Letters to the Prison - Week 124

Hello, everyone!  Join our study of John’s gospel.  Last week, Jesus casually told Martha (whose brother, Lazarus, had died four days ago) “Your brother will rise again” (John 11:23).  What a simple, casual, yet confidently authoritative statement to make.  A person just doesn’t say something like that in a moment like that unless they have supreme confidence that it’s true.  Martha believes Jesus, but she’s missing his imminent intent.  Look what she says:
•“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”   -John 11:24
Once again, we see Martha speaking from the core of her beliefs.  Many Jewish people in her day (like the Sadducees -Matthew 22:23) did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  Yet here is Martha speaking confidently from her beliefs that Lazarus will rise from the dead one day.  Where did she get such beliefs and such confidence?  From listening to Jesus’ teaching, seeing his works, and believing what he says.
What follows, dear friends, in Jesus’ response to Martha’s simple yet confident faith and the conversation that follows, is one of the most important points in our study.  So, we’re going to see it in its entirety first and then spend some time lingering over each part.  Look at this:
• 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?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” -John 11:25-27
This moment is so hugely important to our study because in it we see Jesus making a very clear statement about who he is.  We also see him describing very clear implications that follow from his claim about who he is.  Then, we see him asking Martha a very direct question about all of it and we then see her response.  This, friends, is the very center of what it means to be a Christian.  It is in the central core belief that Jesus describes, and that Martha affirms that everything else in our Christian life finds meaning, purpose, and direction.
First, consider Jesus’ mind-blowing “I am” statement.  Jesus speaks this way often of himself.  It is one of God’s favorite ways of identifying himself (Exodus 3:14).  Note also once again the lack of any emphatic reassurance of the truth of Jesus’ claim.  One would think that this would be a great time for Jesus to say “truly, truly.”  But here, Jesus doesn’t even offer a “surely” or an “I tell you the truth…”  It is just a simple, almost casual, yet astounding claim: “I am the resurrection and the life.”  In a few short words, Jesus claims to be the source, authority over, and deliverer of life.  Jesus claims the power and authority to give life, take it away, and give it again… to everyone.  How can this even be possible?  The implication is that Jesus is present with each person from before the beginning of their life to after it ends… eternally.  The only way that’s possible is if Jesus is God… eternally present with supreme authority over all life.  This is a stunning statement for Jesus to make, to say the least.  And do we believe it?
The answer to that question matters because Jesus also claims to have the authority to set the condition for how people gain the eternal life he has the authority and power to offer.  And the condition is:  Belief in Jesus.  There’s so much more to say about this amazing moment in redemptive history.  Until next week.  We love you!

Dean A.

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