John 11:25-26 “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die…”
“The Answer” … “The Answer” … “The Answer”. The sign kept flashing its message to the passerby. We wound our way slowly down that narrow cemetery road to stop at the open grave to place the remains of a dear one. And all the while the sign opposite the cemetery kept flashing it’s ironic message: “The Answer… The Answer.” How many mothers and fathers had taken the remains of little children to this place—and had confronted that same sign? How many lonely wives or husbands had seen that same sign through tears of grief? And what was that “answer” for those grief-stricken mourners? A partially tipped champagne glass on the same sign was the visible evidence of the meaning of the message. Here, across the street from the cemetery, one could find the “answer” to his sorrow and grief.
So does man present his answers to every difficulty. Ah, but for all of his “answers,” he has nevertheless found none. His computers have solved many of his problems. Man grows in his understanding of the composition of this universe. The sum of his knowledge increases with amazing speed. But THE answer he has not found. He presents suggestions. He develops philosophies. He has his theories. But he has no real answer.
There is a very real problem which all men confront: the reason for his existence. Why does all existence end in physical death? Why is his life-span so very, very brief? What has man gained, or what has he added, by living on this earth? What must he say about suffering and pain? How can he explain war and pestilence? How can he account for the fact of death? Throughout the ages the same problem confronts man, a problem for which he can find no real answer. Finally, in his despair, he cries, “Let us eat and drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!”
That flashing sign across from the cemetery presented one of the most popular of man’s answers to all his problems and afflictions. Drown one’s sorrow and grief under the numbing spell of alcohol. The man of “distinction” is seen sipping the contents of that little glass. It is the escape from frustration and worry. It is the “answer” to sorrow and grief.
The popularity of this “answer” is evident all about us. The reason for its appeal is not difficult to see. It does not remove any problems. Death remains. The causes of frustration and anxiety remain. Suffering and pain are not taken away. But this one “answer” of man provides a few moments of forgetfulness. It is the means of escape—brief though this might be. For a little while man imagines that God is not on His throne. Man, in his drunken stupor, thinks that the wrath of God does not rest upon him for all of his iniquities.
How utterly foolish is this, or any other, answer that the world would offer. So plainly it solves nothing. But it must be said that the answers of the world are so easily accepted and imitated. “The Answer” which can be found in the neighborhood tavern seems so appealing and tempting. Young people of the church sometimes, too, like to try out for themselves if there is any truth in this “answer” of the world. Often, only too late, they discover that the “answer” is nothing but deception and the lie. So the believing child of God recognizes the deceiving character of the “answers” of the world, and by grace refuses to walk according to them.
But it is not my intent in this article to promote prohibition. Rather would I contrast one of many false “answers” with that only answer of Scripture.
Martha, with Mary, had brought her dear brother Lazarus to the tomb four days earlier. The grief and sorrow was very real to her. Martha was the one who loved to minister to the needs of others. Doubtlessly she had enjoyed caring for her brother also—but now he was gone. Jesus had arrived too late to prevent his death.
The grief of Martha is not unknown to us as well. At one time or another we face similar grief. There is for us suffering and pain—as well as health and ease.
To all of this Jesus gives the only answer—an answer which immediately reveals the falsity of that above-mentioned flashing sign. “I am,” says Jesus, “the resurrection and the life.” What an answer! Jesus explains this glorious truth to Martha—and us. He IS this for us: the resurrection and life. He does not OFFER it to Martha or us if we will kindly accept it of Him. He does not beg or plead that we take this life of Him before it is too late. That would be Arminianism. That presentation is becoming all too popular in our day. But that could hardly be the answer of comfort and assurance which we daily need.
Jesus IS resurrection and life for us. These are already accomplished. He took upon Himself the guilt of our sin. Willingly He went that way of the cross in order that there He might bear the full vials of the wrath of God for our sin. He actually did bear that wrath to its bitter end. Atonement had been made; satisfaction was complete. That was also the testimony of His resurrection again on the third day. He was raised again because of our justification (Rom. 4:25).
Thus is He our resurrection and life. He is our resurrection from spiritual death. Through the work of His Spirit Who regenerates us, we are brought to newness of life. This life we already enjoy on this earth. It is fellowship and communion with God. It is that covenant relationship whereby all the blessings of our God are freely and richly bestowed upon us. That is given to those for whom Christ died.
Death, then, no longer has its sting. Now it becomes for me an entrance into eternal glory. Grievous it might seem to those who remain behind; yet children of God can rejoice through their tears. How can they fail also to rejoice, knowing that another has entered into the “joy of his Lord?” And all adversity serves as means to prepare us for that place in glory which is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord. All things now work together for our good. Though we were dead, yet shall we live.
This can be the only possible true answer for the Christian. It is real, not merely something which hides for a moment the anxieties of our time. This is an answer not of man’s devising. No man could ever have arrived at the conclusion that resurrection and life would be accomplished through the cross of God’s Son in our flesh. Here is the revelation of the almighty, sovereign God: the ANSWER that He has provided that we might be called by His Name.
This is what we believe. Through the working of the Spirit of the Son, we are regenerated, converted, and thus confess our union to Him—the resurrection and life. Then we are not tempted to try out the many and varied “answers” of this world. We know all of them to be false; we know that these cannot give comfort and assurance. We continue to hold to that one truth through every way which lies before us. This is the answer of grace which never deceives.