The events in the life of Jesus bring meaning to the events of our own. As a matter of fact, the ups and downs, the joys and challenges of our lives as Christians can be quite confusing to us unless we learn to view our lives in the light of His – the struggles and the successes. Theologians call this Identification with Christ. I call it discovering Your Jesus I.D.
“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection…” — The Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:12
Maggie, an eighth‑grade Spanish teacher, faced a Personal Gethsemane herself two decades into her marriage. She describes it this way: “When my husband of 20 years and I separated, people called, wrote letters, came visiting. Some promised, ‘You’ll marry again soon — and next time your marriage will last.’ Others said, ‘You’re better off single.’ Almost everyone encouraged me, ‘Go for it!’
Eighteen months later, when Maggie and her husband decided to give their marriage a second shot, support was limited at best and often non-existent: “’I heard you two are back together,’ said one caller. “I hope . . . it isn’t true,” another asked. “Are you sure you want to risk going through this again?” “When something is dead,” a minister told her, “you need to bury it.”
There is something cold and callous in the ring of the minister’s counsel – “When something is dead, you need to bury it.” Such counsel seems too stark and harsh when addressing something as significant as a twenty-year-long marriage.
No doubt, however, Maggie’s array of advisors had watched her on some of her darkest days. They had seen the anguish and disillusionment on her face when she had discussed her marriage. They heard her grappling for hope. They saw the tears. Watching her heart fighting to navigate the hurts and hurdles of it all was difficult. Somehow the thoughts of a Plan B, of just being rid of the struggle, seemed a lesser burden to bear than trying to weather it. Why, it only made sense – common sense, that is.
Jesus turned the Kingdom of Common Sense on its head in more ways than one. Just think of it: To blood-thirsty zealots he insisted “love your enemy” and “bless those who persecute you.” To his often-vengeful disciples he upped the tally for required acts of forgiveness from seven to “seventy times seven”. And to a young bereaved sister named Martha, whose beloved brother Lazarus (a close friend of Jesus’) had just died, he made it clear that the Resurrection was more than simply a coming prophetic event.
“’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?’
Into the face of Martha’s grief, Jesus came that day. He walked right into her conflict, into her Personal Cross in life. Her soul was not only wracked by the loss of Lazarus, it was bewildered over the question of why. Why hadn’t he just come earlier? Why had he waited this long? Surely he could have saved her brother. Martha was struggling with the same thing you and I often struggle with, a nagging if – “if you had been here, my brother would not have died (v. 21).”
What Martha hoped would happen, had not. If any present hope was in sight she could not see it. To Martha’s dilemma Jesus brought hope in the form of five short words – “Your brother will rise again” (v. 23). He didn’t say how? He didn’t say why? He didn’t even say when? But he did, however, bring her a promise and an emphatic one at that.
Martha answered, “I know he [Lazarus] will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” In other words, I’m familiar with the doctrines. I have studied them well. I know that I have the hope of someday seeing my brother again in heaven, in the “sweet by and by.” It is as if Martha feels for a moment that Jesus is giving her the last thing anyone probably wants at such a moment of deep distress – a Sunday School lesson.
What Martha did not realize, however, is that not only would there one day be a Resurrection, she was at that moment standing directly in front of Resurrection itself, Resurrection incarnate. She was looking at The Resurrection! All of the power to resurrect, to bring back to life, to transform and to make new, were in the hands of the one with whom she was at that moment conversing. The dark valley of the shadow of death she had entered just four days earlier was about to be visited by the only person on the planet that possessed a power greater than death. All that was required, Jesus said, was that she … “believe.”
Certainly Martha’s confession of faith in a coming “resurrection” was no small thing. At least she had a long-term hope in God’s ultimate power over death. Jesus was, however, calling her to a more immediate awareness, to a Personal Resurrection. Resurrection power was not limited to a future event in history. No, Resurrection power touched the planet the moment Jesus arrived. Why? Because he was, and is, and will forever be, the “Resurrection and the life.” Yes, Martha had a hope, but Jesus had a higher one.
The Risen Life
Most people do just what Martha did – we underestimate the Resurrection. We relegate it to the future. And when we do, we miss out on so much purpose and power available to us right here right now. Of course, the Resurrection is an historical, and a future, event, but it is so much more. The Apostle Paul lived his life every day in light of Resurrection power and taught us how to do so in Romans 6, 7 and 8. According to Paul, the Resurrection is…
A Preview of Coming Attractions
The Resurrection of Jesus is a preview of what every Christian will one day experience. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead gives us great hope and removes the fear of death. “But the fact is that Christ has been raised from the dead. He has become the first of a great harvest of those who will be raised to life again (1 Cor. 15:20 NLT).”
“Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.” (1 Pet. 1:3 NLT)
The Resurrection is also…
A Power over Present Distractions
Sin is a distraction. Have you noticed? The worst thing sin does is that it distracts us from the will of God, the face of God and the presence of God. It robs us of our true identity. It breaks our focus on Jesus in life.
When we go down in the waters of baptism, we identify with Jesus in his death – in his death for our sins. We die to our sins. This one-time physical experience of baptism is intended to be an everyday mindset in the life of the Christian: “For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives (Rom. 6:4 NLT).” “For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.” (Rom. 6:7 NLT)
The Resurrection is also…
A Plan for Spirit-Led Actions
When we rise up out of the waters of baptism, we identify with Jesus’ rising above the power of sin and death and living life in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is an experience and a perspective for life: “…now we have been released from the law, for we died with Christ, and we are no longer captive to its power. Now we can really serve God, not in the old way by obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way, by the Spirit (Rom. 7:6 NLT).”
Imagine that! The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead can get you up and out of bed in the morning, can fill your soul with a sense of purpose, and can fuel you with energy to serve God in life. But in order to walk in that Risen Life it requires that we, first of all, receive that life by asking God for it. And, secondly, it involves a reckoning. We must reckon, or consider, ourselves as dead to sin and alive to God.
Beyond the Grave
Succeeding at giving her marriage another shot was something that few people in Maggie’s life had any hope for. Deep into the Personal Gethsemane of her separation, she found herself caught amidst a mixture of conflicting thoughts and emotions. The day her husband came back into her life, she was contemplating the “freedom” she was about to experience, the trips she would take and the projects she could undertake. The divorce papers were expected to arrive any day and she was becoming more and more comfortable with the idea of being single again.
While sweeping up cat litter in the basement, Maggie heard a familiar sound as a car pulled up in the driveway. Without a word, her husband slowly entered the basement and invaded the silence as he walked over and gently hugged his wife. He came this time not with papers, but with a question: “Could we try again?”
In a millisecond all kinds of questions flooded Maggie’s mind: Should she toss two decades of marriage in the trash along with the cat litter? Or should they give it another go? Did she want to have to answer to someone else again? Did she want all the cooking and laundry that went with it? The meals? The sharing? What about the complaints she would hear about her shortcomings? And yet, what about the good times they had known together before everything went south?
Maggie was not so sure. Yes, for better or for worse, vows had been made. She had made a promise. She wondered about the kids, however. Wouldn’t they be better off with both parents at home? Still, that seemed a lame excuse for moving back in together. As she walked the valley of decision, Maggie’s hopes were paper-thin. Still she felt more positive about the idea of giving it a try again together than going it alone. Honestly, she felt the risk of either decision. Reenter the marriage and it might blow up in her face; Leave it and she might regret having given up so soon.
And how did Maggie’s long Saturday end? She describes it this way:
Our separation taught us a little about what is and what isn’t important. Forgiveness, we’ve learned, is essential. And we’ve avoided (at least so far) the anger and bitterness that can come from divorce.
Our marriage is far from perfect. . .But the marriage is better than it was before. . We walk nearly every day, eat out more frequently, talk more. Both of us have learned to pay more attention to each other than we did in the past.
The minister wasn’t wrong. At the time I talked to him the marriage was dead. But … hasn’t he heard about resurrection?