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The Resurrection and the Life

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 30, 2023 12:01 am

The Resurrection and the Life

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 30, 2023 12:01 am

Just as the Lord commanded the cosmos into existence, so also Christ called Lazarus out of the grave by the power of His voice. Today, R.C. Sproul helps us ground our hope in life after death by looking to Christ as the resurrection and the life.

Receive R.C. Sproul's DVD Series 'Knowing Christ' along with the Digital Study Guide for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/2726/knowing-christ

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

In every culture, in every tribe, in every civilization, we see people speculating about the question of death and the afterlife. The obvious question is, when I die, is that the end? Is the whole of my existence summed up between the two points of birth and death, such as are marked on people's graves? Or is there something else?

Is there something more? Although people often say that death is simply a natural part of life, in a real sense it's unnatural, an intrusion into this fallen world. And I believe that's one reason why, whether you're a Christian or an atheist, even though we experience suffering and grief frequently, we don't get used to it.

It still hurts. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind. Jesus came into this fallen world, a world filled with death and sorrow, and he made a bold claim, and one that has brought comfort and hope to countless people since those words were uttered, I am the resurrection and the life.

Today, as R.C. Sproul continues his study of Jesus' I am sayings, he considers this death-defying declaration and what it means for you and me. Again we continue now with our study of the I am's of Jesus, and today we're going to look at a very important declaration that Jesus made on the occasion of his visit to Bethany to the home of Lazarus and Mary and Martha after the death of Lazarus, on which occasion Jesus said, I am the resurrection and the life. And to set the context for that, let's look, if we may, at the eleventh chapter of the book of John where it begins telling us that Lazarus had become ill, and so his sister sent a message to Jesus imploring him to come and help saying, behold, the one you love is sick. And when Jesus heard that, his response was this, this sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God that the Son of God may be glorified through it. Now that, of course, would be a very encouraging response when Jesus declared that the illness of Lazarus was not unto death, but the purpose of it was to glorify God.

Now we're told in verse 5 that Jesus loved Martha and her sister in Lazarus so that when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was, which is a jolting statement here in the text because you would think that when Jesus gets this request in the news of the severity of the illness of Lazarus, and right after John tells us how much he loved Lazarus, you would have expected, as the sisters of Lazarus certainly did, that Jesus would come immediately. But instead, he stayed two more days where he was, and then after that he said to the disciples, let us go to Judea again. And the disciples said, Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone you, and you're going to go back there? And Jesus said, 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.

But if one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him. These things he said after it had been said to them, our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go, that I may wake him up. And the disciples said, Lord, if he sleeps, then he will get well. But Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that he was speaking about simply taking rest in sleep. And so Jesus said to them plainly, Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless, let us go to him. This is extremely cryptic language that Jesus is giving to His disciples when He said, He's dead, and I'm glad you weren't there.

Why was He glad? Is He simply suggesting that He was glad that they weren't there because they wouldn't have to have been witness to the demise of Lazarus? Or is He saying, you haven't begun to see what I'm going to make manifest in the light? But He says, let's go to Him. And Thomas, who is called a twin, said to his fellow disciples, let us also go, that we may die with Him. They're assuming that if Jesus comes back into Judea, at this point in His ministry, this close to Jerusalem, this close to the seat of the authority of those who were in opposition to Jesus, that they were, by going on this trip, risking their lives. And so that's why the disciples didn't want Jesus to go, because they feared for Him. And then when He said, He's going, Thomas said, let's go with Him. If He dies, let us die beside Him.

Of course, that attitude changed dramatically in just a few short days. But let's read then the record of what takes place when Jesus comes to the home of Lazarus. So Jesus came, and He found that He'd already been in the tomb four days. Now, that minor detail in the narrative that Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days was significant to the ancient Jew, because the Semitic people of that day, many of them at least, had this view that when a person died, the soul that had departed from the body would come back and visit the body periodically for a couple of days after death. But by the fourth day, when it was obvious that the decay had set into the corpse that at that time it was believed that the soul had abandoned the body once and for all. So it's not as though they believed that you weren't really dead unless you were dead for four days, but the idea that it was impossible for any kind of revival to take place once the fourth day began.

And so John gives us the detail that it was significant that Lazarus was not only dead, but he had been dead for four days, and already the bodily corruption had set in. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem about two miles away. If you've ever been to Jerusalem, you know that between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives is a deep valley there, the Kidron, and on the opposite slope of the Mount of Olives is the town of Bethany. And so from Bethany, or at least from the top of the Mount of Olives, you can just look right across the ravine into the old city of Jerusalem.

And so it was really a short distance that could be walked easily. And so we read that many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. And so a multitude of Jewish people had made the trek up the Mount of Olives to Bethany, to the home of Mary and Martha, because obviously these people had a lot of friends in Jerusalem and must have been somewhat well known. In any case, now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. And Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. So here is Martha, who was desperate for Jesus to come to rescue her brother from his illness.

And then when he died, her expectations were not met. And she was not only upset by the death of her brother, but also upset by the failure, obviously, of Jesus to do for her what she had expected. And so she meets Jesus with a rebuke, saying, Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died.

However, even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you. Now I don't know that we have any reason to believe in light of the following words of the conversation that Martha was expecting Jesus to bring a resurrection to bear here. On the one hand she rebukes Him, and on the other hand she says, I know that whatever God wants, we're willing to accept.

And whatever you ask of God, God will give to you. And so Jesus said to her, your brother will rise again. Now the reason why I don't think that she was expecting Jesus to raise her brother from the dead is because of what she says next. Martha said to him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Yes, Lord, I believe in the future resurrection, and I know that at some point my brother will rise again. Now remember that not everybody in Israel believed in the future resurrection.

The Pharisees did, but the Sadducees didn't, for example, among the leaders of the Jewish people. But Martha did believe in the future resurrection. And it's on this occasion and in that moment that Jesus pronounces the I AM, where she says to Him, I know He will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus does not say, I will be the one who will raise Him in the last day. What He does say is, I AM the resurrection and the life. Now this is an astonishing claim and declaration by Jesus. And it joins the other I AM's that we've already examined where Jesus not only gives light to the world, but He is the light of the world. Not only does He help people through the door to everlasting life, He Himself is the door. Now in the idiom of expression of the people in that day, if something is so closely associated with a particular person, that person could then, in terms of speech patterns, be identified with whatever it is that was so closely associated. We learn, for example, in John's epistle, that God is love.

And what He is saying there, idiomatically, is that God is so loving, so closely connected with love, that it could be said that He is the very reality of which we're speaking. And so Jesus is so connected with the power over deaths, and the power of eternal life, the power of resurrection, that He is saying here to Martha, not only do I have the power to raise people from the dead, and not only do I have the power to raise myself from the dead, but I am the resurrection. Now think about it, going back to antiquity, to the question that was raised by Job. If a man die, shall he live again? That question has been in the minds of every human being since death was first experienced on this planet. In every culture, in every tribe, in every civilization, we see people speculating about the question of death and the afterlife. The obvious question is, when I die, is that the end? Is the whole of my existence summed up between the two points of birth and death, such as are marked on people's graves? Or is there something else?

Is there something more? Life is so precious to humans that there beats within every human being within every human heart a hope that somehow there will be victory over the grave. You go and you look at the writings of the philosopher Plato, who in his discussions concerning the death of Socrates gives a philosophical argument for life after death. There is an argument in the Romanology that is borrowed from the cyclical character of life and death that we see in the realm of nature, where for grass to grow, the seed must be planted and the seed has to die. But when the seed dies and rots, the shell rots, and then the seed germinates and new life emerges.

So you see those analogies in nature. But all of that is speculative. The greatest hope that we have in the world for life after death is found in the historical resurrection of Christ, which the New Testament sets before us not as an isolated incident, but as an event that is the first of a multitude of events similar to it that will at some point follow, that He is raised from the dead for us so that we also will participate in that resurrection. And that is at the core of the hope of the Christian faith. And we know that in the early church, one of the reasons why the first century Christians were so willing to undergo martyrdom was because they were absolutely convinced of the resurrection.

And they were convinced that death was not the final dimension, that now death, instead of being a victory for Satan over us, that death had been defeated, now for the Christian, death was simply a transition from life here to life in an even better environment and better situation. And all of that comes down not to an argument, but to a person where Jesus says, I'm thinking about the future resurrection. Listen, Martha, I am the resurrection and the life. Now, He's already talked about being the author of Zoe, that He came to make Zoe, that kind of life, spiritual life, eternal life, possible for His people.

I came that you might have life and to have it more abundantly. Well, Jesus expands on this statement here in this text. I am the resurrection and the life, and he who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And then He goes on to say in the next breath, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.

Do you believe this? Now, this sounds at first blush as somewhat contradictory because the first thing He says is that if you believe on Me, even if you die, you're going to live. And then He goes on to say, if you believe in Me, you will never die. So obviously what Jesus is saying is that those who are in Him in faith never die in one sense, and yet in another sense they still die, yet continue to live. And so the idea here is that the Zoe, this eternal life that He comes to give to His people begins in the soul the moment faith is born in the heart.

And that Zoe life cannot be killed by Thanatos. Physical death cannot destroy the life that Christ puts into the believer. So even if you go through physical death, you don't die. What's all behind this concept of resurrection is Christ's promise of the continuity of personal existence. The day that my body dies is not the day that I die. That is the day I become more conscious of reality than I've ever been up until the point of my death.

In a very real sense, the ultimate life for which God has made us as living beings doesn't begin until we cross the veil. That's why the Apostle Paul can say that he was torn between two alternatives. He expresses his ambivalence. He says, I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is what?

Far better. On the one hand, I have this deep desire to leave, but I also have a desire to stay with you, which is more needful. My work isn't done, but I can't wait to go to see Him and to be with Him where He is. And so Jesus, as He approaches His own death later on in the same book, you know, He tells His disciples that in my Father's house are many mansions, and I go to prepare a place for you, and if that were not so, I would have told you. And now as He's comforting Martha, He's telling her, look, Martha, we're not just talking future resurrection here.

You're talking to the One who is the resurrection and the life. And He says, do you believe this? And she said, yes, Lord.

I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come unto the world. And so when she said these things, she went and called Mary her sister and said, the Teacher has come and is calling for you. And so then we had this conversation where Mary says, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died, the same lament that Martha had made. And Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who were with her were weeping, and He groaned in His Spirit and was troubled and said, where have you laid Him? And they said, Lord, come and see. And we read, Jesus wept, and they said, see how He loved Him. And some of them said, could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind have kept this man from dying? And Jesus, groaning in Himself, came to the tomb that was a cave, and a stone lay against it, and Jesus said, take away the stone.

And Martha objects again, and Martha said, Lord, by this time there's a stench, for he has been dead for four days. And Jesus said, didn't I tell you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying, and Jesus lifted up His eyes unto heaven and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard Me.

I know that you always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by, I said this, that they may believe that you sent Me. And when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice. I often hear this preached on in the church, and the preacher will say, Jesus cried with a loud voice, Lazarus.

Lazarus. Now if we're true to the text, what is it saying? That when Jesus stood in front of this open tomb with the corpse of Lazarus inside, He shouted into the tomb saying, Lazarus, come forth now.

I think it's important that we pause for a moment on that, because this is how God Almighty created the universe. Out of nothing, He creates the world by the power of His divine call. By His Word, He creates all that there is, and so by His Word, Christ empowers a corpse to come back to life. And as soon as Jesus cries in that loud voice and gives the imperative of God Himself to the dead Lazarus, that heart began to beat and began to pump blood through His vessels.

Brain waves began. The rotting tissue became healed. Strength entered back into Him, and Lazarus, who had died, came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes, his face wrapped in a cloth, but he was alive. And Jesus said to those there, loose him and let him go.

Wouldn't you have loved to have seen that? To have seen the power of Christ in the presence of death. This is the same Christ who appears to John on the island of Patmos in the first chapter of the book of Revelation, who identifies Himself in this way. When John sees Him, John tells us that He fell at His feet as though dead, but Christ laid His hand on Him and said, do not be afraid.

I am the first and the last. I am He who lives and was dead. And behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of hell and of death.

The One who is the resurrection and the life has the key to unlock the grave, to unlock the power of death so that we have nothing to fear from death. Because for the Christian, it is a magnificent entrance to the supreme setting of human life. That's at the heart of the Christian faith. Without that, Christianity is simply empty moralism that is irrelevant to modern man. But as long as there is life and as long as there is death, there's no one more relevant than Christ who is the resurrection. We're not called to make Jesus relevant for a new generation.

As you heard R.C. Sproul just say, while death remains and our sin before a holy God, there is nothing more relevant than Jesus Christ. This message is from Dr. Sproul's series, Knowing Christ, The I Am Sayings of Jesus. And not only will this series help you better understand who Jesus said that he is and gain a deeper understanding of John's gospel, it will help you as you seek to speak about Jesus to those around you. So give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org or by calling us at 800 435 4343.

This series is eight messages long and we'll send you the DVD as well as give you digital access to the entire series and the digital study guide. So make your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. Jesus isn't one way among many to heaven. No, he declared that I am the way, the truth and the life. That's tomorrow's I Am Saying, so join us then here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-30 02:40:59 / 2023-05-30 02:49:29 / 9

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