Letters to the Prison - Week 125

Hello, everyone.  If you need a Bible, ask for one.  We’re continuing our study of John 11.  Last week, we began to examine one of the most important conversations in the history of mankind.  It’s so important that we should read it again (and again):
•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
Why is this conversation so important?  Because it discusses the very center of Christianity.
Jesus makes a clear claim to be the source and authority over the lives of all people.  That’s mind-blowing enough.  Yet look what follows.  Jesus speaks these words in the presence of a woman whose brother (Lazarus) has been physically dead four days.  And if you’ve been reading ahead (we hope you have!), we’ll see that Lazarus is about to come out of his tomb.  Alive.  Yet where is Lazarus today?  Physically dead.  Again.  Possibly even murdered by the same group who sought to put Jesus to death (John 12:10).  So, what sort of a life is Jesus offering?  What does he mean by “never die?”  One of his closest friends on earth is already dead… and will die again.  So, Jesus can’t possibly mean that believers will physically live forever.  He must therefore have eternal life in mind… the “abundant life” he promised in the last chapter (John 10:10) --a life that avoids the “second death” (Revelation 20) which, again, does not refer to a physical death since Lazarus has clearly died a second physical death.  Imagine that experience!
We see then that the authority Jesus claims isn’t just over the physical lives of all people at all times (as if that’s not an astounding claim by itself).  No, Jesus claims authority over the eternal lives of all people at all times… and that those who believe Jesus’ claim about himself will receive eternal life.  Then, without missing a step, Jesus asks Martha to affirm her belief in this mind-blowing, astounding claim.  And, without hesitation, here is what Martha affirms:
•“Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.” -John 11:27
That, dear friends, is as simple a statement of faith as one could imagine.  The only difference between what Martha says and what we today might say is that Jesus has already come into the world and that he will come again.  Martha’s answer to the main question (is Jesus who he says he is?) is, plainly: “Yes, Lord;  I believe…”  Those of us who affirm this today also have the eternal life that Jesus has the power and authority to provide.  This is what it means to be a Christian.  We understand what Jesus has claimed about himself, we realize what he has offered us, and we believe.  Further, as Martha’s response shows, that belief informs every aspect of how we conduct our lives.  We observed over the last few weeks how Martha speaks and behaves in ways the reflect her true beliefs.  She’s done that very thing here again.  She doesn’t hesitate to publicly affirm her belief in Jesus even though many who are listening might be enemies of Christ.  She doesn’t need time to think about it.  She isn’t concerned about what might be in it for her.  She doesn’t have any conditions or demands of her own.  She simply believes and her actions and words display that belief over and over again.  Is that like us?  Or not?  We love you.

Dean A.

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