Is it just me or do some things in life take way too long, while others end way too quickly?
The work week – it lasts way too long. The weekend – it’s over so fast.
Waiting in line for a ride at Disneyland – way too long. The ride – over way too quickly.
A terrible first date – it lasted forever. An amazing first date – it ended too soon.
When something we don’t enjoy goes on for way too long, we say this about it:
This is going to last forever.
We say this when we’re stuck in traffic. We say this when we’re in a boring meeting. We’ve said this a lot over the past two years. Hopefully you aren’t saying this right now about my Easter message.
But when we find something we delight in, we say this about it:
I hope this lasts forever.
But whether it’s something we love or despise, eventually we learn this about most things:
Most things don’t last forever.
Most things last a moment or a season or decades or even a lifetime. But very few things last forever. Here’s the good news: God did not create you to last a moment or a season or decades or even only for an earthly lifetime. God created you to be eternal.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet on one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
Do not try to resist the longing you have to find something that will last forever…God put that in you. But as long as you put your highest hopes on something that has an expiration date, your life will be full of inevitable disappointments.
If you’re going to be around forever and most things won’t be, shouldn’t you try to find something else that will be?
I’m calling this Easter message, “What Lasts Forever”.
John 11:1-7 Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days, and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
It’s always personal with Jesus.
He doesn’t love crowds; he loves people.
He doesn’t see all of humanity as some massive group. He sees each human being as created in the image of God.
He doesn’t stay at a safe distance; he comes close.
I’m amazed by the love of Jesus mentioned in this passage. Maybe you’re familiar with John 3:16 the idea that God so loved the world. It’s true, Jesus does love everyone. But there’s something intimate between him and these three. There’s something close. When Mary and Martha wanted to let Jesus know what was happening with their brother, they said this – “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
My hope for you today is that you would become so convinced of the personal love Jesus has for you and that you would be aware of the kind of intimate relationship He wants with you. When this happens, you can say to Jesus what these women did:
Jesus, I know you love me…but I’m lonely. Help.
Jesus, I know you love me…but I feel empty.
Jesus, the one you love is struggling with her mental health right now.
Do you allow your circumstances to shape how you view God’s love or do you allow God’s love to shape how you view your circumstances?
This really matters. Notice that the sisters do not say, “Jesus, since Lazarus is sick, you must not love him.” This is what we often do, right? Since the world is broken, God must not care. Since the world is full of evil, God must not be good. What if we became convinced that God is good and He is love? And what if that became the filter by which we viewed our circumstances?
Rather than allow their circumstances to determine God’s love for them, they appeal to the love of God to change their circumstances. They say, “The one you love is sick.”
Verses 5 and 6 should shock us. John says it this way – “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” If Jesus loved Lazarus, why did he stay two more days?
While we can only see our current scene, Jesus sees our whole story.
When we only see defeat, He already sees our victory.
When we are only experiencing sorrow, He already sees our future joy.
When we only see a cross, He’s already anticipating resurrection.
You have been invited into a story that doesn’t end in death.
Jesus and his disciples go to Bethany. When Jesus gets there, Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days. Martha goes out to meet Jesus and she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know now that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus says to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Martha has faith in Jesus, but Jesus wants to take her faith to a deeper place. Maybe that’s you. You’re a person of faith, but Jesus wants to use this Easter to take your faith in Him to a place it’s never been before. Or he wants to bring you back to your faith.
John 1125-27 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
Do you really believe you will live forever?
Martha goes and gets Mary to let her know that Jesus is asking for her.
John 11:32-37 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus is moved by what moves you, even though He knows how the story ends.
Imagine this: A God who puts on flesh, knows how the movie of your life is going to end…and yet fully enters into the emotions your present reality. It’s always personal with Jesus.
John 11:38-44 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
Resurrection means it’s not too late.
It’s been four days…there must be a bad odor by now. You aren’t too old. You haven’t sinned too much. Your story doesn’t have to be over.
Jesus wants you to believe Him.
Not facts about Him so much, but actually believe Him. He said, “If you believe, you will see the glory of God.” Here’s our approach: Show me the glory and then I might believe.
Jesus is calling you by name.
“Lazarus, come out!”
Take off your grave clothes:
What grave clothes is Jesus calling you to take off?
Fear. Isolation. Anxiety. Despair. Shame. Sin. Condemnation. We’ve become too comfortable in our grave clothes. Or we think, “We’ve worn them for so long that they must be stuck to us forever.” Grave clothes don’t fit someone who’s going to live forever.
What did this lead to for Jesus? Many people present believed in Him that day, but not everyone.
John 11:53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
Jesus put on grave clothes so you could take yours off.
When John and Peter, two of Jesus’s closest disciples ran to the tomb that first Easter morning, they did not see the body of Jesus. Do you want to know what they did see?
John 20:5-8 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.
They only saw His grave clothes. And they believed. Do you believe this? Each of you should have received a card in your seat.
Place your faith in Jesus. “Jesus, I give you my life and place my faith in you.”
Come back to your faith in Jesus. “Jesus, I’m returning to my faith in you.”
Make a commitment to be baptized to declare your faith in Jesus and that you’re no longer wearing grave clothes.
What has happened in your life may be the worst thing, but it isn’t the last thing. And the last thing will be the best thing.
What grave clothes is Jesus calling you to take off so that you might have life?