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The CHRISTIAN PRESCRIPTION
through the Resurrection
of the Divine Lord of Glory who became Man
TABLEAU ON EARTH
Let us read John 11:17-28 ...
Then when Jesus came, He found that he had lain in the
grave four days already.
Now Bethany was near to Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off: And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother had not died.' But I know, that even now, whatever You will ask of God, God will give it to you. Jesus said to her, 'Your brother shall rise again.' Martha said to Him,
'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.
"Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection, and the life: he who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this? She said unto Him, 'Yea, Lord: I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who should come into the world. And when she had so spoken, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, 'The Master is come, and is calling for You.' "
Jesus had purposely delayed coming to the aid of the dangerously ill friend, Lazarus of Bethany, who with his two sisters had been close friends of the Christ. First Martha reproached Him - "Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died." Note that there was no difficulty about that! if Christ set His mind to heal, healing there would be; indeed He had even raised the dead; but this would have been less severe, healing Lazarus before he died! Christ's reply ? "Your brother will rise again." Yes, was Martha's reply, at this, "I know he will rise again at the resurrection at the last day." Jesus' response was just as assured as His dealing with healing at other times. "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this ?"
Her reply ? "Yes Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." Then Martha called her sister Mary, saying, "The Master has come and is calling for you!" Here was the Son of God: what an opportunity! To earth He came as in Micah 5, to be born in Bethlehem, and this was the prediction, that He who came would be none other than that God whose goings are from everlasting, without limit as to time: timeless deity. Thus He declared, John 8:58, "Before Abraham was, I am!" The waves of time part before Him, the true God, magnificent in mercy, having come as a man. and the signature of God from Exodus 3, the I AM, He freely uses of Himself. His planned delay in coming to Lazarus was that the glory of God be shown, for to raise one dead for four days is no small task. Here is a test in the laboratory of life, in the setting of history!
To pass, He must establish His power, not only as so often before, but now in the presence of many, either fail or raise one long dead and buried. Fail and He would have been a fraud! God does not fail. Such had been His earlier healings, and all this showed what Paul says in Colossians 2:9, "in Him dwells the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form." It could not be clearer. Imagine if in the healing of the paralytic noted in Mark 2, He had confronted those who hated Him, saying to the sick man, Arise, take up your bed and walk! and it did not happen! Such is the perfection of God, His reliability as man, the security of His salvation. What He says, goes. God never fails (Zephaniah 3:5)..
Christ, then, perceiving the vast grief of Mary and others, on the death of Lazarus, groans in spirit, and asks, "Where have you laid him ?"... "Father," He prays, "I thank You that You have heard Me, and I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people standing here, I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me."
"Lazarus, come out!" He called. He did. Now the enemies, High Priests and ecclesiastical authorities are in peril. If, one said (John 11:48), "we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him!" This had two disadvantages: they would lose their own prized authority, being enemies of their Employer, and they feared the Rule of Rome might be troubled, a nonsense since Christ refused political appointment (John 6), and taught one should seek to obey laws as a general principle. Fear however chains courage and here it was met by craft: "You know nothing at all," said the High Priest. "It is EXPEDIENT for us, that one man should die for the people." That is, eliminate Christ, and their pleasant way of life need not be disturbed! Sacrifice may be fine; sacrificing somebody else is not!
THE MUZZLE THAT DID NOT FIT THE KIT
KILL Him then! Such was the plot of the ecclesiastical mafia of the day. Indeed, even Lazarus disturbed them as too dangerous, being evidence irrefutable of Christ, and they plotted to kill him too, so that he could die twice. Such is the fanatical hatred of God, and so far does it go, even in the case of many professional churchmen, associates of Judas.
However, they concentrated on killing the One of whom the angel had attested (Luke 2:11) "For there is born to you this day in the city of David, a Saviour who is Christ the Lord!" He would become, as He did, a sacrifice; yet this was precisely what the Father had intended as you see in the prophecy of Isaiah 53:10: "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him. He has put Him to grief. When you make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, and the pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand."
Have YOU done this, made His soul a sacrifice; and in your heart is it known, that Christ the sin-offering, the substitute for death, the Lord of life, is an offering for sin, made once for all, as Hebrews 9:12-28 tells us, and is now received. He was not offered often, it declares, for then He would have had to suffer often, but now ONCE in the end of the time, He has put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:27). He has paid for everlasting redemption, available to all who trust in Him as God become man, who paid ransom for many. If not, then as He said, "If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins," (John 8:24). If you DO believe, then His Spirit is in you (Romans 8:9, Ephesians 3:16) exalting His name.
Having died, as God in the form of a servant, the just for the unjust, He leaves just nowhere else to go, to be saved! Indeed, as Peter said, "There is no other name under heaven given among men by which they MUST be saved!" (Acts 4:11). There is one God (Ephesians 4:4), one Lord, one faith, and just as there is no other God, so only God is Saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), or indeed Creator (Isaiah 45:18), so that Christ being both Lord, Creator and Saviour (cf. Colossians 1:15ff., Titus 3:3ff.,Romans 14:9), it is He who as God became man that man might return freely to God (Romans 3:23ff., Ephesians 2:5ff., Isaiah 55). God came for us!
But first He had to rise bodily from the dead, as Paul put it in I Corinthians 15, for the thing, that is, the corpse, which was put into the grave is what comes out of it! He was buried, He rose. There is no room for shiftiness. It did not rot! (Psalm 16, Acts 2). Indeed, Christ had said, "Destroy this Temple, and in 3 days I will raise it up!" He spoke of the temple of His own body. Would He raise it up in time, in three days as so often He declared would be done !
Being sinless, never breaking the commandments, any of them, being God as man, He was therefore free to pardon the guilty, those who would receive that pardon from Him, and did so even on the Cross, giving entrance to heaven that very day, to the thief next to Him - who had asked to be remembered WHEN Christ came into His kingdom! TODAY! Christ replied, covering the case magnificently, "you will be with Me in paradise!" Through informed faith, the thief received eternal life.
There was no work to be done: CHRIST HIMSELF did the work. How horrid to imagine any work of ours could make heaven open its doors, that place of incandescent purity! All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags, says Isaiah (64:6). Next to God, there is nothing to plead, but the blood of Christ. Even what He does through us, it is His gift, and our imperfections are not gone: for if any man imagines himself sinless, says I John 1:7, he deceives himself!
"Ho everyone who thirsts," said Isaiah 55 of the quenching waters for the human soul, "come to the waters, and you who have no money, come buy and eat.. without money and without price! Why do you spend money for what is not bread!" It is FREE (Romans 5:15).
Thus the 3 days pass.
The body lies still in the tomb. Could He make good His word ? He always has
done so, and again He did it, rising, but rising on time! As sunlight trembled
to birth at dawn, they saw it, the removal of the stone, rolled away by an
angel. "Why do you seek the
living among the dead!" said the angel to the enquiring women (Luke
24:5), who wanted to anoint the corpse. THAT, it was no more, for Jesus Himself
walked off with it! No there was no corpse in the burial site which the women
had marked so carefully (Luke 23:55) to enable them to come on the first day of
the week, and anoint Him. Forget death, this is life!
"I AM ...THE LIFE!" remember ...
THE SPIRITUAL MASSIF OF THE BODILY RESURRECTION,
FROM VALLEY TO VISION, FROM EARTH TO HEAVEN
Mary lingered at the tomb, and confronting what she thought to be a gardener, said - "Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away." Christ, for it was He to whom she spoke, had indeed taken His body away, having personally abducted Himself from death! (Acts 2:22-32). In one word, He re-oriented Mary. It was her name: "Mary!" It told all. "Master!" she responded. "Stop clinging to Me!" He advised (John 20:17), for He had not yet ascended to His Father. Meeting other women, He instructed them to tell the brethren to go to Galilee. There they would see Him, as He had told them before His death, to do (Matthew 26:32). It was there, seeing them fishing, that He advised them where to find many fish, as He had done before the crucifixion, and Peter recognising Him, rushed to swim to the shore. Later Christ cooked their fish for them, and having forgiving Peter his atrocious failure, He commissioned him and gave commandment of what was to be, both for Peter and for John.
This was a great time, but the greatest in the history of the created universe was that of the crucifixion, for here God in the form of a servant covered the guilt of sin for those who received it, through His blood (Ephesians 1); and with it, inseparable, is the resurrection of His body, that demonstration in the laboratory of history to ruin the sting of death in the joy of the resurrection. Thomas, challenging doggedly, was told to poke his finger into Christ's flesh, for said He, "a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have!" Here was eternal life through the disruption of death now made available to all who receive Him as He is, for what He has done and, freely taking His eternal gift, are granted it through faith by grace.
But someone says, Why live if your life is spoiled ? let alone live eternally! Why not then cleanse it, that it might not be spoiled. In Him is the only way! and He has paid for it. It needs to be collected. There is no other name under heaven given among men and this, it is not that they may be but MUST be saved (Acts 4:12). To poke God in the eye and say, Really I do not need it! is to call Him a liar, judgment a nothing and life a toy! But God does not play: He worked! His work and He alone it is that saves; for it is by faith through grace, and the whole thing says Ephesians 2:8, is not of yourself, it is the gift of God. His mercy must be sought, and if it is not, then the refusnik merely gets the relentless darkness he desires! (John 3:19).
It is not, Peter indicated in Acts 4, the name of an apostle, or a church, or of works, but that of the incarnate deity Jesus Christ which ALONE saves. Hanging your hat on a stand that is not there, still lets it fall! It is Christ Himself who put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:12-28). He did it ONCE, in ONE sacrifice, sufficient for all, but effective and applied only to those who received it. Why die then ? As Ezekiel 33:11 has it: "As I live," says the Lord God, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked should turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! for why should you die, O house of Israel!"
He says it to one and to all: COME to me and I give you rest (Matthew 11:27ff.). HERE is comfort, here is consolation (I Thessalonians 4:13), here is the assurance as Paul put it in II Timothy 1:12: :"For I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him against that day," that day of judgment which is in the hands of this same Jesus (Acts 17:31) Since His salvation, as in Titus 3, is not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, there is no way a Christian is lost: it is by Christ's work, and that is already complete! To Him, with all who are believers in His free salvation and grace, do we look, knowing that He has gone to prepare a place for us, "that where I am you may be also," John 14:3.
If you refuse Him, you will die in your sins, but if you do or will receive or have received Him, as He is, then as I Peter 1:2-9 declares it, we "are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation." Eagerly expectant, you await His return (Hebrews 9:28), now near as you see in Luke 21:24ff., and "though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." With His salvation sealed by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14), you have guarantee, and are "begotten again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ..." even that in the resurrection of the body at His return (I Corinthians 15).
But what of the sheer singularity of the wonder of it all, as at the creation, so at the re-creation or regeneration that forms the Christian, its base so low, reaching to hell, its height so high, direct from God Almighty. But what does He say in Titus 3:3-7:
"But after the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man
not by works of righteousness which we have done,
but according to his mercy He saved us,
by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;
which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
that being justified by his grace,
we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Or what does it say on His love and His Christ concerning His offer to all and blessing to those who receive both it and Himself, more noble than this (Colossians 1:19-22):
"For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell;
and having made peace through the blood of his cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
and you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has He reconciled In the body of his flesh through death,
to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight..."
Or much more specifically singular than this:
"For Christ had not entered into the holy places made with hands,
which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself,
now to appear in the presence of God for us:
not yet that he should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters into the holy place every year with blood of others -
then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world.
"But now once in the end of the times He has appeared
to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.
And as it is appointed unto men once to die,
but after this the judgment:
so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and
to those who eagerly wait for Him,
He will appear the second time without sin to salvation."
This presentation of the word of God was made at a funeral at request, to what as to birth, was a most varied, international company. It felt wonderful to see, though not so very many, such a widespread array, of just that same human being so decisively called into existence by the Maker of the model who designed it so well, so capably, so industriously and with such a fascinatingly glorious nexus of correlated commands that I can preach and others understand in the vast concourse of thought, and for many, of spirit also.
There of course lies the division: as Christ put it, for some, their eyes they have closed and their ears shut lest they should hear and be converted so that He should heal them. Yet even there, His Spirit works and it seemed He was at work, a perfectly delicious feeling as I unleashed His saving word from the Bible itself on that occasion. This poor sodden world, in a way like lungs absorbing nicotine spaciously and acridly, aborts its life increasingly, imbibing and exuding what often spoils, even amid its residual wonder and beauty which is still vast. So it sends in rash messages in man and matériel to spoil more both in young lives and over old rock forms, already littered with the layers and biota of the last disaster (cf. News 1, Diamonds of Divine Divulgement Ch. 8).
Yet He remains the same, who created, who came and will do so again, when He appears a second time to quell a world in anxious disorder (Psalm 2, Acts 1:7, Revelation 19, Matthew 25, Hebrews 9:28), and end the rioting generations with a peace till this old world ending (Isaiah 51:6), a new is created (II Peter 3).
May these things stir the hearts and ennoble the minds, being from the very word of the living God, of many, for here is ineffable comfort, the underlying nature of man released, the mordancy of mortality overcome and right relationships with God restored through the Gospel of the God of all comfort and all might, who has already done what is needed, and needs to be received with the full assurance of faith through Jesus Christ, only begotten Son of God, everlasting word of God made flesh, not only to refresh, but to redeem.