Well it finally happened. Yesterday, my beloved Western Bulldogs won their first Premiership in the time I have been alive. Now I believe I speak for Michelle as well as myself when I say this personally is a big deal. There where cheers, there were tears and there were nail biting moments for sure. All in all, yesterday was pretty well up there, on our significant things in life list.
But it does not make the top of the list. In fact I would think it is going to struggle to make the top twenty, with three sons, nine grandchildren plus a couple of ring ins The top dozen spots are well and truly taken. Add to that the day Michelle stood beside me at the alter and promised to share the rest of our lives together, we now have 15 bigger and better days that I can point to in life.
However, there are four more days, I want to put in front of yesterdays awesome doggie day.
The nine years spent as Pastors to the Pine Rivers Congregation, so add in the induction day there, and this Ministry is equally special so that now gets my list to 17 even more awesome days than yesterday.
Now there are two more days that are even more special than all these dates. Second spot goes to the 10th of April 1979. Because without that day, the following 17 on the list would never have happened. That was the day I knelt in prayer and asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Saviour. Without that day, I would never have married Michelle, become father and grandfather or Pastor. That day changed forever, every day onwards of my life for eternity.
But my number one day is still to come. It will be the day that we are raised into glory. Perhaps I will be resurrected from the grave, or maybe I will be caught up into the clouds on the day of the Lord’s return, however it happens, the resurrection is the greatest thing there is. It is the Grand Final of all Grand Finals. And my side wins!
When Paul wrote to the Philippian Church, he told them
7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
I want to look at Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead as we consider the Apostles Creed and its statement ‘the resurrection of the body’.
By the way this Lazarus is not the same man as referred to in Luke Gospel in the story of Lazarus and the rich man. Actually while we are talking of the other Lazarus, did you know that some ‘churches’ have a special feast day for this poor fellow. As part of their worship, they bring dogs into the Church and pray blessings over the dogs, because in Luke we learn that ‘dogs liked the sores of Lazarus’. I tell you this, because it gives credence to my theory, that it is important to know what we should believe.
The early church devised a short checklist of things they believed constituted the Christian Faith. This short list was organised into a series of dot points so that they could be easily remembered. After all two thirds of people never learned to read or write, so they needed something catchy to work with. The result was the ‘Apostles Creed’. This creed was a series of short phrases that included everything that was unique to Christian belief.
Resurrection and the Creed
When I read the Creed in its original form, which is the same style of Greek used in the New Testament, its punchy-ness and precise style leap of the page.
The third last line (allowing ‘Amen’ to be its own line) in English reads “The resurrection of the body” Was translated from the Latin ‘carnis resurrectionem’, which quite frankly sounds rather unpleasant. This in turn was a translation from the Greek ‘sarkos anastasin’. I must admit that sounds better. Of course the second word is the basis of the girls name ‘Anastasia’. In Greek the first word, ‘sarkos’, is literally ‘flesh’ and is commonly used to depict physical life. No different to how we would say, ‘Here he is, in the flesh’. Meaning the person is physically present.
Anastasin, is a compound word literally ‘again’ + ‘rise up’.
So the Creed is “I believe in … flesh again rising up’. Of course ‘believe’ here is more than simply acknowledgement of a fact, I like to understand it as being ‘I trusting in’. Thus emphasisng the dependence we have on this event happening.
Therefore I would translate this part of the Creed as “I am placing my trust into the hope of my life being raised from the dead.”
So just what is this bodily resurrection that we look forward to?
The Problem of the Resurrection.
The resurrection was a clear emphasis of the ministry of Jesus. In fact this was so much so that the Saducees saw this as an opportunity to discredit Jesus. Which if you think about it, this doctrine and especially the resurrection of Jesus is a major arguing point to this day.
In the times of Jesus the Sadducees wanted to argue the point of resurrection, because they did not believe there was life after death. The Pharisees wanted to argue the resurrection of Jesus, because they did not want to admit He was of God.
In 2000 years, Not much has changed. Those who are atheists still want to deny the resurrection, because they do not believe in life after death, and people of other religious faiths want to deny the resurrection of Jesus, because they do not want to concede He is the Son of God. It was a hot topic then, and it still grates today.
The Resurrection of Lazarus.
In the Gospel of John, there are seven miracles recorded for our benefit. There is no account of the Bread and Wine in the Last Supper in John, instead we have two miracles involving wine at a wedding and bread in the feeding of a multitude.
John also talks about light and dark, so it is no surprise to find a miracle involving the healing of a blind man. For evangelism , we have the miracle of the catch, to remind us that without the presence and assistance of Christ, our efforts to grow the Kingdom are futile.
Because John makes a point of life and eternal life, is it any surprise that one of the miracles John records for us is the resurrection of Lazarus.
Poor old Lazarus, left to rot in the ground for four days, then through no fault of his own he gets to become the center of a controversy that that has the religious leaders plotting to kill him and put him back in the grave (John 12:9&10).
While we are talking about that, we cannot be sure what happened to him after that. Did he die a second time, or did he get to ascend to Heaven during the Holy Week or the Ascension? We have no reliable information. The Muslims believe that he was murdered by the Apostle Paul, which I strongly doubt, I think the orthodox belief that he died Cyprus and was buried there a second time around 63 AD is more likely. There is also a Catholic tradition that has him buried in Marseilles France. The fact of the matter is that we do not know, nor is it important for us to know.
What do we Learn from Lazarus?
There are many lessons in this story. Another day, I may talk about how God allows us to go through things that He may be glorified in the end. But that is for another day. Today, I want to focus on the event and some of the conversation surrounding the event. And some of that conversation is just awesome. I particularly love Martha’s words in verse 39, especially from the old King James. Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. How good is that? 🙂 I can just see the epithet on his headstone now,
Lazarus of Bethany
0 – 33 A.D.
“Behold, he stinketh!”
Let Loose to Live, now and in Eternity
While that brings a smile to my face it is the words of Jesus after Lazarus comes out of the cave that inspire me. In verse 44 we have the words of Jesus “Loose him, and let him go.”
This is a tough verse for translators, the first part is straight forward. Lazarus was bound. He was incapable because he has tied up. He could not walk, he could not see, he could not do anything.
So Jesus issues two commands, the first is to those around. It is to set Lazarus free. Poor old Laz, could barely stand up. He must have been an incredible sight, Maybe like a mummy in one of those cartoons we used to watch. All wrapped up, so Jesus orders that he be unloosed. Some translations say unwrapped, some say unloosed, some say untied. They are all valid translations. Basically he was tied up and he needed help.
This reminds me of a little bit earlier in Johns Gospel, in Chapter 8, where Jesus tells us
34 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin. 35 “The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Or Hebrews 12
1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
So the first part of new life in Christ is being set free from that which binds us and has power over us. The second part of Jesus command is something we just can’t translate. The letting go is more akin to walk beside or to follow. It is a compound word that is ‘submit to follow’. As I look at this, I am mindful of that passage in Matthew 11, where Jesus calls us to take on His yolk. It is as though Jesus is saying, “Unbind this man and let Him come with Me.”
There is so much more I would love to say at this point. Talking about what it means to be in unison with Jesus, placing Him as our life priority and how that transforms every facet of life, but let us remain focused on the point of living the resurrection as we await it.
Whether it be in eternity, or be it now. The call of Jesus is to be set free from the sins which would entangle us and walk each day with Him. Hallelujah!