03 Jul 2011 Sunday
Worship song: Jesus 耶稣
|Verse:||Hands that hold the heavens
Hold my heart tonight
Love pierce through my darkness
Words of life eternal
Heal my broken soul
To whom will I go
There's no one else but You alone
|Bridge :||You are the Christ
Son of the Living God
The Great I Am
I'll follow You till the end
Scripture Reading: John 11:25-26
11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;
11:26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Q: Why is the theme of Shanghai Expo "生活” instead of “ 生命?”
A: We are now living in this well developed society with the high technology of the new era, but we are not pursuing what’s beyond the materialized world any more, what is the true meaning of life?
Q: What’s the meaning of life 生命?
A: To have the renewed relationship with God is Life.
Q: How can I have the renewed relationship with God?
A: 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?”
Good morning! please join me in our prayer: Almighty God, our Creator, You are the Life and Resurrection, we love You. We come here together to worship You and listen to Your Word. May Your Spirit come, may the meditation from my heart and words from my mouth be all from You, in Jesus’ name we pray, Amen!
1. The Difference Between 生活 and 生命
For foreigners, I hope you remember these two Chinese words, because I am going to repeat them very frequently.
生活Sheng Huo = Daily Life, day-to-day life, materialized life, and it relates to the physical body
生命Sheng Ming = Spiritual life related with our soul, transcendental.
What is life? When we think of this word and if you check it in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s English-Chinese Dictionary, the 1st definition is the “state of living (生存状态)”. The 2nd definition is “living things (生物)”, and then the next definition is “the course of existence of an individual” or “the action and events that occur in living”. When we change it to Chinese, “life” can be translated as “Sheng Huo(生活daily life)” and also as “Sheng Ming(生命life itself)”.
We all know the difference between these two words “生活” and “生命”. It is very interesting. If you still remember Shanghai Expo last year, the theme is “Better City, Better Life”, now look at the Chinese translation “城市，让生活更美好”, I have never thought about it, but if I translate that Chinese back into English again, it will be: “The city will make our daily life better”. I never questioned about that until I heard a lecture of Dr. Cai Yuanyun, the founder of Breakthrough Collaborative, a group of Christians in
2. John:11 Overview
Today we will focus on Life. We are trying to explore in John Chapter 11 the Promise of Life, and also what the meaning of Life is (Life here refers to生命). Let’s first have a very brief review of John: 11.
Structure of John 11
John 11: 1-16
John 11: 17-27
John 11: 28-44
John 11: 45-54
John 11 is quite famous - about the resurrection of Lazarus. John 11:1-16 talk about the background. When Lazarus was sick, Martha sent for Jesus, and Jesus said, “OK, but I will wait for two more days”.In the end Jesus explained to His disciples about the reason for His delay, we could tell there was friendship between Jesus and the family of Martha, Mary and Lazarus.
John 11:17-27 are the discourse of Jesus. Jesus’ spoke the famous phrases: “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” When Martha questioned about Jesus’ delay, Jesus asked Martha: “Do you believe this?” Martha replied ambiguously, but she affirmed the she believed in the resurrection of Lazarus on the Last Day according to the Scriptures.
John 11:28-44, we call it the climax. It is the very point that we all look for - Jesus prayed to the Father and then He commanded Lazarus to walk out of the tomb, and the corpse wrapped in pieces of cloth came out, then Jesus commanded the by-standers to take those pieces of cloth off and let Lazarus go, because Lazarus is alive again.
John 11: 45-54 talk about the immediate consequences of Jesus’ raising Lazarus action:some believed in Jesus; while some are confused; some run to the authorities. And then the council hurriedly gathered for a meeting to plan the killing of Jesus and Lazarus.
There are many discussions on John 11, about pain, fear and anxiety when people face death. Jesus has gone through all of those for us, and also from this chapter we learn about the meaning of Resurrection and Life.
3. The Meaning of Life 生命 in John 11: 25-26
Today however we will only focus on the meaning of Life in John 11:25-26. “Jesus said to her, ‘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 11:25-26 .
First I have underlined the key words “I am”. In Greek “I am” is “ego eimi”; and then I underlined “believes in me” and also “lives and believes in me”.
Actually if we read this carefully we will find that it seems a little bit contradictory. Read again: “He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” So he will die. The next part: “whoever lives and believes in me will never die”. So somebody will die, somebody will never die. Are there two kinds of people or two groups of people? What does that mean? We will go on to see.
(a) I am
First, the saying “I am”. There are many such sayings in the book of John. Jesus says a lot about “I am the living water, and I am the bread of the life and the light of the life”; and here “I am the resurrection and life.” “Ego eimi” in Greek is actually a powerful expression. If you read John 18:6, you will find that when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, they asked who Jesus was. Jesus says: “Ego eimi.” And as He said that the soldiers fell onto the ground. It is a very powerful word. This saying “ego eimi-I am” is how God identifies Himself.
So “ego eimi” brings us back to God the Creator and His creation. All the things created by God are considered good by God, including human beings. And then humans sinned and fell, thus have been forever separated from God. However Life in Christ can bring us back to God and because of Jesus our relationship with God will be restored as good as that before the fall of mankind. We have one more chance to come back to be in God’s presence again. That is the Life; “ego eimi.”
(b) Believe in me
Jesus also says: “believes in me.” What does “believe in me” mean? In the book of John, to believe in Jesus is a very hard thing. Even though people in the Gospel of John believed, they believed only temporally. For example in John 4, after the Samaritan woman’s witness, some people believed; even though they especially noted that the reason why they believed was that they stayed with Jesus and saw Him and His work, still their belief was temporary. So what does “believe in me” mean? To believe in Jesus means that you believe in what He says about His resurrection and death, and His words about God, believe Jesus was sent by God so as to offer Himself to cleanse the sins of the world; that you believe in all the sayings of Jesus and the actions of Jesus which manifest God’s love for this world; believe His blood is going to ransom and save all of us; believe His death shows self-sacrificing love and His death is the self-forfeiting death for the sake of this sinful world.
(c) Whoever lives and believes in me
Jesus says: “whoever lives and believes in me.” In fact the saying is better understood as those who live in Jesus and believe in Jesus will never die. What does “lives in me” mean? Lives in Jesus means that we follow Jesus and we have the faith of Christ or faith in Christ to live in the way that He has lived, to imitate His actions, to love, to care for the poor and needy, and to cross the boundaries and to offer ourselves, even to die for others. Living in Jesus means that we will follow Jesus and live in a way that Jesus has showed us to love people.
Believing in Jesus means that we believe that Jesus can bring us the cleansing and the ransom for the sinful world and that in Jesus we can join God again so that this broken relationship can be healed.
(d) He who believes in me will live, even though he dies
Moreover Jesus says “he who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” What does that mean? To die may have several meanings: we suffer from sickness or that we disappear from this world physically; here “to die” may also refer to Jesus Himself, Jesus is talking about His death. Like Lazarus Jesus is going to die, He is going to be crucified on the cross. “To die” also refers to the death or the martyrdom of the disciples.
(e) Will never die
What about “will never die”? By living in Jesus Christ and living in the way that Jesus has lived and by believing in His power, we will have this new relationship with God, which is Life. So we are healed, we can rejoice and have peace and joy in our hearts, and in this way, by passing through the spirit we will be with Jesus and our Holy Spirit sent by God will never die.
(f) Do you believe this?
Jesus asked Martha: “Do you believe this?” This is the hard part. Believing is the core issue of John’s Gospel and people have been challenged all the time: Do you believe this? Do you believe in Jesus? Yes, we do, we have seen and felt power of Jesus in the world.
Now we have covered John 1- 11; we have heard so many sayings of Jesus, full of wisdom; to believe means that you hear, obey and follow Jesus Christ; also you eat His flesh and drink His blood. Some people laughed at this saying, they have eyes but can't see the truth, believing is difficult for themselves, but nothing is impossible for God, God has His plan for each one He chooses. To be baptized or to take the Holy Communion is a sign to show that you have come to know Jesus, believe in Jesus Christ.
4. The Difference between miracles and signs
This is a miracle story, I want to explain so more about miracles. There are three Greek words for “miracle”:
- Dunamai (power)
- Teras (wonder)
- Semeion (sign)
In the Gospel of John, “dunamai” is never used; “teras” is used only once; However “semeion” is used 17 times. That’s why many scholars call John’s Gospel the “Sign Gospel”. They prefer to use the word “sign” for translation instead of “miracle”, because in Jesus’ time there were many miracle-doers or miracle workers; they could do “miracles”.A sign is not the same thing as proof; a sign shows you the correct directions and points to the future things. The story of the raising of Lazarus points to the death and resurrection of Jesus, the final defeat of death and the means of eternal life. So, this promise of life is not a miracle that brings out faith but a sign pointing to the saving event later fulfilled by Jesus Christ. Jesus does seven signs in the Gospel of John; this is the last one before Jesus’ resurrection.
5. Where can I find Life 生命?
Raising of Lazarus points to the self-sacrificing death and resurrection of Jesus Himself, which is the sign of the promise of Life 生命. This is a kind of life with soul and spirit that can cease our endless anxiety and desire for the worldly life. This is a life that is not marked by materialized signs of bigger house, fancy cars, and dazzling ornaments but will be marked by the believers’ lively spirit, by their love shared with each other and with strangers, by their actions of following Christ even to die for their brothers and sisters. In Jesus is Life 生命, which will bring people new life and peace.
On many occasions faith is not like an insurance policy; but sometimes we can think that there is a similarity, because an “insurance policy” doesn’t guarantee that you will be accident-free, but will give you a safe foundation when the accident does happen. Faith is sometimes similar to that. When you believe in Jesus Christ, it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be sunny every day, but faith will give you courage and hold you on when you face the bad things.
6. What have you been seeking, 生活 or 生命?
Come back to the difference between “生活daily life” and “生命life itself” that we have been talking about. Think of the slogan “
But can we go a little bit beyond 生活 and talk about 生命? We are now living in this well developed society with the high technology of the era, but some are losing souls. Those are not pursuing what’s beyond the materialized world any more. Think of:
a city that will make each individual pursuers of something transcendental;
a city that encourages its residents to offer themselves for others first instead of simply seeking self-satisfying goals;
a city that encourages love for others;
a city that embraces different persons;
a city that highlights the care for the poor and needy in its wealthy surroundings;
a city that focuses on the residents' efforts to help others so that the whole community can be better, more harmonious and can grow in a balanced way.
That is why we say “生命”. That is why you are all here.
We have been encouraging university students to join this English fellowship. We know that some are not yet clear about why they are here. Maybe you are here just to improve your English; that is fine. But I want to point out that you are pursuing 生命 without knowing it. You are here for a purpose even if you do not know it.
The greatest difference between Christianity and other religions is that in Christianity God is looking for you, God is the Initiator of this Calling, God is calling you. You don’t know why you are here, but God is calling you to join this community to believe in Jesus; to believe that His self-sacrificing death and His resurrection have a meaning: to show God’s Love for the people of this world. God is calling for you to believe that by following Jesus Christ and living in the way of Christ you will be saved, found again and Spirit reborn, you will gain Life 生命, and you will lead a different best life and you can also help the others live in a different new way.
We have talked about Jesus’ Word to Martha: “Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die; whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” This is the promise of life. This life is different from our day-to-day life; it is more transcendental; it's the life with Holy Spirit's guidance that will encourage love, endurance, understanding and will save the world, and make it a better place for us to live.
May God bless His Word, in Jesus Always, Amen!
Summary by Katherine, Esther and Chong, with reference to Cathy Zhang’s original script for this sermon
Edited by Claire
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