What kind of life would we lead if we were guaranteed not to die? How would we live if we knew already that we were immortal like a kind of Superman or Superwoman?
I want us to realize that immortality is not just the stuff of Hollywood fiction but a reality in Christ.
We will examine the resurrection of Lazarus as an act of the One who dares to call himself “the resurrection and the life” as a taste of our own resurrection to eternal life.
Dilemmas in the Passage:
Why God Delays
Sometimes we pray and God delays. Why? Perhaps a look at the healing of Lazarus in John 11:1-45 will provide some clues. Though not one of the twelve disciples, Lazarus was clearly one of Jesus’ closest friends. When Jesus heard of his friend’s sickness, he indicated God’s purpose by saying that the illness would be used for God’s glory and God's Son’s glory. While others panicked and were concerned, Jesus was calm in his faith. Then he went on to say that God’s purpose was “so that you may believe.” Lazarus’ sisters both responded quite emotionally that if Jesus had been there sooner he would not have died. By this time, he had been dead four days. Again Jesus emphasized the necessity to believe. Even his prayer, which was a public prayer, was said so that hearers may believe.
A Real Man Weeps
Jesus wept. Why? What is it that made the manliest of men weep? Theologians speak of Jesus having been the most complete human being to have ever lived since Adam. Adam sinned. So too have we. Yet Jesus did not. He was like Adam in every regard except one — he never sinned. He had human nature in its pure, unblemished form. He was the only man who ever lived to have pure, untainted manliness. He was manhood personified as God intended it to be. If we look in John 11:1-45 we see that Jesus was deeply moved. Men who have no feelings are not real men. Was that emotion anger as some translations suggest or heartfelt compassion upon people with so little faith? It’s hard to tell. One thing for sure: a real man was moved to tears.
A Great Miracle
Some people seem almost obsessed with miracles. They chatter incessantly about people being healed and promises of wealth. Among those addicted to the fad, the greatest miracle of all is spoken about in terms of someone resurrected from the dead. Such a miracle is recorded in John 11:1-45. However, even that miraculous resurrection was only temporary. It was not the greatest miracle of all that Jesus can perform. When we are overly focused upon physical miracles, the ultimate resurrection seems to take a back seat. That event will be no temporary resuscitation to life, but a resurrection to permanent life forever more. Charlatans and false prophets easily take advantage of the hysteria surrounding those who desire miracles now. When we focus our minds on our permanent home, it is much harder for such deception to take hold of us.
What to Expect before a Miracle
Before Lazarus’ resurrection (John 11:1-45) several things happened, perhaps serving as clues as to what we might expect before God intervenes. Delay: God may not always intervene immediately. Jesus stayed several more days after hearing of Lazarus’ death. Opposition: When Jesus finally decided to go, the disciples tried to dissuade him. Negativity: Thomas tried to disparage Jesus’ plans by suggesting they may as well all go and die. Blame: Martha and later Mary told Jesus that if he had been there her brother would not have died. Doubt: Martha also doubted that anyone could do anything after her brother had been dead four days. God may choose to bless us with a temporary miracle, and our faith may be tried by delay, opposition, negativity, blame and doubt. But that miracle is insignificant compared to the permanent resurrection of salvation.
Jesus taught to pray in private (Matthew 6:6)? Why then do others pray in God's house (Matthew 21:13), with others in a small group (Acts 1:14), by a river (Acts 16:13), on the seashore (Acts 21:5) and everywhere (1 Timothy 2:8)? The context of Jesus’ instructions regarding private prayer and these other examples show that he did not teach us about one exclusive place for prayer, but rather to highlight what our motive ought to be in prayer. If we are uncertain that our motive may be to show off spiritually or promote ourselves as super-spiritual, then it would be better to pray in private. In fact Jesus himself prayed in public but from a different attitude of heart. His motive was for the benefit of others, that they may believe (John 11:1-45).
The Good News in the Passage:
AM the Resurrection
A close friend of our Savior was named God-helps (Lazarus) who came from a town called Affliction (Bethany). He died. He had two sisters, Obstinacy (Mary) and Mistress (Martha). They too were close friends of Jesus. The healing of Lazarus (John 11:1-45) includes vision for the here and now, not just the future. When speaking to Martha, he did not say that he would be the resurrection on that final day, although he certainly will be that too. He spoke in the present tense, “I AM the resurrection and the life.” Could it be that when we believe in Jesus, we already enter from death to life? We live in Affliction of death. God helps. We no longer need to fear death, because when we believe in him who is life, we have life too.
I am the Resurrection and the life
What a great claim to divinity (John 11:1-45) that Jesus has the power over resurrection and life! Notice that he said “am” and not “will be.” He personalizes resurrection in himself. That could have been a clue about what was to take place. Jesus demonstrated his authority over life and death by raising Lazarus. The one who believes in Jesus, even though dying like all human beings, will live. He will never die. The body may die, but the spirit lives on received into heavenly places. The resurrection of Lazarus is a mere temporary sample of what Jesus will do for all believers after death of the body. We may seem dead at times. Our hopes and dreams may seem to be dashed. Jesus promises life to all who put their trust, not in this world, but in him.
Take off the Grave Clothes
From the day we are born we begin to die. Our body’s cells are like a wound up clock winding down. It’s as if our bodies are already dressed in grave clothes. As marvellous as science is, it has not yet mastered life’s greatest enemy, death. Yet there is someone who has the power over life and death and has already proven it (John 11:1-45). As "God in the flesh", Jesus resurrected people temporarily from death, which was a foretaste of the resurrection to eternal life. In a skeptical world it is quite a challenge to hear that whoever lives by believing in Jesus will never die. That’s what he said as he boldly claimed, I am the resurrection and the life. So let’s take off the grave clothes. If we believe in Jesus Christ we are alive forever.
Our bodies may be dying every day, but our spirits will live on in Christ. Let us take off the grave clothes and live our lives in Jesus, the life of those who will live forever.