The Blessing of Resurrection   
John 11:20-27 
By Paul Robison

A writer of by gone days made this affirmation: “... we cling to the doctrine of future life; we could not live without it.  But we believe it, not because of undefined longings within ourselves, not because of reviving plants and flowers, not because of the chrysalis and butterfly, but because our Savior Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immorality to light through the gospel [2 Timothy 1:10]” (Boyd).  A more modern writer challenges us with these words: “The very thought of living again after we die seems to fantastic to grasp.  Indeed, it seems more fantasy than fact. ... Why, if we are so certain of resurrection, do we live our lives in practical denial of it?  Why, for instance, do we fear death as we do?  And why are we so focused on living in the 'here and now,' as if there were no eternal tomorrow?  ... So, should we ever find ourselves truly beginning to wonder [if resurrection is just nice talk at funerals], it's time to seek again the assurance of God's promise that death is not the end.  That resurrection is not a fantasy.  That what we hope in our inmost being is actually and factually true” (F. L. Smith).  “Clearly, the resurrection is of the very first importance for the Christian faith” (Morris)  “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14)!  This situation is only possible through resurrection.  The sermon is entitled: “The Blessing of Resurrection,” and it has four parts: resurrection in the Old Testament, resurrection in Jesus’ life, resurrection in the New Testament, a resurrection in our lives.
 
Resurrection is not as predominant in the Old Testament as in the New Testament, but it is there.  The writer of Hebrews in 11:17-19 tells how Abraham believed that resurrection was possible: “By faith, Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called,' concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense.”  Now notice Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel 2:6 where she affirms: “The Lord kills and makes alive.  He brings down to the grave and brings up.”  “Brings up” means “raises up from the dead” (ESV Study Bible).  The psalmist writes in 71:20: “You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth.”  David sustains a resurrection will occur in Psalm 16:10, and this passage will be cited later.  Isaiah asserts in 26:19: “Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall rise.”  Of course, they shall rise in the last day at the resurrection of all mankind.  The prophet Hosea declares in 13:14: “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death.  O Death, I will be your plagues!  O Grave, I will be your destruction!”  In the Greek version of the Old Testament that came out in about 250 BC, this last part of this passage was translated in this way: “O Death, where is your punishment?  O Grave, where is your string?”  The apostle Paul has this passage in mind when he affirms in 1 Corinthians 15:55: “O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?”  All these translations show that resurrection, not death, will be the final reality!  Daniel has one of the clearest statements in 12:2: “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  Despite all these passages, there were still some Jews, even in Jesus' day, who did not believe that a resurrection would take place.  Remember that religious group called Sadducees?  Luke states in Acts 23:8: “For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection―and no angel or spirit; but the Pharisees confess both.” Thus, we see that resurrection is taught throughout the Old Testament.
 
Now let's think about resurrection in Jesus’ life.  On three different occasions Jesus resurrected people: a little girl in Mark 5:41-42, a young man in Luke 7:14-15, and an older man in John 11:43-44.  This shows that Jesus was the Lord of resurrection!  Jesus predicted at least three times in Mark that He would rise from the dead (8:31; 9:31; 10:34), and there are at least three more times that He does so in John (2:20; 10:17-18; 16:21-22).  These predictions show us that Jesus was Lord of the situation!  All of the four gospels report there were angels that told humans about Jesus' resurrection to explain why His tomb was empty!  Now if the tomb was empty, how did it become empty?  There are really just about three options: Jesus friends took the body, Jesus' enemies took the body, or the body came back to life and left the tomb (Morris).  Let's look at these options quickly.  The gospel accounts tell us that Jesus' disciples had abandoned Him, were fearful, and were in hiding.  There was a Roman guard which would have to be defeated in order for the disciples to even reach the body.  Even if the apostles could rescue to body, what good would a corpse do them?  Someone else involved in the Watergate scandal also made the observation that those who work for another will remain loyal to him until the crunch begins to sink their own ship.  Then they will jump ship to save their own necks (Colson).  That's what happened in Watergate, but that's not what happened at Calvary.  The apostles could not deny Jesus' resurrection because they had seen Him face to face, and they knew that He had risen from the dead!  Even if it cost them their own necks, they would not relent on that reality (Ibid.)!  So, the disciples did not take the body (even though that was a rumor that was spread around by the Roman guards [Matthew 28:11-15]).  Now, let's think about the enemies of Jesus.  How they would have liked to produce Jesus' corpse!  If they could have taken the body and then exposed it, the preaching of the apostles would have been silenced and the group of believers called the church would have been laughed to scorn.  But the Jewish leaders never produced Jesus' body.  Someone has rightly observed: “The silence of the Jews is just as significant as the preaching of the [apostles].  The failure of the enemies of Jesus to produce the body is conclusive evidence that they could not do so” (Morris).  The third option then is the truth: Jesus arose from the dead and left the tomb!  This last option is also verified by over 515 eye-witnesses!  Jesus had about a six weeks period to establish His identity.  In that time, He appeared to Mary Magdalene, to other women who came to the tomb, to Peter, to 2 disciples going to Emmaus, to all of this apostles on at least 3 occasions, to some of His apostles on at least 2 occasions, to 500 believers, to James, to Paul twice, to Stephen, and to John.  Just think for a moment: if we were in a court of law, how long would it take to hear over 515 witnesses if each of them were to speak for just 10 minutes?  Here's something else to think about concerning Jesus' resurrection.  The Jews had been persecuted by foreign rulers for hundreds of year before Jesus came into this world.  Now why didn't their race just intermarry with their rulers and then lose their national identity?  It was because of five social institutions that made them unique: the law, the temple, the synagogue, the feasts, and the Sabbath.  Now the Jews held saw these things as a part of their identity.  They passed these social institutions on to each generation.  Jesus comes on the scene, teaches as a young rabbi, gains a following, and then gets crucified along with 30,000 other Jewish men in that time period.  About eight weeks after Jesus was killed, we find in Acts about 8000 Jews (and maybe even more) who are willing to give up or alter all five of their social institutions to call themselves Christians.  Only something of great magnitude could cause such a monumental change.  The thing of great magnitude was indeed Jesus' resurrection (Moreland in Strobel)!  There is also something very unique about Jesus’ resurrection.  The Greeks saw the body as something bad, much like a prison.  When death occurred, the immortal soul would live on but the body would decay, never to live again in any shape, form, or fashion.  The Jews had a high regard for the body, so they believed that the exact same body that had been buried would be the body that would be raised.  But the New Testament writers, basing their ideas on Jesus’ resurrection itself, teach that the body will be raised, but it will be transformed into something better to be a suitable vehicle for a very different lifestyle that will take place in heaven (Morris).  Jesus’ resurrected body had some human characteristics: scars, an appetite, something one could touch, but it also had some transcendent qualities: it could materialize, it could vanish, and most importantly, it would never ever die again.  Jesus appeared mortal, but He was immortal!  Listen to the transformation associated with resurrection that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 and 50-53: “The body is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption.  It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory.  It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.  It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body … Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.  Behold, I tell you a mystery: we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this moral must put on immortality.”  Someone has correctly observed:  “We see in the Risen Christ the end for which man was made and the assurance that the end is within reach.  Christ rose from the grave changed and yet the same; and in Him we have the pledge and type of our rising” (author not given).
 
Now let’s look at what some other writers of the New Testament say about resurrection.  The apostles both preached and practiced resurrection.  Peter said in Acts 3:14-15: “But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses,” and then we see him raise Dorcus from the dead in Acts 9:36.  The apostle Paul preached this in Acts 13:29ff: “Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.  But God raised Him from the dead.  He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people.  And we declare to you the glad tidings—that promise which was made to our fathers.  God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He raised up Jesus.  As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten You.’  And that He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the sure mercies of David.’  Therefore He also says in another Psalm [and this is Psalm 16 mentioned earlier]: ‘You will not allow Your Holy One to see corruption.’  For David, after he had served his won generation by the will of God, fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw corruption; but He whom God raised up saw not corruption.  Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified in the law of Moses.”  And then we find Paul bringing Eutychus back to life in Acts 20:10!  Paul affirms in Romans 8:33: “It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”  Now look over at 1 Corinthians 15, a great chapter on the resurrection, and note verses 14, 20-22, 46-49, and 57: “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. … But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. … However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.  The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.  As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust, and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly.  And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man. … But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Brethren, that’s some good news that our world needs to learn!  Paul again declares a wonderful promise in 1 Thess. 4:16-17: “And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  Peter proclaims in 1 Peter 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”  The apostle John wrote these words of Jesus in Revelation 1:17-18: “I am the First and the Last.  I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore.  Amen.”  Hallelujah!  Amen indeed!
 
Now, let's consider the resurrection in our lives.  We've just looked at seven passages which affirmed Jesus' resurrection.  But do we really believe what we've heard?  Does the truth of Jesus' resurrection make a big difference in how we live?  Let's notice some passages now that have some personal implications.  Look at Jesus' affirmation in Luke 20:35-36: “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.”  What a wonderful new existence resurrection will inaugurate: absolutely no more death, equality with the angels, and a life so satisfying beyond the flesh that sex and marriage won't even be missed!  That sounds pretty incredible!  Now look at what Jesus claims in John 6:54: “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day!”  Fellow Christian, when we gather around this table each Sunday, we are one step closer to that great last day when Jesus will raise us up and transform us to have bodies likes His glorious body (Philippians 3:21)!  Jesus has the power to bring about that tremendous change from natural mortal natural bodies to immortal spiritual bodies!  Doesn't that truth offer us hope and comfort!  Now look at John 11:25-26: “Jesus said to her: 'I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.”  One brother wrote this idea: “What an awesome possibility!  What a hope!  To die without dying.  To live on when the mourners have gone.  And then, one day, some day―to meet Jesus, face to face” (F. L. Smith)!  Jesus is eternal life, and His life is our guarantee that we will live forevermore.  Now if we are truthfully going to live forever in a new existence, why do we get ourselves so hung up about what's happening in this life?  This life is so, so, so transitory when compared to eternity!  Now look at Paul’s prayer in Ephesians 1:19.  Paul wants all Christians to know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power towards us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in heavenly places.”  Brother or sister, are you struggling with some sin?  Take heart, the same resurrection power from God that raised Jesus from the dead is the same resurrection power that can work in your life to make you victorious over sin!  Look now at Colossians 3:1: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, and not on things of the earth.”  Yes, fellow Christian, you were raised with Christ at your baptism!  So now, look beyond this life and concentrate your thoughts on the new dimension in which we'll live with all the faithful in complete holiness, with no sin whatsoever anymore a possibility!  Listen now to how resurrection affected one couple.  “My wife, Debbie, had the flu,” wrote one believer.  “When she didn't get better, we went to the hospital for tests.  The first thing the doctor said to Debbie was: 'You've got some serious problems.'  Debbie learned she had stomach cancer.  Four months later, she passed away at the age of 43.  During her suffering, I took refuge in the truth of Jesus resurrection. … Jesus had an immortal body.  This helped me while Debbie was dying.  When I asked God why Debbie had to die, I often imagined Him asking me over and over: 'Gary, did I raise My Son from the dead?'  You see, if Jesus has been raised, I can trust that Debbie will be raised someday too.  We will be together again—united for all eternity” (Habermas in Larson-Elshof).  Is the resurrection making a difference in your daily life?
 
Listen to one more passage in Colossians 2:12-13: “Buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him having forgiven all your trespasses.”  Dead in sin, but made alive with Christ through baptism!  You see, your baptism today will once again demonstrate God's resurrection power.  You’ll go down into the water a person dead in your sins, but you’ll be raised up from that watery grave with your sins washed away, and you’ll experience God's resurrection power that makes you alive with Christ to follow after Him.  In fact, God's Holy Spirit will dwell within and help you to live in a new and different way!  Won't you be raised with Christ this morning?  Won't you embrace God's resurrection power and let it work in your life?  Every person is going to raised from the dead on the last day.  That resurrection will either be followed by a peaceful eternity or a horrible eternity (John 5:28).  Secure that peaceful eternity by putting Christ on in baptism right now and experiencing the blessing of resurrection
!