(Testimony: Jeremy Jamison)
Good morning! Happy Easter! My name is Phil Human and I’m the lead pastor here at Journey. For those of you who call Journey home – I am so thankful for you and for your support and love for Journey. I am thankful for you and filled with love this Easter morning.
For those of you who are our guests this morning – I am so glad you’ve chosen to be here today. Whether you are a follower of Jesus or a complete skeptic who is here out kindness for your family, you are welcome here at Journey. This place is filled with people who once thought God had no place in their lives – but they have discovered the real Jesus.
We think he is wonderful – the smartest person who ever lived, and we have devoted our lives to following him. But wherever you are in your spiritual Journey this is a no condemnation zone. We are glad your here. Proceed at a comfortable pace.
This morning we are in our last week of a four-week study in the book of John. John – and we are studying the I AM statements of Jesus. In an effort to help us understand who he was, Jesus made statements about himself that, if not true, would make him slightly insane.
For instance, he said He is the gateway into the Kingdom of Heaven. Which is NOT something that is far away up in the clouds – streets of gold – but rather an alternative kingdom to the dog eat dog look out for numero Uno world into which we are born by default.
Another time he said I am the good shepherd – How good? I lay down my life for the sheep. Which is an unusually loving shepherd to say the least.
This morning we are going to read John 11. And we are going to read about the time Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.”
And the big idea for us today is that “Jesus brings dead things back to life.” And we are going to read about the time Jesus brought a really dead guy named Lazarus, back to life. He was really really dead. Four days – stinky kind of dead.
And the story takes up the entire chapter of John 11 – 44 verses. I’d rather not read all 44 verses – so you can read it if you have a bible – if you need one or want one that’s easy to read – please take one off the info table on your way out. Completely free.
As we work our way through the chapter I want to point out three characters in the story who needed a part of them brought back to life. Three other characters in the story who, although they were breathing in and breathing out, were dying on the inside. And I want us to see how Jesus brings them all back to life.
The story begins the day that Jesus received a message telling him that his dear friend Lazarus was very, very sick. So sick that Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus to come at once in order to heal him.
Jesus was a full days travel from Lazarus, but interestingly, he stayed where he was for two more days before heading back to Bethany. Which seems rude at first – I mean his friend needs him, right? Why did he wait? Because God was going to do something awesome! That’s what Jesus said. God’s about to do something really cool.
Two days later Jesus tells his disciples to pack up – they are heading to Mary and Martha. But his disciples were less than excited…
8 But his disciples objected. “Rabbi,” they said, “only a few days ago the people in Judea were trying to stone you. Are you going there again?”
They are talking about the time, and you can read about it at the end of the previous chapter – John 10 – where Jesus declared, ‘The Father and I – are one.” This is an incredible statement. What it means is that if we want to know what God is like, we should study the life of Jesus, because Jesus and the Father are one in the same people. They are one.
Now the crowd picked up stones to kill him for speaking blasphemy. But it says that Jesus escaped their grasp. Now here’s Jesus – okay boys, let’s get going! God’s about to do something amazing and it will bring glory to God and me.
And can I just stop and say – as I look around this room I see face after face, and hear story after story – about how God is doing cool things in your lives. Many of you – God is rocking your world. And that is exciting.
It’s at this point in the story that we come across the first person who was dying a little on the inside. On the outside – he looked fine. But on the inside – he was dying. His name is Thomas. You might not be a church attender but my guess is you know what Thomas is famous for, right? You know his nickname? Doubting Thomas. Because he didn’t believe Jesus had been resurrected, no matter what his friends told him.
Well here we see the very beginning of the seeds of doubt being sowed into Thomas’ soul. Thomas isn’t so sure that Jesus knows what he is doing.
16 Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.”
Thomas doubts that Jesus knows what he is doing. Jesus is leading us to our deaths – let’s go. He is going to get us all killed. Thanks Jesus!
Hey Thomas – how you feeling about following Jesus right now? Well, I’m not going to disneyland! I wish I was going to Disneyland – instead I’m going to a place where they are going to throw rocks at my head until I stop breathing.
Thomas doubted Jesus’ intent for his life. Now he still followed Jesus and he gets credit for that, but as they walk along Thomas is doubting. And it’s killing him on the inside.
And some of you are the same way. Somewhere along the path seeds of doubt have been sown into your soul and they are starting to choke the life out of you.
Some of you – you are dead spiritually because of your doubts. Someone has planted a seed of doubt – you read something – saw something on tv that sounded like, :As everyone knows the Bible cannot be true.” You heard an argument against God – or against the bible – some fine sounding argument – and you are wondering what to do with it…
You know what doubts are like? Ever have this happen to you? Ever go to bed and at like 2:30 in the morning you hear this sound? BEEEP. And you know what it is, right? I don’t know why batteries all die at 2:30 in the morning but they do – maybe only in smoke detectors…
So you are lying there BEEP there it is again! But you don’t want to deal with that right now! You’re going to have to find which of the stupid detectors it is, right? And then you’ll have to get the step ladder and you are trying to remember if you even have any nine volt BEEP!
And so then it’s a race to try to get back to sleep before the next time it…. you know it’s coming BEEP!
In the same way – doubts will not let your soul rest until you do something about those doubts. Ignoring them will not get them to go away. Make sense?
You’ve got to address them, and honestly you’ve at least got to come to a truce with them. You’ve got to admit, Okay maybe I don’t have all the answers as fully as I’d like, but you know you’ve addressed them…
Usually I find that it’s not faith or doubt, it’s faith with doubts. We bring them with us on the spiritual Journey. And God is big enough to handle them,
After all, the Psalms are filled with times when God’s people struggled with doubt. And wasn’t it Jesus who said that his followers follow him in truth, and that the truth will set us free.
But doubts stuffed into a soul and ignored will poison it. They can choke the life out of your faith. And that’s exactly where some of you are today. Your doubts have choked the health out of your spiritual life and it makes you feel like you are faking our faith.
But there’s good news. Jesus brings dead things back to life. And He is able to resurrect your spiritual life if you let him.
Back to our story – Some of you are Thomas’. Some of you though are like Martha.
Martha was Lazarus’ sister. And when she hears that Jesus is nearby she runs from her house to greet him along the road.
When Martha catches up to Jesus 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
If Thomas was dying from doubt – Martha was dying from discouragement. Something inside of Martha died when Jesus didn’t come to the rescue.
Listen to her talk. If you had been here, things would have turned out differently. If you had only showed up. Now notice, and I think it’s important that we realize Martha didn’t doubt that Jesus could do anything. She knows he can. She even verbalizes it – Even now, I know you can do anything. Her head knows the right answer – “You can do anything” but her heart is telling her something different, “you can do anything – I just don’t believe you are going to do it for me.”
God will give you whatever you ask for Jesus – I know that’s true. And Jesus says, you’re right – and guess what – your brother will rise again!
“Yeah, I know – someday it will all work out. Someday he’ll rise again. Whatever.” I know – you can do anything. Whatever. It didn’t work out the way I hoped it would, but , you know – I know you are able to do whatever you want – it’s just this time, you know – you kind of – it just didn’t work out. I understand.
Martha is dying on the inside – and it’s from discouragement.
Some of you are dying on the inside and – it’s not that you don’t believe – you know in your head that God can do anything – but your heart is telling you that He probably isn’t going to do anything for you.
“Nothing’s going to change.” That’s the mantra of a spiritual life that is stuck. Lord, My job is terrible and you could change it God but I know nothing’s gonna change. My marriage is hurting right now and unhealthy, and I know you could fix it, but probably nothings gonna change. I want to change who I am as a person – I want to be a better human being, but I know – probably, nothings gonna change.
That’s a far cry from the abundant life Jesus talks about giving. I have come that you might have life and have it barely, begrudgingly, depressingly. Jesus didn’t say, “I have come that you might live a depressed and joyless life!
John 10:10 says that Jesus came to give us a rich and satisfying life.
Maybe you are here this morning and you are dying from discouragement. You haven’t lost faith, but you have kind of lost faith that God wants to do something exciting in your life… The good news is that Jesus brings dead things back to life. And he can bring life to your withering soul this moment – this morning.
Jesus brings dead things back to life! As Martha and Thomas and Mary are soon to discover.
And this brings us to Mary. Mary is dying on the inside too. Did you notice that Mary didn’t even leave the house when she heard Jesus was on his way? Martha ran out to greet Jesus. But Mary wasn’t going anywhere.
Where was Jesus when we needed him? We sent for him days ago and he waited. He waited days before leaving and now my brother is dead. Psshhh. I’m not running out to greet him.
If Martha was discouraged – Mary is downright disappointed with Jesus.
She makes the same statement Martha did – If you came when we asked you to come he wouldn’t have died. But it feels like it’s less a factual statement as it is an accusation. If you hadn’t of waited. But now you are too late Lord. You’re too late to do something awesome. Your timing stinks.
Mary is straight up disappointed with Jesus. Jesus was their friend. Friends are supposed to be there for one another… Is this any way to treat a friend?
Did you catch the words from Mary and Martha both…. If only…
If only you showed up Jesus, this might have turned out differently. If only God really cared, then this could have turned out differently.
And maybe you are dying on the inside today from disappointment. If only you showed up Lord. If only you cared enough about me or my loved one… If only you showed up – but you didn’t. You weren’t there when I needed you.
The Easter message is for you today – Jesus brings dead things back to life. And he can bring life back to your soul. He can restore and refresh your inner most being.
In the garden of Eden the Father breathed life into the dust of the ground when he created mankind. And right here on this Easter morning Jesus can breath life into your spirit as he re-creates you through faith.
Let’s see how Jesus responds – he is surrounded now by doubters and people who are discouraged and disappointed. How does he respond?
Let’s take a closer look at the way that Jesus responds to Martha and Mary. We are going to see that ultimately both women are going to make the same statement to Jesus – but we are going to see two different reactions from Jesus.
Discouraged Martha says, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.
25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
Jesus is in essence grabbing Martha by the shoulders and telling her – “Listen – I’m here now. And I AM life. I am the resurrection. Martha, you think I’m arriving too late, but Martha, I’m never too late. I really can do everything.
He is speaking truth into her discouragement. He is trying to plant seeds of Hope into her soul. Martha, you say you know these things – but it’s time to turn the valve here and allow the truth in your head to flood into your heart.
Jesus is trying to refocus her attention. To lift her head up from the dusty path and speak truth and life into her. Snap out of your discouragement Martha. You are right, I CAN do anything – I am the resurrection. I am life itself. I am never too late. and Even now – I know what I’m doing. Trust me Martha. I make dead things come back to life.”
And maybe that’s what Jesus needs you to hear today too. He is never too late. He does know what he is doing. He can be trusted even when he allows things to happen we cannot fully understand.
Mary made the same statement as Martha – If only you had been here…. But with Mary we see a different side of Jesus. If Martha showed us the divine truth side of Jesus. Mary shows us just how human Jesus can be. He shows Martha he is strong enough to handle her discouragement but he shows Mary that he is tender enough to handle her disappointment and grief.
Jesus knows when to be strong for us. And he knows when to be tender. And with Mary, it was time to be tender. And Jesus, instead of confronting her grief – enters into it.
John 11:35 – Jesus weeps. He is weeping and he is angry! He is angry at the pain that death causes. He is angry at the pain sin causes. And instead of standing over it and apart from it, Jesus enters the pain of this world.
38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance.
Why was he angry? At the grief sin has caused in this world. And he was deeply troubled as well for he knew what it would take to finally defeat death. To finally defeat sin. He knew the terrible price he would have to pay in order to remove from us the terrifying thought of death.
Jesus knew that in order to raise Lazarus, and us, from the tomb, he would have to put himself into it… But Jesus was willing to pay that price for us.
And the beginning of the end of Jesus life began with these words.
39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them. 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”
Jesus makes dead people come back to life.
And it was the beginning of the end for Jesus. The very next paragraph in my bible says that many were placing their faith in him because of what he had done, and, “53 So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death.”
And in just days Jesus would be crucified and put into a tomb just like Lazarus was. And he would be wrapped up in clothes just like Lazarus. And there would be people mourning and sad, and disappointed and discouraged and doubting there mourning his death.
But the grave could not hold him there.
Death could not keep him captive. Death was powerless to stop the Father. Because like father like son. They bring dead things back to life.
Maybe you are here and you are feeling dead in your faith today – I want to bring up my friend Jeremy this morning. And we are going to hear Jeremy tell about the time Jesus brought him back to life…
I know there are many of you who have stories similar to Jeremy – perhaps not in the details, and not in the same degrees – but you too have been brought back to life spiritually by God.
I want to ask you to do something for me this morning. I want you to be an encouragement to those who might be feeling discouraged – disappointed – doubtful about God’s plan in their life right now – and I’m going to ask you to do this for me.
If you have within the past couple of years, felt that Jesus has brought you back to life in your faith journey with God – would you raise your hand nice and high and proud. Look around – Jesus brings dead things back to life. Look at the proof all around you.
On this wonderful Easter morning we celebrate that the grave could not hold Jesus. Death has been rendered powerless – Jesus brings dead people back to life. And he can do that with you and your soul this morning.