“I Am the Resurrection and the Life”
Pt. 5 of the Series: “The ‘I am’ Sayings of Jesus.”
Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019
Jesus said to (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
One of the most significant times in our nation’s history was Holy Week of the year 1865. After nearly 620,000 union and confederate soldiers died in the four years of war, there was a final battle. It was at Appomattox Court House, and at the end of that battle, Robert E. Lee surrendered the Confederate army to Ulysses S. Grant and the wounds of war began to heal. But a tragic thing happened at that last battle that has been described as the
- The Fog of War
The fog of war is not like the fog you see rising above the countryside. The fog of war has to do with uncertainty, confusion, not always knowing what is going on. It has to do with fear and doubt because in the midst of battle, soldiers don’t always know what is actually happening. There is the din of battle and so much smoke, chaos.
- The fog of war at Appomattox
The fog of war was there at that battlefield of Appomattox. If you go there you will see markers and one marker says “Final Combat”. In the background is a picture, and it’s a picture of a Union soldier bending over holding another Union Soldier that had just died. The casualty was Lieutenant Hiram Clark of the 185th New York volunteers. What happened is that even as the surrender by General Lee was being announced, even as the flag of truce was being sent out to the Confederate troops, a cannon still fired and the cannonball hit Union lines and it crushed Lieutenant Clark and he died. Even with the end of war, the fog of war had not lifted. Lieutenant Hiram Clark of the 185th New York volunteers died even after the war was declared over. How terrible! How terrible that that soldier was killed in a battle after the war was over. How terrible that he was victim to the fog of war.
- The fog of war in our lives
There is a battle going on in our lives, a battle in which people are succumbing, people dying. For the Christian, Easter says that the war is over, that there is victory. Yet, the battle wages on. Many people--Christians, too— are confused. There is uncertainty, doubts, fears. The fog of war is there. The war is over but people are still doing battle.
What are some of the ways that people are still dying in the fog of war? What are some things that people are dealing with? What about in your life? Where is there the fog of war in your life?
One of the big things I hear around our church is just the busyness of life. That can be a real fog of war. People just have so much going on. They are trying to juggle work and family and kid’s activities, oh the kid’s activities. Some folks here at Risen Christ are just overloaded with life. They are overloaded and their time with God is at a minimum and it is bringing down their spirits. It is turning work into drudgery, family into a circus, joy into obligation. It is a fog of war.
Here’s one I struggle with. I look out at our culture, I look out at the shifting morals and values and ethics of our culture and I just sense the fog of war. Frankly, it feels like those who are Bible believing Christians are losing. It seems like we are losing. Things that not so longer ago were wrong are now right and things that are right are now wrong. Some days, I watch the news, read another account, and I think we are losing. There is chaos, confusion in my spirit. It is a fog of war.
Some folks get pretty philosophical about it. They get philosophical but oh so personal. They ask some very deep questions, like, am I making a difference with my life? Due to my efforts, will the world be a better place when I am gone? Some people wonder. They get so caught up in the demands of life, the day in and day out stuff they have to get accomplished that they think they are just putting in time. This is another fog of war.
Or, speaking of fulfillment, some folks get enmeshed in accumulating stuff. Having more toys to play with becomes all-consuming even though they know that the latest toy has a pretty finite shelf life. Play with the thing a few months and it is on to the next thing. But, some folks are so entangled in the need for more that it becomes for them a fog of war.
Here at Risen Christ, we are in the midst of a transition. I am retiring and it will be a bit of a while before a new pastor is in place. For some, that is an anxious time. That anxiety is a fog of war.
Some people are still dealing with the fog of war of their own bad behavior. They are struggling with sin. Maybe you are. As I said, the war is supposed to be over and yet that sin that you’ve committed a hundred times before, you just committed it again. Is that a fog of war for you?
What about health issues? I know some of you are dealing with chronic illnesses. Some of you are dealing with back issues and knee issues. Some of you, like my wife, has fibro myalgia, that mysterious affliction where you can have pain in your big toe one day and in your shoulder the next. Some of you may be depressed. Some of you may struggle with self-esteem. Some of you wonder if anyone could ever love you. Some of you may even struggle with whether God can love you. All of these are part of the fog of war.
Or, death. The cry of our world, the cry of our culture, is not to worry about death. The predominant stance of our world is that when you’re dead, you’re dead, that there is no hope for anything beyond this life, that any mention of life beyond the grave is nothing more than wishful thinking. Maybe some of you struggle with doubts around that. Maybe some of you hear the Easter message that He is risen but those doubts come creeping back in and you are full of the fog of war.
Does any of this sound familiar? Does any of this describe thoughts and feelings you have had yourself? Is there some fog of war that is going on in your life right now? Is there chaos, confusion?
- The Fog is Dissipated
- Martha and Mary’s fog of confusion, despair and grief
There was a time when some of Jesus’ friends were caught up in a fog of war that they were dealing with. Maybe you are familiar with the story. Jesus had a friend named Lazarus. Lazarus had two sisters named Mary and Martha. One day, Jesus was out and about spreading His good news when he received word from the sisters that their brother was very ill and that Jesus should come quickly. Now, He loved Lazarus and Mary and Martha but He decided to not immediately leave where He was at but to wait two whole days. Finally, after those two days, He went to Lazarus’ home. By the time He arrived, Lazarus had been dead 4 days. They had placed him in a tomb and rolled a stone across the front. Martha was the first to speak with Jesus. Hers was a bit of a stinging rebuke; “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Let me translate that for you. “Jesus, why did You wait so long? I thought you loved Lazarus. I thought You loved us? You could have saved Him and you chose not to. Why did you choose not to help? Oh Jesus, we are so hurt.”
This was a fog of war. This was confusion, chaos in her spirit. Yet, we can’t be too hard of Martha because the evidence was real. She saw her brother breathe his last. She saw them wrap her brother up and watched as he was deposited into the tomb. There was no way out of this one. Death was final. This was the fog of war for them.
- Jesus removes the sisters’ fog
So, Jesus, four days late in arriving, walked into the situation, into the grief of Martha and Mary, into their fog of war. What was Jesus to do? What Jesus did was break down this fog of war. What he did was to dissipate all that kept the sisters from being healed from this fog. This is what Jesus said;
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26
The last several weeks, we have been studying the 7 times in the New Testament in which Jesus said, “I am.” He said things like, “I am the door,” and “I am the light of the world,” and “I am the Good Shepherd,” and “I am the bread of life.” We’ve learned that whenever Jesus said, “I am,” it was a technical phrase harkening back to the name God gave to Moses to identify Himself. To Moses, God said that His name is, “I am.” So, whenever Jesus said, “I am,” He was asserting His divinity. Here, He said, “I and the resurrection and the life.” What in the world would this mean to someone who had never seen a resurrection? What would this mean to Martha and to her sister, Mary?
Jesus was going to show her. He marched on over to Lazarus’ tomb. He had the stone rolled away and Jesus cried out, “Lazarus, come out.” Come on out of that tomb. And Lazarus did come out. His hands and feet were wrapped in strips of linen, a cloth was around his face. But, Lazarus did come out. He was dead but now he was alive. The One who was the resurrection and the life, brought about a resurrection. Martha’s brother was dead. Now, he was alive, resurrected. The fog of war was dissipating.
- Jesus came out of the tomb
And later, on that first Easter Sunday, it was Jesus who came out of the tomb. Oh, it was the Pharisees who thought that they had disposed of that Jesus. They had gone to Pilate and gotten a stone rolled in front of the tomb, and guards posted, and they thought they had made sure that no one was going into that tomb and no one was coming out. And, it was Pilate who thought he had gotten rid of yet another threat to his rule and a threat to the stability of Jerusalem, a stability that, if challenged, would not look good on his political resume. And, it was the disciples who had given up. Except for John, they didn’t even show up for the crucifixion. And, after the crucifixion, for three days, they were huddled together, afraid to venture out.
The women came first. They weren’t expecting a resurrection. All they were expecting was to get some help opening the grave and anointing the body, completing the burial process. That’s all they were expecting. How shocked they were to see the stone already rolled away and to peer into the tomb and find it empty. The women left, except for Mary. Jesus appeared to her, but Mary was still in a fog of war. She didn’t recognize Him. Was it because her eyes were clouded with tears? Was it because Jesus’ body had changed? Or, was it because she was disillusioned? She was with Him for quite some time and now He was gone. She was in a fog. Chaos reigned in her heart.
Ah, but then it happened. You know the story. Jesus asked Mary, “Why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Mary was still in a fog thinking that it was the gardener. But, then Jesus called her name. He said, “Mary” and with that one word, with the mention of her name, the fog cleared. The confusion was gone. Hope was restored and Mary did the only thing she knew. Mary grabbed hold of Jesus and wouldn’t let go. She held on for dear life. She held on for dear life. Jesus had risen from the dead and Mary was not about to let Him pass by. After, she went back to the disciples who, in their fear and depression, were still in a fog, and she announced to them the best news ever, “I have seen the Lord.” Jesus was the resurrection and the life! Jesus was risen from the dead!
- More fog removed
Later that day, some of His followers were walking along the road to Emmaus. They were downcast. The fog of war surrounded them. Jesus came, explained the Scriptures to them, broke bread with them and finally, finally, the fog of war cleared and their eyes were opened.
Still later, Jesus appeared to the disciples still in their fog, behind locked doors. Jesus showed them His hands and His side and the Scripture says they were “overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” The fog was clearing. A week later, Thomas, not with them the first time, placed his fingers in the nail prints in Jesus’ hands and put his hand in Jesus’ side and Thomas stopped doubting and he believed. Doubting Thomas wasn’t doubting any longer. The fog of war was over and he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.”
Jesus appeared to Peter and 3 times Jesus asked, “Do you love me.” Three times Peter said that he did and Jesus removed the fog of war as He re-commissioned Peter to “Feed my lambs.” Still later, over 500 got to witness His resurrection first hand. Still later, Jesus rose to heaven, the disciples clearly understanding the task before them of saving the world. And a few days after that they gathered in Jerusalem and the Holy Spirit came upon them and a giant wind blew and tongues of fire appeared on their heads and they preached the Gospel in the languages of the people who were there. And Peter, now made whole, Peter, whose fog of war had been cleared, stood up and preached and 3000 were saved, 3000 had the fog of war in their lives cleared away and they believed in the One who is the resurrection and the life. Jesus had died on the cross. It seemed all was lost. But, it wasn’t.
- Victory is complete
The year was 1815. The English and the French had been at war a very long time. The Napoleonic Wars that started in 1802 now came to one last battle, one last hope that England could stop Napoleon’s desire to conquer the continent, the battle of Waterloo. The battle raged throughout the day, sabers slashed, canons fired, horses charged, drums beat and by late afternoon either side could have lost. By the end of the battle the Duke of Wellington sent a signal from Waterloo back to London, back to his homeland. A series of ships were staged across the English Channel within visual sight of each other. They would send the message from one ship to the next ship, all the way back to London. However, as this process played out, the misty fog of England rolled into the English channel and the full message sent by one ship faded from view by the next ship. As a result, England received only this; message, “Wellington defeated.” Financial panic set in. The board of trade collapsed. Church bells tolled throughout the country in mourning. No one realized the impact of the fog of war on the message.
Not until later did the fog clear and the message was finally completely transmitted. It was so different than what the Englanders first understood from the battle of Waterloo. The message wasn’t, “Wellington defeated,” but, “Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo.”
Jesus had died on the cross. It seemed all was lost. The message seemed, “Jesus defeated.” But, that was not the case. The fog of war has been lifted. It was lifted for Martha and Mary and the women and the disciples and Thomas and Peter. It was lifted on the 3000 and on the people in one village the disciples visited and that city and that continent. It has been lifted on millions, billions of people since. We hear that message anew this morning, “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” With the resurrection, the fog is cleared and victory has been won. We hear Paul say it;
“Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 15:55-57.
Victory! That is what we have. That is what you have. In Jesus, you have victory. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus is your resurrection and life. Easter is that amazing affirmation that you will rise again, that you will be with Jesus in heaven for eternity. Easter is that amazing affirmation that you will rise again in this life, in whatever is your fog of war right here and right now. Jesus cried out to Lazarus, “Get out of that tomb,” and a resurrection occurred. And, Jesus cries out to us, “Come out of that tomb.” Get out of whatever is keeping you in a fog.
- Your Fog is Cleared!
- Whatever your fog is, Jesus cries out, “Come out of the tomb!”
So, the busyness of life has caused you confusion and uncertainty and stress. It is a fog of war. But, in Him, you have victory. In Him, the One who says He will be with you always, in Him there is hope. On this Easter, Jesus cries out, “I am the resurrection and the life! Come out of the tomb! ”
The morals, values, and ethics of the world shock you. It seems like we are losing. Confusion reigns. But, in Him you have victory. Even if another horrible law is passed, Easter tells us that a battle might have been lost but the war has already been won. We have heaven waiting where the lion will lie down with the lamb. On this Easter, Jesus cries out, “I am the resurrection and the life! Come out of that tomb!”
You wonder if you are making a difference. You wonder if your contribution is worthwhile. In Him you have victory. Remember, the disciples were so disillusioned. Yet, with that first Easter, with Jesus’ resurrection, it gave the disciples hope, new meaning and a reason to live for and they spent their lives bringing God’s love to a world that so desperately needed it. On this Easter, Jesus cries out, “I am the resurrection and the life! Come out of that tomb!”
What about health issues? What about the bad knees and the bad hips and the depression and the lack of self-esteem. You wonder if anyone can ever love you. In Him you have victory. Your victory will ultimately be in heaven. But, it is here on earth, too. Not that whatever ails you will suddenly go away. But, Easter tells you that you have an assurance that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord. On this Easter, Jesus cries out, “I am the resurrection and the life! Come out of that tomb!”
You’ve committed that sin a hundred times and you just did it again. In Him you have victory. You can lay that sin at the foot of the cross. You can know you are forgiven and you can grasp hold of that resurrection power to withstand the onslaught of the devil. Remember that the war has already been won. On this Easter, Jesus cries out, “I am the resurrection and the life! Come out of that tomb!”
Or, what about the biggest of all of the fogs of war, death itself. In the quiet of your home you wonder if there is a life after this one and if so, have you been good enough to get in. But, in Him you have victory. Easter affirms from the mountaintops that because He lives, we too shall live, that just as the grave could not hold Lazarus and just as the grave could not hold Jesus, so the grave has no hold on us. On this Easter, Jesus cries out, “I am the resurrection and the life! Come out of that tomb!”
Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and life—here it comes—he who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.” Jesus said this to Martha with her brother soon to be released from that tomb. And Jesus simply asked her, “Do you believe this?” And Martha said, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
When Jesus appeared to Mary on that first Easter morning, when Jesus identified Himself to her, we read what she did. She held onto Jesus for dear life. That really is all we need to do to dissipate whatever fog of war is going on in your life right now. Just hold onto Jesus for dear life. Hold onto the One who is the resurrection and the life. That is the simple question to you. Jesus is your resurrection and life. He came out of the tomb for you so that you will come out of the tomb with Him—forever!
- The question is simply this; “Do you believe it?”
For if you do, then the fog of war will be lifted and you will be able to joyfully respond,
“I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God…” Job 19:25
Come out of the tomb. Lazarus did. Jesus did. And you will too. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus is risen and so will you, in this life and in the next.
Happy Easter. In Jesus’ name.