“I AM…” – How Jesus Meets Our Deepest Needs
8. The Resurrection and the Life
John 11: 17 - 27
Bethany Hamilton was just 13 years old when her left arm got bitten off by a shark while surfing. After a month of medical operations, she returned and learned how to surf with one arm. She courageously overcame all odds to become a champion surfer again through her sheer determination and unwavering faith. In the wake of this life-changing event that took her arm and nearly her life, Bethany’s feisty determination and steadfast beliefs spurred her on towards an adventurous comeback that gave her the grit to turn her loss into a gift for others. She made a pretty cool comeback!
“Comebacks are possible; in fact, they happen all the time. Yet, if you have had a setback, a comeback may seem impossible to you…The challenge is how you can overcome your setback. How do you take a setback and make a comeback?”
That question frames our topic today. How do you take a setback and make a comeback?
2 of the most incredible comebacks ever – Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead and the comeback of Jesus Christ Himself from the grave. Here’s the main idea today: Because Christ came back from the dead He can turn your setback into a comeback.
We’re going to focus our attention on John 11, where we learn about a man named Lazarus who was very sick. His two sisters, Mary and Martha, are very worried and so they send word to Jesus, hoping that He would come and heal their brother. The response of Jesus is jarring. Instead of hurrying to help, Jesus purposely waited 2 more days. In the meantime, Lazarus dies and then Jesus arrives.
Decisions are very deliberate in this chapter as we see faith flourish in the midst of a mess. I’m reminded that this is the real world where lives are suddenly interrupted by the great enemy of death. There are 5 stages in Martha’s spiritual journey that we can apply to our lives so that Christ can turn our setbacks into a comeback.
1. State your Setback v. 19
When Martha heard that her brother Lazarus had died, she was gripped with grief. Many people came to comfort and console her and her sister. The scene was one of weeping and wailing as hired mourners filled the air with loud shrieks and screams. Friend, if you’re upset today it’s important to let it out. Express what you’re feeling to God – He can handle it.
What setback has created havoc in your life? Have some of your relationships ruptured, leaving you lonely and abandoned? Are you struggling with some sort of sin that you can’t shake or an addiction that you can’t break? Are you overwhelmed at work…or wish you had work…or different kind of work? Are you stressed about school? Have you done something that has led to deep embarrassment and shame? Is debt causing deep discouragement? Do you just feel empty and aimless? Has someone close to you died and you are gutted with grief? Do you just feel lost?
The first step is to state your setback.
It’s good to own that you’re far away from God.
Is your life spiraling downhill?
Because Christ came back from the dead He can turn your setback into a comeback.
2. Get close to Christ v. 20
You have a choice to make. You can stay where you are or you can take a step toward the Saviour. Martha could have stayed in the house like her sister Mary, or run the other way. Instead, even before Jesus arrived, Martha moved toward Him. She wasn’t exactly sure what Jesus could do, but she knew she needed to get close to Him.
Wherever you are right now, would you take a step toward Jesus? Don’t stay where you are. Maybe you’re not really sure what Jesus can do but you’re open to Him. I encourage you to get close to Christ.
Seek Him out. When you do, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Him.
Now, when you move toward Christ, it doesn’t mean that you have to have everything answered or worked out. Some of you are waiting until you clean yourself up, change some habits and get yourself ready before you get close to Christ. God wants you to come just as you are.
3. Tell Him your Hurts v. 21
I suspect some of you have been asking “If” questions as well. “If only I would have done this.” “If only so-and-so would not have done this to me.” These kinds of “If” questions are normal when we’re rocked by the crushing waves of circumstances that are beyond our control. We ask these questions because we somehow think that maybe if things had worked out a little differently, we wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in. Others of you may be blaming God. That’s precisely the implication Martha makes.
It helps to know that Jesus can relate to us in our pain.
Friend, you are not alone in your agony. Jesus loves you more than you know. Because Christ came back from the dead He can turn your setback into a comeback.
4. Learn who the Lord is v. 23, 24
It’s not until Martha states her setback, gets close to Christ and then tells Him her hurts that Jesus speaks. Don’t be afraid of being real with God. He can handle your honesty. He’ll speak truth into your troubles once you communicate your complaints.
Martha’s gives the correct Sunday School answer but it lacks any conviction. It’s the religious response. She understands this in her head, but it hasn’t filtered down into her heart.
Does that describe you today? Do you have an acquaintance with Christ? Do you know about Him, without actually knowing Him personally?
Once we see and know who Jesus is, it’s not difficult to believe what He can do.
“We do not need a Saviour who can just ‘help’ us. We need a Saviour who can resurrect us. We do not just need a Saviour who helps us when life gets tough; we need a Saviour who can help us when life ends.”
I love how Jesus interjects Himself into Mary’s theoretical theology – v. 25, 26.
Jesus is moving her from an abstract belief about something in the distant future to a personalized trust in Himself, who alone can raise the dead and give her a comeback. He is, right now, the resurrection and the life. The resurrection is not just an event, but a Person. There is no hope for a comeback apart from Christ.
Jesus didn’t merely say that there is a resurrection. He claimed that HE IS the resurrection. The fact that He would rise from the dead was the guarantee that others would too. He doesn’t just give life; He is life. Because Christ came back from the dead He can turn your setback into a comeback.
5. Boldly Believe and Receive Jesus Christ v. 27
Jesus’ question to Martha is the same question He’s asking you right now: “Do you believe this?” It’s the idea of being fully persuaded, to rely on and to trust in.
Faith begins with knowledge, which is where the intellect is involved. Then it moves to the emotions where convictions are developed. Saving faith must then move to the will, where a commitment is made.
True saving faith involves appropriating what Christ has done for us.
After declaring that He is the Resurrection and the Life, Jesus drives this doctrine into Martha’s life…and into ours. He starts by saying, “Whoever believes in me, though He die; yet shall He live.” Whoever refers to all people, everywhere, in everyplace [put my arms out wide]. Then, he narrows it by saying, “And everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” [bring hands closer together] Then it becomes very personal as He looks intently at Martha and at you and says, “Do you believe this?” [put hands close together to frame one person] I love Martha’s response - “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” Jesus is waiting to hear you say, “Yes, Lord I believe.” Have you ever said that to Him?
When Martha said “yes” to Jesus she wasn’t just nodding her head or passively having some positive thoughts about Him. She was making a strong affirmation. She was saying, “Yes and more - truly, certainly, altogether.” Are you ready to boldly believe and receive what Jesus has done for you? Because Christ came back from the dead He can turn your setback into a comeback.
“Jesus walked out of the grave so He could walk into your life.” At what stage are you stuck in your spiritual journey? Because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, you can have a fresh start right now and He can give you the power to live life as it’s meant to be lived.
Start by stating your setback.
Get close to Christ.
Tell Him about all your hurts.
Learn who the Lord is.
Boldly believe and receive Jesus Christ.
Jesus called out in a loud voice to Lazarus, who had been dead and decomposing for 4 days: “Lazarus, come out!” Jesus called him by name and He’s calling your name right now. He wants you to come out so He can give you a comeback!
“Jesus’ ultimate comeback trumps all our comebacks, but it also makes it possible in a general sense for us to come back from anything, from anywhere, at any time.”
“If Jesus defeated death, and the empty tomb tells us he did, then there is no dark thing in your heart that he is not also able to defeat.”
Let’s see if I can pull it all together…
No matter your setback, you can make a comeback.
Because the stone was rolled back, He now has your back.
You can pushback or you can giveback your life to Him.
Because Christ came back from the dead He can turn your setback into a comeback.
The Bible says that we’re all dead in our sins. To turn our lives around and make us spiritually alive is as great a miracle as raising Lazarus from the dead.
You’ve not gone too far or done too much to be disqualified from a comeback. Jesus died as your substitute on the cross, paying the price for all your sins. And He is the resurrection that brings life, so that when you die, yet shall you live. But you must boldly believe and receive Him as your Saviour and Lord right here and right now. You can demonstrate your belief by praying something like this.
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, for too long I’ve kept you out of my life. I admit my biggest setback is that is that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself. I own my hurts and my sins and I repent by changing my mind about the way I’ve been living. I don’t want to stay where I am any longer and so I’m choosing to get closer to you and to learn more about you. By faith I boldy believe and receive your gift of salvation. With all my heart I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and as the resurrection and the life, you rose from the dead on the third day. Thank you for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life. I surrender to you as my Saviour and Lord, my Forgiver and Leader. I want to be born again. Make me into the person you want me to be. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”