Part 1: The Grave Robber
Pastor Terry Inman
What do you mean gone? How could anyone break the seal, and roll aside the massive stone all under the watchful eyes of armed Roman sentinels. Who on earth was the grave robber?
Peter a fisherman and activist took a leading role in the church following the resurrection. He emphatically says God was the Grave Robber. God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.(Acts 2.24 NIV)
Death died on Good Friday. Life begins on Easter Sunday!
For nearly thirty years, Jesus who had crafted the universe with His voice also crafted furniture with His hands. And He was good at what He did. He grew up in the sawdust of his father’s workshop in backwater Nazareth.
But Jesus was more than a master craftsman. He was also God incognito. His miraculous powers rank as history’s best-kept secret for nearly three decades. That all changed the day he turned H-2-0 into aged wine!
This wasn’t his first supernatural act. Jesus was a co-creator of the heaven and earth. He was present when the word was given and oceans of H-2-0 formed out of blue sky and encircled our planet’s landmasses.
This is how John one of Jesus closest disciples, begins his gospel story. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. (John 1.1NIV) The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1.14 NIV)
So why couldn’t he manipulate the molecular structure of water and turn it into good wedding wine--enough to fill 757 bottles, no less. Noting but the best for newlyweds too to poor to afford a gala reception. He didn’t just come to serve good wine--he came to serve good news to the poor.
John calls these supernatural marvels attesting signs. “This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.” (John 2.11 NIV)
Thirty-four distinct miracles are recorded in the Gospels. Masses of people followed the sign maker. John says, “Many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name.” (John 2.23 NIV) John’s Gospel spotlights seven of these incredible wonders. In fact they reveal seven unique dimensions of Jesus’ miraculous power.
The miracles started in (John 2), with Jesus turning water into wine. We call that omnipotence. Unlimited power Nothing is impossible with God!
In (John 4), Jesus performs a long-distance healing for a noble's son. That’s omnipresence. He is not limited by time and space. Geography is no barrier--He is the Lord of latitude and longitude.
In (John 5), He healed a disabled man who was waiting for a helping hand into an ancient therapeutic pool. Here, Jesus reveals His mastery over chronology, reversing thirty-eight years of pain and suffering with one command, “Pick up your mat and walk!” He is timeless. He is eternal.
In (John 6) Jesus feeds five-thousand-plus with five loaves and two small fish. This is higher math. In God’s kingdom, 5 + 2 doesn’t equal 7. His encore was a brisk stroll across the midnight waves of the Sea of Galilee. He was the maker and the master of the elements.
In (John 9) there is more to a miracle than meets the eye. Jesus doesn’t just heal a blind man’s sight--He hardwires a man’s brain by creating a synaptic pathway between his optic nerve and visual cortex. Check with your Ophthalmologist about that one. He is the Great Physician!
According to the gospel, Jesus made a mud pie of His saliva. Then he rubbed it in a man’s eyes, and told him wash it off in a pool.
I have seen God recreate that miracle several times in Mozambique where there’s one Ophthalmologist for every half a million people! Some people ask me why we don’t see more healings like that here. We put our faith in Obama care! Actually I believe modern medicine is also a gift from God!
Now just when you think you’ve seen it all, the Grave Robber turns his friend’s tomb into a recovery room. Lazarus is four days dead when Jesus calls him to shed his grave clothes and come out. This miracle also hints at Jesus’ very own looming death and subsequent resurrection!
The seven miracles in John’s Gospel are seven signs, and each sign points straight to Jesus Christ. So let me offer a word of caution: Don’t seek miracles. Seek Jesus. If you follow Jesus long enough and far enough, you’ll eventually find yourself in the middle of some miracles.
Everyone wants a miracle. But no one wants to be in a situation that necessitates one! The prerequisite for a miracle is a problem, and the bigger the problem, the greater the potential miracle.
If the reception in Cana hadn’t run out of wine, there wouldn’t have been the need for the wine maker to do what He did. The bride and groom’s embarrassment was a perfect opportunity for God to reveal His glory.
Nothing has changed since Jesus turned water into wine, healed a man born blind, or walked out of the tomb three days after His own crucifixion. Jesus is God and he can make our impossible possible!
In 1978 Superman spun around the earth at supersonic speeds reversing its rotation. He supposedly turned back the clock--rescuing his heartthrob Lois Lane from a catastrophic earthquake. The science is a bit suspect.
The earth spins on its axis at a 1000 miles and hour. If Superman slammed on the brakes and reversed its rotation he may have saved Lois Lane, but everyone else on the planet would have died of whiplash!
But it’s still a cool concept, even romantic. Don’t you wish you could turn back, time right after saying or doing something you wish you hadn’t? The problem is that the arrow of time points only one way.
You can’t un-bake cookies, uncut hair, undelete documents, or un-run red lights. We figure that out the hard way. After some pain we get over it. But there are those irreversible moments that leave a hole in your heart forever—like standing at the foot of a casket.
If you’ve been on the receiving end of divorce papers, answered a frantic phone call in the middle of the night, or gotten lab results from your doctor that affirm your worst fears, you know that feeling all too well. It feels like life is closing in on you. But it’s not over until God says it’s over!
When Jesus walked out of the tomb, the word impossible was removed from our vocabulary. His resurrection isn’t something we celebrate only on Easter Sunday. It’s something we celebrate every day in every way. (S4)John’s seventh miracle reveals the true identity, the full identity, of Jesus. He’s not just the “wine maker” or the “water walker”--as impressive as those miracles are. Jesus is “The Grave Robber”. According to the gospel of John Jesus saves His boldest claim for last.
As Lazarus’ two sisters huddled traumatized outside his cold tomb. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.
Do you believe this?” (John 11.25 NIV) Eternal life is new spiritual life.
This unique claim sets Jesus apart and puts Him in a category all by Himself—He is the Son of God! Our faith is not built on a religion, a philosophy or a way of life. Our faith rests on one a Man who claimed to be God and backed it up by emptying--even his own tomb!
If the resurrection didn’t happen, Christian faith ranks as history’s cruelest hoax. Paul writes, If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead,(1Cor. 15.19-20 NIV)
Rolling Stone magazine questioned Bono the lead singer of U2 about Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God.
Bono responded, “the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this. He was a great prophet who had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius.
But actually, Christ doesn’t allow us that. He doesn’t let us off that hook. Christ says, ‘No--I’m not saying I’m a teacher--don’t call me a teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet--I’m saying: I’m the Messiah.
I’m saying—‘I am God incarnate’. And people say: No, no, please, just be a prophet. A prophet we can take. So what you’re left with is either Christ is--who He said he was—the Messiah—or a nutcase.”
While most people have no issue accepting Jesus as a compassionate healer or wise teacher or even a religious prophet, that isn’t who He alleged to be. He claimed to be the Son of God.
Our decision to believe that will determine our eternal destiny. It will also make the impossible possible!
When Jesus asserted His identity as “the resurrection and the life” and asked, “do you believe this” Lazarus hadn’t walked out of the tomb yet. But Martha responded with a simple affirmation of faith: “Yes, Lord.”!
One little yes can change your whole life. One little yes can change your eternity. The only question on God’s final exam is: Do you believe this?
This simple expression of faith, “yes Lord” will determine your future hope. “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10:9 NIV)
When Jesus rose from the dead, it radically redefined reality. The resurrection is the game changer. When we say “yes Lord, I believe” we receive His life. We get a spiritual make over called “eternal life”.
Resurrection miracles don’t stop there: God raises dreams from the dead. He resurrects dead relationships. And no matter what part of your personality has died at the hands of sin, suffering, or Satan himself, the Grave Robber came to give you your life back!
The Grave Robber steals back what the enemy has stolen. Then He gives it back to us, with interest. The bible says, “He made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions —it is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2.5 NIV)
When Jesus died on the cross, Satan smirked. But the Grave Robber got the last laugh. He always does. And if you give Him a chance, He’ll give you a second chance.
He will give you your smile back. He will give you your life back. Do you believe this? In your heart just say, “YES LORD”!
Let’s say, “yes Lord” together.