I AM - Never Late!

I AM - Never Late!

John 11:1-44

From the onset, this story is filled with a sense of desperation and hopelessness. It relates to our distress and grief over sickness and death. Martha and Mary’s despair over Jesus not coming sooner also suggests that they felt let down by Him because He delayed and it was now too late to heal Lazarus. When Jesus arrived, Lazarus had been dead four days.

However, it was not because of carelessness or a lack of concern that Jesus delayed His return to Bethany. Verse 5 says; “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Neither, did Jesus delay because the Jews wanted to kill Him. No, Jesus had another reason for waiting to go to Bethany. He was right on time to accomplish His purpose, but it didn’t seem that way to Martha and Mary.

Verses 20-24 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Martha sees Jesus’ answer as something that will happen in the future. She was referring to the resurrection of the dead that will occur at Second Coming of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.  For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Although Martha believed that one day there would be a resurrection from the dead, she didn’t believe that Jesus could help Lazarus at that moment, for when Jesus said to take away the stone, Martha exclaimed, “Lord, by this time there will be a bad odor, for he has been dead four days.”

Jesus had already assured Martha in vs 25-26, 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?”

Jesus is saying to her, “Martha, you’re waiting for a resurrection, but I AM the Resurrection and the Life?” It was hard for her to believe this claim of equality to God!

Jesus made several of these “I am” statements, referring to His deity:

In John 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

In John 9:5, to those who walk in darkness, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”
In John 6:35, to those who are hungry, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life.”
In John 14:6, to those who are lost and confused, Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life.”

Jesus is “I AM”. He is not “I was”, nor “I am going to be”, nor “I will be”, but “I AM”.

Whatever the situation, Jesus is the ‘I AM’ in the situation we are facing. He is with us, in the present tense, to address a present need. He is never late because He is not bound by time. Time only exists because He is present. The past is gone, and the future will not happen unless He is present. Without I AM, nothing can exist.

I AM is the name God (who is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). He used this Name to introduce Himself to Moses. Moses was to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. So Moses asked, “what should I tell them, if they ask, “Who sent you?”

Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

Jesus called Himself God when He addressed Himself as “I AM”. Why would He do that? Doesn’t that cause Him to lose all credibility when He says this?

Jesus tried to explain how He could call Himself this Name when He said in John 10:30 “I and the Father are one.” Most people did not believe Him. They thought He was blaspheming. So Jesus had a purpose in allowing Lazarus’ death and delaying His arrival. He wanted to show who He was so all would believe He is I AM.

Jesus’ answer to Martha was profound. He said, “I am the resurrection AND the life.” He did not say “I am the resurrection” or “I am the life” but BOTH. In other words, whether death of the body has occurred or not, it does not concern Jesus. If he is dead, I AM his resurrection. If he is not dead, I AM his life. Either way, he will live.

Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?” What a loaded question! It sounds simplistic, and we quickly affirm that we believe it, but Jesus is asking something profound:
• Do you believe I can, even if I do not respond as you expect?
• Do you believe I can turn your grief into joy?
• Do you believe I am the giver of life that never dies although the body is in a grave?

“Believe” is an abstract verb – it is unseen until it is acted on. It is the key to seeing life in death, seeing light in darkness, seeing hope in despair, experiencing joy in sorrow. It is important, because we are only saved by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

However, most people want to see signs or some proof before they will believe. That is not faith.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Actually, there is never enough proof where there is no faith. The religious Pharisees and the scribes wanted to see signs, and when they did, they still didn’t believe. In other words, if you have no faith, no amount of proof can cause you believe Jesus. Even with I AM standing right before you, you can still doubt God exists or that He is in control.

Luke 16:31 "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

God operates in response to our faith. That is why Jesus asked, “Do you believe this?” This question is crucial. Do you believe He can bring life to the dead, right here and now? Some will say, “Oh, but that was for them back then. That doesn’t happen today.”

I concede it is not a common occurrence, but Hebrews 13:8 says, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. So, do you believe it even though you don’t see it? Do you believe those who die in Christ are still alive?

Furthermore, do you believe He can bring hope in a hopeless situation, right here and now? Do you believe He can bring joy to the grieving, right here and now? Do you believe He is and will always be the “I AM” in your situation?

But what if He doesn’t respond right here and now, do you still believe? Do you still trust Him? Jesus has shown us that if we feel that He is not doing what we expect Him to, it is because He has chosen NOT to! He has a higher purpose and something to show us. Because I AM is never late! And I AM is not confined to make things right only at some point in the future. He works now to accomplish His purpose. Nothing limits I AM.

Jesus understands there are times when it looks like He has let us down, when things appear out of control, when the enemy seems to be winning. That is why He told His disciples in John 14:1 “Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” Jesus is asking all of us, “Do you believe what I say? Do you trust me?”

To be fair, Martha did have faith. When Jesus was at the edge of town, Martha heard of Jesus’ arrival and went to greet him. And the first words out of her mouth were, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

That’s faith! She has faith in Jesus’ ability to heal. The fact that Lazarus died so quickly gives us a hint that he was critically ill. Yet she believed that Jesus could have healed him. But He delayed, and she didn’t expect that. Lazarus was a good friend of Jesus. She expected Jesus would come immediately.

We can easily identify with her. We too have faith in Jesus. We consider ourselves His friend. But sometimes things just don’t happen the way we expect. There are times when we question the ‘wisdom’ of His ways. Why did He allow this to happen? Why didn’t He act earlier? Sometimes it feels as though Jesus has let us down. The problem is we are too caught up by our own way and our own time. Such expectation causes us to misjudge His will, His wisdom, and His purpose.

Then in verse 27 we see Martha saying, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

That was another amazing statement of faith. Few of her contemporaries could say that. Yet, even with that great faith, there is more that Jesus wanted her to believe. Jesus wanted her, and He wants us, to believe He is the resurrection and the life.

Today we are just like Martha. We believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God. We believe He’s alive and He is with us today. However, that isn’t all we need to believe. Jesus wants us to believe that He is all powerful, that He is the resurrection and the life, and totally in control, in spite of all the death and evil that happens around us.

Do we believe Jesus will make a way when there seems to be no way? Do we believe that He can work wonders and bring hope in a hopeless situation? Do we act like we believe?

To believe with our mind is one thing. To believe it in our heart, with a deep conviction, under harsh circumstances, is quite another thing altogether.

Jesus wants us to believe Him in the thick of things, when all appears lost. Jesus wants to deepen our faith and trust in Him because it is going to get tougher to believe as things get worse in the last days.

Verses 41-42 say, 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."

We know the end of the story. Jesus proved His words. Martha saw what she heard a while ago – Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He has power over death. She did not expect it, but Jesus brought her hope and joy despite the hopeless situation. She saw that Jesus’ purpose in delaying was good, although she did not feel that it was good just a while ago.

In fact, this entire incident takes place for the glory of Jesus Christ. Jesus delayed His return to Bethany so that the great crowd of mourners from Bethany and nearby Jerusalem would witness this great miracle. That’s why Jesus prayed aloud and in public, so that the crowd of unbelieving bystanders could be convinced of the Father’s approval on the Son and His claim of deity. And that is why Jesus spoke to the dead Lazarus in a loud voice. His loud voice was not for the benefit of Lazarus, but for the bystanders. All of this Jesus did to demonstrate that He is the Lord of Life, I AM!

John 11:45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Ultimately millions have been blessed with faith, because of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary’s “misfortune”. This will always be true in our lives, too. I AM is never late! He will use our seemingly “misfortunes” for His glory and to bless others.

2 Timothy 1:8-10 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel

Back to the raising of Lazarus, there is more glory to this miracle than first meets the eye. Those of you with scientific minds will profoundly appreciate this. When Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave, He also dealt with the physical aspects of resurrecting a smelly, rotting body that had been dead for four days: flesh and internal organs that had begun to decay were regenerated; brain cells that had been destroyed by a lack of oxygen were brought back to life; muscles that had been paralyzed by rigor mortis were rejuvenated; and coagulated blood began to flow again, spreading life throughout the body of Lazarus!

Jesus demonstrated His creative power as well as His power over life, death, and the grave! He demonstrated that He is the Resurrection and the Life, the Creator, the great I AM! And the greatest demonstration of His resurrecting power and eternal life is coming!

1 Corinthians 15:51-57 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 imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

What more evidence and confidence do we need to tell others about Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, and who is I AM?

Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life…” There is only one condition to receiving His promise of eternal life—faith. Jesus asked, “Do you believe this?”

Do you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, the One who gives eternal life, who atoned for your sin on the cross so you will never die? If you truly believe this, confess it. Jesus said in Matthew 10:32-33 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

Then, if you believe, you need to stop sinning and make Jesus lord over your life. Believe, confess, repent, and one more thing: die to yourself in a watery grave of baptism so you can be resurrected with a new life born of the Holy Spirit that never dies.

   October 2018   
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