Christ Has Conquered Death!
Dear Lord Jesus, You are the resurrection and the life! It can be so hard for me to see that in this world filled with sin and death, but I pray this day that You would strengthen my faith to see You as the door to everlasting life. May Your promises assure me that someday I too will rise! Amen!
Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Then Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 "But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to Him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
Christ Has Conquered Death!
I. He Assures It
II. We Confess It
Dear Friends in Christ, Fellow Redeemed!
We've all heard the saying before: "It's not what you know, it's who you know." It basically says that for a lot of the time in life it doesn't matter how much knowledge you have or how many degrees you have or how much experience you have.
What really matters is who you know. Having connections is often more important than having knowledge. You may know just how to fix a car, but if you don’t have a friend with the right tools, you can’t fix it. You may have enough money to buy a house, but if you don’t have a realtor you may not get very far. You may have all the right qualifications for a job, but oftentimes it is more valuable to have a friend who already works at that job as a reference. This is true in the business world, but it is also true in many other cases as well.
Having smart and capable connections, like many of the volunteers here at Immanuel who teach VBS and Sunday School, like the women’s groups who organize meals and send out get well cards to people in the hospital, like the many people who came to the church cleanup two weeks ago. And a million other things that are taken care of around here with no thanks or recognition.
Having smart, capable, and powerful friends and in the case of our church, a family, is a great asset. “It's not what you know, it's who you know.” This is especially true when it comes to our faith life because each one of us here today has the most powerful friend of all. We have Jesus Christ--our God and our Savior.
In fact, some of the last words that Jesus ever spoke on this earth were in reference to His power. Just before He rose into heaven He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).
All authority and all power belong to Jesus. He is true God and therefore has all the power of God at His disposal. Think of some of the miracles Jesus performed while He was here on earth. He calmed the storm. He fed the five thousand. He healed the sick and the lame and the deaf and the blind. He cast out demons and evil spirits.
Our friend Jesus sure is powerful, isn't he? But the lesson before us today shows us the true extent of Jesus’ power. Because in this lesson we learn that Christ has conquered death! Not just physical death, though He certainly is more powerful than physical death as we see in His raising of Lazarus, but more importantly, Christ conquered our spiritual death!
This message is so important to both your eternal and temporal life. Jesus speaks these words to you today so that you can be assured that it is absolutely true. So assured, in fact, that we can boldly confess with Martha that Christ has conquered death!
I. He Assures It
On the cover of your bulletin this morning, one of the most famous verses in the entire Bible was printed and two words, in particular, were highlighted. “I am the RESURRECTION and the LIFE.” Powerful and comforting words they are, and yet I think a lot of the time we gloss over them because they are so familiar to us. But what does Jesus mean when He says that He is the Resurrection?
Jesus is saying a lot in a just a few words here. Thankfully, there are a number of sections of Scripture that help explain just what He is saying. In Colossians, we read, “And He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18)
It says that Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, but we read about Lazarus being raised from the dead before Jesus, and many others in the Old Testament time as well. However, we aren't talking about Jesus being first in time, but in preeminence, in glory, because Jesus was the first one raised from the dead in perfection and righteousness.
Lazarus was raised, but he still was sinful and he would later die again. Jesus was raised just as holy as He was before He died. As the head of the church, Jesus is the example for us. So, we too someday will be raised from the dead in righteousness and holiness, just as Jesus was on Easter. Jesus is the firstborn of all who will be raised in perfectness and holiness. Jesus’ resurrection assures us that we too will be raised one day.
Jesus is also the resurrection because He is the cause of our resurrection. We read in John, “I am the living bread, which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (John 6:51).
The flesh and blood of Christ were the payment that was necessary for our salvation. It is only through this knowledge of Christ crucified for sinners, that we have the assurance that we will be resurrected on Judgment Day. He caused our resurrection to happen. His sacrifice equals our redemption.
Just as we read in Martin Luther’s explanation to the second article: Jesus “did this that I should be His very own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and joy; just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns in eternity. This is most certainly true” (Sydow Edition p.112).
The second word that is highlighted on the bulletin cover is “life.” Here we can ask the same question, “How is Jesus the life?” Again, Jesus says a lot in a few words.
Jesus is a member of the triune God and so He is eternal. He has always been alive, so He is life and always has been life. As God’s name in the Old Testament revealed: I AM WHO I AM. He also was there when mankind was created. We read of God speaking within Himself in Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” So, Jesus was also a part of the giving of life to man. He breathed the breath of life into our earliest relative, Adam. He helped form Eve from Adam's rib.
But we are talking about more than just physical life here. Colossians 3:3 explains, “For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Before Christ came into your life through the Holy Spirit, you were a sinner destined for hell. But now that you have Christ, who you were before, your old Adam, your sinful nature, died, and who you are now is with Christ. This does not mean that we have perfection on earth now, but that when God looks on us He does not see our sin, but rather our Savior's sinlessness.
What a comfort that is to each of us here! Our life is hidden with Christ. He is, even now, guarding it, protecting it, cherishing it. Let us, therefore, dedicate our lives to Him, because He dedicated His life to us. Gratitude and love for the work that Jesus accomplished are the motivation behind our life of Sanctification.
But even a sanctified life is not the ultimate goal our Savior has for us. He wants to give us eternal life and He promises us that with the words, “Because I live, you will live also” (John 14:19). That is His assurance to us, that even as He is now at the right hand of God preparing a place for us, so we too will be there one day, experiencing true life, peace, and joy.
And Jesus will not just give life to our souls, but also to our bodies. Romans 8:11 reads, “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.” So even these weak, frail bodies will experience perfection. They will receive true life from Jesus who is our true life.
Now we come to the question, “If Christ has conquered death, why do people still die?” Put yourself in the shoes of Martha for a second. She is freshly grieving the death of her brother and Jesus tells her, “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” What is Martha supposed to think with her brother so recently buried?
Return for a second to the Garden of Eden and our first parents Adam and Eve. God told them that in the day they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would surely die. So when they did eat of it, why didn't they die? They lived on for, in Adam’s case, 930 years.
The truth is, they did. They died spiritually and they brought death to all of mankind for all time. Sin is now in the world and sin now abounds in all of us. There is no escaping it except in our Resurrection and our Life, Jesus Christ.
We will still die physically unless Jesus comes first; we see death all the time in our world. Jesus says it too in verse 25. “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” But if we live and believe in Him, as in verse 26, we will not die spiritually or eternally. It is interesting how living and believing are pretty much equated in that verse. It is real because the one always goes with the other. If we believe in Christ, then we live in Christ. And if we live in Christ, then we believe in Christ.
And so even if we physically die, it does not mean that we are not still living and believing in Christ, even as we wait for heaven.
II. We Confess It
This knowledge, this faith that we have in our most powerful of friends, Jesus Christ, we want to make a part of our lives and share with others as well. But this can be an especially difficult thing to do. Yet we have this amazing confession laid out before us in our text this morning! Look at Martha's confession in verse 24. This is a woman whose brother died just four short days ago. You can almost see the disappointment in her words. “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” And again, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
That same disappointment we all go through when we lose a loved one. It can be hard not to shake our fists and say, “It's not fair!” It can be hard not to lose ourselves in self-pity and sorrow. It can be hard when we look around at this world of sinfulness and godlessness not to think that death is winning.
But we can still make that confession with Martha. We can put our hope in our Savior believing that when we lose someone we love dearly we can say with Martha, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” In sadness, yes, but also in hope and confidence.
It can be sad, but it's not wrong to be sad. Just a few verses after this section we read of Jesus crying when He hears that Lazarus had died. Jesus cried because of the sin that is in this world twisting God's perfect creation. In God's original plan, Lazarus was not supposed to die. Adam was not supposed to die. You were not supposed to die. It is terribly sad what the curse of sin has done to our world.
But we confess what we learn from Scripture: that Jesus is our resurrection and our life. He is our hope and our salvation. And that is what Martha reflected in her final words of our text.
Martha's words should really be translated “Yes, Lord, I have believed...” She is not stating that she just started believing, but rather that she has believed all along.
And notice the threefold confession. First, she says He is the Christ--that is the long-awaited Messiah. Millennia of prophecy passed down from generation to generation from the time of Adam and Eve to the prophet Malachi were all fulfilled in this one God-man, Jesus Christ. And after this, no more prophecies or promises were needed, because Jesus brought them all to completion.
Second, Martha calls Jesus the Son of God--that is the very Jehovah God made flesh. God made man--the second person of the Triune God--the only one who can restore the long-broken relationship between God and man--the one Mediator of our Salvation.
Finally, she tells of Jesus' mission--to come into the world and live the perfect life that no other human being has been able to do since the beginning of the world. Jesus performs the greatest act of sacrifice that the world had ever and would ever see in His righteous death on the cross to take away the sins of the world.
What a beautiful articulation of the beliefs that each one of us here today holds! And we, each one of us, all confessed those same three things today in the apostles' creed this morning.
May we all, throughout our lives and with our words, confess that Jesus is our Savior. That Jesus is our Resurrection and our Life and that because of Him we will never die!
Because Jesus proclaimed Himself the conqueror of death, He has ultimate authority over all of heaven and on earth. That is what He Himself proclaimed in His Word and that is what we believe and confess with our mouths, just like Martha.
In 1 Corinthians, we read that, “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). Death has been conquered, make no mistake, it just has not been destroyed yet. But it will be. On that last and glorious day when Jesus, our powerful friend comes again.
When He comes, and tells us all, each one of His believers, “Come, you blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34). Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Joe Naumann