How is Jesus the Resurrection and Life? #Comfort from the Word During the Coronavirus Crisis. #82
Hello Friends – we’ve made it to the weekend, not that it means as much as it used to. Our family went for a walk today – still allowed under day three of the California Coronavirus shutdown – and my sixteen year old son asked what day it was tomorrow. Upon finding out it was Saturday, he sort of sadly remarked, “I guess that doesn’t really mean anything anymore.” And honestly, at least in the short term – I suppose he’s right to some degree. How rapidly the world has changed, and yet, how constant is the character and love of God:
5 “I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against sorcerers and adulterers; against those who swear falsely; against those who oppress the hired worker, the widow, and the fatherless; and against those who deny justice to the resident alien. They do not fear me,” says the Lord of Armies. 6 “Because I, the Lord, have not changed, you descendants of Jacob have not been destroyed.Malachi 3:5-6
He is still on His throne. Yes, He is shaking the world, but He is good, and we are not consumed because of His great mercy. Today’s Bible readings include Exodus 32, Proverbs 8, John 11 and Ephesians 1. Exodus 32 contains what may be one of the most unintentionally funny passages in the Bible – a passage that shows us 80+ year old men are capable of coming up with excuses for their bad behavior that are just as bad as the excuses of children and teenagers:
21 Then Moses asked Aaron, “What did these people do to you that you have led them into such a grave sin?”22 “Don’t be enraged, my lord,” Aaron replied. “You yourself know that the people are intent on evil. 23 They said to me, ‘Make gods for us who will go before us because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ 24 So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off,’ and they gave it to me. When I threw it into the fire, out came this calf!”
Our focus passage today is John 11, and our big Bible question comes from verses 23-26
23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”John 11:23-26
Things are scary right now, and if most of us are being honest, our great fear is all about death. Maybe we aren’t ourselves afraid to die, but maybe we are afraid somebody close to us will, and that is why the world is shaking from this coronavirus situation. To be clear, this is NOT another flu, or a spicy flu. Consider Italy, which is being devastated by the Coronavirus. During this flu season from October to January 20 approximately 2.7 MILLION people in Italy got the flu (certainly more have since then) During that time period, around 240 people died. 2.7 MILLION infected and 240 deaths. That’s bad – that’s a lot of flu, and a lot of sadness to lose 240 people. However, the Coronavirus is quite different. Thus far, since January, 47000 Italians have gotten the coronavirus and more than 4000 have died. I’m NOT saying this to frighten you in the least, but to sober us up – especially those of us who are dismissing this as overhyped and overblown. This thing is bad, and it is devastating Washington, California and New York right now in a way that shows us Americans are NOT exempt in the least from this thing.
So – what is our response? To be afraid?? No, actually. My son tonight sent me a fantastic video from Francis Chan that underscored one important theological truth that we should all be aware of right now: The MOST OFTEN REPEATED COMMAND IN THE BIBLE IS, “FEAR NOT!” So – HOW can we not give into fear in the midst of this scary pandemic? I’m glad you asked – let’s read John 11, and then come back and talk about it.
The reason that we don’t give into fear in the face of a very real and powerful enemy like coronavirus is because the worst it can do is kill. You might think that is pretty bad, and it is pretty bad…but it is not an ultimate bad. It is a temporary bad. I recall when I was a teenager – the exact age of my son now – I was riding on my ten speed in the slanted cul-de-sac that our home was located on. I was wearing shorts, and spinning in ever tightening circles until all of the sudden, my bike lost leverage, and I skidded across the asphalt. Unfortunately, that skid took off almost a square foot of flesh from the side of my thigh – which was horrible painful. It took about a month or more to heal, and it was miserable for that month, because it would ‘weep’ or drain through my bandages and my clothes. GROSS! But you know what? That was so long ago, and so temporary, that I chuckle about it now, and don’t even cringe. Death will be like that when we are standing in the promise of Jesus being the resurrection and the life. Consider this paradoxical promise of Jesus in Luke 21:
16 You will even be betrayed by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends. They will kill some of you. 17 You will be hated by everyone because of my name, 18 but not a hair of your head will be lost. 19 By your endurance, gain your lives.Luke 21:16-18
YOU WILL BE BETRAYED, you will be HATED, you will be KILLED…but NOT A HAIR WILL BE LOST! How in the world can that be? And the wonderful answer is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Jesus – even if they die – WILL LIVE! That’s good news. For the follower of Jesus, to LIVE is Christ and to DIE is GAIN! How?! Because He IS the RESURRECTION and the LIFE! Consider Hebrews 6:
17 Because God wanted to show his unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner,Hebrews 6:17-20
And 1 John 3:
See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn’t know him. 2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when he appears, we will be like him because we will see him as he is. 3 And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself just as he is pure.1 John 3:1=3
In the coronavirus, we are facing a scary enemy, to be sure…but we face it with an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-merciful Jesus – with a HOPE in HIM that is FIRM AND SECURE like an anchor in our soul. Let’s close with a couple of C.S. Lewis thoughts on Jesus as the resurrection and the life. The first is pretty deep, so feel free to read it at the website, or back up and listen a couple of times:
He is the representative ‘Die-er’ of the universe: and for that very reason the Resurrection and the Life. Or conversely, because He truly lives, He truly dies, for that is the very pattern of reality. Because the higher can descend into the lower He who from all eternity has been incessantly plunging Himself in the blessed death of self-surrender to the Father can also most fully descend into the horrible and (for us) involuntary death of the body. Because Vicariousness is the very idiom of the reality He has created, His death can become ours. The whole Miracle, far from denying what we already know of reality, writes the comment which makes that crabbed text plain: or rather, proves itself to be the text on which Nature was only the commentary. In science we have been reading only the notes to a poem; in Christianity we find the poem itself.C. S. Lewis, A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works, ed. Patricia S. Klein, 1st ed. (New York: HarperOne, 2003), 139.
Then we come to the strangest story of all, the story of the Resurrection. It is very necessary to get the story clear. I heard a man say, ‘The importance of the Resurrection is that it gives evidence of survival, evidence that the human personality survives death.’ On that view what happened to Christ would be what had always happened to all men, the difference being that in Christ’s case we were privileged to see it happening. This is certainly not what the earliest Christian writers thought. Something perfectly new in the history of the Universe had happened. Christ had defeated death. The door which had always been locked had for the very first time been forced open. This is something quite distinct from mere ghost-survival. I don’t mean that they disbelieved in ghost-survival. On the contrary, they believed in it so firmly that, on more than one occasion, Christ had had to assure them that He was not a ghost. The point is that while believing in survival they yet regarded the Resurrection as something totally different and new. The Resurrection narratives are not a picture of survival after death; they record how a totally new mode of being has arisen in the Universe. Something new had appeared in the Universe: as new as the first coming of organic life. This Man, after death, does not get divided into ‘ghost’ and ‘corpse’. A new mode of being has arisen. That is the story. What are we going to make of it?C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, ed. Walter Hooper (HarperOne, 1994), 169–170.
Then Aslan stopped, and the children looked into the stream. And there, on the golden gravel of the bed of the stream, lay King Caspian, dead, with the water flowing over him like liquid glass. His long white beard swayed in it like water-weed. And all three stood and wept. Even the Lion wept: great Lion-tears, each tear more precious than the Earth would be if it was a single solid diamond. And Jill noticed that Eustace looked neither like a child crying, nor like a boy crying and wanting to hide it, but like a grown-up crying. At least, that is the nearest she could get to it; but really, as she said, people don’t seem to have any particular ages on that mountain.C. S. Lewis, Words to Live by: A Guide for the Merely Christian, ed. Paul F. Ford, Adobe Digital Edition. (HarperCollins e-books, 2009), 255–256.
“Son of Adam,” said Aslan, “Go into that thicket and pluck the thorn that you will find there, and bring it to me.”
Eustace obeyed. The thorn was a foot long and sharp as a rapier.
“Drive it into my paw, Son of Adam,” said Aslan, holding up his right fore-paw and spreading out the great pads towards Eustace.
“Must I?” said Eustace.
“Yes,” said Aslan.
Then Eustace set his teeth and drove the thorn into the Lion’s pad. And there came out a great drop of blood, redder than all redness that you have ever seen or imagined. And it splashed into the stream over the dead body of the King. At the same moment the doleful music stopped. And the dead King began to be changed. His white beard turned to grey, and from grey to yellow, and got shorter and vanished altogether; and his sunken cheeks grew round and fresh, and the wrinkles were smoothed, and his eyes opened, and his eyes and lips both laughed, and suddenly he leaped up and stood before them—a very young man, or a boy. (But Jill couldn’t say which, because of people having no particular ages in Aslan’s country. Even in this world, of course, it is the stupidest children who are most childish and the stupidest grown-ups who are most grown-up.) And he rushed to Aslan and flung his arms as far as they would go round the huge neck; and he gave Aslan the strong kisses of a King, and Aslan gave him the wild kisses of a Lion.
At last Caspian turned to the others. He gave a great laugh of astonished joy.