I have recently been participating in a women’s Bible study at Bedon Baptist Church. I am not a member of that church, but that didn’t matter to the precious ladies there. They have welcomed me as one of their own, and I am so grateful for their love and care.
We’re using a study book written by Lysa TerKeurst titled “Finding I Am.” It’s a six-week study that guides us through specific scripture readings each week and poses questions about personal application of those verses. We meet together weekly to talk about it. The focus of the specific scripture readings are the situations and circumstances when Jesus started a sentence with the words “I Am.”
“I am the bread of life.” John 6:35
“I am the light of the world.” John 8:12
“I am the good shepherd.” John 10:11
Last week we studied John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.” The circumstance that caused Jesus to make this “I am” statement was the death of Lazarus. Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha, were good friends of Jesus. The scripture says that Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Both Mary and Martha were obviously grieved over the death of their brother and were missing the presence of their friend, Jesus. Jesus was out of town at the time and didn’t get back until days later.
In our study workbook, we were prompted to consider a time when someone we loved died too soon. That wound is still fresh for me. I was devastated just a few months ago when my college roommate and lifelong friend, Lynne, died much too soon.
Lynne was diagnosed with cancer four years prior. The struggle seemed manageable the first three years. The fourth year was hard. In one of the last conversations I had with Lynne shortly before her death, she told me that she still firmly believed Jesus had the power to heal her here on this earth. She believed that physical healing was absolutely something Jesus could do. However, she told me that at this point, she no longer wanted him to heal her physically. She said she didn’t want Jesus to heal her because she didn’t want to have to go through the four-year dying process all over again some time later down the road. Once was enough.
The story of Lazarus came up in that same conversation with Lynne. We talked about how Jesus did make his way back to Mary and Martha’s house and that he called for Lazarus to come out of the tomb where his body had been rotting for four days. Miraculously, Lazarus came alive again walked out of the tomb.
Jesus told Martha, before it actually happened, that Lazarus would rise again. Martha didn’t quite catch Jesus’ context because she responded that she knew it would happen someday when it was the end of the world as we know it. Jesus wanted her to know that she didn’t have to wait until then to see new life. She could experience it that very day.
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ”
Her sister Mary and some other friends showed up with their own disbelief about Jesus’ immediate power to give life. Jesus loved this family. They were his people. They stood next to him, hugged him, spoke face to face with him, ate meals with him; yet they still had difficulty grasping the hope that Jesus could give them. This brought Jesus to tears.
Lynne and I also talked about Jesus’ weeping. The people closest to him didn’t believe in him — then there was poor, dead Lazarus. There was plenty to cry about. Maybe Jesus cried because he felt the same way about Lazarus that Lynne did about herself. Yes, he could heal Lazarus, but then Lazarus would have to suffer through death again later. Surely, once should be enough.
Lynne believed. She believed that heaven now would be better than suffering through the dying process again later. I can’t imagine what Lazarus must have thought when he was told he’d have to leave heaven to go back to earth for a little while.
Not long after Lazarus’ mournful wake and subsequent miraculous awakening, Jesus faced his own death here on earth. Unlike Lazarus, once was enough for Jesus. It was enough for all of us.
He is the resurrection. He is life. Believing that allows us to live even after we die.
“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.” Hebrews 9:27-28
This was originally posted March 26, 2017 on The Press and Standard site.