When the End Becomes the Beginning

Dan Miller   -  

Jesus had a way of showing up amid a crisis and making what seemed to be the end just the beginning. At Easter, we celebrate the hope that Jesus rose from the dead. The subject of resurrection was not new to Jesus. Remember Lazarus? (John 11:1-44). Jesus had been told Lazarus – a good friend was sick, but Jesus waited.  Jesus is hopeful: “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (v.4).  Great.  All good, then.  The story becomes heavy and confusing when Jesus tells the disciples that Lazarus has died.  What?  Didn’t you tell us that his sickness would “not lead to death?” Didn’t you promise that?  Jesus, did you get it wrong..?  It gets worse when Jesus tells the disciples that He is glad that Lazarus is dead: Then Jesus tells them plainly, “Lazarus has died, and for your sake, I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe” (vv.14–15)

By the time Jesus and the disciples arrive at Bethany, Lazarus has been dead for four days (v.17). Why does John mention “four days?”  Citing the days adds depth and tension to the moment.  For a Jew, four days would be significant since Jewish teaching expressed that the soul of the deceased would hover over and around the body for three days. Therefore, in waiting four days, no one would consider any possibility of healing.  Lazarus had already been entombed. It must have seemed like all hope was gone… except Jesus intended to “be glorified through it.” Upon arriving on the scene, Jesus tells Martha, Lazarus’s sister, that her brother will live again. Knowing the Old Testament, Martha relays that she knows he will on the last day (v. 24), but Jesus says something shocking: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die” (v.25).

Jesus then tells the people to “take away the stone” (v.38). Martha protests because of the odor; the dead body must be strong after four days (notice the mention of the days again?). Jesus asks her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” (v.40). Stop and imagine that. What would you have thought if it were your brother? Your friend? At this moment?  What happens next brings all of Jesus’ identity into focus. If Lazarus doesn’t come out, then Jesus is a fake, a fraud, a phony! However, if Lazarus does come out, they are standing in the presence of the person who has power over death!

So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go” (John 11:41–43).

When Lazarus walks out of the tomb, the end becomes a beginning for him and legions of others who realize what Jesus’ resurrection means. I have found this principle to be true in my own life. When I reached the end of myself and trusted in Jesus alone to pay for my sins, I found a new beginning. When I repented of self-goodness and trusted in His payment alone for my sins, it changed everything about who I am today. Simply put, I am a follower of Christ. This does not mean I am perfect, but it says I want to honor my Savior by living a holy life. When I fall short of this ideal, the grace of God views my imperfections through Jesus’ obedience and covers them. In those times of regret, of wanting to be perfect yet realizing my weakness, I find that what should be an end is just another beginning.