I came across an interesting mental exercise this week.
The idea is to place the span of your life into the hours of one waking day.
Life in a Day
- Begins at 7AM.
- 15yrs 10:25AM
- 25yrs 12:42PM
- 35yrs 3:00PM
- 45yrs 5:16PM
- 55yrs 7:34PM
- 65yrs 9:55PM
- 75yrs Midnight
It’s an interesting exercise. If you’re older like me, you might use a different adjective than interesting.
Here’s the question: is the span of human life on earth enough to satisfy the aspirations of the human heart?
The Great Question posed by Job who lived 4,000 years ago:
If a man dies, shall he live again?
This morning we are in John chapter 11. This is the final week in the One series, considering the I AM statements of Jesus. This week our statement comes from John 11:25:
I AM the Resurrection and the Life
Jesus often delivered his most extraordinary statements to the most ordinary people. This statement was not delivered to a prophet in the wilderness in a state of mediation and prayer. It was delivered to a very common person dealing with the common, real experience of grief over the loss of a loved one.
A woman named Martha had just lost her beloved brother. Knowing that Jesus had power to heal, and that Jesus knew and cared for her brother, Martha had sent word to Jesus to request help. He did not come.
Martha’s broken heart:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” (Verse 21.)
In other words, “Where were you Lord?”
Martha’s grief was made all the more painful by their history of relationship: “I thought you loved us.”
They knew he loved (phileo) Lazarus. (verse 3)
They sent for his help, expecting to see that love in action. (Verse 3)
Jesus’ reply, like so much in the accounts of his life, was entirely unexpected:
Jesus loved (agape) them, so he stayed two more days.
Mary’s unbroken faith:
Despite her grief and confusion, Mary’s faith held.
“Even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” (Verse 22)
It’s easy to read this as a veiled request to get her brother back.
If you see her response later in verse 39 when Jesus wants to roll the stone from the grave, you will see that Martha had no expectation of a miracle.
“Your brother will rise again.”
It’s an ambiguous response, meant to draw Martha out more.
Martha’s knowledge of the resurrection:
Martha replies by rehearsing the doctrine she has learned.
“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” (Verse 24)
In the Old Testament times, Hebrew belief in the afterlife was mixed.
Sheol was the place where spirits go after death.
Some believed that the spirits stayed there in a sort of unconscious existence. Really, it was just a grave for spirits. The Sadducees believed this.
But there are references in the Old Testament Scriptures to a life beyond death. (Daniel 12:2, Job 19:25-2) The Pharisees saw in this a revelation of a future resurrection at the end of time.
This was Martha’s understanding.
Jesus’ great statement:
Now that Jesus has drawn out Martha’s belief, he offers her something much better than her doctrine.
I AM the Resurrection and the Life.
“You speak of the future hope. I am that. That is me. That happens because of me. You have something better than a doctrine to comfort you. You have me.”
He has said I am the door, the shepherd, the bread of life. This is the only time he uses and action. Literally – I am the rising again.
There were 3 words in the NT used for life. Bio refers to biological life. Psuche refers to the soul life of humans. Zoe refers to eternal life.
Jesus used the word zoe when he said “I am the Life”
In his work Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis described the difference between bio and zoe life.
“In reality, the difference between Biological life and Spiritual life is so important that I am going to give them two distinct names. The Biological sort which come to us through Nature, and which (like everything else in Nature) is always tending to run down and decay so that it can only be kept up by incessant subsidies from Nature in the form of air, water, food, etc. is Bios. The Spiritual life which is in God from all eternity, and which made the whole natural universe is Zoe. Bios has, to be sure, a certain shadowy or symbolic resemblance to Zoe: but only the sort of resemblance there is between a photo and a place, or statue and a man. A man who changed from having Bios to having Zoe would have gone through as big a change as a statue which changed from being a carved stone to being a real man. And that is precisely what Christianity is about. This world is a great sculptor’s shop. We are the statues and there is a rumor going around that some of us are some day going to come to life.”
One commentator described zoe life like this:
“Christ does not think of immortality as we do. The thought of immortality is with Him involved in, and absorbed by, the idea of life. Life is a present thing and its continuance a matter of course. When life is full, and abundant, and glad, the present is enough, and past and future are unthought of. It is life, therefore, rather than immortality that Christ speaks of; a present not a future good; an expansion of the nature now, which necessarily carries with it the idea of permanence.” -James Hastings
“It ought to be placed in the forefront of all Christian teaching that Christ’s mission on earth was to give men Life.” -Henry Drummond
Because Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, whoever believes in him has access to the rising power of His life.
Whoever believes and dies, will live again.
Whoever lives and believes, in other words, the one who is believing in me and lives until the last day – that person will never experience death.
In him is an invincible life force, a victorious, rising life.
15 You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.
Jesus became a priest, “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.”
The most important question:
Jesus has given Martha something better than doctrine. He has given her Himself.
Now comes the all-important question.
Not “do you understand this”
Do you believe this?
Do you believe me?
This is the only qualification.
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.
Martha’s trust in the person Jesus.
Martha’s response fulfilled the purpose of everything that she had experienced.
How do you defeat death?
How to you endure the loss of a loved one?
You believe in Jesus.
“A dead Christ I must do everything for; a living Christ does everything for me.” – Andrew Murray.
The Power of the Resurrection
“Resurrection means that the worst thing is never the last thing.”- Frederick Buechner.
“After death something new begins, over which all powers of the world of death have no more might.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
“Because of the empty tomb, we have peace. Because of His resurrection, we can have peace during even the most troubling of times because we know He is in control of all that happens in the world.”- Paul Chappell.
“Christian hope expresses knowledge that every day of his life, and every moment beyond it, the believer can say with truth, on the basis of God’s own commitment, that the best is yet to come.” JI Packer
“The joyful news that He is Risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice [and suffering]. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, make the sacrifice and [patiently endure the suffering].” -Henry Knox Sherill
“No matter how devastating our struggles, disappointments, and troubles are, they are only temporary. No matter what happens to you, no matter the depth of tragedy or pain you face, no matter how death stalks you and your loved ones, the Resurrection promises you a future of immeasurable good.”
“Few people seem to realize that the resurrection of Jesus is the cornerstone to a worldview that provides the perspective to all of life.” -Josh McDowell
Do you want to experience this kind of power? How do you get it?
Belief: Notitia, Assensus, Fiducia
The theologians of the Reformation sought to understand the essence of saving belief. They found three senses of the word in the New Testament.
The first is the Latin term notitia: “believing in the data” or the information. It’s an intellectual awareness. You can’t have faith in nothing; there has to be content to the faith. You have to believe something or trust someone. When we say that a person is saved by faith, some people say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, just as long as you are sincere.” That’s not what the Bible teaches. It matters profoundly what you believe. What if I believed that the devil was God? That wouldn’t save me. I must believe the right information.
Application: Take a look at the data. Read the book of John with a friend.
The second aspect of faith is what they call assensus, or intellectual assent. I must be persuaded of the truthfulness of the content. According to James, even if I am aware of the work of Jesus—convinced intellectually that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross for my sins, and that he rose from the dead—I would at that point qualify to be a demon. The demons recognize Jesus, and the devil himself knows the truth of Christ, but he doesn’t have saving faith.
Application: Is it true? Read the case for Easter. Ask questions.
The crucial, most vital element of saving faith in the biblical sense, is that of personal trust. The final term is fiducia, referring to a fiduciary commitment by which I put my life in the lap of Jesus. I trust him and him alone for my salvation. That is the crucial element, and it includes the intellectual and the mental. But it goes beyond it to the heart and to the will so that the whole person is caught up in this experience we call faith.
Application: Make a decision, get baptized.
Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown