We’re in John 11 this week. What a remarkable story. As we continue with the “I AM” statements, we see the tension in John bubbling as the authorities in Jerusalem want to kill Jesus. They knew who their messiah was supposed to be, and Jesus wasn’t what they were looking for. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (Jn 1:11). I don’t want to ever becomes too comfortable with my understanding of Jesus that I don’t recognize him when he’s standing in front of me. My prayer for us as a community is that we will always be people who come back to the Bible to make sure we are clear on who Jesus is.
“I AM the resurrection and the life…” This story about Lazarus is beautiful and frustrating all at the same time. I hope you don’t just read John 11 without being moved by it. Slow down your reading and feel the text from deep within you. There’s a meditative reading exercise that I was introduced to years ago. I’m sure it has a name, but I don’t remember it. Read the story in John 11 multiple times over a few days. Each time you read it, focus on a different character in the story. After you’ve read, spend time meditating on the emotions that person might have felt and their thoughts that aren’t shared in the text. Try to put yourself within the narrative in their place to understand the events from their perspective. What emotions do you feel? How does this open up your understanding of what is going on? How do you feel yourself relating to Jesus differently? What do you hear God telling you?
There are a hundred other questions you can ask. I hope you give this a try. I try to let my imagination run a bit. What were Lazarus’ first thoughts when he opened his eyes to see the underside of burial wraps? What did Jesus do for two days while he waited to go to Bethany? What is running through Thomas’ head as he encourages the other disciples that they should all go die with Jesus? How did he reflect back on this moment when Jesus died on the cross? How did this desire to follow Jesus to death then take on new meaning as the Resurrected Christ embraced him?
Jesus’ resurrection changes everything. Like we’ve been saying all along, these “I AM” statements aren’t just nice metaphors for us to have different perspectives on what Jesus thinks about his ministry to the world. These are proclamations that standing before them is God in the flesh, their LORD, and their Savior who came to give them LIFE. There was some debate amongst the Jews when it came to the resurrection at the end of time. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection. They believed that this life was all you got and then all was done. Most Jews looked forward to the day when God would restore all things, make them new, and bring creation back to the fullness as God created it in the first place. They weren’t looking to escape this creation to have a spiritual existence somewhere beyond the blue.
They believed that when God created the heavens and the earth and called them “Good,” he meant it. God created perfectly, and sin broke it. They believed that in the resurrection, God would restore the brokenness and we would perfectly be with God, in his presence, in the good creation as he intended in the first place. When Jesus says, “I AM the resurrection and the life…” the image in Revelation 21:1-5 should come to mind when Jesus stands up and says, “Behold, I am making all things new!” There’s a lot more to say about the resurrection and I think a lot more should be said about it because we talk more about what happens “to our souls” immediately after death than we talk about what happens to our bodies when the resurrection comes.
So, what happened with Lazarus? Was Lazarus resurrected or resuscitated? He wasn’t the first to be raised from the dead. The widow’s son was raised in Luke 7 and the daughter of Jairus in Luke 8. After Lazarus, Peter raised Dorcas in Acts 9 and Paul raised Eutychus in Acts 20. What do they all have in common? They all died again later. They were all restored to their people for a time, but all died again to then wait for the resurrection to come. The difference between what happened with them and what happened with Jesus is that Jesus came through death and came out on the other side into new life. Not only is he the resurrection, he is the life. What we know now is but a “reflection in a dim mirror; then [when the resurrection comes] we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully…” (1 Cor. 13:12).
We are people who live in hope of the resurrection where God will make all things new. We weep with those who weep but our mourning is not forever because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life.