As we lined up along the free throw line, we were one miss, three seconds, and ninety feet away from victory. We were trailing our opponent by two points in the 12th Street Recreational Center Fall Church League Tournament, and one of their players was on the free throw line with a chance to clinch the game with a pair of free throws. If he missed, we would have a chance to take the ball the length of the court for a last second desperation heave for victory. I wanted the chance to take that heave. So, when his free throw fell short, I grabbed the ball, turned and began sprinting towards our goal. And that is when I fell down.
Now, I don’t know how many times I have played in my mind or practiced in my driveway this very scenario (three seconds left, down two, with a chance to make the shot and win the game), but never in my fantasies has the play ever ended with me falling to the ground! But in real life, that is exactly what happened. I wanted to take the shot, but I ended up feeling as though I had been shot instead— a loud pop preceded intense pain as I ruptured my right Achilles tendon. Oh yeah … and we lost the game.
The next day, I went to see an orthopedic surgeon who told me that he could stitch my leg back together and make me “just like new.” Sure enough, one week later I had surgery, but I soon found out that becoming “just like new” was not as simple as just having surgery. After surgery, my leg was casted, immobile and sore—it took six months of physical therapy and hard work to get the “just like new” leg I was waiting for. The surgery brought the possibility of life and mobility back to my leg, but actual life and function would not return to my leg for quite some time.
In John 11, Jesus received word that his friend Lazarus was very ill and in need of help. After waiting two days before beginning the journey to Lazarus’ side, Jesus arrived at Bethany (Lazarus’ hometown) to find that Lazarus had already died and had been in the tomb for four days.
When Jesus arrived, He talked with Lazarus’ sister Martha. Jesus said to Martha in 11:25, “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.” Jesus told Martha this (and John recorded it for us) so that when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, everyone might see the larger significance of this mighty miracle. More than just returning life to one dead man, Jesus was offering resurrection AND life to all who would believe in His name.
After making this declaration, Jesus moved to the tomb where He ordered the stone to be rolled back, opening the door for the dead man (Lazarus) to come forth. With a loud cry, Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”—and out walked Lazarus, still bound in the clothes that they had used to bury him. Jesus then ordered people to cut the grave clothes off of his body, freeing Lazarus to live life. John 12:2 records for us that Lazarus’ health did return immediately, and he was seen at a feast with Christ just a short time later.
When Jesus said that He was both the resurrection and the life, He was implying something very significant. Sometimes we may think that Jesus’ salvation is like surgery. He, our heavenly Surgeon, goes in and creates the potential for life by stitching up our wounds and extracting sin’s ultimate consequence from our lives. Though we understand Christ’s role as Surgeon, we often think of our spiritual lives as physical therapy … a lengthy process where we ourselves have to work very hard to restore life to an otherwise dysfunctional situation. When we hear that Jesus is the resurrection, we sometimes think that as Christians we are like the “living dead,” saved from our sin eternally, but fully bound by its restrictive grave clothes in the present. If this is your attitude, remember that Jesus says that He is both the resurrection AND the life. He not only restores the potential for life, but He also provides the life itself—immediately. Like Lazarus who was not just given breath, but was cut free from his grave clothes, so Jesus offers us not just eternal hope for tomorrow, but every help for today!
Therefore if you know Christ, remember that He has done more than just raise you from the consequences of your sin; He has offered you the abundant life here and now with Him. Remember that He has cut off the grave clothes of your sin and invited you to a feast, living in obedience with Him today.
Jesus’ statement “I am the resurrection and the life” is the fifth revelatory statement John mentions arguing that Jesus is God.
This devo is a part of the 2022 Wildwood Christmas Daily Devotional, “God with us.” You can find the entire Christmas Devotional here.