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Resurrection Now

In John 11, Jesus faces a serious accusation, one that matters more to Him than any clever problem the Pharisees and Sadducees could ever throw at Him. This one matters because it comes not from jealousy, but from heartache; not from His enemies, but from some of His dearest friends. Martha, Mary, and the crowd of mourners all confront Jesus with the reality that if He had not waited to come to Bethany, Lazarus would still have been alive, and Jesus could have healed Him. The charge against Jesus is that He comes too late.

The reason why this charge is especially significant is that it drives a wedge between the power of God and the love of God. That is, Jesus has the power to save Lazarus, but apparently He doesn’t care enough to hurry to his sickbed. The reason why this charge is especially relevant is that this is a charge we regularly bring against God ourselves. Every time we are impatient, we are making the same fundamental mistake. Every time we grow frustrated and angry with the way the world is being run, we are implicitly accusing Jesus of showing up too late.

When Jesus encounters the depth of the grief surrounding Lazarus’ death, both from his sisters and his friends, He is deeply moved in His Spirit, and greatly troubled. This is the first part of the response to the charge: Your grief, your tears, are deeply moving to Jesus. It is not true to say that Jesus doesn’t love you!

Jesus’ tears convince the Jews that He does in fact care, but it still doesn’t add up. Why, then, is Lazarus dead? Jesus, seeing their struggle, is deeply moved again, this time not by grief, but by unbelief. And this is crucially important: Jesus did not come just to ease griefs and heal troubles, but more importantly, to solve the deepest problem, that of unbelief. Not unbelief in facts about God – the resurrection or final judgment, but in the love and care of God here and now.

And so Jesus takes decisive action to overthrow this unbelief. He calls for the stone to be moved. As that is being done, Jesus lifts up His voice in a public prayer that demonstrates the kind of faith that is needed: a faith that affirms the goodness of God even before it becomes sight. Then, after praying, Jesus reaches into the last days, and brings the future into the present: “Lazarus, come out!” With His powerful, life-giving Word, Jesus breaks the chains of death, and Lazarus walks out of the tomb, thousands of years earlier than even those who believed in the resurrection were expecting.

The charge brought against Jesus was that He comes too late, but by raising Lazarus, Jesus shows us just the opposite. If anything, Jesus’ blessings come early, as He brings the the last days into today.

This is a call for us to make “someday” into today, as we imitate Jesus. We say, “Someday, there will be no more hunger. Someday, Jesus will bring peace. Someday, the nations will believe the gospel.” But when you feed the hungry today, the future kingdom invades the present. When you let go of your grievance against your brother and seek peace instead, the last-days blessing moves forward to today. When you speak the message of the gospel to someone who is struggling to believe that God really does love the world, then the blessings of the last days become a present reality, and people see the glory of God.

What we think we need is for Jesus to take our problems away quickly – to fix our marriage, to give us financial success, to bring us a spouse, to bring us children, to heal our bodies, to end our loneliness. What we really need is to trust that Jesus loves us. What we really need is to believe in God’s goodness as well as His truth. What we really need is to see the glory of God, and the story of Lazarus shows it to us. Here is glory: in the midst of your complaining that Jesus comes too late, He loves you enough to rewrite history by bringing the blessings of the last day to you today. So do not doubt the love of God, because you can see it in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life.

Posted on Wednesday, April 09, 2014 by CJ Bowen