Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out.
It is only a matter of time before you will find yourself standing next to the grave of a Christian you love dearly. As you do, you may feel many things. Many reflections may enter your mind. Besides memories and emotions, however, consider the moment when Jesus also stood next to a grave.
In John chapter 11, Jesus is standing next to the grave of his dear friend, Lazarus. Lazarus has recently died from an illness. His family has buried his body. John describes the tomb as a cave with a stone laid across the entrance (John 11:38). The sheer grief of his friend’s death has moved Jesus to tears. Take away the stone, Jesus says. After some hesitation, obedient hands take the stone away. Following a fervent prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus calls out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The apostle John then records what happens next: The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
All of which brings us to the next time you find yourself standing next to the grave of a Christian who is near and dear to you. In John chapter 5, God’s Word tells us that a moment is coming when the mortal remains of your loved one will hear the voice of Jesus Christ, the Lord of Life. Those mortal remains will arise, reunited with the soul. And from that point onward, that child of God, body and soul, freed from the presence and effects of sin, will bask forever in the glories of eternal life.
Think of it. The voice of the one who said, I am the resurrection and the life; the voice of the one who proclaimed our sins paid in full when he cried out, It is finished, from the cross; the voice of the one who promised, Because I live, you also will live—that same voice will one day call for you and me. And all will be well.
Lord Jesus, move me to hear your voice through your Word and sacrament. And move me to rejoice in the day your voice calls me home. Amen.
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Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
Ever hear something like this? “Jesus was a great teacher and a great example. The world would be a better place if more people tried to live as he lived. I don’t subscribe to the idea that he was more than a human being, but that takes nothing away from my high regard for what a good person he was.”
Opinions like that have been around for quite some time. But as writer CS Lewis once pointed out, Jesus does not let people get away with opinions like this. Instead, Jesus confronts them with very pointed claims that he makes about himself. The Word of God before us in John chapter 11 is a perfect example. No mere teacher about God talks like this. No mere teacher about God makes such an outrageous claim. No mere teacher about God has the chutzpa to say, I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live.
Confronted in this way, what are people to conclude? CS Lewis offered some possibilities. Perhaps Jesus was a liar. If that’s the case, however, no one has any business calling him good, especially since his followers willingly faced torture and death rather than renounce what Jesus claimed. Perhaps, then, Jesus was a lunatic, a madman with delusions of grandeur. Insanity, however, does not fit with the written record of how he consistently conducted his ministry.
And so if Jesus is not a liar, and if he is not a lunatic, what is he? The Holy Spirit brings us to another conclusion—that Jesus is exactly who he claims to be. He is God the Son, who became fully human. He came here to live a life of perfect goodness on our behalf. He came to suffer and die for our every sin. Then, to demonstrate who he is and what he’s accomplished, he raised himself to life three days later.
Do you believe this? Jesus asks. His gospel empowers you and me to say, “Yes.”
Lord Jesus, you are the resurrection and the life. Empower me to live and believe in you. Amen.
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The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
For years, the last word in telescopes was the Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting the earth at about 340 miles. But no more. The James Webb telescope launched on Christmas Day, 2021. It now orbits the earth at a distance of about 900,000 miles. It is the largest optical telescope in space, with an “eye” about six times larger than that of the Hubble. It is also the most sophisticated. The pictures it has been able to take of God’s creation have been spectacular. You and I can now go online and see stars and galaxies formerly invisible to all previous telescopes. In Psalm 19, God’s Word says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” The pictures coming back from the James Webb telescope only put an exclamation point on that ageless truth.
As you have opportunity, take a moment to pull up those pictures. Scroll through the images. Be amazed by the breathtaking beauty of the stars, the nebulas, the galaxies, or the riveting, close-up detail of our own planets. As you do, however, keep in mind something else that is also astounding. God’s Word tells us that all of this—all that we can see and beyond what we can see—all of this is waiting in eager expectation for something. It is waiting in eager expectation for the Lord of all creation to bring the presence and effects of sin to an end. It is waiting for him to create a new heaven and a new earth (2 Peter 3:13). It is waiting for the Last Day. It is waiting for Jesus.
Indeed, it always comes back to Jesus. Whether it’s viewing the vastness of the universe through the latest telescope or considering the twists and turns of our own personal lives—it always comes back to Jesus. It comes back to the one who came to rescue us from the curse of our sin. It comes back to the one who lived and suffered and died on our behalf. It comes back to the one who rose. It comes back to the one who reigns.
Lord Jesus, all creation awaits your return in eager expectation. Help me remember this. Amen.
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I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
This devotion is for those among us who, in this moment, are suffering. Your suffering may be from a toxic environment at work. It may be from a collapse in your finances. It may be from a rift in your marriage. It may be from a family member who has broken your heart. Your suffering may be from having to experience great humiliation or shame. It may be from some reminder that has triggered awful memories of a past failure. It may be from profound loneliness. It may be from the death of someone you’ve known and loved your whole life. Or your suffering may be from constant physical pain or misery.
What to do? One approach is to say, “Others have it worse than I do,” which often helps. One can usually find examples of individuals we know whose suffering seems worse. Such a point of comparison, however, has drawbacks. What do I do in that moment, for instance, when I look around and discover that, from my perspective, no one in my circle of acquaintances is suffering quite the way I am?
There’s a better point of comparison. And that better point of comparison involves Jesus. All the suffering you and I endure is the result of sin—your sin and mine. God the Son saw our plight. Out of a love we will never fully grasp, he chose to become one of us. On our behalf, he lived a life of pure goodness—the life you and I have failed to live. And then, in our place, he suffered. He suffered a kind of suffering none of us will ever comprehend. He did this to cleanse us of our wrongs. He did this so that you and I will never suffer for our sins. Never.
And it means that our time of suffering in this world is temporary. Through faith in our living Christ, an eternity of joy awaits—a glorious joy to which our present suffering cannot compare.
Lord, I am in a moment of extreme suffering. But you’ve seen to it that it will be brief. And eternal joy with you awaits. Thank you. Amen.
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“Everything is all right,” she said.
2 Kings 4:26
The painting depicts a scene of utter disaster. A family’s home has burned to the ground. All that remains is the chimney. Near the front of the picture are two figures. One is a small boy. The boy is sobbing, overwhelmed by the shock of what just happened. The other figure is an old man. The old man is speaking to the grief-stricken boy. At the bottom of the painting are the old man’s words. They are simple words, but they are profound. To the small boy the old man says, “Hush, child. God ain’t dead.”
In our Bible passage today, a mother is facing a nightmare. Her child has just died. Grief has overwhelmed her. And yet, even in her sorrow, she refuses to give in to hopelessness. She refuses to give in to despair. Instead, she looks to the Lord. She looks to the master of life and death. And when asked how her family is doing, she replies, “Everything is all right.”
True, her reply may simply be a way to hold her emotions together until she has the opportunity to unburden her heart before the Lord. Nevertheless, her reply reminds us of the security you and I possess—a security that surrounds us regardless of circumstances.
Into this world of disaster, tragedy, and death, God the Son came. God the Son became one of us in the person of Jesus Christ. On our behalf he lived the spotless life that we, in our sinful brokenness, have failed to live. And in our place, he carried the crimes, atrocities, betrayals, failures—including yours and mine—he carried them all to the cross and paid for them in full through his suffering and death. And then, to assure us that he really is who he claims to be, and has done what he’s promised to do, he raised himself from the dead.
This means not only that we stand forgiven through faith in him. It also means we possess his sure promise that he will never leave or forsake us. Never. Therefore, on the darkest of days, you and I can still boldly say, “Everything is all right.”
Lord, remind me today that, in you, everything is all right. No matter what. Amen.
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You did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship.
No More Slavery to Fear
An Oscar-winning film, “The King’s Speech” is based on the true story of Albert Windsor, a shy, stammering member of the British Royal Family. Albert had a severe stammering problem all his life, and the very idea of giving a speech in public filled him with terror. Then, the unthinkable happened. His older brother, the King, abdicated his throne in the 1930s. Albert was the next in line. Duty demanded that he accept the crown. Not long after, World War II broke out. Suddenly, the stammering man who feared public speaking more than anything had to give a radio speech broadcast to millions of people.
By a seeming miracle, he did it. In fact, he did it with hardly a stammer. The secret was his speech therapist. Over time, his speech therapist had removed much of Albert’s fear of public speaking. When the paralyzing fear went away, Albert was able to do what needed to be done.
The day the Holy Spirit brought you to faith in Jesus was the day you didn’t have to be afraid anymore. But the devil hopes you won’t remember that. Satan hopes you’ll stay paralyzed in your old fears, guilt, regrets, and dark memories of past failures. After all, if he can get you to forget what you have in Christ, he’s won the battle for the day.
Today give the devil a bad day. Remember the full forgiveness you possess in the Son of God. Stop and recall that you are a child in God’s family by faith. Take your old fear and have it washed away in the blood of the Lamb.
When you do, then you can live your life free of the old slavery to fear. And you can fluently do the wonderful things God desires for you to do.
Lord Jesus, apart from you I am afraid. In you, however, I have nothing to fear. Empower me by your Spirit to remember that. Use me to do your good work. Amen.
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We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.”
Not Having It Your Way
“Have it your way.” For over 40 years, Burger King encouraged us to order food the way we want it. It was perhaps a catchy slogan, but Burger King was by no means the only voice in our culture telling us to make ourselves happy. Our society is all about instant, self-gratification. On a daily basis, we are bombarded with messages, commercials, and slogans, all encouraging us to take care of ourselves first and to make ourselves happy.
Sadly, our quest to please ourselves often involves hurting or neglecting others. When we are in the me-first mode, we are generally oblivious to the needs, concerns, and feelings of others. We jump in line first and make others wait. We fail to help those who need it. We vent about our problems but give little attention to the problems of others. Having it our way often means we fail to show Christian love and service to the people God has placed in our lives specifically so we can serve them. The apostle Paul reminds us in Romans chapter 15 that this is not right. Selfish living is not God-pleasing living.
There is a better way. Paul writes, “Even Christ did not please himself.” It’s remarkable to look at Jesus’ life and see the way he was so selfless. Jesus did not live his life to please himself. Instead, he willingly put us first and died on the cross to take our sins away. Because he was so selfless, you and I are forgiven and saved and on the way to heaven through faith in him.
Let the selfless love of Jesus motivate you to be different. Out of love for Jesus, don’t try so hard to have it your way. Rather, as Paul says, “Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.”
Dear Lord Jesus, thank you for living such a selfless life for me and for willingly giving that life on the cross in my place. Motivate me with your love today to put others first and to serve them as you have served me. Amen.
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