Christianity 201

June 18, 2022

The Resurrection Convinces Everybody, Right?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:27 pm
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Scene One

Let’s begin in Luke 16:

NLT.Lk.16.19 Jesus said, “There was a certain rich man who was splendidly clothed in purple and fine linen and who lived each day in luxury. 20 At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus who was covered with sores. 21 As Lazarus lay there longing for scraps from the rich man’s table, the dogs would come and lick his open sores.

22 “Finally, the poor man died and was carried by the angels to sit beside Abraham at the heavenly banquet. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and he went to the place of the dead.[f] There, in torment, he saw Abraham in the far distance with Lazarus at his side.

24 “The rich man shouted, ‘Father Abraham, have some pity! Send Lazarus over here to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. I am in anguish in these flames.’

25 “But Abraham said to him, ‘Son, remember that during your lifetime you had everything you wanted, and Lazarus had nothing. So now he is here being comforted, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides, there is a great chasm separating us. No one can cross over to you from here, and no one can cross over to us from there.’

27 “Then the rich man said, ‘Please, Father Abraham, at least send him to my father’s home. 28 For I have five brothers, and I want him to warn them so they don’t end up in this place of torment.’

29 “But Abraham said, ‘Moses and the prophets have warned them. Your brothers can read what they wrote.’

30 “The rich man replied, ‘No, Father Abraham! But if someone is sent to them from the dead, then they will repent of their sins and turn to God.’

31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

There’s a lot taking place in these 22 verses, and while discussion could go in different directions, it’s the very last verse which is our focus.

“Abraham replied, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the Prophets, they’re not going to be convinced by someone who rises from the dead.’” (The Message)

While we like to think the best weapon in our apologetics arsenal is the resurrection, some remain either unbelieving or unconvinced.

Scene Two

NLT.John.11.1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair.[a] Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.”

But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.”

17 When Jesus arrived at Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days.

23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”

25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.[e] Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

34 “Where have you put him?” he asked them.

They told him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Then Jesus wept. 36 The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” 37 But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?”

38 Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 39 “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

But Martha, the dead man’s sister, protested, “Lord, he has been dead for four days. The smell will be terrible.”

40 Jesus responded, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe?” 41 So they rolled the stone aside. Then Jesus looked up to heaven and said, “Father, thank you for hearing me. 42 You always hear me, but I said it out loud for the sake of all these people standing here, so that they will believe you sent me.” 43 Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in graveclothes, his face wrapped in a headcloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”

It’s interesting that, in light of the first scene, the person in this narrative is also named Lazarus. Or maybe we should turn that around and say that it’s interesting that in the parable, Jesus chooses to name one of the key people in the scene by the same name as his friend, who he will bring back from death.

Scene Three

NIV.John.12.9 Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 So the chief priests made plans to kill Lazarus as well

I wonder how an attempt to kill Lazarus would take place. Would there be a wall of protection around him which would prevent them? Eventually, as with all of us, Lazarus does die. His return from the tomb was different from that Jesus would later experience, inasmuch as Lazarus is resurrected in his earthly body, while the resurrected Jesus is able to walk through walls and transport himself instantly to other locations.

It also begs the question, from a scientific standpoint, why would you take a unique specimen like Lazarus, and want to kill him? But then again, why would you take a unique specimen like Jesus and wish to kill him?

The chief priests were so utterly and completely threatened by Jesus, that they lost all perspective, and were willing to break the sixth commandment (“Do not kill”) to shut down the whole Jesus movement.

Scene Four

NKJV.Luke.24.5-7 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

I love Andy Stanley’s line: “Nobody expected no body.” The women didn’t run to the tomb saying, ‘Let’s see if he’s resurrected yet!’ No, they went to anoint his body according to custom. But on that morning we call Easter Sunday, the world was forever changed. For those who follow, our world was forever changed.

Scene Five

NASB.Matthew.27.50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and gave up His spirit. 51 And behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split. 52 Also the tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53 and coming out of the tombs after His resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many.

Was there one resurrection in the ‘Easter week’ narrative, or many? According to this text, at the moment of death, there is an great earthquake, the curtain of the temple is split, and many walk out of the their tombs and are seen by many in Jerusalem.

There’s no denying all this — Lazarus, the ‘many’ saints, Jesus himself — but for some it’s just not enough. Sadly, we must return to the last verse in scene one which strikes at the heart of much modern day skepticism and disbelief:

NLT.Luke.16.31 “But Abraham said, ‘If they won’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

For that reason, I believe our best expression that, to name an old hymn, “He Lives,” has got to the be the resurrection and, or to say it differently, the resurrection plus. It’s not the resurrection itself is insufficient to validate the complete work of Christ on the cross, but Jesus himself is saying it’s insufficient to satisfy the doubts of humankind (not to mention one of his own disciples.)

So for the writer of the aforementioned hymn, it becomes subjective experience: “You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart.” But it’s also the general revelation of God: “In all the world around me, I see His loving care.”

Or it could be something else.

NIV.Acts.1.3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

 

February 25, 2021

Driven to Tears? Jesus Was Too

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Have you been driven to tears yet? Feeling discouraged? We may be driven to tears when we hear how many deaths are being reported around the world due to the pandemic. We think of those who have lost life in other ways, losing connectedness with others, losing work or schooling opportunities. Even where very few are infected, everyone is affected. Everyone has experienced change and loss. Grief is a normal way of dealing with loss and tears are a healthy part of that grief. Of course there are those who are driven to tears even without the pandemic. Life can be hard and when it is, we may be driven to tears.

We may be thinking, “God, you could have done something about all this, if you had been where the COVID-19 virus started, if you had been where the cancer cells started, if you had been where my loved one lost control . . . if you had been here.” We experience things that are life taking, that seem to diminish our lives or the lives of loved ones. We wonder where God was in those moments.

Martha and Mary must have been driven to tears. Jesus was their friend and the friend of their brother Lazarus as well. Jesus was well known for his miracles and healings. Yet now Lazarus is dead and buried:

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.

John 11:21 (NRSV)

Word was sent by Martha and Mary to Jesus days before that their brother was ill. Jesus could have made it on time, but he didn’t.

When Mary came to where Jesus was, she saw him and fell down at his feet.
‘Master!’ she said. ‘If only you’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died!’
When Jesus saw her crying, and the Judaeans who had come with her crying, he was deeply stirred in his spirit, and very troubled.
’Where have you laid him?’ he asked.
‘Master,’ they said, ‘come and see.’
Jesus burst into tears.

John 11:32-25 (translation by N.T. Wright, as found in the “John For Everyone Commentary”)

Jesus was also driven to tears. Was this grief over Lazarus? Was he perhaps thinking that things could have been different if only he made it on time? When we read the whole story we know that this is not the case. Or, is it possible that Jesus could look back, seeing how things could have been different, if only . . .

  • Adam and Eve had chosen life, instead of choosing the one thing that would lead to death.
  • Cain had chosen life instead of choosing death for his brother Abel.
  • humanity had chosen life instead of violence toward one another in the days of Noah.
  • Pharaoh had chosen life instead of ordering Hebrew babies to be killed.
  • the Israelites in the desert had chosen life with GOD instead of longing to go back to slavery in Egypt.
  • the people had chosen life instead of choosing death in neglecting the law that God had given.
  • when God sent the prophets, the people had chosen life and listened to the prophets instead of choosing to remain in the ways that led to death.

The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23 KJV). Is it possible that Jesus was driven to tears because he knew how often we chose death? Things could have been different, if only . . .

Is is possible that Jesus was driven to tears by the fact that even as he was planning on raising Lazarus to life, the religious leaders were potting to put Jesus himself to death. Things will be different.

Was Jesus driven to tears because he could look forward to our lives today? How things could be different, if only . . .

  • we would choose to love like God, love that brings life to people, instead of choosing hate that brings death, or apathy that fails to prevent it.
  • we would choose to develop in the fruit of the Spirit, including love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22,23), instead of choosing to cultivate the weeds of the evil one.
  • we would choose to engage in conversation instead of shutting it down.
  • we would choose a posture of learning, instead of always choosing the same echo chambers where our thinking is never challenged.
  • we would choose to recognize the impact we have on people, instead of ignoring the hurt we may cause.
  • we would choose to get help with an addiction.
  • we would choose to not gossip, but lift others up with our speech.
  • we would choose to do something about racism, poverty, homelessness, and many other issues that plague our world.

We sometimes lament how things might be different if God would show up. Things could be different, if we would show up.

Was Jesus driven to tears when, looking forward, he would see the many who would choose death over life by rejecting the Giver of life?

Jesus was driven to tears, yet Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life,” (John 11:25 NRSV). Mary and Martha could say “if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” Jesus could say “I am here now and because I am, Lazarus will live.”

Jesus told Lazarus to come out of the tomb, and he did. Jesus calls us to come out of our tombs, to choose life over death. Jesus calls us to leave our graves, to listen to him, to do those things that bring life instead of death to us, and others. Jesus calls us to choose life, to choose him. Jesus will someday call us from our tombs to share in everlasting life with him:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”

Revelation 21:3-4 (NRSV)

Until then we have a lot of opportunities to choose life. If we show up, and keep choosing life, things will be different.


Canadian Pastor Clarke Dixon appears here most Thursdays. The full video sermon on which this is based is also part of this online weekly worship expression.