Staring at Death’s Face
She gazed down the way, searching for his familiar form. Surely he’ll be here, she whispered, willing her words to make it so.

“Come quickly,” she’d said. “Your friend is sick.”

Two days. It’d been two days since she sent word. Where was he? Didn’t he care?

Her pace quickened as her worries collided. Her brother was worse. She knew that. She knew as she watched him breathe. But she also knew Jesus could heal him.

Sounds surrounding her suddenly caught her attention. Words became wailing as reality settled in. “No,” she cried. “Not yet! Hold on, Lazarus. Don’t die —Jesus will be here!” He would heal her brother. 

He would heal. Wouldn’t he?

A Different Perspective
Word came to Jesus that his friend, Lazarus, was sick. He thought about this man and his sisters, Mary and Martha. Oh, how he loved them and delighted in their friendship. Yet, even so, he didn’t leave right when he heard the news. His plan was to wait. Though he waited, he told the disciples that Lazarus’s sickness would not end in death. The reality this family was about to experience would reveal his power and glory —even though they didn’t know it yet.

He stayed where he was for two more days until it was time to go, for Lazarus had fallen asleep. The disciples looked at each other. If Lazarus was only asleep, that meant he could get better! But Jesus shook his head. He didn’t mean Lazarus was literally asleep —Lazarus died, he explained. And now it was time to go.

By the time Jesus and the disciples arrived at the family’s home, it’d been four days since they buried Lazarus in the grave. Four days of mourning, of weeping, of waiting.

Martha went to meet Jesus when she heard he’d arrived. “Where were you,” she cried. “If you’d been here, he wouldn’t have died.”

Jesus looked at her and replied, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha agreed. “Yes, he will rise with everyone else on the last day.”

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” (John 11:25-26)

“Yes,” she replied. “I believe.” Spinning on her heels, she found her sister, Mary, and told her that Jesus had arrived. Mary went to him as others followed along, thinking she was going to Lazarus’ grave.

Crumpling before Jesus in tears, she cried, “If only you were here, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Jesus looked at Mary weeping and those who joined her, and a deep anger welled within him, and he wept.

Death would not have the final say. He did.

“Where is he?”

“Come and see,” they said. 

“Roll the stone away,” Jesus instructed.

But the smell … they thought.

Jesus prayed, speaking aloud for the benefit of all who would hear. And then he shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”

Imagine the response of those who watched what happened next.

Some, with anticipation. Others, with wonder. Still more, with doubt and disbelief.

But the result? A resurrected life. 

And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, ‘Unwrap him and let him go!’ (John 11:44.)

Oh, the joy those who witnessed this miracle must have felt! One who was once dead now breathed and walked and lived!

A New Understanding
Through my 20s, I thought about the resurrected life much like Martha did —a resurrection that happened then, in the future, during the last days, just as she said to Jesus. I believed that Jesus died to rescue me from an eternity apart from God. But now, this side of heaven? Life here felt a little fuzzier.

What did a resurrected life, one rooted and established in Jesus, look like?

Like many during that era, I thought it looked a lot like doing: going to church (I took it a step further and worked at a church), serving, reading my Bible, and studying it. I studied to learn what God did in the past to try and figure out what He might be doing today. 

Heaven was real, but it hovered somewhere other, somewhere beyond. Heaven and earth felt very separate and distinct.

But then, like Mary and Martha, I stared death in the face as heaven collided into my world. I buried my youngest daughter after she died from injuries sustained when fire destroyed our home. Then, suddenly, the future broke into my now.

As I read, prayed, and considered God’s Word in the days, months, and years that followed, the answers of now and then slowly shifted into already and not yet

Lazarus experienced a resurrected life. First, he died, and then Jesus called him back to life. But what I missed? Jesus called me from the dead, too, and invited me to experience new life, an abundant life found in him.

We read in the New Testament how Jesus died, too. His physical body died, and he gave up his spirit (Matthew 27:50). When he died, he conquered physical death and ushered in a new kind of life. He opened the way for us to experience an abundant, resurrected life on this side of heaven.

In his book on systematic theology, Wayne Grudem writes, “When Jesus rose from the dead, he had a new quality of life, a ‘resurrection life’ in a human body and human spirit that were perfectly suited for fellowship and obedience to God forever. In his resurrection, Jesus earned for us a new life just like his. We do not receive all of that new ‘resurrection life’ when we become Christians, for our bodies remain as they were, still subject to weakness, aging, and death. But in our spirits we are made alive with resurrection power” (p 614).

Already and not yet.

Through Jesus’ death, we experience a resurrected life now that allows us to have a deep and tender relationship with God. Through Jesus’ sacrifice, we are reconciled to the Father. And when we believe in Jesus and declare that he is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), we who were once dead in our spirit become alive (Ephesians 2:1-5).

But what we already experience is a taste, a hint of what is to come. Yes, living a resurrected life now means basking in the abundant gift of God’s presence, but we wait to experience its fullness.

Living a resurrected life now enables us to recognize Jesus’ voice, but we wait to see him face to face.

Living a resurrected life now means we can experience peace that passes all understanding, what Jesus offers (Philippians 4:7), even though we live in a world broken by sin and decay (Romans 8:20-22).

This resurrected life allows us to witness God’s goodness while we still live here in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13), keeping with the promise of being guarded for the life to come (1 Peter 1:3-5), living in the balance of the already and not yet, as Jesus prepares a home for us (John 14:1-3) where there will be no more sorrow or tears or death (Revelation 21:1-4). 

And that is worth believing.

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