The Grave-Robber by Pastor Abidan Shah

THE GRAVE-ROBBER by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

The Grave Robber

Introduction:  Graveyards are gloomy to say the least but some people have tried to lighten the mood by what they have written on their gravestone. Here are some of my favorites – “William H. Hahn: I told you I was sick”; “Robert Clay Allison: He never killed a man that did not need killing”; “Rest in Peace Cousin Heut: We all know you didn’t do it”; “Raised four beautiful daughters with only one bathroom and still there was love”; “Barbara Sue Manire (with a parking meter) – Our Mother…Her humor lives on”; Walter W. Stauffen: Uncle Walter loved to spend. He had no money in the end. But with many a whiskey and many a wife, he really did enjoy his life”; “Here lies Good Old Fred: A great big rock fell on his head.” I hope none of these were photoshopped. There is one gravestone that had to be carved twice. It was the gravestone of Lazarus. After 4 days in the grave, Jesus brought him back to life. He is the great GRAVE-ROBBER.

John 11   1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 When Jesus heard that, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. 7 Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 

Question: Death is inevitable. Death is inescapable. Where will you go when you die? Jesus has not only brought us forgiveness of sin but he has also taken the sting out of death. Grave no longer has power over us. Have you received him as your Savior?

Context: The miracle we’re looking at today comes from the Gospel of John again. You know by now that John the apostle (writer of the fourth gospel) used the word “signs” for miracles. Signs were more than just extraordinary events done by Jesus to help people in need. Signs also served to prove that Jesus was/is God. In this miracle, the word “sign” is used again. Listen to John 11:47 “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.” In other words, the raising of Lazarus was more than just Jesus bringing a dead man to life. It was also a sign. What was the sign behind this miracle? The answer is found in John 11:43 “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’” The Greek words are “deuro exo,” where “deuro” is “come” and “exo” is “out.” Together, it is “Come Out!” Something else, when that word “deuro” is used with “exo,” you can actually translate the phrase as simply “Out!” Lazarus, even though he was dead, even though he was buried in the grave for 4 days, recognized the voice of Jesus, recognized the voice of his Savior and came out.

Let me illustrate: Imagine if were to stand in my driveway and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think Nicole or the kids would do? They would recognize my voice immediately and come running outside – “What’s wrong? What do you need?” How about if I were to stand outside your house and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What would you do? At first you may get startled but then you’ll recognize my voice – “That’s Abidan or Pastor Shah!” – and you’ll come outside and ask me, “Hey Pastor Shah! What’re you doing here? Is everything okay?” Now, what if I were to stand in someone’s driveway who doesn’t know me and shout at the top of my lungs, “Come Out!” What do you think they would do? Depends on who they are and where they live, they may start by dialing 911 and ask from behind the door, “Who’re you? What do you want?” or maybe even come out with a shotgun and tell me to get off the property. What is the difference between the first two and the last reactions? The first two recognized my voice and knew me but the last one didn’t.

To understand the sign behind this miracle, you have to back up to John 10 and get the context: John 10   2 “…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 7 Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them….14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. Then John tells us that they began to argue over whether he was crazy or had a demon. 26 But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” So, guess what they did. They tried to stone him again. Listen carefully to what Jesus said to them then – 37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.” In other words, if there’s a contradiction between my works and the Father’s (God’s), then don’t believe in me. But if my works lineup with the works of the Father (God), then believe the works and in turn believe that the Father is in me and I am in him.

What are the kind of works that the Father does? John 5:21 “For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26 “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.” John 6:39 “This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.” Repeatedly, Jesus told them that raising the dead and giving them life was the work of the Father (God). Jesus was sent by his Father to carry on his work.

With that in mind, let’s return to the miracle of Lazarus.

  • Jesus heard about Lazarus’ sickness but delayed coming for two days. Why? He said in John 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Meaning: Lazarus was going to be an object lesson to prove that Jesus was/is the Son of God. 2 days turned into 4 days and Lazarus died. Meaning: This was not going to be an ordinary healing miracle. This was going to be the big one, just like magicians do their toughest trick in the end.
  • When Jesus got there, Martha had lost all hope but Jesus challenged her in John 11 25 “…I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She replied 27 “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” She was a sheep who heard the voice of the shepherd.
  • Mary also doubted and said to Jesus in John 11 32 “…Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.” The words are literally “he got angry in his spirit and stirred up in himself.” Why? Because here was a sheep who was not hearing his voice but acting like those outside the fold. Jesus was so upset that when he got to the tomb, he wept. Now some people think that he wept because he loved Lazarus or he was moved by the sorrow of the family members. The word for Jesus weeping is dakruo while the word for Mary and the Jewish people weeping is klaio. These were not tears of sorrow but of anger.
  • As he made his way to the tomb, they continued to doubt him and verse 38 says, “Jesus, again groaning in Himself…” Same word as verse 33. Why? Because he was surrounded by those who were deaf to him.
  • When Jesus commanded them to move the stone, Martha objected in 39 “…Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Now the sheep who was listening to his voice is not listening either. Listen to Jesus’ response: 40 “…Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” 41 “…And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Then he cried with a loud voice and the irony of ironies, the living people couldn’t hear the voice of Jesus but the dead guy heard it and came back to life.

Let me draw some applications:

  • Power over life and death belongs to Jesus.
  • His sheep hear his voice and follow him.
  • If you are a sheep and you cannot hear his voice, doubt has come in your life.
  • God takes doubts very seriously.
  • Once you belong to him, he will never let you go.
  • If you’ve never heard his voice, you don’t belong to him.

LIFE IS A VAPOR (ARTICLE) by Abidan Paul Shah

LIFE IS A VAPOR – Article by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on April 2, 2016)

You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14)

Sylvia Edwards 4Monday afternoon two weeks ago I got a phone call that I have received before as a pastor but I never imagined whom it would be about. “Sylvia Edwards died.” I thought I had misheard the name and so I asked – “Who did you say again?” I heard it right the first time. It was Sylvia. I couldn’t believe it…I saw her the night before at church! We talked about her singing at the coming Fourth of July program. She wasn’t feeling well but she was still excited about picking out the songs and getting started with the practices. If you knew Sylvia, you would know that she loved to sing and she wasn’t one to sit still very long! Now, two days later we were standing by her graveside – “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust…”

Life is indeed a vapor, a mist. It’s like breathing on a glass window on a cool day. You see the condensation for a couple of seconds and then it’s gone. Such is life. The Bible repeatedly warns us about the brevity and unpredictability of life – 1 Chronicles 29:15 “…Our days on earth are as a shadow, And without hope.” Job 7:7,9 “…my life is a breath!…As the cloud disappears and vanishes away, So he who goes down to the grave does not come up.” Psalms 102:11 “My days are like a shadow that lengthens, And I wither away like grass.” In spite of all such warnings, many still live as if they have all the time in the world.

Sylvia Edwards singing at Clearview with her sister Linda Twisdale

Sylvia Edwards singing at Clearview with her sister Linda Twisdale

Listen to what the Bible says – “Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’” (James 4:15) This does not mean that God is against planning. He wants us to plan but He also wants us to acknowledge Him in all our planning. He wants us to remember that our life is a gift from God. It means much more than saying – “Lord willing I’ll be at church Sunday.” It means living life knowing that our every breath, heartbeat, and brainwave is on loan from God and can be taken away from us any moment. Sylvia knew that and so lived her life. How about us?

Many of us waste time on the trivial and miss the important. “One of these days I am going to spend time with my children.” “One of these days I am going to take my wife on a special date.” “One of these days I am going to bake that pie for my husband.” (Ladies – I know that seems trivial but not for us!) “One of these days I am going to stop by and see my parents.” “One of these days I am going to make things right with my brother.” “One of these days I am going to call my sister.” God wants us to stop procrastinating and start doing what is good – Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Did you know that procrastination is a sin?! It is especially when we delay with God. “One of these days I am going to turn my life around.” “One of these days I am going to church.” “One of these days I am going to read my Bible.” “One of these days I am going to give my life to Christ.” Unfortunately, that day never comes and we keep sliding away from God. We’re like the fool who said – “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” But God said to him, “Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:19-20)

Make it right with God today…not because you might die tonight…but because you have to live tomorrow.

How To Beat Death

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HOW TO BEAT DEATH? by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

howtobeatdeath-page-001Today we are celebrating Easter Sunday. It commemorates the day Jesus rose from the grave. With that in mind, I am preaching a message titled “HOW TO BEAT DEATH.” Unless Jesus comes for us first, death is coming to all of us.

Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Overall Background: If you ever want to kill a conversation, mention death. If you ever want people to avoid you, bring up the subject of death. Most people are afraid of death. One evidence of that is the number of euphemisms we have come up with for death – Bite the dust, kicked the bucket, passed away, is in a better place, R.I.P., etc. Bottom line: people don’t want to face the great unknown, the great beyond. The Bible has the most balanced view of death. On the one hand, it deals with the reality, finality, and brutality of death but, on the other hand, it also reminds us that death doesn’t have to be an enemy, it’s not final, and it is in fact the beginning of another life that never ends and its wonderful! It does that not by giving us cute euphemisms but hope in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that through Jesus we can beat death.

Application: Are you afraid of death? If you don’t know Jesus, you should be. Saying – “What will be will be” is not enough because God has provided a way to decide how you will spend your life on the other side. To ignore what God has to say about life after death is to insult Him, reject His work, and bring His judgment upon us. Are you saved?

Three questions we will answer in this passage that will teach us how to beat death.

I. DID JESUS ACTUALLY BEAT DEATH?

Background: When you start talking about the resurrection of Jesus to people who don’t believe the Bible, you get the following responses:

  • It’s an ancient myth found in various religions (Gnostic redeemer, Mithras, or fertility cult) and Christianity is no different. The problem with that is that there is zero parallel in ancient history of a human being to have died and come back to life and reappeared to people who knew him.
  • Some since the nineteenth century have claimed some rationalistic explanations for Jesus’ resurrection – Jesus never truly died. He just swooned. When someone says that, I like to say “How about if we were to flog you 39 times and then drive nails through your hands and feet, hang you on the cross which would dislocate your shoulders and you go into a hypovolemic shock. Then after you die pierce your side with a spear and break your legs. Then take you down and wrap you in a burial cloth, place you inside a tomb, and roll a big stone over it. What are your chances of getting out?!!”
  • Yet others claim that it’s a bunch of stories the disciples made up to cope with Jesus’ death or the church is behind it? The disciples themselves stole His body or they went to the wrong tomb or it was just a case of mass hallucination or it was just a spiritual experience. How do we answer that? Let’s just read the text and see if there are any clues that prove that the Bible is telling the truth and the disciples didn’t make this up and that Jesus actually did beat death. There are many.

Let’s look at a couple:

  • Luke 23   50 “Now behold, there was a man named Joseph, a council member…”
Garden Tomb 3

Garden Tomb Outside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

This is referring to the Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem – the supreme court of the Jewish people made up of 70 members and one High Priest.

“…a good and just man. 51 He had not consented to their decision and deed. He was from Arimathea, a city of the Jews, (Maybe Northwest of Jerusalem) who himself was also waiting for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53 Then he took it down, wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock, where no one had ever lain before.”

What a great risk? Not just for Joseph of Arimathea but for the gospel writers to mention this man’s name, position, and the town he came from! All I have to do is prove that he is not a member or from the town of Arimathea.

  • Luke 24 1 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them…

If I were making up the story of the resurrection, I would have chosen the high priest who happened to be in the area or Pilate who was out for an early morning ride or even one of the male disciples who were the first to witness the empty tomb. Instead, verse 10 “It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.” Women were not considered a legitimate and credible testimony.

  • Luke 24 1 “…came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.”

The disciples were not even expecting the resurrection. They came early to probably avoid any confrontation with those who had killed Jesus. They brought spices to embalm Him because as far as they were concerned, it was over.

  • Luke 24 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. And Matthew adds in Matthew 28  2 And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it.

Earthquake? It means everybody in the vicinity felt it. You are setting your self up big time if it didn’t happen.

We can go on and on from other passages but the point is clear – something extraordinary happened to the dead body of Jesus. It came back to life. The proofs are too many! The evidence is leaning heavily towards the fact that Jesus beat death. The disciples died believing that Jesus had risen. Nobody does that for a hoax, not a group.

Application: Do you find it hard to accept that Jesus beat death? Is it because you have examined the evidence or are you just repeating what you heard on TV or in a class or read in some magazine article? It’s too important to dismiss casually.

II. COULD JESUS ACTUALLY BEAT DEATH? 

Background: This is a deeper question. Although the written evidence shows that Jesus beat death and came back to life, the greater question is – “Is this even possible?” “Can human beings come back to life?” The overwhelming evidence says “No.” People die and that’s final. That’s why we have cemeteries and graveyards. Muslims have their “kabaristans,” Hindus have their “shamshan ghats,” Parsis have their “Tower of Silence,” and Native Americans have their “Burial Mounds.”

Death is universal unless you’re not human. Then, you’re not bound by death.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb

Church of the Holy Sepulchre Empty Tomb (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

Who was Jesus? We know that He was a human being because He died. But He was more – Listen to verse 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. (Matthew tells us that they were angels.) 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

The key phrase here is “Son of Man.” Some people think that Son of God refers to Jesus being God’s Son, fully God, and Son of Man refers to Jesus being Mary’s Son, fully Man. Although, that sounds pretty good, there’s more in that title than that. You have to go to the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament to understand the true meaning of that title. Daniel 7  13  “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. 14  Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed.

Repeatedly in the Gospels Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of Man. What He was claiming was deity. He was claiming that He was God. Just a few chapters earlier in Luke 21:27 Jesus said, “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” When Judas came to betray Him, He said in Luke 22:48 “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” Then in Luke 22 66 As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, 67 “If You are the Christ, tell us.” But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. 68 And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. 69 Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” 70   Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” 71   And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”

Here’s the point – If Jesus was the Son of Man, then He was God and as God who created life and gives life and sustains life, death has no power over Him.

On the Day of Pentecost when Peter preached, He said in Acts 2 that even though they had crucified Him, God raised Him – 24 “…having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Then in Acts 3:15 he called Him the Prince of life.”

Application: Do you believe that Jesus was the Son of Man? If so, then the Resurrection is not a problem, the Virgin birth is not a problem, and walking on water is not a problem. Miracles are not a problem. By the way, the greatest miracle is none of them. It is the resurrection of a dead soul to life everlasting. Have you been resurrected?

III. WILL I BE ABLE TO BEAT DEATH? 

Let’s go back to verse 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

Garden Tomb 2

Garden Tomb Inside (All images © 2015 Abidan and Nicole Shah)

When did Jesus say that? Luke 9:22 “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.” Was this just casual information? Luke 9:44 “Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” Meaning: He really wanted them to get the reality of the resurrection. Why? It had a tremendous implication for their life! When we receive Jesus as our Savior, His life begins to flow through us. It’s the life of God. It’s the life that death cannot conquer. When I die, because of the life of Jesus in me, I am coming back to life just like Him. In other words, I am going to beat death like He did.

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 14:19 “A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also.

Romans 8:11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

1 Corinthians 15 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is an old folk tale titled as the “Appointment in Samarra” (retold by W. Somerset Maugham [1933]) – “There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the marketplace I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was Death that jostled me.  She looked at me and made a threatening gesture, now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate.  I will go to Samarra and there Death will not find me.  The merchant lent him his horse, and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks and as fast as the horse could gallop he went.  Then the merchant went down to the marketplace and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threating getsture to my servant when you saw him this morning?  That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise.  I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.”

Invitation: Are you ready to beat death? Through Jesus you can!

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