Sunday, July 5, 2015

Confessing Jesus before men: I am the resurrection and the life

And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. (Luke 12:8-9 NASB) 

"Confess before men" is a phrase that, in Greek, means to say the same the same things about Jesus that He says about Himself. In this series, we have reviewed the I AM's, including I AM the Bread of Life, I AM the Light of the WorldI AM the DoorI AM the Good Shepherd (pasture), and I AM the Good Shepherd.

Our topic for today is "I AM the Resurrection and the Life". 

I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies..." (John 11:25 NASB)

The context of Jesus' statement is critical for understanding. As John 11 begins, Jesus and His disciples received word that Lazarus, Jesus' dear friend, is critically ill. "This sickness is not to end in death," Jesus told them. The most important word in that sentence is end. The sickness might result in death, but it would not end in death. It was a critical distinction, but one the disciples may have missed. 

Jesus waited two days before leaving for Bethany. The disciples knew there was a plot to kill Jesus and begged Him not to go, but Jesus was adamant. "I'm going." By the time they arrived, Lazarus was already dead. Jesus had missed his chance to say goodbye, or so it seemed.

Martha charged out to greet Him, bristling with indignation. "If you had been here, my brother would not have died." Jesus assured Martha, "Your brother will rise again." Martha responded, (Leanna Paraphrase) "I know all about that, Jesus. He'll rise again in the resurrection on the last day. I want my brother now." Mary and the crowds felt the same. 

"He opened the eyes of the blind. Couldn't Jesus have prevented Lazarus' death?"

Imagine the interaction for a moment. In my mind's eye, I can see Jesus smile and give Martha a hug. "Martha, my friend," He might have said, "I AM the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?" She nodded, "Yes, Lord. I believe you are the Christ."

Jesus could have prevented her suffering, but He did not.

If He had, Martha and the people present that day would have missed a miracle and an understanding of the most critical piece of Jesus' message. They would have been ill-prepared for the very near future. Because of Lazarus' death and the resurrection Jesus would bring, they would be ready to face Jesus' death. None of that preparation could come without the suffering of losing Lazarus.

Their pain had a point.

Jesus was heartbroken for what His friends were enduring. "Let's go to the grave," He told them. When he stood in front of the tomb, He instructed the people to "remove the stone". No one wanted to open the grave. Lazarus had been there for four days. It wouldn't be a pretty sight or smell. 

Jesus insisted and overruled the crowd. It was a good thing He did. With three words, Jesus changed the understanding of everyone present that day. "LAZARUS COME FORTH," He called. Lazarus, still wrapped in grave clothes, came forth.

What we often forget in times of heartbreak and tragedy is that the pain and suffering are never wasted. Like with Lazarus' death, the devastating loss can be used to prepare us for something that is to come. 

Without the lessons gained in sorrow, we may be ill-prepared for the next step in our journey. 

No matter what we face, the outcome is not the end, because Jesus is the resurrection and the life. When we belong to Him, the promise of our eternal destiny changes what seems like the end of hope, the end of joy, the end of life into the end of suffering and the beginning of life. When our life on earth ends, our body may be nothing more than a rotting hunk of flesh. Our soul, however, is no longer bound to this earth. We go to live with Jesus in heaven, and it is worth the journey.

Are you walking through a time of trial? Take hope. Jesus has overcome the world. He has overcome suffering, pain, death and loss. 

He may not end your pain and suffering, but He will never waste it. 
Our Father, give us hearts of endurance to persevere through hard times and the faith the lean on you in the good times and the bad. Use our suffering to make us more like Jesus and to glorify you. In Jesus' name, Amen.