A few weeks ago, Bethany and I watched the movie, I Still Believe, which depicts the true story of award-winning singer songwriter Jeremy Camp and his wife Melissa. The film reveals suffering doesn’t have to ruin our faith. Instead, suffering can refine it and increase our confidence in the goodness of God. The movie portrays Melissa’s fight against cancer. While she and Jeremy earnestly pray and believe God will heal her, Melissa wrestles with the possibility that God won’t bring healing in this life. Melissa says, “Maybe God has chosen something bigger for me, something I wouldn’t have chosen myself. But if even one person’s life is changed by what I go through… it will all be worth it.” As Melissa and Jeremy wake through the valley of the shadow of death, Melissa is determined to walk by faith. Toward the end of her life she wrote to her sister, “I know that no matter what I go through, and no matter how it affects our family, we will glorify God through it all.” I am amazed by her faith. During those dark days, Jeremy wrote the song, “Walk by Faith.” The chorus of that song says, “I will walk by faith even when I cannot see, because this broken road prepares Your will for me.” After Melissa died, Jeremy tried to avoid asking God, “Why.” But eventually he did. He and Melissa earnestly hoped, prayed, persevered, and believed God would heal her. Jeremy, suffering with grief from her death said to God, “What am I supposed to do with that?” He couldn’t comprehend why God chose not to heal her. Camp said he felt God respond, “Jeremy, I don’t always want you to know why, because I want you to have a testimony of walking by faith.”
On this resurrection Sunday, we’ll see in this passage from John 11, Jesus delays healing Lazarus so that Mary, Martha, his other disciples and you and I learn to walk by faith in Him alone. There are four key attributes of Jesus, the great I AM, God wants us to grasp and respond to this morning.
1. First, we need to understand that I AM Sees.
Jesus sees the future when he tells his disciples in verse 4, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
While I AM sees the future, he also sees the present, and he is not distant from the suffering and pain of people around him. In verse 33, the Bible says, “When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled.”
So Jesus has a rendezvous with our greatest adversary– death. God the Father will honor and bring glory to God the Son when Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead.
We can’t see the future, although we often live like we can. When Mary and Martha sent the message to Jesus, they probably envisioned him swiftly coming to their aid and healing their brother from his sickness. We often approach God the same way. Sometimes we treat Him like some sort of cosmic bellhop. Here’s my problem, God. Need you to fix it. Now please. God wants us to cry out for help, because He loves us as a loving Father loves his son or daughter. But He also wants us to learn to walk by faith. Jeremy and Melissa Camp, Mary, Martha, the disciples—you and I must learn to walk by faith, because Jesus walked by faith-in perfect humility, obedience, and trust in the Father’s plan. On Good Friday, His walk took him thru the shadows of betrayal, arrest, torture, and death. The disciple is not above the master. If we choose to follow Jesus, we must learn to walk by faith trusting in Him alone.
In our current circumstances, I AM wants us to stop looking inward and start looking upward for help. As we learn to do that thru the everyday rhythms of grace, He helps us begin seeing people around us who are hurting, who are suffering. He urges us to move toward them. Are our eyes opened to people enduring hardship and pain? Are we stuck in neutral, consumed with our selves, or are we moving toward hurting people to love them and to serve them? The second principle God wants us to see in this passage is that He sends help to the hurting. I AM sees and I AM sends.
2. Secondly, we see in this passage that I AM Sends.
In Exodus 3, God reveals Himself as Yahweh, and His name literally means I AM who I AM. When I AM meets Moses in the wilderness, He tells him, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them…”
God saw and heard the suffering of Israel in Egypt, and he sent rescue.He came down from heaven to deliver and lead them from captivity to freedom.
In Jesus, God sent His Son to earth to rescue us from our greatest enemies—sin and death. In His prayer to God the Father, Jesus said, “I thank you that you heard me I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” There’s a pattern we see in the Bible: God sees, God hears, and God rescues. He sees our inability to overcome sin and death. He hears our cry of suffering. God Himself is the rescue plan thru the person of Jesus.
If you are in Christ, God is inviting you into His rescue plan for the world and is sending you to those who are hurting to be messengers of hope. He invites you and me into His rescue plan for the world.
Rescue begins once we enter into a saving relationship with the One who conquered sin and death. I AM sees, I AM sends…
3. The third key attribute is that I AM Shows.
Twice we see in this passage that Jesus is deeply moved. The Greek verb used for deeply moved can also be translated Jesus is angry. He’s feeling indignation. When the Bible says he was troubled, it means His spirit is stirred. His anger is directed toward death. Yet His anger flows from his compassion. He sees the heavy price, the consequences of our sin. He sees the pain and suffering it causes, and it angers Him, because people He loves are desperate, hurting, and dying.
The shortest verse in the Bible follows and it says simply, “Jesus wept.” Twice in this passage we learn
Jesus was deeply moved and angered by the immense suffering around Him.
Pastor Dane Ortlund writes, “Twice in the gospels we are told that Jesus broke down and wept. And in neither case is it sorrow for himself or his own pains. In both cases it is sorrow over another—in one case Jerusalem, and in the other his deceased friend Lazarus. What was his deepest anguish? The anguish of others. What drew his heart out to the point of tears? The tears of others.”
On the way to Bethany to see Mary and Martha, Jesus informs the disciples, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up” (verse 11).
Do you see what is happening here? Jesus is calling his own shot. He’s taunting death. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Gospel writers refer to Jesus’ demonstrations of power, his healings, his casting out demons as miracles. But John refers to these acts of divine power as signs. John wants us to follow the signposts and realize the miracles confirm Jesus’ identity as the Son of God. We don’t talk about death like it’s a temporary setback. But the One who said, before Abraham was, I AM–He does. It’s because He has all authority in heaven and earth. In John 10, Jesus said he has all authority including the authority to lay his life down and pick it back up again. That’s a heads I win, tails you lose situation Jesus hands death. Death has no authority over him, and Jesus proved it by performing miracle after miracle, dealing defeat after defeat to evil and the law of sin.
In the 1932 world series, Babe Ruth stepped into the batter’s box. The score was tied 4-4 and the Great Bambino faced a count of two balls and two strikes. He then pointed toward the center field stands signaling where he would send the next pitch. Sure enough, next pitch Babe Ruth hammered the baseball into the center field stands. The Yankees went on to win the game and the world series. Jesus stepped down from His throne in Heaven and stepped into the batter’s box of our broken world. He stared down evil one, sin, and death and pointed to the center field stands. Then he crushed the curse over and over again. Where Jesus goes, water is turned into wine, the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are healed, demons flee, and He brings the dead back to life. He rounds the bases again and again, and the forces of evil can’t stop Him.
How should we respond to I AM’s demonstration of love and power? It’s real—we see it throughout the Gospels. Eleven apostles saw the resurrected Jesus and wouldn’t stop telling the world—until they were executed for telling the truth about the resurrection. Let it be real in us. Let His love and power flow thru us—let our colleagues, families, neighbors feel His love and power thru us! We love our neighbors by seeing needs and meeting their needs. The Bible teaches the church community is the body of Christ, and Jesus is the head of the body. Just as the head commands the body to act, we are to carry out the commands of King Jesus. We are to be united with Christ—one body and one Spirit—and we are unified by our faith in the saving power of Jesus.
The greatest display of I AM’s love and power is his decision to go to the cross for you and me as our Substitute. We are powerless to save ourselves from sin and death. Last week, Pastor Eric preached on Jesus’ I AM statement where He said I AM the Good Shepherd. Jesus said the good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. On another occasion, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this—that He lay down His life for His friends.” We hear that, and it’s poetic and it speaks to our hearts. But Jesus didn’t just say these things. He then went and did it. He sees the future, and He knows He will lay down His life as a sacrifice to pay the penalty for my guilt and your guilt. He took my place and your place. Because God is holy and just—He must confront and punish evil. Sin always leads to death. All the evil and sin of humankind past, present, and future—Jesus took on his shoulders as he carried the cross to Calvary. His unfiltered compassion for you and me drove Him to suffer and die for the sins of the world.
Jesus showed us incredible love thru His sacrificial death, and it is why He is the Savior and hope of the world. He wants that same love to flow thru us to others. The way we show His love is by obeying Him and doing life with and thru Him. As we follow Him, we become instruments of grace and begin serving others. Who will you show kindness and love to, so that thru you, they will experience the love of Jesus?
4. Lastly, we see in this passage that I AM Saves
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live.” Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.”
Earlier in verses 21 and 32, both Martha and Mary said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
If you had been here, our brother Lazarus would still be here. We messaged that he was seriously ill. You didn’t get here in time. You weren’t here to heal him. They watched helplessly as the tentacles of death wrapped around their brother and seized him from this world. You know they had to be struggling like Jeremy Camp with wanting to ask, “Why Jesus?” Death has won. That ancient enemy claimed another victim—our brother—we thought you loved us! Death has the last word. Until it doesn’t.
Martha is broken and grieving. Jesus tells her, “Your brother is going to rise again.” Martha says yes, I believe in the resurrection on the last day. I’m a God-fearing Jew. I believe one day God will bring us back from the dead. We will enjoy fellowship and peace with God forever. Jesus responds, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life.” Martha, don’t you see? I am the One you are believing in—the One who is the very Source of all Life—the One who breathed into Adam the breath of life—I AM Life and I AM stands before you now. I’m going to resurrect your brother RIGHT NOW. Do you believe this, Martha? She responds, “Yes, I believe.”
After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unwrap him and let him go.’ Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what he did believed in him” (verses 43-45).
In verse 26 Jesus says, “everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”
What area in your life is Jesus speaking and asking, “Do you believe in me?”
Maybe you’re addicted to pornography, alcohol, or anger. Maybe you’re a captive to fear. You might be wrestling with deep hurt or battling bitterness and unforgiveness. It’s eating away at you, and you are dying inside. Jesus says believe in me. Live in me.
I AM is the Savior of the world. Jesus says EVERYONE who abides in him, lives in him and believes in Him will never die eternally. Though we will physically die, because the Bible says the wages of our sin is death—we will rise again if we receive the gift of God—the gift of His one and only Son—Jesus. And if we in faith confess our sins, turn away from trusting in our own power and our own strength and put our faith in Jesus, the Bible says He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us—heal us from all unrighteousness. ALL unrighteousness. Whatever stronghold of sin you might be battling—it cannot withstand the resurrection power of Jesus.
I AM wants us to understand we are utterly powerless without him. We are incapable of saving ourselves from sin and death. He asks each of us the same question he asked Martha, “Do you believe in me?” If we say yes, then He gives us new life where we begin living in and thru the resurrection power of Jesus.
Seventy-six years ago today a battle raged on the island of Okinawa between imperial Japanese forces and American Soldiers. Seventy-five Soldiers lay wounded and dying on Hacksaw ridge. The Japanese described the back-and-forth trading of rounds and munitions as a rain of steel. These wounded Americans were powerless. None had the strength to get to an aid station. Death was imminent.
But a young, fearless Army medic named Desmond Doss crawled toward the dying Soldiers under withering enemy fire, tied a rope around them, and lowered them down a ridge to other combat medics who treated and saved their lives. Doss rescued 75 American Soldiers on that ridge. He was awarded the medal of honor for his bravery. Doss said he just kept praying, “Lord, please help me get one more.” A Soldier at Hacksaw said, “It was if God had his hand on Doss’ shoulder. It’s the only explanation I can give.” God was showing His strength, love, and power thru Doss’ selflessness.
You and I are like those 75 Americans dying in Okinawa. We’ve been cut down by sin with no hope of rescuing ourselves from eternal misery, torment, and separation from God. But Jesus came down from Heaven and gave His life, so we could be rescued.
You and I face a faith decision. We will either surrender and believe in Jesus or we will rebel against His authority. In verse 46, the Bible says, “But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.”
Some of these witnesses, they believe in Jesus’ power, but they don’t want to worship Him as the Messiah. They don’t respond in faith. They respond in fear. For them, Jesus is a threat to their idols of power and control. God commands us to have “no other gods before Him.” But the Pharisees and chief priests worshiped the counterfeit god of power. Some of you listening today, you believe in God. You believe in Jesus. But you’re not surrendering to Him. You’re not worshipping Him in faith. You believe that God is one. Good! Even the demons believe—and they shudder. James 2:19 If you have other gods that come before Jesus, He will expose them as counterfeit gods. He will crush them—because He loves you. Power, control, comfort, approval—they can’t save us from the brokenness of this world and from our sin and death. Only Jesus saves.
Three months ago, I walked outside early in the morning into pitch black darkness—no sounds—the deadness of winter. A few weeks ago, Bethany broke the ground in our garden, buried seeds, and covered them with dirt. It’s hard to believe that burying a tiny seed in the ground will ever amount to anything we could eat or enjoy. But it happens! Earlier this week, I was greeted by the rising sun, birds singing, cherry trees blossoming—the sights and sounds of spring—new life. Every day the sun rises and sets-it’s a death and resurrection. It’s a story God keeps telling us day after day, year after year. Every year spring returns. Tulips rise from the ground, cherry trees blossom—it’s pointing us to the greatest Story—God’s love for us. He’s woven His Resurrection Story into the tapestry of our daily rhythms and seasons.
Life began in a garden, Jesus was tested in a garden. In a garden, the evil one said, “Take and eat.” He lied telling Adam and Eve, “You won’t die.” During His last supper, Jesus said, “Take and eat…my body broken for You. In a garden, the Second Adam, Jesus, said, “I’ll die for you.” He was betrayed in a Garden, and buried in a garden tomb. When Mary Magdalene approached the empty tomb on Easter Sunday, it wasn’t a coincidence that she initially thinks she’s conversing with the tomb gardner. Jesus, the divine Gardner, laid down his life, and was body was in the ground for 3 days. But on Easter Sunday, the earth trembled, the Roman Soldiers posted at the tomb were knocked off their feet, the stone was rolled away, and the Resurrection and the Life burst forth from the grave!
That’s what we celebrate today on Resurrection Sunday. Easter is about hope. The Bible says, we were dead in our trespasses. But Jesus, thru His sacrificial death and resurrection, makes us alive. We can gain new life and live eternally because of the saving power of Jesus.
Our sin brings pain. The Bible says we suffer because of our rebellion against a loving and holy God. Addiction, disease, divorce, betrayal, abuse, murder, racism, greed, relationship strife—every evil—all the pain and suffering are consequences of sin. Sin fractures and separates us from a holy, righteous, and loving God. We have all sinned and chosen a path leading to destruction. But Jesus is the Way to God, the Way to Life. By believing and resting in Him—we can reconcile with God. The Resurrection and the Life is the One who conquered sin and death and offers us salvation—eternal healing.
Jeremy Camp said, “Suffering brings life and depth to us like gold being refined in the fire.” Do we believe that—suffering can bring life? It did for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. John tells us that BECAUSE Jesus loved them, he delayed healing Lazarus. That means he knew there would be suffering and death. Jesus was drawn to their suffering. And the Resurrection and the Life brought new life to Lazarus. Jeremy also said, “God used this [suffering] to make me who I am. So I could shake my fist and run away, or I could say, ‘Jesus, you’re the only place to run to and get peace.’”
Pain and suffering are inevitable in this world. And if you’re suffering today, you need to consider the very real possibility it’s occurring because God loves you. He wants us to realize we can’t fix it, we can’t keep going in our own strength. He wants us to run to Him for peace and rest in His strength.
We see in John’s Gospel how Lazarus, Mary, and Martha, their family and friends, they all suffered because of the law of sin. But Jesus took their pain and suffering and transformed it into wonder and celebration. By raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus strengthened their faith in Him. The question is—where we will put our hope? Will we respond to adversity by believing in and living by faith in Jesus? Will we come to terms that we are powerless without Him? Jesus offers Life. Because He is the Resurrection and the Life. We find peace—when we commit to a relationship with the Prince of Peace.