he STILL owuldn't believe it.

These men had the truth staring them right in their faces, and they still would not believe. So, they argued, and they threatened, and they cajoled, and Pilate finally agreed to their wishes, and allowed Him to be crucified.

Now notice something here. The cross is foreshadowed in the Old Testament:
Whenever an animal was sacrificed because someone sinned against GOD, the blood had to be smeared on the four corners of the altar.
  • During the Passover, the people inside a house were safe if they had blood smeared on the doorposts, and the crossbeam.
  • YHWH Nissi—YHWH our Banner. When Israel was marching through the desert, each tribe carried their banner. These banners were hung from a crossbeam connected to a pole.
"See, from His head, His hands, His feet. Sorrow and love flow mingled down. Did e’er such love and sorrow meet? Or thorns compose so rich a crown?" (From "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" written by Isaac Watts.)

There are people that think they are very smart. They think that they are too smart to believe in Christ. And they like to go around saying that Jesus was a wimp. I would ask them this: would they be willing to be beaten, spit on, have the hairs pulled out of their head, have the flesh ripped from their back, have a mess of thorns driven into their forehead, carry a 100-lb railroad tie up a hill, let someone drive railroad spikes through their wrists and feet, and be lifted up for all to see? Many people today go to the doctor if they get a case of the sniffles.

Yet our Lord Jesus Christ, who from before the foundation of the world was one with our Heavenly Father, and was Lord over all, stepped down from heaven, wrapped in sinful flesh, and took on the form of a servant. Why? Because if He didn’t, His creation would perish. Because He knew that if He didn’t come and show them the love of GOD, there was no one else that could. Besides, the Law that man could not obey had to be fulfilled. Because that Law, that was given to man to show just how weak and corrupt we really are, was twisted and mangled by self-righteous hypocrites into something that they took absolute pride in keeping. Problem was they weren’t keeping that Law.

They had added so much human junk to it that it was no longer an instrument to show us how humble we should be before a perfect and holy GOD. It had been turned into a measuring stick that these people used to make themselves look better than others. It was no longer a way to demonstrate man’s imperfection before GOD. It was now something that a select few used as a way to improve their image before men.

Jesus said to Martha, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” If she were there, on that hill, on that day, would that conversation have come to mind? Would she wonder how He could have said something like that, and how she could have believed it, seeing Him suffering and dying on that cross? That’s what many people don’t understand. That to find life, you must die. To gain tomorrow, you must give up today. Jesus said in John 12:24“...unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone: but if it dies, it brings forth much fruit.” Jesus came to the Earth, He died, in order to bring the world to GOD. Paul wrote in 1st Corinthians 15:36-37 that the seed one sows cannot live unless it dies. And Christ could not bring resurrection to us, unless He Himself first died.

"Pretty blue eyes and curly brown hair and a clear complexion. Is how you see Him as He dies for your sins. But the Word says He was battered and scarred or did you miss that part?" (From "My Jesus", written and recorded by Todd Agnew.)

Before I got saved I didn’t think much about it. But the more I learn about what probably happened that day, and what He probably looked like as He hung on the cross, the angrier I get with some of these paintings that claim to depict Christ’s crucifixion. He has this pale white skin, and these little 5-penny nails you get at Home Depot. He’s just kinda hanging there, He’s got this little paper cut in his side. And it’s always His right side, I’ll talk about that later. And He always has this kinda…sad, kinda droopy eyed look. NOT EVEN CLOSE!!

His skin wasn’t pale and fair as He hung on the cross. Actually, I’m not sure what the skin He had left would have looked like. The nails? Not exactly the kind you would use to hang your grandma’s picture in your living room. They were about 8” long, tapered, and driven straight through the wrist. Not the hands. Oh, and you probably wouldn’t be able to see His face, as the thorns would have cause so much bleeding that His whole face would have been covered. His eyes? Red, swollen, stinging. Not just from blood and sweat. I dare say that those wouldn’t have hurt His eyes nearly as much as the tears He must have been shedding. Knowing that He was going through all this, and even though many would believe, how many billions more don’t?

He also knew something much worse. That as horrible, and as painful as the ordeal He was suffering, it was temporary. He knew it would be over in a matter of hours. But, imagine that in His mind, He was thinking that as much as He was suffering, those who don’t believe will suffer even more, and for all eternity.

And so, He hung on the cross. The hours ticked away. He showed us the depth of His forgiveness and the utter uselessness of our own righteousness in Luke 23:43. You see, GOD doesn’t do anything without a reason. It wasn’t just coincidence that Jesus was hung between two thieves.

For one thing, it was foretold in the Old Testament that He would be numbered with the transgressors. But I think there was an even bigger reason. Both of these thieves were pretty rotten guys. The Romans didn’t kill someone in such a cruel way because they got busted for breaking and entering. But that one thief showed all mankind the awesome love of Jesus Christ, and the sheer foolishness of trying to “earn” our salvation. Because as he looked over at Christ, the bloody, beaten, crucified Savior, he simply asked for forgiveness from a repentant heart. And Jesus said, “Today, you shall be with me in Paradise.” If you think about it, even on the cross, Jesus was prophesying. When you were crucified, it usually took a couple of days to die, but Jesus was telling him that this man would die that day.

Oh, and those paintings with the little paper cut somewhere over on his right side? Listen to John 19:33-34—But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and out came blood and water immediately. Those who claim that Jesus just kinda passed out from the pain, and was revived by the cool air of the tomb. They forget one important thing. The Roman soldier ran a spear through Jesus’ heart and lung. And it wasn’t like LifeStar could come and take Him to UT Medical Center. When they took Jesus down from the cross HE WAS DEAD.

And when they took Him down, they cleaned Him up, wrapped Him in grave clothes, covered His body with spices, laid Him in a borrowed tomb and sealed the entrance. Pilate put guards near the door, and that was the end...of the beginning.

Part 2 tomorrow.

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