SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS
Commentary by Walter Albritton
Because He Lives We Have Hope of Life After Death
Key Verse: I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live. – John 11:25
John Chapter 11 is full of dramatic moments but none is more gripping than that of Jesus calling Lazarus out of the tomb. Jesus calls loudly, “Lazarus, come out!” All present surely gasped to see Lazarus stumble out of the tomb, struggling to see in the bright sunshine, and still wrapped in linen cloths.
Did it really happen like that? Or is this just one more myth John tells to convince his readers that Jesus was truly the Son of God? What do you think? I ask you the question Jesus asked Martha, “Do you believe this?”
Well, I believe! How much do I believe? So much that I agree with those who say, “If Jesus had not called Lazarus by name, all the dead in the other tombs would have obeyed Jesus’ command and walked out of their graves!”
Of course Lazarus would have to die again. He did not come forth in a resurrected body as Jesus did when God raised him from the dead. Jesus raised Lazarus for a reason – so that this miracle would call forth faith in Mary and Martha and his disciples. He wanted them to believe and not doubt. His grief was more for his friends than for Lazarus. He grieved for their lack of faith that God had given him power over death.
What is important for us is that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life.” And because he is, he has the power to give those who trust him, who believe on his name, the assurance of eternal life. For Christians Jesus is, here and now, the great “I AM” of God.
He was alive in the beginning. He is alive now, and he will be alive for evermore. He has conquered hell and death and in so doing he has delivered us from the fear of death.
Because he lives, we can not only face tomorrow with all its sorrow and heartache; we can face death with the sure hope that we will live eternally in the Father’s love. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Some people are dubious about this conviction. They reason that all human beings have a desire for life not to end in the grave. So to satisfy this desire people have conjured up various theories of life everlasting. Since there is no scientific evidence to support the belief in life after death, it is intellectually dishonest to embrace such a belief. This is the opinion of the doubters. What shall we say?
To believe there is life after death is more than wishful thinking. It is true that most people have a longing for life beyond the grave. But what is the origin of this longing? Is it not reasonable to assume that God planted this desire within us? If so, would it not be cruel of God to give us this longing for life if there is no life after the death of the body? It would seem so to me.
Look at all of God’s creation. He loves to see things grow – from a tiny seed into a beautiful fruit or flower. Growth is a principle of creation. Some trees, like the Palm tree, bear no fruit for as much as 50 years.
A human being is first a child, then a youth, then an adult and finally a fully mature person. Tragic accidents and disease can interrupt that process called a lifetime, as happened with our first son.
David died when he was three. Leukemia kept him from fulfillment and maturity. Was that the end for David? Or does God have the power to allow children like David to continue to mature, to learn and grow, in the eternal life Jesus provides them after the death of the physical body? I believe this is God’s ultimate purpose and that his ultimate purposes cannot be thwarted by the misfortunes of this earthly life.
God loves us so much that he refused to make us robots programmed to obey his commands. He gave us freedom to choose. He does not force us to love him. He gave us a world filled with risks and dangers, without which we would not have the exciting possibility for creativity, discovery, and achievement.
It is within the perplexities of our lives that we can exercise our free will and realize significance and dignity. We do so by cooperating with God, abiding by his principles of kingdom living, and thus find the joy of becoming co-laborers with God.
During life’s journey we can make our bed with the skeptics or we can believe in the integrity of the Holy Scriptures and embrace the shining truth that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Choosing the latter, we inherit the joyous hope that because Jesus lives, we shall live also. Lasting peace comes with that decision. Then, with confidence that our God is a “Mighty Fortress,” we can declare with Martin Luther:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also;
The body they may kill:
God’s truth abideth still;
His kingdom is forever.