Losing My Literalism: I Am the Resurrection and the Life

John 11 is a chapter that really shows the heart of Jesus. Mary and Martha were close with Jesus and they had a brother named Lazarus. Lazarus was gravely ill and I find the statement starting at verse five to be extremely profound. “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”

Did that jump out to you? Jesus loved these people dearly. And because of this love, Jesus waited a couple days before coming to His sick friend and his sisters. Our sensibilities would say the exact opposite! Go to your friend to comfort him! You are the Son of God! Heal him! Do not delay! Do not let him suffer any longer! But Jesus loved Lazarus, Mary and Martha. And in His love and His understanding that eclipses ours, He opted to wait a few days, arriving once Lazarus had already expired.

John 11:11-15
After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 

Jesus knew what had happened. The passing of Lazarus was not some surprise to Jesus. The plan all along was for the life of Lazarus to be used to the glory of God, and if that meant that tasting death twice would be to the glory of God, so be it. The way Jesus defined Lazarus’ predicament was to say that he had fallen asleep, so naturally the disciples took that statement literally. Why travel there if we don’t have to? Don’t take the risk for someone napping! He’ll be better soon enough! So Jesus spoke plainly to these men. Lazarus had died and that was for their good. It is better for Lazarus to have died so that Jesus could demonstrate to the disciples the power of God!

Check yourself here. Have you ever attended a funeral for someone you deemed to be too young to pass? Have you ever wondered what God could have done with that person if only they were allowed to remain longer? That is the sort of thing the disciples were contemplating when Jesus said it was for their good that Lazarus was allowed to die. And it was for their good that Jesus first defined the death in a metaphorical way.

Why? Because we too need to rethink how we approach death. It is part of the curse. It is the last enemy that will one day be defeated. But it is a lesson that will be used to the glory of God in this lifetime. Jesus equated physical death with sleep. Jesus said that this death would be used to the glory of God. This is true of Lazarus and it will one day be true for you. Whether you are found in Christ or not, your death will be to His glory, for all things work together for good. The highest good is the glory of God, and your life will be used to advance His glory whether it be in a demonstration of mercy or of justice.

You know the rest of the story. Jesus wept bitterly over this death. The same death that He could have stopped four days prior. Why then did Jesus weep? It wasn’t a cry against things beyond His control. It wasn’t sadness for the loss of one about to be resurrected. Jesus wept over the presence of sin in this world, knowing that Lazarus would be returned and would one day die yet again. Jesus wept as He looked directly at the wages of sin in this world.

Thankfully, Jesus was literal when He called Lazarus forth. Had Jesus not specified who was to come out of the grave, the entire cemetery would have been crawling with those rising from the dead in a similar way that they did upon the death of Jesus. As it was, Lazarus came from the grave and Jesus directed others to begin removing the grave clothes from him.

Do you notice a sense that the disciples began to require less instruction as the story continues? They were firmly in the literalist camp to begin with, but as they became more and more familiar with Jesus, they were able to better follow what was being said. Perhaps they were starting to get it. Maybe they were learning to wait and see rather than speak and expose your own lack of understanding. Either way, they were starting to come into their own.

The response from the religious leaders over this was to seek to put both Jesus and Lazarus to death. The same people who claimed to see clearly had their vision focused on the wrong thing. They wanted a status quo that looked like themselves. Jesus came to redeem the world and to make a new normal that would spread throughout all of creation. One goal was death. One goal was, and continues to be, life.

Choose you this day whom you will serve.

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Published by CoffeeSwirls