Do You Believe?
March 26, 2023 |Do You Believe?|John 11:17-27
Four the last four weeks we have been looking at various encounters that Jesus had in which we have seen Jesus interact with a variety of people, from the Jewish religious elite in the pharisee Nicodemus, to the socially outcast in the Samaritan woman, to the hopelessly afflicted in the man born blind.
As varied as these encounters have been, in Jerusalem at night with nicodemus coming to him, Jesus stopping outside the temple one day and engaging this blind man, or outside of the city in Samaria at Jacob’s well where he engaged a woman by asking her for a drink; as varied as they are, there is one thing they all share in common. Jesus teaches something about himself in each one.
To Nicodemus he teaches he is the son of man that must be lifted up in order for mankind to be saved, to the woman at the well he is the source of living water, the messiah who was to come that would teach people about true worship of the Father, to the blind man, he confessed to him that he was the son of man, Jesus most used term to describe his messianic role.
Today in our last encounter text before the crucifixion and resurrection, we find Jesus not interacting with a stranger, but a family who was very close to him, a family, the bible says, that Jesus loved. In this encounter we will see that Jesus continues his pattern of teaching about himself through these situations. We will also see the compassion of Jesus in the words, Jesus wept, as well as the power of Jesus in the single most awesome display of his power before his own resurrection. It is to this encounter that we turn.
Open your bibles to john, chapter 11. At verse 17.
The story extends from 11:1 through almost all of the 57 verses, so for time we will focus our attention on one particular aspect of the encounter, Jesus’ encounter with Martha.
John 11:17-22 (ESV) 17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 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 from God, God will give you.”
Lazarus is ill so they send word to Jesus who has left Jerusalem after the religious crowd had tried to put him to death and then arrest him.
The sisters appeal to jesus love for lazarus as a means to get him to come quickly. 11:3b(ESV) “Lord, he whom you love is ill.
Jesus responded by saying, (ESV) “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
John 11:5-6 (ESV) 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
The apostle John reminds us in this narrative before he tells us that Jesus waited two days before going, that he loved this family. Why? Because at first glance it can seem harsh, can’t it? But even now, before we get to the conclusion, the apostle John wants us to understand that what Jesus did was not in spite of love but out of it and because by tarrying, the glory of God would be displayed through the son.
Jesus then has a conversation with his disciples where he tells them plainly Lazarus is dead and that he intends to wake him, although the disciples are sure this trip that will take them back into the danger of Jerusalem may be the end of them all. It is with this backdrop that we come to the encounter of Jesus with Martha.
Lazarus has been entombed for four days, Martha comes out to meet Jesus as he makes his way to the village of Bethany, and the first thing she says to him seems emotionally charged and accusatory in tone. “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. To which she adds, even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.
Martha, a perfect picture of faith and the effects of mourning and loss on that faith, Jesus comforting her as well as strengthening and stretching her faith in who he is, and ultimately displaying his power as the one and only son of god.
My prayer is that today, all of us who face the certainty of our own death will find not only comfort, but the strengthening of our faith. For those of you who may not have decided who you believe Jesus is, my prayer is that you would see him for who he is this morning through God’s word.
Jesus has come almost to Bethany, met by a mourning sister, who simultaneously holds on to her faith, but is also struggling with the loss of her brother and the reality that Jesus could have healed him if he had come sooner. It is Jesus' answer to her as well as her response that we will look at today under the divisions, the Revelation of who Jesus is, the implications of who Jesus is, and the confession of who Jesus is.
The Revelation of Who Jesus Is
John 11:23-25a (ESV) 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 on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life…
Jesus begins with what seems like an intentionally vague, but nonetheless true statement. Your brother will rise again. (literally, stand up again)
He doesn’t say, I am about to resurrect your brother, he doesn’t say, it doesn’t matter that I wasn’t here, I am now and I am about to bring him back. Just your brother will rise again, to which Martha understands to mean ‘in the last day’.
It’s as though she says, ‘of course Lord, I know that in the end, he will stand again’, but what comfort does that give me now?
It is interesting to note that not all of the Jewish religious leaders believed as Martha confesses she does. The sadducees did not believe that there would be a resurrection, but that this life was it. On the other hand, the Pharisees, it seemed, did believe that there would be a resurrection of some of God’s people. Jesus himself taught the reality of the resurrection and on at least one occasion the Saducees tried to trip him up with questions concerning the resurrection.
Listen to what Jesus says in John 5.
John 5:28-29 (ESV) 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Martha, as a follower of Jesus confirms, that she believes what Jesus teaches concerning the resurrection, and that she believes her brother, in some way will in fact live again on the last day.
This is where Jesus begins to take Martha from where she is and stretch her faith, he says, I am the resurrection and the life.
This is the fifth of seven ‘I am’ statements that John records in his gospel account. (Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) Seven times, Jesus uses the great “I am” name of the Lord to reveal the greatest truths of his salvation. “I am the bread of life,” he told the hungry crowd in John 6. “I am the light of the world,” he cried to the revelers at the Feast of Tabernacles (John 8:12). When those false shepherds, the Pharisees, cast one of Christ’s sheep out from the synagogue, Jesus replied, “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved” (10:9), and “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (10:11).
Now, before Martha, he says, I am the resurrection and the life.
Here he says, I am not just a teacher of the resurrection, but the source of it, the author of it, where it finds its fulfillment.
Here he (Jesus) says, I am not just a teacher of the resurrection, but the source of it, the author of it, where it finds its fulfillment.
The apostle John began his gospel account with this confession.
John 1:4 (ESV) 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
Jesus will tell his disciples in just a short time a similar statement when he is comforting them about his impending departure.
John 14:18-19 (ESV) 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.
The source of our life and the resurrection power is because our savior lives. Very soon after this encounter, Jesus would be put to death and buried in a similar tomb to Lazarus, but he would not stay there.
On the third day he rose and he is alive today. The assurance we have of our own life and resurrection is found in the very life of Jesus.
Jesus wanted Martha to understand that the resurrection was not some distant and undetermined day where some will be raised again, but the resurrection is a person, the son of God, and he was standing talking to her face to face.
This is the comfort Jesus brings Martha, Lazarus will live again, in and through Jesus. With this brief but revealing message, Jesus begins to stretch her understanding of who he is; he is not just a great teacher, not just a miracle worker, not just a righteous man who has a distinct relationship with God the Father, he is the very means by which men and women will live.
What are the implications of Jesus being the resurrection and the life?
The Implication of Who Jesus Is
John 11:25b-26 (ESV) Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
Jesus moves from the reality of who he is to the reality of those who believe in him. Jesus makes two statements here for us to look at.
Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live-
We are going to dig into that word ‘believes’ in a moment, so for the time, let us just lay it aside and deal with the implications of those who do.
Though he die, yet shall he live. Grammatically, the Greek reads, he who believes in me will live, even if he dies.
Now, this should be a relative interest to anyone who has spent much time on this earth. We know that ‘if he dies’, means practically, when he dies.
We know this from the experience of losing loved ones, sometimes suddenly and sometimes slowly. We share this experience with all men, everywhere.
It has been said that death is the great equalizer. That is to say, no matter what situation you are born into, no matter nationality, social standing, economic status, poor or rich, young or old, sick or healthy, we all must face this great enemy called death.
This is consistent with what the bible teaches when it says, (ESV) it is appointed for man to die once, In the face of this all consuming enemy, what are we to think?
Some will say that, this world is it, whether you get 80 minutes or 80 years, what time we have here before death is all the life that we will have. You only live once, right? Live it to the fullest.
Others will say that the universe will simply spit us back out again to try again through reincarnation.
Others will say that all men, except for the very worst of men, will find some kind of paradise waiting for them after death.
But what does the bible say?
Hebrews 9:27 (ESV) 27 And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,
As we heard earlier, in John 5, Jesus tells us that there are two experiences waiting for us on the other side of this life. Let us get the larger context, especially concerning this judgment after death.
John 5:21-29 (ESV) 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.
Jesus says here that death is not the last word, that physical death is not the end of the believer’s life, but rather a passing from one part of it into another, for they possess eternal life having passed from death to life. In Jesus' encounter with Nicodemus, he called this being born again. This is where the rest of Jesus' statement comes in.
Jesus says here that death is not the last word, that physical death is not the end of the believer’s life, but rather a passing from one part of it into another, for they possess eternal life having passed from death to life.
…everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.
Those who have life in Christ, those who have been born again, will never die.
How do we reconcile these two statements?
He who believes in me will live, even if he dies and he who lives and believes in me shall never die.
We reconcile them by understanding that Jesus is talking about both physical death and spiritual death.
Physical death does not end the life of the believer because we have eternal life and since we have eternal life, we will not experience spiritual death.
Did Martha understand all of this? Probably not yet, we cannot be sure, but we can be sure this is what Jesus said to her and not just for her benefit but for all those who would hear his words. But whether she fully understood it or not, Jesus asked a more important question to her, do you believe this?
In the midst of her grief, her possible anger, her certain confusion, Jesus presses her, do you believe this?
That I am the resurrection and the life...
that death is not final and the life I give cannot be touched by death...
do you believe this?
It is her response we turn to now.
The Confession of Who Jesus Is
John 11:27 (ESV) 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
This is one of a few powerful confessions that stand out in the New Testament concerning Jesus; it rivals the apostle Peter’s own confession in Matthew 16:15-16 (ESV) 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Each word in this brief confession is powerful and worth our attention.
Yes, Lord- with this title Lord, she acknowledges his authority over her life.
This is the attitude of faith. She doesn’t quarrel with him over what he says, she doesn’t drag back up her indignation that he did not get there quick enough, she places herself in a position of trust that even if she doesn’t understand it all, she trusts what he says, because she knows him as Lord.
Everything that follows this declaration is a confession of her faith in who Jesus is. Do you see it?
She doesn’t say, i believe that you are the resurrection and the life, i believe that he who believes in you, though he dies, will live, and who lives in you will not die. She says, I believe in you and qualifies that with what she believes concerning him. If we have that right, everything else falls into place.
She says, I believe…
You are the Christ-
(Reformed Expository Commentary (28 Vols.) - REC) First, Martha believed that Jesus is “the Christ.” The Hebrew word for this is Messiah, from the word that means “to anoint.” Jesus is “the Anointed One.” In its fullest sense, this refers to the three divinely appointed offices of the Old Testament: prophet, priest, and king. These anointed offices served to reveal God’s truth, offer sacrifices for sin, and establish God’s sovereign reign. To believe that Jesus is the Christ is therefore to believe that he is the true and final Prophet, the true and final Priest, and the true and final King over God’s people.
He is the fulfillment and satisfaction of God’s plan to reconcile men to himself. Martha confessed this as well as that she believed he was…
The son of God- that as he had taught, he was the only begotten of the Father, that he had seen the Father, that he had come from the Father, that he had been sent by the Father, and even if she didn’t fully understand, or was even able to articulate his divinity, Jesus said it concerning himself, and she believed that it was true. The final statement she makes is related to the first.
Who is coming into the world- she believed that Jesus fulfilled the promises made by God in the Old Testament concerning the salvation of his people.
This confession is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. If you deny any part of it, you cannot rightly call yourself a follower of Christ.
This confession is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian. If you deny any part of it, you cannot rightly call yourself a follower of Christ.
This confession sums up what the word ‘believe’ means when Jesus says whoever believes in me in our text, or when he tells nicodemus,
John 3:16 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. And John 3:18 (ESV) 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Or when he told the crowd John 6:28-29 (ESV) “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
John 6:40 (ESV) 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Or when he stood up John 7:37-39 (ESV) 37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive,
To believe in him is to believe that he is the Messiah, the great Prophet that revealed God to mankind, that he is the great Priest that offered a once for all sacrifice on the cross for the sins of mankind, and he is the great King who sat down at the right hand of God and rightly rules over all mankind for all eternity.
And the bible says, if you do that, you will be born again to spiritual life today, and ultimately be raised to live with him for all eternity.
This is the truth that confronted Martha on this day, standing before Jesus.
Before we get to our conclusion this morning, I want to briefly do justice to the context and summarize what happens next.
Martha goes and gets Mary, who comes to Jesus and upon falling at his feet says the same thing as Martha, John 11:32-37 (ESV) “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus is deeply moved in his spirit and weeps himself, and then goes to the tomb of Lazarus, and after having them remove the stone in front of the cave they have buried Lazarus in commands Lazarus to come out, and he does. After being released from his burial wrappings, he is rejoined with his sisters.
Not only Martha and Mary, but a great crowd from Jerusalem see this miracle and word of it spreads far and wide, ultimately leading to the Jewish leaders cementing their intention to kill him.
The Jewish leaders, faced with the reality that this man Jesus possessed power over even death itself, had to decide whether to believe in him or reject him. Consequently, this is what Jesus told them the last time he was with them, right before this, in response to the statement, tells us if you are the Christ.
John 10:25-30 (ESV) 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
They, having heard the same account you just did this morning, this Jesus raised a man that had been dead for four days from a grave with a shout, chose to reject him, proving they did not belong to him.
Jesus is the Christ, the messiah, the anointed one, the son of God. He is God's means by which mankind can be saved, not just from this life but for all eternity. He proved it by his miraculous displays of God’s power like raising Lazarus, culminating in his own resurrection and defeat of sin, death, and the grave. His promise is that whoever believes in him will experience salvation and everlasting life.
So what each of us have to do today is answer the same question he asked Martha.
Do you believe this?
You don’t have to understand it all, bring your questions to the Lord. You don’t have to be able to articulate all the great doctrines of Christianity this morning. You don’t have to have it all figured out to answer that question.
Rather, my advice is to listen, do you hear Jesus calling you?
Jesus says his sheep will hear his voice and follow him.
Have you ever followed him in belief?
Have you ever come to the place where you accept the claims made and accompanied by mighty works that this ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ made about himself?
Do you feel an overwhelming sense to fall at his feet and say, “Yes Lord, I believe’?