Life Theology

Do you hope in the resurrection?

One of my favorite moments in the Gospels is from John 11 when Jesus is about to raise Lazarus from the dead. Martha had just told Jesus that if he would have been around, Lazarus wouldn’t have died. Jesus says to Martha, “Your brother will rise again,” and she replies, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

And Martha was right. She just lost her brother, and her only hope was that she would see him again in the new age–the resurrection, when Lazarus will rise from the dead and get a remodeled body. But Martha missed the point Jesus was making. He couldn’t have made it more clear when he answered her hopeful (yet hopeless) confession:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Jesus is the reason Lazarus would rise again. Why? Because he himself is the resurrection. Jesus will die and be raised–not by another’s power (as Lazarus was), but by his own Spirit’s power. He will die and be raised–not to die again (as Lazarus did), but to reign triumphantly over death.  Lazarus came out of the tomb still bound with linen (Jn. 11:46). Jesus came out of the tomb with his linens left in the tomb (Jn. 20:7).  And this risen Jesus will give life to all who believe in him so that even though they die physically, they will live spiritually and rise again to live forever with a resurrected body that is not perishable like our fragile earthly bodies.

This doctrine of resurrection is incredible–for everyone, because we are more broken than we realize. Nevertheless, it is particularly appealing if you are ill, poor, downcast, crippled, homeless, stricken by disaster, hungry, addicted to substances, or destitute.  One day, this world and all who believe in Jesus will be restored. You and I will be made new.

No cancer. No bankruptcy. No tornadoes. No earthquakes. No floods. No car accidents. No murders. No rape. No blindness. No deafness. No speech impediments. No Downs Syndrome. No miscarriages. No downsizing. No hunger. No thirst. No paralysis. No stock market crashes. No divorce. No orphans. No selfishness. No addiction. No drunkenness. No suicide. No child abuse. No pride. No exploitation. No fraud.

Try to wrap your mind around that. I can’t.

In Romans, Paul tells us that this hope of resurrection is what saves us, and that we yearn for it. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved” (8:22-24a).

The world as we know it (including you and me) is out of whack. There is no rhythm; shalom has been disrupted. It is not operating the way it was designed to operate. It must be restored, and it will be, at the resurrection.

For many people in the West–even self-proclaimed “Christians”–Jesus is boring because life is cushy and easy, so the hope of resurrection is not appealing to them. If you make this world your home, if you make this life comfortable, why would it be? If you isolate yourself from the brokenness around you and deny the brokenness in you, you will never realize that you need redemption, resurrection, and restoration.

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live…Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:25, 28-29)

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5a)