Oh, the joy of Easter and Resurrection Sunday. I trust you were able to spend time not only with the people that you love, but in a Christ-centered church with the Word of God proclaiming Jesus as the risen Lord and Savior. I had the joy of preaching on Jesus’ last public miracle in the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Many people call this the capstone miracle, as it foreshadowed His own resurrection from the dead. And, boy, was it a miracle.
Think with me about this great truth. Jesus had delayed His trip to Bethany for this miracle (John 11:6). In His omniscience, He knew that everything was in place for the timing of His own death and resurrection, but first He had a miracle to do. Here in the resurrection of Lazarus, our Lord Jesus displayed the power of life that only He possesses. With a loud voice, Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb (verse 43). That wouldn’t be uncommon for Jesus. Remember in Colossians 1, verse 16, states about Jesus, “…all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Jesus called Lazarus to come back from the dead, out of a tomb. And alive he was.
What makes this all the more remarkable is how long Lazarus had been in the tomb. Verse 17 says, “So when Jesus came, He found that he (Lazarus) had already been in the tomb four days.” That doesn’t seem like much. Yeah, right! Have you ever thought what a body goes through after four days of being dead? I am not talking about it having undergone modern-day burial preparations. No, I am talking about how the Jews during that time prepared a body for burial and what subsequently happened to the body.
Now, knowing my medical wisdom is weak, I looked into what happened to a body during four days in a tomb. What I found made this miracle all the more awesome and causes it to pierce our soul to know the Jesus of the Bible. The Jews did not embalm. The Jews did nothing to stop the decay. They wrapped the body and sprinkled spices on it to dampen the smell but then allowed nature to take its course.
Here’s what happens in the first four days of death to an unembalmed body: Of course, the heart has stopped beating. The body cells are then deprived of oxygen, and they begin to die. Blood drains from throughout the circulatory system and pools in the low places. Muscles begin to stiffen in what is known commonly as rigor mortis. That sets in after three hours. By 24 hours post mortem, the body has lost all its heat. The muscles lose their rigor mortis in 36 hours, and by 72 hours rigor mortis has vanished. All stiffness is gone, and the body is soft. As cells begin to die, the bacteria in the body of the dead person begin to attack, breaking the cells down. The decomposing tissue takes on a horrific look and smell. The body begins to emit green liquids by the 72nd hour. The tissue releases hydrogen sulfide and methane as well as other gases. Insects and animals will start to consume parts of the body if they can get at it. That is the condition in which Jesus finds Lazarus. The funeral is done, and Jesus was absent. Everyone knows he is dead. As Martha says in verse 39, “Lord, by this time there will be a stench, for he has been dead for four days.” Martha sees no hope. She no doubt knows that Jesus could heal and believes that Jesus could heal her brother, but time has expired, death has taken over, and the stench if the tomb is opened would be horrendous. For that matter, Martha has a theology that Lazarus will one day resurrect and that she will see him in heaven. But for now, the sting of death is present.
That sets the scene for what Jesus says in verses 25 and 26, where Jesus says to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if He dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Now, to some degree, those would be helpful words. John gives us an indication that Martha believed in life after death and that the dead will resurrect. But there is more to Jesus’ words than just that truth. Jesus, with the words “I am,” proclaims that He is God. This is the fifth of seven “I am” statements in the gospel of John. “I AM” is the name of God. Remember, on Mount Sinai, God gave Moses His Name, which is “I AM.” And Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He doesn’t say, “I can raise the dead.” He says, “I am the resurrection. I am the source of life and I am the source of redemption.” He is telling Martha that in a present sense, not just in the future, He is the resurrection and the life.
Beloved, Jesus hadn’t gone to the Cross yet; that was coming. Yet, throughout His earthly life and ministry, He constantly displayed His deity with signs and wonders. He healed the lame, He gave sight to the blind, He turned water into wine, He walked on water, He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and He gave life to a four-day old body that was way down the road to decomposition.
I mean, think with me, Jesus, just through speaking, was able to put everything back together in Lazarus’ life. He caused his heart to beat again, activated all the cells in his body, and revived all his organs. All with the shout of His voice. No wonder Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe? Do you believe that I am God, that I can conquer sin and death, that I and only I can give life? Do you believe?” That question pierces our hearts. It was a personal question for Martha, and it is a personal question for your own soul. Do you believe? How much more of life do you have to live to know that you are not God? How much more pain and suffering or wallowing in your own sin do you have to experience before you cry out to Jesus to save you? How much more? How much more?
Acts 4:12 states, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Jesus says in John 3:16 and 17, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”
Do you believe? Do you believe that He is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that He is the Messiah who came down from heaven, the Son of God, the Savior of the world? Do you believe He is Lord? Do you believe?