Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lazarus and Resurrection

I've been reading through the gospel of John pretty voraciously over the last week or so, still entertaining the idea of man's default position of mortality.  I know there are a few issues that would have to be worked out and explained before a strong case could be made for the hypothesis I've been considering. 

 A couple of interesting things popped out at me while meditating on the story of Lazarus.

John 11:11

After he had said this, he went on to tell them,"Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up."

This is an interesting way of describing Lazarus's death, though it seemed to confuse the disciples.  Jesus clarifies that Lazarus is dead, and the disciples realize that Jesus wasn't speaking of natural sleep. 

Lazarus is asleep. Not gone. Not floating about. He is asleep---unconscious, not active in this world.

Jesus could have used any image to convey Lazarus's state and he chooses the image of sleep.

Once Jesus gets to Martha and Mary, we find one of the few instances in Scripture recording the common Jewish belief in a future, physical resurrection. 

John 11:21-24

"Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."

Jesus said to her,"Your brother will rise again."

Martha answered,"I know 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 will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Jesus doesn't comfort Martha with the idea of Lazarus in Heaven or Paradise.  He tells her Lazarus will live again and Martha agrees that, some future point...Lazarus will live again. 

As Jesus makes the declaration about himself being the resurrection, I realized that when Jesus says "he who believes in me will live, even though he dies," will is used to refer to the future, not simply as a vague statement about salvation.  The next statement is not a reiteration of the first, but a continuation of it. When Jesus is saying "whoever lives and believes in me will never die" he's referring to that future life, after natural death has occurred and resurrection has occurred. Those resurrected in the future who have faith in Christ will live eternally.

It's a slight distinction, but one I wouldn't have noticed before.

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