Dying Toward New Life
February 25, 2016 § Leave a comment
Last night I found myself reuniting with an old friend I had fallen out of touch with. It was a wonderfully uplifting experience. There were tears of joy and plans in the works for rebuilding the friendship.
Then I woke up from the dream. Hopes were dashed against the Rocks of Reality as I face the fact that things are still broken.
Thankfully, I have been spending a lot of time in the gospel of John lately in the course of teaching our high school youth group, and John reveals a lot of what Jesus does with broken things. In chapter 5, Jesus heals an invalid who is soon busted by the Sabbath police for carrying home the mat he no longer needed to lie on. This man who had been given new life and health could not even give the Jewish leaders the name of the Man who gave it to him. Jesus later catches up with the guy to make sure he doesn’t miss the fact that Jesus is more interested in the conquest of the man’s ongoing sin than his physical sickness (v.14). The goal was not just life, but new life in Jesus Christ, the total restoration of what was lost since sin entered the world.
GOD AT WORK
This becomes clearer when the Jews then lay into Jesus about healing on the Sabbath. Verse 17: “In His defense Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too am working.'”
Jesus goes on to explain He “can do only what he sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” At the same time, “the Father…has entrusted all judgment to the Son.” (vs.19,27)
I don’t think the Jews were really listening at this point because they’d just a heard Jesus “making Himself equal with God,” (v.18) and began thinking about how to kill Him because of this claim to deity.
God says we should believe what He says about His Son, and by looking at the Son we can recognize God the Father. Jesus, appointed by the Father as judge over all, says, “whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not be judged, but has crossed over from death to life.” (v.24) Salvation in Christ means restoration to a new life.
But what is the aforementioned “work” that Jesus and the Father are doing? The next 5 verses are a clue.
“Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (vs.25-29)
Imagine that. The same voice that spoke the universe into existence (Gen. 1:3), the “Word” who “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), the One who would call Lazarus forth from the tomb after 4 days of decay (John 11:43), the Jesus that spoke to John on Patmos of His future “making all things new” (Rev. 21:5)— this Lord will one day call every soul from every grave. Those who believe in the name of Jesus will not be condemned in the judgment that follows, but have “crossed over from death to life.”
The “work” Jesus mentions seems to be the work that God has been busy with since shortly after creation, and that’s His working on the redemption and restoration of a “good” creation gone bad because of sin. After observing what He had made, God rested on the 7th day (Gen. 2:2,3). That was God’s one and only Sabbath rest, and it was not to His benefit, but ours. The Sabbath God calls us to observe was “made for man,” (Mark 2:27). So Jesus, who is God, was not obligated to rest for the Sabbath, but is continually working with the Father. “To this very day” points to the present time when Jesus dwelt among us, because He’d come to sacrifice Himself for our sins (which we all needed, because none are “good”). On the cross, the Son of God conquered death and brought us new life.
FROM THE GRAVE
The Walking Dead series of AMC fame is not the waking dead of Jesus’ time. The resurrection of people (at least 9 recorded in Scripture) went a little differently. Modern zombie pop culture has tattered and worm-ridden half-dead humans limping along with open sores, missing limbs and a craving for brains. When Jesus—or the apostles in Jesus’ name—physically called someone back from death or disease or demon possession (Luke 7:11-16; John 9:1-17; Matthew 12:22), a picture of what God offers spiritually, they were completely restored and in their right minds (Luke 8:35). Not just life, but health. People with withered limbs, blind eyes, deaf ears, leprous sores and chronic bleeding were made completely whole and strong again. And this included Jesus’ own resurrected body.
Christians “are buried together with Him by baptism into death; that as Christ is risen from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) In a way, we who place our hope in Jesus Christ are dying toward new life. People die, families fall apart, friendships break down, and things fade away. But our hope is in the plague of a sick creation one Day giving way to the glorious experience of God’s eternal salvation. We are alive in Christ now, but we look forward to a fully redeemed and restored creation, where our glorified bodies and our relationship with God and neighbor fully realize new life.