A Tale of Two Sisters
|John 11 (NKJV™)|
|17||So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.|
|18||Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away.|
|19||And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother.|
|20||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."|
|28||And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, "The Teacher has come and is calling for you."|
|29||As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him.|
|30||Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him.|
|31||Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, "She is going to the tomb to weep there."|
|32||Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, "Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died."|
New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.
In 1859 Charles Dickens wrote his famous work, A Tale of Two Cities, set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution. The story before us is set in Bethany near Jerusalem and highlights the personal relationship that two sisters had with Jesus Christ. Their broken hearts provide an excellent platform to consider how Christ deals with people in grief and loss. Let's actively probe not only their responses but ours to the incredible promise Jesus makes.
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Two sisters–Mary and Martha–have lost their brother Lazarus. It is a sudden, unexpected tragedy in their home. Death is an enemy—the great opponent to life. "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death" (1 Corinthians 15:25).
Everyone lives with death anticipation, knowing that in a moment, everything we are and have can be stripped away. Woody Allen said, "I'm not afraid to die, I justdon't want to be there when it happens." Death happens to everyone. Joseph Bayly states: "We may postpone it, we may tame its violence, but death is still there waiting for us. Death always waits. The door of the hearse is never closed. Dairy farmer and sales executive live in death's shadow, with Nobel Prize winner and prostitute, mother, infant, teen, old man. The hearse stands waiting for the surgeon who transplants a heart as well as the hopeful recipient, for the funeral director as well as the corpse he manipulates. Death spares none."
In this passage, Jesus tells us the greatest news ever to have fallen on human ears: "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, thought he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26). He was speaking to Martha, but His disciples were listening. Jesus' public ministry is over, he is in the midst of His private ministry to his disciples. He knows He is going to leave them. The theme of His ministry is Resurrection. First He predicted His resurrections: "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19). "He was speaking of the temple of His body" (John 2:21). He then demonstrated His power over death by raising Lazarus, and others, authenticating His statement in John 11:25. Finally He will raise Himself from death. When His disciples realize the truth of His statements, they become unstoppable: bold as lions—martyrs! They don't care what happens to them. Resurrection is the central theme to their communications throughout the book of Acts.
Immediate burial: no embalming
Mourning: thirty days, seven of intense mourning. Demonstrative, emotional: tears robes, beat breast, wear sackcloth and ashes, hire professional mourners. Firmly believed Ecclesiastes 3:4: "A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;"
Some superstitions Jews believed the spirit would linger for three days, seeking to re-enter the body. By the fourth day, when decomposition had set in, the spirit would depart. On the fourth day, when "all bets are off," Jesus shows up.
Actions of Mary and Martha are in keeping with what we know of them from elsewhere in the Gospels. Mary sits, Martha is on her feet. "People change, but not that much." What people say during times of loss cannot be taken to heavily. Your reaction must be tempered with understanding
Figures Referenced: Woody Allen, Joseph Bayly, C.H. Spurgeon
Cross References: Job 1:21; Psalm 13; Psalm 58:6; Ecclesiastes 3:4; Mark 9:24; Luke 10:39; John 2:19; John 2:21; John 4:46-54; John 6:35; John 8:12; John 10:9; John 10:11; John 11:39; John 14:19; 1 Corinthians 15:25; 1 Corinthians 15:55; Colossians 3:4
Keywords: grief, Lazarus, Mary, Martha, resurrection
John Chapter 11. Let's begin with the word of prayer. Father, because we believe these to be your word, not just words that have been collected by mankind but that you superintended and supervised that we ask for your wisdom and considering it. Not just in analyzing it but in applying it. And we pray that we might learn of Christ and His magnitude and power in our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.
I never had a sister growing up. I was the youngest of four boys -- very, very active competitive boys. Everybody knew the heights of boys. No sisters to balance things out. I felt sorry for my mom sometimes because she was sort of outnumbered with all the testosterone in our family but she did okay with it.
Now my wife, Lenya on the other hand, grew up with a sister, an older sister by 18 months, Susan. And they're very different from each other, but they're very close to each other at the same time and they shared a lot of love between themselves. One woman once said having a sister is like having a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. But things do change and people do change. As we grow older, our events in life and our circumstances definitely change, that's true for everyone. It's true also for these two sisters that we consider this morning, Martha and Mary. Both sisters, both who lost a brother named Lazarus.
I heard a story about three elderly women. One was 96 years old, one was 94 years old, and one was 92 years old. They were all living together in their latter years. They had all lost their husbands. They were all in one house together. And one evening, the 96 year old decided to prepare a bath for herself. So she was running the bathwater and she put one foot in the tub and then she's stuck and she said "Now, was I getting in the tub or was I getting out of the tub?"
The 94-year-old sister heard her downstairs and she said, "I'm own my way up. I'll help you and I'll let you know." And as she was going up the steps, she stopped and she said, "Now, was I going upstairs or was I coming downstairs?" Well the 92-year-old was overhearing this. She was in the kitchen having tea and she shook her head and she said, "Boy, I sure hope I never get that forgetful", and then she knocked on wood for good measure. And then she yelled up to her sisters. She goes, "I'll be right up to help you both as soon as I see who's at the door."
Now what changes for Mary and Martha is not old age but a sudden unexpected tragedy in their home which was the death of their brother Lazarus.
Death is an enemy. Death stands in opposition. It's the great opponent of life. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15 said, "The last enemy to be destroyed is death." And everyone lives with a death anticipation of one kind or another. We all live with that knowledge that at any moment, everything we are and have in this life can be stripped away. And for some people, they live in fear of that, and for some people, they ought to live in fear of that. There is this knowledge that life can vanish away and I can be catapulted into the eternal state.
Now Woody Allen once said, tongue-in-cheek, he said, "It's not that I'm afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens." Well you have to be there when it happens and it happens to everyone.
On a more serious note, author Joseph Bailey writes these words, "We may postpone it, we may tame its violence but death still waiting for us. Death always waits. The door of the hearse is never closed." Dairy farmer and sales executive live in death shadow, with Nobel Prize winner and prostitute, mother, infant, teen and old man. The hearse stands waiting for the surgeon who transplants a heart as well as for the hopeful recipient, for the funeral director as well as the corpse he manipulates. Death spares no one. And everybody lives with that knowledge that death is coming for everyone.
Every now and then, I get a little amazed that some people are actually shocked that people in their family die.
I mean, that should happen to everybody else, but it shouldn't happen to me or to my family.
Now we know deep inside that it's going to happen to all of us. And with that framing, what I'm about to say now I want you to listen to the greatest statement, the greatest piece of news that has ever fallen on your ears--ever fallen on human ears. Are you ready for it?
Verse 25, Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he may die, he shall live. And who ever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
He is saying those words to Martha as we'll discover. But around him are his disciples. They've been following him now for three and a half years or the better part of three years. Jesus' public ministry at this point is over. This is now his private ministry. This is now Jesus training those 12 men preparing them because he knows he is going to leave, he's going to leave them and he doesn't want to leave them without any power, without any kind of resources. So he's training them and this is part of their training.
And there has been a theme throughout Jesus' ministry that comes up again here. I don't want you to miss this. And that is the theme of resurrection and it's been progressive. This is what I mean. At first, Jesus announced his resurrection. He predicted his resurrection. He told his disciples he is going to rise again from the dead the third day. He said that while he was alive -- years before it happened. He announced it.
Number two, he demonstrated that he had power over death by raising different people to life. And then third, he will raise himself from the dead showing that he is the resurrection and the life. So all of that is part of the progression and part of the teaching for these disciples, so they really need this because in a few months, they're going to look up and see their Lord on a cross and they're going to flip out. They're going to be tempted to bag it all.
And so all of those things tied together are important. First of all, he predicts his resurrection. In John Chapter two, he said "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up". And John said he was speaking about his own physical body.
Number two, he comes and raises Lazarus from the dead demonstrating that he has power over death and authenticating what he just read -- what we just read in verse 25, "I'm the resurrection and the life." Look, I'll prove it to you -- and he raises Lazarus up. Then third, he himself will rise from the dead.
When the disciples are able to connect those dots together, when they really realize it's true, this guy got up from the grave, he's alive. Just like he promised and just like he proved with Lazarus when they connect all of those dots, you know what's going to happen to him? They become unstoppable. They become bold as a lion. They become martyrs. They don't care what happens to them because they know that Jesus is the resurrection and the life and that is why you find in the New Testament book of Acts and the Gospel messages preached by all the apostles, what is the central theme of their communication? The resurrection of Jesus from the dead, it so transformed their life.
Now this morning, we're going to begin in John 11:17 and go down to verse 32, verse 33. And there are basically two people that we're looking at and then a third group. The two people are Martha and Mary because the first part, Jesus talks with Martha, the second part Jesus talks Mary. There are two personal conversations with them.
So this morning, we want to look at Jesus and Martha, Jesus and Mary and then finally Jesus and you. And I'll show you how we apply that.
In verse 17 we read, "So when Jesus came, he found that he, (Lazarus) had already been in the tomb for four days. Now, Bethany was near Jerusalem about two miles away." You should probably know that in those days, they buried people immediately, immediately. The Jews didn't practice embalming in those days. The climate was relatively warm and so when a person died, they wrap them up, put spices on the body and put him in a tomb almost immediately.
Then came a period of mourning and the mourning among the Hebrews lasted for 30 days, the first seven where the most intense. During that period of time, a person would not anoint himself with the oil, would not bathe, would not wear shoes, would sort of hang around in a disheveled state. It's a symbol of deep and intense mourning.
And that was followed by another 20 Sundays, 30 all together of mourning for the dead. Also, the mourning was very demonstrative, very emotional. But typically, as soon as the Jewish person heard that someone they love died, they would grab their robe or their shirt and they would tear it and often beat the breast. They would put sackcloth on and ashes on their head. In fact, at many funerals, they would hire professional mourners. I know it sounds really weird but they actually would pay money to people to come in and wail because it was believed that the louder the noise that was made, the more the person was loved and missed.
So you'd pay people and they'd come in -- and all the neighbors would hear it and they would know what had happened. They go, "Boy, somebody really loved that guy." That was typically how it went.
Solomon wrote in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes these words, "There is a time to weep. There is a time to laugh. There's a time to mourn and there's a time dance." And the Jewish people fully believed in that, that they would give themselves 30 days, an entire month to go to the grieving process. In fact, did you know the Egyptians did it for 70 days, while the Hebrews did it for 30?
Now there's a mention in verse 17 of a certain number of days -- four days, do you see that? He had already been in the tomb four days. John isn't just throwing that in as an unnecessary detail, but rather there was a belief 2000 years ago among some of the superstitious Jewish people because of what some of their Rabbis had written saying that the spirit of a departed person will hover over the corpse for three days -- seeking to reenter. But by the fourth day when decomposition has already set in physically, it's irreversible and the spirit departs. And some people lived with that superstition in their minds. And so John makes note of it. It is by the way the fourth day when everybody thought all bets are off it is irreversible that Jesus shows up in Bethany.
Now look at Martha's sorrow, it's pretty obvious. In verse 19, many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him. But Mary was sitting in the house. And then Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."
Now something I just want you to pick up on as we mowzie(ph) our way through the story. The action of these two sisters -- Martha and Mary, is very much in keeping with what we are already know about their personalities from other stories in the Gospels. Mary sat -- when Jesus was around, sat at Jesus' feet and listened to his word. Martha, on the other hand was very active on her feet, busy scurrying(ph) about, complaining about this, complaining about that. And it was customary during the funeral time, the mourners -- the one who had lost someone to death like Mary and Martha, typically they would sit for the whole process and let others scurry around them and serve them and work for them and comfort them. But Martha, as soon as she hears Jesus is even close to town, shoots up, stumps out and goes to meet him and that's where we find them meeting in these verses.
I have a good friend who -- well, he says a lot of things. But one of the things he says is, "People change but not that much". And I would say that it's never more true than with Martha and Mary. I'm sure they changed encountering Christ as they did but they were still who they were.
And here's what I want to say about this. What people say during times of grief -- what comes out of their mouth during times of lost cannot be weighed too heavily, don't take it too seriously. That emotional outburst that comes out of their mouth that comes from deep lost and deep sorrow has to be weighed and tempered with love and understanding.
There was a Swiss-born psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kübler-Ross who did a lot of research in death and dying. In fact, she counsel hundreds of patients who died and relatives who watch them die. And she noted that there's a classic stage or process during a time of grief -- normal stages of grieving that everyone she saw goes through typically.
Stage number one is denial. When you hear that your husband or wife or friend dies your reaction immediately is, "No! It must be a mistake. This couldn't have happened."
The second stage says Ross is anger. Blaming the doctors, blaming the nurses, blaming a relative, why me, why my child.
The third stage of that is bargaining. Sometimes a patient will say, "Please, just give me five more months, just five more months."
The fourth stage which indicates the person's coming to terms with it is the depression stage. The truth sets in. They know this is inevitable. They know this is irreversible. And so they come to grieves with it but they get very down and depressed.
And the fifth stage says Elisabeth Kübler-Ross is the acceptance stage. After the depression, you see light at the end of the tunnel, "I'm going to make through this. We're going to march out through this" and she says, "I can follow that as a typical pattern in almost everyone who grieves a time of loss."
So what you can expect is things like outburst, wailing, tears, isolation, removal, deep sorrow and loss is both profound as well as unpredictable. And hear me, it's normal, it's normal.
One great bible scholar and pastor through years of experience writes these words, "Let grief do its work. Tramp every inch of the sorrowful way. Drink every drop of the bitter cup for those who truly love will say that they have found and sorrow a new joy, a joy which only the brokenhearted can know."
Now as you look a little more carefully at verse 21, you will notice the words that just tore forth -- flow forth from Martha's broken heart. She says in verse 21, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." And why did she say that? I think she said that because that was uppermost on her mind. I think that it was not only uppermost on her mind but on her sister's mind because her sister's going to say exactly the same thing. In fact, they probably rehearsed it. I mean, they were calling for Jesus. Remember last week and Jesus didn't come and after Lazarus died they looked at each other and said, "If Jesus would have been here, he wouldn't have died". And that thought was still ringing fresh in their ears. And so as soon as Jesus shows up, Martha pours forth, spews out what's on her mind, "Lord, if you would've been here, my brother would not have died."
Now if you don't mind, I'd like to analyze that statement. I think it will be beneficial. Notice that that statement is a limiting statement. It's limiting both in time and in space. "Lord if you had been here", as if to imply four days ago you could have done something about this. But that was then. This is now. Certainly, you're not going to do anything now. "If you had been", that's being limited in time. But then look at the word here, "If you had been here", that's limiting Jesus in space as if Jesus couldn't do along just his miracle. He had to be here in Bethany. She must not have known about the story of the nobleman's son where Jesus said "Go back, your son is alive."
So here's Mary struggling, honest, pours it out, and she does the same thing again. Look at verse 23, Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again and the resurrection at the last day. Can you hear that? You could have done something about it four days ago, you didn't. I know that someday, one day and the by and by all that resurrection stuff. Yeah, I'm there. I get that but not here and not now." Martha is struggling. That's really all I wanted you to see that she's struggling. Her faith in God is challenged by the disappointment that she finds in life.
We all do that. Now we skipped verse 22 and I want to go back to it, but in the context of verse 21. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now, I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you." Now that sort of sounds like she's saying, "You should have been here. You could have done something about it. But even now, you could still raise him from the dead", it sort of sounds like she is asking Him for the resurrection of her brother.
While it sounds that way, I personally don't believe that's what she meant and here's why. In a little while, Jesus is going to walk right up to the tomb of Lazarus and tell the tomb attendants, "Roll away the stone". Who will protest? Martha. Martha will go, "Lord, he's been dead four days. By now he's stinketh." That's the King James. I can't resist that, it's just too cool. "He stinketh. Four days dead. It's gross in there."
So that doesn't sound like a lot of faith, does it? So here's what I think is happening, she's struggling with her faith. She's saying, "Yeah. Lord, I know you're powerful and you can do anything but he's been dead four days." It's a struggle.
Here's what I think. I think she just pours out her heart and then she catches herself. Here's the pouring out of the heart, "Lord, if you had have been here my brother wouldn't have died". Oh, I'm talking to Jesus that didn't sounds very spiritual. Now, "Lord, I know that you can do anything. This is not unlike the man who had a demon possessed son, brought him to Jesus and Jesus said -- he was at the end of his rope, Jesus said, "If you believe, anything is possible to Him who believes". Remember what the man said? He said, "Lord, I believe, but help my unbelief." Get that? "I believe but I don't believe. I'm struggling here. I'm struggling believing you. That's the honor's pouring forth of my heart -- that struggle." People in grief struggle.
Where were you Lord when my child died? Where were you Lord when my marriage dissolved? Where were you Lord when my parents divorced? Where were you Lord when my father became an alcoholic? Where were you God when I lost my job? Where were you God when my son or daughter walked away? That's the honest struggle. But then we say that or we feel that and we catch ourselves and we go, "Oh yeah, but praise the Lord. I'm supposed to say that." It's just who we are. It's normal struggle through the times of life. And what I want you to notice is Jesus' response. It's not a lecture, not a sermon, not a correction. It's a short positive statement, no rebuke, no condemnation, "Your brother will rise again."
I suppose Jesus could have said, "Martha, I can't believe you just said that to me. Do you realize who I am? I came here and I was going to raise brother from dead but now all bets are off."
I was a little too disrespectful. It was short, it was positive, it was uplifting. Instead, he uses an opportunity to reveal more of himself. He says in verse 25 again, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" And she said to Him, "Yes Lord, I believe you are the Christ, the son of God who is to come into the world."
So it's okay to grief, it's okay to mourn and -- hear me, and it's okay to be honest with God and pour out your feeling and your heart before Him without any reservation. The last time I checked, he can handle it. Last time, I checked he's been around a long time, he has heard it all, he has seen it all. In fact, I actually get a little bit amazed and grateful of how much honesty in the prayers of David in the book of Psalms and he didn't hold back and God kept it as a record so we can go, "Oh wow! Even He did that."
Listen to David. This is Psalm 13, "Oh Lord, how long will you forget me, forever?" That's pretty honest. "How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul with sorrow in my heart, everyday? How long will my enemies have the upper hand?"
Now none of those experiences were actually true but it was true that David was feeling them and he honestly records them and God thought of important to preserve that. That's honest prayer. Here's another one. Psalm 58, David says -- concerning his enemies who are around him, "Break their teeth and their mouth, Oh God." I've always liked that Psalm, not because I like to see people's teeth broken but simply because that's gutsy. That's honest and that is in the bible. You know what that tells me? God is unshakeable, God is unshakeable.. When you pray something or you say something, God never goes, "Huh!" He has heard it all. Do you think when Mary and Martha said, "If you had been my brother wouldn't have died." Jesus went, "Huh!" Not at all, "Your brother will rise again."
You've got to understand something. When you pray, even if it's a really great prayer, it doesn't impress God. Do you understand that? Do you think God ever goes, "Wow! Now that was such a cool prayer. Gabriel, write that down. MP3 that. We got to have that as an archive. That was great." You don't impress Him. You can't impress Him. And if you can impress Him by your prayers, I don't think you'll disappoint by your honest prayers either.
Charles Persian(ph) put it this way, "There is not a secret in my heart that I would not pour into the years of my God." So Martha pours it out.
That's Jesus and Martha. Now let's look at Jesus and Mary, verse 28, "And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary. Her sister is saying, "The teacher has come and he's calling for you" or "The Master is calling for you." And as soon as she heard that, she rose quickly and came to Him.
Now, Jesus had not yet come into the town but was in the place where Martha met Him. So he's still coming up the hill from the Dead Sea region. He's still walking up. He's still not in Bethany and he stays there. Then the Jews who were with her in the house and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her saying, "She's going to the tomb to eat there." They're mourners. Their job was to attend to her. Then when Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she fell down at his feet saying to him, "Lord, if you would have been here my brother would not have died." Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her weeping, he groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
Now backup. Evidently, Jesus told Martha secretly, privately to go give an invitation to Mary, her sister, to come privately and talk to him. Which she did, she complied. And she comes out to see him. Now anybody reading this can immediately see Mary said exactly the same thing Martha did, exactly. But she made the statement and then she stopped. Anybody reads this and compares it closely can see there is a difference. And here's the difference: Martha debates with Jesus. Mary, however, you'll notice, falls at his feet though brokenhearted, at his feet and I would contend and say "Worshipped in love". Mary has the same words of Martha. I contend as a different attitude -- an attitude of worship. Now, when we first meet Mary and Martha, that's Luke Chapter 10, I already mentioned it once this week, once last week. In Luke chapter 10 when they first met, that's the night that Jesus is invited over -- Lazarus alive, healthy. Mary is there, Martha is there. Martha scurries about -- she's busy, she's complaining, she's doing all the work. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his word.
So let me frame it this way, when the days are good and the sun is shining and everybody is alive and everybody's happy and it's dinner time, where is Mary? At the feet of Jesus. But when the days are cloudy and the sun isn't shining and it's her brothers funeral day, where's Mary? Same place, same place.
See the difference? Martha's on her feet, Mary's at His feet. Now, you're going to go through both kinds of days, so am I. You're going to have good days, bad days, days of joy, days of sorrow, days of gaining, days of profound, loss and mourning.
How are you going to do on those days? All depends on your position. Some of you, the only way you deal with grief is on your feet. You marshal through it, you stuff down the emotions, you just move on, you don't talk about it and I don't know how far that wall is up but you'll hit it one day. It will be on your feet or you can be at His feet. Job who suffered said, "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord." I think that's Mary's position.
An old Chinese proverb said "In the presence of trouble, some people grow wings, other people buy crutches." Mary sprouts her wings, sprouts her wings at Jesus feet in the good days, at his feet in submission and love and worship on the bad days. That's Jesus and Martha. That's Jesus and Mary. I want to now to look at Jesus in you and me.
Go back now to verse 25 and 26 that I promise and notice something. Jesus said to her -- that's Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me though he may die, he shall live". And what's the next word? "Whoever -- not just you Martha, not just Mary, whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" See that's an unconditional statement without any time boundary. Whoever -- whoever, you would be a "whoever", I would be a "whoever". Somebody who lives in Afghanistan or Iraq or South America or Europe would also be considered "whoever". It's "broad enough" term. What a broad statement. What an incredibly broad promise. "Whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
The resurrection is more than an event to person. "I am the resurrection and the life. I am the resurrection." In other words, wherever Jesus is, death doesn't stand a chance and he will conquer death whether it's your body, my body, Lazarus' body or his own body. In the presence of Jesus, there is life. "I am the resurrection. I am the life."
One author said there are two ultimate questions of our existence. Which are number one, has anyone ever cheated death? And number two, did he make a way for me to cheat death? Answer those questions. Anybody you know cheated death? Yeah, here's one His name is Jesus. Did he make a way for me to cheat death? He sure did. He said in John 14 "Because I live, you also will live." And Paul said, "When Christ who is our life shall appear, we shall appear with him in glory." "I am the resurrection and the life." In other words, where I am, things are going to change.
Now this is the fifth of seven "I am" statements in the gospel of John. Remember how we told you as we go through seven times Jesus said, "I am something." He said, number one, "I am the bread of life", number two "I am the light of the world" and Number three "I am the door to the sheepfold", number four "I am the good shepherd", now number five "I am the resurrection and the life", and there's two more to go.
"I am the resurrection and the life." Now look at the question and apply it. Do you believe this? See that's the theme of the book, isn't it? Believe. Do you believe this, Martha? Do you believe this? Do you really believe this? And now is the moment of truth to ask your self, do I really believe this stuff? Because if I really believe this stuff and moreover and more definitely if I believe this promise, you know what that means? It means death is no big deal, honestly. Death is not a big deal. What is death? Death simply opens the door for more life. Death catapults me into the eternal presence of God. That's why when Paul wrote about death in 1 Corinthians 15, he mocked death. He said, "Grave, where is your sting? Oh death where is your Victory? Ha-ha!" Because for a believer death is nothing, it's graduation day. It's coronation day. Do you really believe this because it makes all the difference now and forever?
I'm going to read you the words of a woman who really does believe this and I want you to hear the difference. See if you know any unbeliever that has this kind of attitude. Here's a woman who wrote me a card. I jog my memory and I thought I do remember meeting her some years ago. But she gave me a Christmas card this year with a note in it.
"Dear Pastor Skip, we listen to you on the everyday here in California. We lived through much joy in our marriage -- 62 years of marriage, and some sad times and some losses. Two daughters, one age 43 who died of cervical cancer leaving three children. One daughter aged 52 who died of liver cancer plus a granddaughter that hung herself because her mom died. But we have never despaired knowing God is in everything and true in his love and even when I laid in the hospital in a coma from a lung infection."
So there's a lady who said like Mary, "When the days were really good and really happy, 62 years of marriage, I'm at Jesus' feet. And when life was really bad and they were some bad days, I was at Jesus' feet." And then she concludes, and she said, "Our life is in Jesus and our witness is in his love always." And then she wrote a little P.S "I never wrote a pastor a card before." So I felt very special and she said, "I hope didn't say too much." Actually, she said just the right amount very.
Okay. So here's the close on this. Here's the deal on this. Martha goes to Mary and says, "The master's calling for you." What does Mary do? She got up what? Immediately, she shot up and ran out and people around her thought, "Where is she going?" They didn't even get it and do you think really that she cared if they got it or not? No. She said, "Jesus is here. I'm going to see Him."
Do you think her response was, "Hey, the master is calling for you." "Oh okay. Cool, whatever. I'm not into that. I'll think about it, maybe not now, maybe later."
Like a little girl, somebody asked her, "Do you obey your mother?" And she said, "I always do what she ask me to but sometimes I go slow."
Did Mary go slow? Not at all, she ran out to Jesus. She didn't care what anybody thought of the decorum. She just went out and ran and was with Him.
Maybe you haven't come to Christ yet. Maybe you're a bit worried. Well, if I were to actually make a commitment to Christ and find it to be true and real, I don't know what my friends would think about that. Well really, think about it. If they are really your friends and they know you're going to heaven, they'll like it. If they don't like it, get some new friends. Don't worry about what anybody else thinks about the most important decision in your life. Don't let anybody else's opinion keep you away from His call. In fact, like Mary, you might be inspiring a few others to tag along. The master is calling for you.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, I'm so grateful. I look back on the day where you called me. I distinctly remember what I felt, what I knew to be true, what I knew I needed to do after years of searching and doubt, skepticism, anger. Thank you for your redemption and I pray that as you would some others this morning, that there would be a -- not a resistance but like Mary, a willingness, a desire to come to the master, to come to the teacher Jesus Christ, and find answers and find truth and find peace and find purpose and have sinned forgiven. In Jesus' name. Amen.