Do You Believe This? John 11:17-27 Reverend Anthony R. Locke
March 7th, 2010 at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker
English Standard Version
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 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 from 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 on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who 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 coming into the world.” 1 This is a famous passage within the Christian community and for worthy reasons. Jesus is exhorting Mary, Martha, and the whole crowd, to believe that faith in Him as THE CHRIST, (meaning, the Promised One who would suffer and take away the sins of His people), Jesus is exhorting us to place our faith in His unique power to give eternal life for those who believe. This is why Jesus challenges Martha’s timid and limited profession in the general truth of a future resurrection. Most people believe in some form of life after death. But Jesus claims to be the unique path for eternal life. He says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” That is not a future promise only. It is a promise for newness of life today, with eternal ramifications beyond the death of our physical bodies. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” A truth phrased like that, if believed, will be used by the Holy Spirit to bring a person from death to life. o This is one of the great I AM statements in our Bible Jesus said that before Abraham was, “I AM” • He was claiming equality with God the Father Almighty Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life” I am the Light of the World I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life 1 The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
I am the Vine I am the Door and the Good Shepherd Jesus said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega” o Faith in any one of these Gospel truths is enough doctrine for the Holy Spirit to bring a soul out of spiritual death, into spiritual life. And the key ingredient is that each of these I AM statements are about the power of Jesus to give inclusion in God’s family. To get us in, to give us light, to unite us with God. Jesus turns the curse of the cross into the tree of life. • the original tree of life was lost in the Garden of Eden, but a new tree of life has grown through the suffering of Jesus. Faith in Jesus’ payment for sin on the tree is the new fruit unto eternal life. • Jesus is the tree of life and the bread come down from heaven. As the Alpha and Omega Jesus holds our beginning, for He created us, and Jesus holds our end for He is the Judge of all things. He is the Shepherd of our life to get us safely home. We believe Him, we trust Him, we place our faith in Him to give us a new life which enables us to obey His commandments. That is what it means to enter into His Kingdom. Our whole life becomes transformed into the likeness of Jesus as we walk daily in Him. And Jesus only needs one of these transformational truths about Himself to bring us to saving faith. Jesus called Martha to faith. Jesus is calling us to faith. You could say that Jesus is giving Martha an alter call invitation to be saved. Jesus asks Martha in verse 26, “Do You Believe This?” This is the most common way in the Bible someone is brought to saving faith, then baptism, and inclusion as a disciple of the church. Let me make the path as clear as possible. There are two steps. o First, a simple Gospel doctrine about Jesus is shared. When the disciples were on the road to Emmaus, a stranger to their eyes, it was of course Jesus in His resurrected body, joined them, and explained how the Old Testament spoke of a suffering, crucified and resurrected Messiah that would save His people from their sins. • Jesus used the Bible to share truths about Himself to bring them to faith. The Philippian Jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas answers, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” • Acts 16:32 says that Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.” • The Apostle’s shared doctrines about Jesus from the Bible to bring the Philippian Jailer and his family to faith. The Ethiopian Eunuch was led to faith by Philip who opened his mouth, and beginning with the Scripture , told him the good news about Jesus. Someone has to say something about Jesus. That’s you and me. This is the first step to bring someone to faith.
• We extol the excellencies of Christ. • Pick any subject. His love, mercy, faithfulness, sacrifice, wisdom, kindness, desire to embrace us, to be our spiritual brother, to connect us with the Father, to send us the empowering Spirit, to comfort the hurting, strengthen the weak, or any other virtue of Jesus that reflects any of the I AM statements. • The Bible calls this making our boast in the Lord. • Think in practical terms. What does your friend need to know about Jesus? Think about it, pray about it, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you this week. You will be surprised the natural opportunities we all have to share the glory of Jesus with a friend. Let me suggest a tool to share your faith. A simple planned approach. • Pick in your mind a person who deserves to know of the reason for the joy and peace you have in your heart. • The clerk at the sales counter, the neighbor who walks their dog by your house, or the guy who mows your lawn. • Next time you see them, give them this weeks bulletin and one of the printed sermons from the last month that you enjoyed. • Tell them, “I was at church recently and heard a sermon I thought you might like. It was especially meaningful to me. I got a copy for you. Let me know what you think.” • Then start praying for them. Ask God’s Spirit to open a door for conversation about the glory of Christ and how Jesus uniquely brings peace, joy and salvation. • When you see them again, ask them what they thought. • That’s evangelism. You share a truth and invite them into a conversation about the power of Jesus to give eternal life. (This is not rocket science folks.) o So first, we share a compact doctrinal statement about Jesus. Something simple and easy. One of the I AM phrases is enough. o SECOND, we encourage them to believe in the ability of Jesus to give them eternal life. Most Americans are instructed that evangelism is leading people to pray the sinner’s prayer. I have embraced this idea and I think it can be very helpful. The sinner’s prayer is a good conversational vehicle to transition an unbeliever out of faithlessness into faith. Yet, look at the way people in the Bible came to faith. • Jesus asked if Martha believed what He told her. He didn’t require a prayer. • Philip was asked by the Ethiopian Eunuch if it was OK to be baptized as they were passing by a pool of water. o No prayer is recorded in the Bible. The Eunuch believed in the power of Jesus to give eternal life somewhere in the middle of Philips conversation. o The outward sign of his faith was his request to be baptized. Sounds really biblical doesn’t it. That’s because it is. Baptism is a sign and seal of new life. • There is no biblical record of Paul leading the Jailer and his family in any formal prayer. Paul baptized the family as a sign of their faith in Jesus. • We should do the same thing. We should ask our friend if they believe these things. If they say yes, then we should invite them to start making commitments of
faith and discipleship to learn what God has revealed about Himself in the Bible. The Bible teaches a very easy form of evangelism. • You don’t have to ask if they are willing to pray a prayer that they repeat after you. Just ask if they believe what you just got done telling them about Jesus. If they say yes, then tell them begin making commitments at the local church of their choice. • Don’t risk getting fired by asking your coworker to kneel down next to your office desk and pray a prayer with you. • Ask it like Jesus does. Ask, “do you believe this?” • If they say, “Yes”, then you could o Suggest they attend a church of their choice in the area which will help them continue learning about Jesus, o ask them if they have been baptized, o ask them if they have a Bible. Offer to help them buy a good one. o Encourage them to find a friend to start learning more about Jesus. You be that friend. Let me wrap this up with an illustration. Let’s say a man is marooned on an island and has never heard anything about the Bible, the church, or Jesus Christ. Our favorite fictitious human. Right. And one day a wallet washes up on shore. And there’s lots of money in the wallet. Of no use at all. There are some credit cards and other junk, but mixed in with the credit cards is a business card sized piece of paper with these words, And Jesus said, “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?” Now suppose that our unsaved man is struck in the heart by God’s Holy Spirit to believe these words about a man named Jesus who is life itself, and he becomes convinced that this person can guarantee his eternal future since He promises everlasting life. Would YOU call this man saved? Is that compact doctrinal sentence enough to save a man? I suspect that there are some people who would say that this man is not saved because he doesn’t know enough. For example, he doesn’t know that Jesus died for his sins on the cross and rose again the third day. That truth isn’t in those verses. There is a lot more he doesn’t know, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, the eternal Sonship of Jesus or the doctrine of the virgin birth. But why is he not saved if he believes the promise of Jesus’ words? IT IS PRECISELY THIS ABILITY OF JESUS TO GUARANTEE ETERNAL LIFE that makes Him Lord of Salvation, that makes it easy for a child to believe, and opens the door for whosoever will. Our Lord’s exchange with Martha in John 11 demonstrates this clearly. Jesus asks if she believes, and she says she does believe. Evangelism is that easy. A simple truth about Jesus is shared and then we trust God that in His time the Holy Spirit will bring that person to faith and obedience. Most of my sermon this morning was about bringing people outside of the church to faith. But let’s make sure we ask ourselves the same question. Jesus said, “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?” Do you? Are you committed to growing? Discipleship? Obedience? Then may God bless us to be witnesses of this resurrected life that we have found in our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.