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Jesus: Our Everlasting


Joy: Resurrection Joy Here and Now

Friday, December 22 | by Dr. Michelle Henry

Today's Reading

John 11:17-44

Jesus' resurrection of Lazarus from the dead was the final miracle that singularly demonstrated his divinity. Prior to this event, most may have believed Jesus to be a powerful prophet and healer, an extraordinary man of great substance and deep faith, but they could not fully grasp the truth: He was equally and simultaneously man and God.

So often, we see Jesus' power through the narrowing and limiting lens of what He has done in the past.  Many had witnessed the miracles of Christ: healing the lame, giving sight to the blind, and providing food and succor for the masses.  They credited Christ's miracle-working power to his timely presence, to his proximity to the afflicted, or to his physical touch. Martha and Mary, who had sent for Jesus to come because their dear brother was sick, were no different. Both women, upon Jesus' arrival in Bethany, testified to their belief in his ability to heal their brother and restore him to health. Had he, Jesus, only made it in time before death could claim their beloved Lazarus, all would not have been lost (John 11:21, 32).

Now, Martha's faith was great in that she trusted Jesus could have healed her brother while he still lived, and she even believed that, though Lazarus was now dead, God would give Jesus whatever he asked (John 11:22). She believed earnestly, that somehow Jesus, by virtue of his prayer, could redeem some good from this tragedy. When "Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again,'" Martha further demonstrated her faith as she affirmed her confidence in the "resurrection at the last day," (John 11:24), but she could not have fathomed that Jesus meant that Lazarus would arise that very hour!

While Jesus did not arrive in time to prevent Lazarus' death, he arrived on time to reveal his deity and to assert: "'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die'" (John 11:25-26). When Jesus asked Martha if she believed this, she responded: "'Yes, Lord. … I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world'" (John 11:27).

Martha, after having fully acknowledged Jesus' lordship and sovereignty, rushed to tell Mary of his presence and of his desire to see her. Mary went to him immediately, and "she fell at his feet" (John 11:32). Mary echoed Martha's earlier sentiment: "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:32). Through her tears, Mary, poured out her heart before her "Teacher."  Mary's willingness to display the fullness of her emotion evidences her security in Christ.  With him, she can be forthright and truthful and open and vulnerable. It is not only an act of mourning, but it is also a sign of worship. At the sight of Mary and the other weeping mourners, Jesus "was deeply moved in spirit and troubled," and he "wept" (John 11:33, 35).

Jesus' deep compassion for Lazarus and his heartbroken family is representative of the great love he has toward all of us. Jesus weeps at the loss of a friend, he mourns the separation of God and man wrought by sin, and he is frustrated when faithlessness persists regardless of the veracity and validity of his Word. At Lazarus' tomb, Jesus told them, "'Take away the stone'" (John 11:38). 

Despite her earlier proclamation of faith, Martha says, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days" (John 11:39). Here, Martha openly acknowledges what the crowd is thinking, and she fails to make the connection between the truth of Christ's deity and his ability and willingness to raise Lazarus from the dead at that moment. Therefore, Jesus prayed, not for himself or for what he was about to do, but so the people would believe that he was sent by the Father (John 11:41-42). Immediately thereafter, "Jesus called in a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out!'" (John 11:43). Lazarus "came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face" (John 11:44).

Lazarus’ story is a testament to the fact that resurrection not only comprises the joy of an eternal life with Christ Jesus in the hereafter, but it also carries the joy of experiencing an abundant life in Christ Jesus through faith, by grace, right here and now.

Beyond Lazarus' obedience to the voice of the Lord, Scripture is silent concerning Lazarus' personal response to his deliverance from the grave. Though we do not know his thoughts and feelings, we can use our spiritual imaginations to conclude that his story is a testament to the fact that resurrection not only comprises the joy of an eternal life with Christ Jesus in the hereafter, but it also carries the joy of experiencing abundant life in Christ Jesus through faith, by grace, right here and now.

Regardless of how dire our current conditions may be, even this December 2023, and no matter how dreadful our circumstances may become, there is no limit to what Christ can do for us and through us when we believe that he is the Messiah ("the Resurrection and the Life"), worship Him in spirit and in truth, and align ourselves with His will and His way. If we trust Him with the broken pieces of our lives that seem beyond repair, if we depend on Him to revive dreams departed, if we believe He can redeem what doubt, distraction, disease, and despair have taken from us, then we will also witness His magnificent glory and become the beneficiaries of his undeniably incredible, sacrificial love. The story of Lazarus beckons each of us this Christmas season to resurrection joy here and now – to answer the call to life in Christ and receive both the promise and the power to live again.

Dr. Michelle Henry serves as a Professor of English at Dallas Baptist University.

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