“Live Resurrection Now”
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do YOU believe this?”
On Thursday night we celebrated the Passover with Jesus and his disciples, and relived his Gethsemane agony in the garden. On Friday morning we re-membered ourselves to the crucified Christ, meditating on his seven sayings from the cross. Now Easter Sunday! We celebrate his bodily resurrection. If Jesus had not physically risen from the dead, our faith would be in vain. And his amazing words above, that he spoke before he raised his good friend, Lazarus, back to life (was dead for four days), would mean nothing. Jesus’ bodily resurrection vindicates him in all his claims, in all he did, and especially in his sacrificial death on the cross for our sin and death. He was indeed the Son of God! God in Jesus defeated death, the grave, sin, sickness and all evil. In fact, Jesus’ resurrection was the ‘Big Bang’ of God’s new creation, in the midst of the old creation! If you are in Christ, you are not only a new creation, but you participate in it’s exponential expansion to the ends of all (created) reality, to rule & reign with him over his new (and old) creation.
The story of Jesus defeating death in his ministry by raising Lazarus back to life was only possible – in retrospect – due to Jesus’ later bodily resurrection. The story of Lazarus’ raising and of Jesus’ resurrection is the message of LIVE RESURRECTION NOW!
The Text: Jesus The Resurrection
“I AM…” John records seven times Jesus using God’s holy name, “I AM”, from Ex 3:14-15. “I am the bread of life… the light of the world, etc” (John 6:35, 8:12,58, 10:7-8, 11, 11:25, 14:6, 15:1,5). Jesus is God in human skin. He is all who and what we need in every way!
“I AM the resurrection and the life… you will live, though you die… you will never die.” The Hebrew understanding of eternal life is embodied life; i.e. not an immortal disembodied spirit/soul set free from the body through death (Greek idea); rather a resurrected bodily person filled with God’s eternal kind of life, to rule and reign with him forever. To receive and to trust Jesus is to receive his resurrection, his eternal kind of life. Though we will physically die, we already have eternal life – we live resurrection now – with the guarantee that our bodies will rise again to enjoy consummated eternal life.
“The one who believes in me… by believing in me… do you believe this?” The key to ‘living resurrection now’ is faith in Jesus. To believe him is to trust, rely, depend on him. As we place our confidence in him in full trust, we discover that what he says he does, he is!
The Reality of Death
We know from the Hebrew scriptures that death is the enemy of humankind. Also from experience: we all instinctively fear death. It was a foreign intrusion into God’s pristine creation due to Adam & Eve’s sinful rebellion against God – trusting evil (the serpent’s word) over God (against God’s word). “Death” in Hebrew & Greek means “to separate”. Physical death separates us from our bodies, from our family and friends, causing great grief and pain, as seen in Martha and Mary when their brother Lazarus died. Spiritual death separates us from God. We go through various psycho-emotional deaths from time to time. There is the extreme pain of marriage sickness and eventual death – called divorce. And dysfunctional and broken family relationships leading to ‘family death’.
The cause(s) of death, in scripture, is sin and consequent sickness. Sickness is a foretaste of death: the mortality and corruption of our bodies. We all struggle with it till death, to await resurrection. Healing is a foretaste of resurrection: a power-surge of our future bodily resurrection made real here and now, a grace from God. But human nature – as with Martha (v. 21) and Mary (v. 32) – is to blame it on God: “if only YOU had been here he would not have died”. Our many “if onlys…” against God. Satan always seeks to separate us from God by blaming him, questioning his integrity. John says Lazarus died because of sickness, not because Jesus was not there! BUT Jesus DOES come to us in our death. He came to Lazarus after he had been dead for four days – the body stank with decay – showing that it’s NEVER too late for God to do the miracle of resurrection!
The Reality of Resurrection… Now!
In Martha’s hopelessness and blaming Jesus for the reality of Lazarus’ death, Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again” (vv.23f). She responded, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Then Jesus replied, “I AM that Last Day, I AM the Resurrection standing here in front of you! Do you believe this?” Jesus raised Lazarus there and then. But specifically how did he do it? And therefore, how do we receive and ‘live resurrection now’ in the death we are currently experiencing, and entombed in? Jesus went to where they laid Lazarus to take his stand before death…
- By Jesus’ compassion: He was moved by Mary’s weeping, and those who had come to comfort her and Martha… then “Jesus wept” (v.35, the shortest verse in the Bible!) His compassion on them in their loss, mixed with anger at death taking their beloved brother, moved him to action, to confront death. Jesus weeps with YOU in your death.
- By Jesus’ communion: He was in communion with his Father throughout Lazarus’ sickness and then death (vv.41-42). Jesus prayed for him. He prays and intercedes for us continually at the Father’s side (Heb 7:25). Jesus is praying for you right now!
- By Jesus’ command: He first asked for the stone in front of the tomb to be removed (v.39). We must remove any obstacle that prevents us from receiving resurrection now. Then he commanded: “Lazarus, come out!” This rebuked death and spoke life. Jesus stands before you in your sickness and death, and calls you by name, “…. come out” from the particular darkness, despair and death, that you’re going through, that entombs you. If you hear his voice (John 5:24-25) respond in faith: step out in trust. Act on his call, his command, as if it is true, and discover it to be so. Memorize Jesus’ words of healing and they will give life to your mortal body (Prov 4:20-22)
- By Jesus’ community: When Lazarus came out of the tomb, ALIVE, he was bound in his body and face by the strips of burial linen. Jesus told those present, including Mary and Martha, “take off the grave clothes and set him free” (v.44). Receiving resurrection now is a gift-miracle from Jesus, but living resurrection now involves community to complete the process of wholeness. I.e. you must (further) trust Jesus in and through his people, the local church to which you commit and belong, to complete your journey to healing and freedom. Some of our brothers and sisters, of course, try to take off our bandages rather roughly and insensitively, while others are tender and sensitive, exercising Jesus’ compassion. Either way, our coming out of death into life, and growing wholeness and freedom, involves yielding ourselves to Jesus’ community, trusting him as Head of his Church for his best.