Hebrews: The Resurrection of the Dead

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What kinds of things did you learn in elementary school? Of course reading, writing, and arithmetic, probably some basic earth science, and social studies. But I doubt you learned about “the resurrection of the dead.” That is one of the things the author of Hebrews classified as an “elementary teaching,” a foundational truth of the faith. But ask church members today about the resurrection of the dead and you are likely to get a lot of hemming and hawing. What does this mean?

The resurrection of the dead is both the resurrection of Jesus and the resurrection of believers in the last days. I expect you know about the former, that God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, proving that he was the Son of God. Every tenet of the Christian faith rests on this truth. If you do not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead then you have no hope for salvation and eternal life.

But Christ also promised resurrection for those who trust in Him. Hear Paul’s explanation: “The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God and the dead in Christ will rise” ( (1 Thessalonians 4:16). That means my Mom and my big brother and Billy Graham and Paul himself and every believer who has died will all be raised on that grand and glorious day. I don’t understand all the theology of the resurrection but I believe it is the truth.

Consider what Jesus told Martha at the grave of her brother Lazarus: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25). Then He posed a question to Martha that I want to pose to you: “Do you believe this?” Do you believe that Jesus is who He claims to be? Do you believe that He is the Son of God, that He has been raised from the dead, and that He has the authority and power to give you eternal life?

Beloved, I pray you said, “Yes.” I pray that your eternal future is secure and that one day you and I will cast our crowns before our Savior and fall down together at His feet. If you said, “No” I pray you will come to faith in Christ today. Eternity is a long, long time my friend. Don’t spend it without Jesus.

When Life Stinks

“God, this stinks!” I cried one morning. Why did you let this happen?” I wondered if He was paying attention. I felt like Daniel, “O Lord listen! O Lord, hear and act!” (Daniel 9:19). “God deal with this! Fix it! Make it go away!” Again I cried out – “God this stinks! It’s not fair!” Finally, my anguish gave way to the root of my question: “How can You say that You love me and let this happen?” With those words still hanging in the air, I turned to the devotional reading for the day and found the Scriptures, John 11:1-43 where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Martha’s words caught my attention. “But Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days”( John 11:39). Jesus had told Martha just a few minutes before “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). But when He commanded that the stone be rolled away, Martha protested, pointing out the obvious – her brother’s flesh was rotting away. I almost hear her saying “Lord, this stinks!”
Jesus’ reply to Martha began to seep into my heart, filling the places of fear and anxiety and soothing the deep pain I had been carrying around with me. “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God” (John 11:40)? “Child, haven’t I shown you my love in a thousand ways? Haven’t I rescued you from trouble again and again? Haven’t I always proven faithful to you?” Yes. Yes, He had. So why would I imagine that He would fail me now? Why would I doubt His love for me? Why would I question His tender care and His constant presence? As I remembered those times, peace settled in my soul. I could trust Him. Yes, my situation stunk, but God had never run from my messy, smelly life. He always received me at my worst and gave me His best.
Beloved, you may be in a mess today. Life stinks and you don’t see any good outcome. I understand, I’ve been there too. May I encourage you to trust God even in the middle of it? He has this wonderful way of bringing freshness and hope into our smelly, chaotic, desperate messes.

Martha, Martha or How to be a Joyful Servant


 

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one is needed.  Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42)

Where are all my Marthas?  Raise your hands.  You can’t, you’re in the kitchen up to your elbows in flour.    Let me say that I don’t think being a Martha is a bad thing – I am also a Martha, to a certain extent.  I mean somebody’s gotta make sure people are fed, right?  There is a lot packed into this account, and we can draw many applications from it.  I just want to offer one observation today.
I want to look at two words in this story.  First is “distracted” from verse 40: “But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.”  The word distracted comes from a root word combination meaning to worry and to draw (as in drawing a sword).  Hold that thought.
The other word we want to examine is “upset” in verse 41.  This word doubles back to “distracted,” but has a very interesting root: meaning an uproar, riot, commotion, disturbance.  Recognize that feeling of being frustrated with a smile on your face?  You’re doing the good things and all the while your spirit is in an uproar and there is a riot going on in your head.  You are screaming at the top of your lungs on the inside, all the while portraying a calm servant disposition on the outside.  I see you nodding your head.
For Martha, this commotion in her heart and head caused her to “draw a sword” against her sister – and if we’re being honest, against Jesus too.  Check it out: “She came to Him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?  Tell her to help me!” She went on the defensive and the Lord called her out on it.
I believe there are two things in particular we can take away from this:
1. Don’t fret about the work that needs to be done – just come for a bit and sit with Jesus.  Yes, people need to be fed, so let ’em make sandwiches.  Don’t let serving the Lord become a burden or a cause for resentment.
2. If you do chose to serve, don’t get resentful toward those who chose otherwise.  Humble servants are happy servants.  If you’re serving for a pat on the back, go sit down.  If you’re serving out of love and the joy of blessing others – you can stay in the kitchen, but stand near the doorway so you can still listen.

There is work to be done in the Kingdom, but we want to glorify Jesus in it.  Resentment leads to internal warfare and  stomping our feet and eventually drawing swords.  Let’s be humble and gracious in all we do.

 

Sometimes Life Stinks!

“But Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” John 11:39

 “God, this stinks!” I cried one morning, as the alarm sounded and a fresh wave of despair washed over me. You know that feeling, when your mind awakens and recalls the pain and worry and fear all over again. Once again I felt the same cold knot in the pit of my stomach, the same pain like a knife stabbing my heart. Life had taken a sharp and unkind turn, and the situation was hard, painful, and more than I thought I could bear. I wanted to run away, to hide from the mess that surrounded me. I wanted to pull the covers over my head, bury my face in my pillow and scream or cry. But I had to face the day, and face the circumstances, so I got up, hit the shower and let the tears mix with the water running down my face.

I went into my quiet space and sat down with my Bible and my prayer journal. I tried to put on the “good Christian” attitude and “give thanks in all things” and “cast all my cares on God,” but my façade soon crumbled. “God, why did you let this happen?” “How can anything good come out of this?” I prayed. I wondered if He was really paying attention. I felt like the Old Testament saint Daniel, who prayed, “O Lord listen! O Lord, hear and act!” (Daniel 9:19). “God deal with this! Fix it! Make it go away!” Again I cried out – “God this stinks! It’s not fair!” And then my anguish gave way to the root of my question: “How can You say that You love me and let this happen?”

 With those word still hanging in the air, I turned to the devotional reading for today and found the Scriptures, John 11:1-43. Take a few minutes and read this passage. I’ll wait for you here.  You might recognize the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, it’s a powerful story that showed clearly that Jesus was God and that He had the power of life over death. It also showed the love Jesus had for Martha, Mary and Lazarus. It was a message that I desperately needed that morning.

Martha’s words in our key verse caught my attention. Lazarus had been in the grave for four days, and by now there was a foul odor – the smell of rotting flesh. Jesus had told Martha just a few minutes before “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). But when He commanded that the stone that sealed to tomb – that sealed the stench of death – be rolled away, Martha protested, pointing out the obvious. I almost hear her saying “Lord, this stinks!”

Jesus’ answer to Martha began to seep into my heart, filling the places of fear and anxiety and soothing the deep pain I had been carrying around with me. “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God” (John 11:40)?  “Child, haven’t I shown you my love in a thousand ways? Haven’t I rescued you from trouble again and again? Haven’t I always proven faithful to you?” Yes. Yes He had. So why would I imagine that He would fail me now? Why would I doubt His love for me? Why would I question His tender care and His constant presence? His affirmations of love and kindness, His grace and goodness began to wash away the fear and doubts and cleanse the wounds in my soul.

Jesus is not afraid to get in the middle of our messes. He doesn’t turn away from the stench in our lives. He is the Messiah and in the ancient Hebrew language “ah” was a designation that meant “Lord.” Look at that title again – Mess-iah – Lord over even our messes. He enters into the pain we bear and asks us to let Him carry the weight of our burdens. He left the heavens of perfect holiness to walk among the dust and dirt and filth of humanity. His great love drove nails into His hands and feet. His mercy bore every sin you and I would ever commit and banished them to the grave that He left behind when He was resurrected in glorious power.

When life stinks, run to the Mess-iah. He receives us at our worst – messy and smelly and bruised and broken. He gives us His best – His very life. Oh my friend, He is so faithful. Won’t you invite Him to reign over your messy life?