Wednesday, April 23, 2014

I am the resurrection and the life

John 11:25-26

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” [1] John 11:25-26 (John 11:1-44 for context)

The “her” in this passage is Mary.  That is Mary of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.  If you are unfamiliar with this story you might think we are speaking of a 1960’s acoustic folk trio, but actually these were dear friends of Jesus as he walked the earth during his ministry.  Lazarus had fallen ill and, while waiting on Christ who purposely delayed his return, he had died. 

Undoubtedly Mary was dealing with a few things here.  First, she was dealing with tragedy and all the emotions and thoughts that run alongside of this all too common human experience.  Doubt, fear, grief, confusion, angst, anger, she was feeling all this. And more.  All at once.  Been there?

But it wasn’t just these emotions with which she was dealing.  She was also experiencing the added sting of failed expectations.  She knew Jesus could have healed Lazarus.  She knew that Lazarus was Jesus’ friend and that Jesus, being their friend and being a good man, did not find pleasure or joy in Lazarus’ succumbing to death.  “So why did my brother die,” we can hear Martha saying in her heart.  “Why did Jesus, our friend and teacher, delay his return and allow my brother to suffer death and for us and so many others to endure days of anguish and grief?”  The accusation in Martha’s greeting in this passage is as clear as it is natural.  

And before we are too quick to chastise Martha for her lack of faith or her audacity to come to Christ in this manner we should note,  

the Lord did not reprove Martha for her words! It is not sinful to tell God how you feel. That may sound like heresy in the light of some things we have been taught, and I want to qualify it by saying that we should always be reverent toward God. He is God! We are his creatures and must ever bow to him. But that does not mean we are not allowed to express to him how we feel. Some of us have feelings that ought to be shared with God. The feelings are not necessarily right, but they are feelings that need to be brought honestly before God. But we do not, for fear of losing something. God is more patient and accepting than we realize.[2]

God is not surprised by our struggles and he is merciful.  More merciful than we could ever know.  And he is good.  And his goodness is beyond what we would even dare dreaming it could be. Martha knew that Lazarus, and her, would ultimately be cared for in the resurrection of the last day, but Jesus wanted to show here that those last days were upon her and the kingdom was at hand. He wanted her to know that the care of the Father for her brother, and her for that matter, was not highly probable but absolutely certain.  It was not a partial care but absolute.  And the love and care of the Father was not future tense but was standing right before her eyes—and it was more than she could have imagined.

How could Jesus speak so boldly and assuredly about the Father’s provision of love and grace?  Simply put, because he is the Father’s provision of love and grace.

Jesus does not say simply that he will give resurrection and life. So much are resurrection and life associated with him that he says that he is the resurrection and the life. The linking of resurrection and life perhaps points to the truth that the life he brings is the life of the age to come. It is the “eternal life” of which he speaks elsewhere (see John 1:4; 3:15). Those who believe on Jesus will live even though they die. The paradox brings out the great truth that physical death is not the important thing. For the heathen or the unbeliever death may be thought of [in their mind] as the end. Not so for those who believe in Christ. They may die in the sense that they pass through the door we call physical death, but they will not die in the fuller sense. Death for them is but the gateway to further life and fellowship with God…. It means that the moment we put our trust in Jesus we begin to experience that life of the age to come which cannot be touched by death. Jesus is bringing Martha a present gift, not simply the promise of a future good.[3]
Jesus looked at Martha and spoke to her heart.
I am your hope.
I am your assurance.
I am your comfort.
I am your peace.
I am your resurrection and I am your life.

And then he asked her a question that cut straight to the core of the matter, a question that not only Martha but all of us must answer.  He asked, “Do you believe this?”

It is not just enough to know that Jesus offers hope if he is not your hope.  It is not enough to know that comfort is found in Christ if he is not your comfort.  It is not enough to know that Jesus is the peace of God if, by your unbelief and rebellion, you remain at enmity with the Lord.  You can affirm that Jesus died for sins, but do you believe he died for your sins?  You can be assured that he was raised for the justification of sinners, but was he raised for your justification.  Christ was saying to Martha that, regardless of her emotions or her doubts or her fears, he is the resurrection and the life.  That is a fact. But apart from her faith, this is of no benefit to her and she remains as spiritually dead in her sin as her brother is physically dead in the tomb.  It offers her no hope.  It offers her no peace.  It offers her no comfort.  So he called her to believe.  And he calls us today to do the same.

The eternal Son of God took on human flesh, lived a sinless life, died in the place of any who would believe, rose victoriously from the dead and ascended into heaven from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead.  He is the resurrection.  He is the life.  Today, do you believe this?

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Jn 11:25–26). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
[2] Hughes, R. K. (1999). John: that you may believe (p. 284). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
[3] Morris, L. (1995). The Gospel according to John (pp. 488–489). Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.