'I AM THE RESURRECTION'
THESE words were spoken by our blessed Lord to Martha who had chided Him for His seeming tardiness in coming to them at the time of their brother Lazarus' illness.
'If thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.'
To this Jesus replied 'Thy brother shall rise again.'
This she knew, for her faith was strong and her understanding, up to a point, was clear.
Our Lord's further reply to this gave to her and gives to us - as it has to nearly two thousand years of the Christian witness - the summation of our creed, belief and witness, that the Resurrection is the very cornerstone of Christianity. No other religion can promise that, no religious leader of any faith can make that promise and assertion. Let interfaith leaders ponder this deeply, before selling the Christian pass to humanists and other do-gooders, and even to an ecumenism which enrols those who would jettison basic Christian doctrines.
'I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.'
'I am the Resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: AND whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believeth thou this?'
Later her sister Mary came to Him, with the same rebuke. Imagine the sorrow and heart-agony of our Lord, here, His closest friends had failed to perceive and to trust fully. No wonder He groaned in the spirit. No wonder He wept!
He had previously stated, 'This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.' Later He said, 'Our friend Lazarus sleepeth ... but I go that I might awake him out of sleep ... Howbeit Jesus spake of his death,' which had certainly taken place in the four days before the cornrnand to 'Come forth.'
All of this was but six days before Palm Sunday and the Passover. Now the issue was clearly before the chief priests and the council. Their spies had fully reported this to them. The issue was thus revealed. It could no longer be ignored. This Man who proclaimed that He was the Son of God, could forgive sins, could heal the sick, could feed the multitudes, had now revealed that He could raise the dead. It was too much!
Then Caiaphas pronounced the verdict - of what we in our terminology would call Deicide:
'Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself. but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.'
Caiaphas seems to have had a fear, an obsession if you will, concerning these 'Children of God scattered abroad.' On another occasion he had asked,
'Whither will He go that we cannot come? Will he go to the dispersed among the gentiles, (Greek-Hellenes) and teach the gentiles' (nations)?'
The existence of the descendants of ten-tribed Israel (Hellenes), and of Benjamin was, in the main, known to them. And He, on Whom he already passed judgement, had said that the Kingdom of God would be taken from them and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof He had also said that their house would be left unto them desolate. So, one man must die!
But his faith and beliefs could not absorb Resurrection truth. He did not believe the Son of God's words that 'no man taketh my life from me', that He had 'the power to lay it down and the power to take it up again' ,that 'the corn of wheat that dieth bringeth forth much fruit,' as our Lord said on the occasion of the Greeks' (Israelites?) visit.
Easter, the Passover, brought salvation; Easter brought Redemption. Resurrection brought the destruction of the power of death. Easter brings Life, eternal life. 'Believeth thou this?'
The believer in Christ doesn't die. He is of the church, the body of Christ, of which He is the Head, and His body doesn't die twice! We shall be changed. This mortal rnust put on immortality. But we don't die!
'He that liveth and believeth in me shall never die.'
Could anything be clearer?
But what about redeemed Israel, these children of God that were scattered abroad? In Paul's great Epistle to those that be in Rome called saints, chapter eleven, he speaks to the gentiles (nations), addressing national Israel - the whole twelve tribes, saying that God had not cast them off. 'God forbid'! Quite the reverse, He speaks of their diminishing, their fall, but also their fulness. And in a National Resurrection theme (see Ezekiel's theme in the valley of dry bones illustration), Paul concludes:
'For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?'
The time of the restoration of national Israel (not Israelis) is here. Israel has been redeemed. Israel must acknowledge her redemption. Israel must know that this means adoption - as the sons of God. And she will! No wonder Caiaphas is worried! For it is twelve-tribed Israel's restitution that is at hand, an Israel rejoicing in resurrection power!
"Personal regeneration must extend until political corruption shall become improbable, unpopular, impossible; until the only way to preferment shall be that of Christian patriotism, and an honest, broad, and noble philanthrophy ... Do you say this can never be? Never? Then the regeneration which God extends to some men cannot extend to others; then the gospel of Christ is a failure, and "our preaching is vain"; then, in the grand conflict of ages, vice is to prove itself more than a match for virtue; then the word of unchangeable truth, that "righteousness shall cover the earth as the waters cover the sea ", shall be demonstrated a failure. This cannot be. Long and terrible indeed will be the conflict; but the triumph is going on before our eyes. Its type is in every man created anew in Christ Jesus. Its progress is in the accumulating numbers of "the sacramental host of God's elect, " and in the mastery style in which our national virtues triumph over vile forces and untoward events mighty enough to destroy any government not sustained by Omnipotent Power. Unwavering faith in the ultimate triumph of the right reposes today securely on the verities of history as well as upon the unalterable veracity of God. Let us therefore, confidently expect the gradual but certain development of Christian principles in the Republic, and believe in its future greatness as a Christian power." (Jesse T. Peck, The History of the Great Republic from a Christian Stand-Point, 1868)
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