Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

The Feast of the Resurrection

I AM the Resurrection

John 11:25-27

April 5, 2015

Last Christmas I was given a book by Deepak Chopra. In it the author talks about religion and spirituality. This guy probably falls into the "spiritual but not religious category." While he cited sources across the major religious spectrum, the only Christian source he quotes is the Gospel of Thomas. Interesting.

The Gospel of Thomas is an ancient document. It's not a recent forgery. Yet, just because something is old doesn't make it true. There's lots of old stuff that makes for interesting reading but fiction is still fiction. Not all of the old documents written during the time of the early church have been included in the Bible.

The Bible as we know it didn't just happen. Every book was evaluated, critiqued and judged by the church fathers. In order to qualify as a Gospel, the author had to have been a follower of our Lord during His public ministry on earth and an eye-witness of the resurrection.

We're here this morning to hear the genuine good news. We're here to proclaim with the church throughout the ages our belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Our source is much more reliable than a collection of sayings written over a hundred years after the fact. Rather than believing the words of a spurious Gospel, we are wise to listen to the words of our Lord.

Shortly before His own death, Jesus made a sad trip to Bethany. His friend Lazarus had died. You'll remember that Lazarus' two sisters were Mary and Martha. Jesus went to console them. In His conversation with Martha, He makes this wonderful statement.

John 11:25-27. Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 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 why we're here today. We want to hear this good news. We want to be assured that the power of the resurrection is real. We want to comfort of knowing that death no longer will have a permanent hold over us. We are here to have our hope reinforced as we remind one another, "He is risen. He is arisen, indeed!"

Martha is often chastised for being a "busy" woman. Sometimes, I think the church gives her a bum rap. She served the Lord with her best. Because nothing was too good for Jesus while visiting her home, she worked herself into a frenzy. When Jesus told her to take time with Him, He was simply making her relax a bit so she could take advantage of their rare quiet time. Too often, we overlook Martha's powerful, pre-Easter, confession of faith. At that moment, it seems to me that perhaps it was Martha who had a better grasp of Jesus than did the twelve disciples.

Martha knew and loved Jesus. Although she also was a witness of the resurrection, there's no Gospel of Martha. The Gospel we are proclaiming this morning is from John, who was an eyewitness to all of these events. John recorded the dialogue between Martha and Jesus for our benefit. Both Martha and Thomas were witnesses of the resurrection. Sadly, it was Thomas who questioned the resurrection of our Lord. It is Martha who is our role model of faith today, not Thomas.

We've come to hear the good news of the resurrection this morning. That's what Gospel means: good news. It's good news of the resurrection that we have come to hear this morning. The good news or Gospel is simply this, Jesus rose from the dead. Our Lord walked out of the tomb. He who was dead is now alive! He proved His words to Martha were the truth. He truly is the resurrection and the life.

Take your choice. Which person's testimony do you make as your own? Do you confess with Martha, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world." Or do you choose to believe a Gospel that reads like a collection of proverbs and one-liners found in fortune cookies?

The question Jesus directed to Martha is also aimed at you this morning. When Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life," do you believe Him. Are you taking Him at His word this morning or are you thinking this is all a pious myth. If you're among those who think this is all a myth, what brings you here this morning? A myth can be an intriguing story but it offers no real or lasting comfort. The myth simply tries to tell you how people of the past tried to cope with the pain and sorrow of life.

The Gospels are not myths. Yes, they also show us how people of the past, like Martha, tried to cope with the pain of life. Faith gives us comfort as we hear the assurances given to us in the Gospels. If you believe the Gospels, you believe with Martha that there is more to life than life. There is hope and the promise of reunion in the resurrection. This is what Martha confessed to Jesus.

Martha was a woman of faith. She confessed her faith in Jesus before Jesus raised her brother. This makes her confession of faith even more profound. It would have been natural and easy for her to make that confession of faith after Jesus raised Lazarus. Because she made it before Jesus raised her brother, her confession is all the more profound.

The so-called "Gospel of Thomas" may make for interesting reading but it doesn't have the weight and credibility of the real thing. People like Deepak Chopra may find a certain spirituality in the Gospel of Thomas but they are choosing fluff over substance. If they want true spirituality, they need to read the Gospel of John not the one attributed to Thomas.

In the meantime, we confess our faith in the resurrected Son of God. We believe with Martha when Jesus tells us "I AM the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" With Martha we confess, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God." Christ is arisen. He is arisen, indeed! Amen and amen!


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