The Promise, Presence, and Power of Jesus

This living through the coronavirus pandemic experience has been no fun; it has been a long, dark, painful episode. Even though there’s light at the end of the tunnel, there’s still a ways to go before we arrive at something approximating ‘normal’, whatever that might be in the post-covid era.

The good news that we have learned – again – is that Jesus is walks with us through the darkness of life. He is always with us in the valley of the shadow of death. But in addition to his presence, we also experience his promise and his power. These three words – promise, presence, and power – come into clear focus in the story of Lazarus in John 11.1-44.

1. Promise

No one likes to get word that their friend is sick. When word came to Jesus that his good friend Lazarus was sick, this is what he said: “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’ (John 11.4). This promise is the pivot point on which the entire story turns.

If you or I made a promise like that, it would be wishful thinking. Not so in the hands of Jesus; what he promises is a statement of the reality that he is bringing about. The Lord knows the outcome he will accomplish before we even know the question to ask; that’s why we can trust him.

The essence of the Christian life is believing the promises of God, and living like they are true. This positions us before God to receive all he wants to give.

2. Presence

It’s one thing to be concerned about a friend in need; it’s another thing to show up. Jesus didn’t simply wish Lazarus well, but he went to help a friend in need.

But because of his intentional delay (v. 5), and then the duration of the journey to Bethany, by the time Jesus arrived, Lazarus had already died, and had been in the tomb for four days. Now remember that this was all according to plan; like Jesus said, this death ‘It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it’.

However, even though we can trust that God is working his plan even when we can’t understand it, the pain of our circumstances can sometimes feel unbearable. This was the case with Mary and Martha, the two sisters of Lazarus.

But rather than sitting in their pain, they responded to the presence of Jesus and came to him. Look what happened when Martha told Mary that Jesus had come: Marthawent and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him’ (vv. 29-30).

Jesus doesn’t simply come to us in our darkness; he calls us to himself. And when we come into his presence, he again confirms his promises. Look at the promise he gives to Martha:

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.

Jesus doesn’t simply promise healing, he promises resurrection. For many of us, there are things that have died during lockdown; we have had things robbed from us, and areas of great hope and anticipation and joy have shrivelled and been lost.

The Lord invites us to trust him that He is a God of resurrection who shows up to make dead things come to life.

3. Power

It’s great to have the promises of God, and it’s comforting to have his presence; without his power, his promises and his presence don’t accomplish anything.

Mary made a strong appeal to Jesus: ‘Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’ (v. 32).  

Even though he knew the outcome, Jesus was not stoic: ‘When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled’ (v. 33).

Jesus came to the tomb – he wept – and then, after praying, Jesus, the Son of God, did what only God can do: he brought the dead to life by speaking a word of power: ‘He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out”’ (v. 43). The very next verse confirms that there was a 100% correlation between what Jesus said and what happened: ‘The man who had died came out, …’ (v. 44).

Here’s the point. Jesus doesn’t come into our dark places simply to console us by his presence; Jesus shows up to speak words of power to those areas that have died. Jesus is the resurrection and the life; He he raises to the dead those things that we have already shut up in the tomb; he brings life and resurrection to those things precious to us that have died.

Application

Not only has this been a dark time; this has been a dying time. We have all experienced loss in key areas of life. The Lord invites us to welcome his presence, listen to his promise, and make room for his power. God is glorified by raising to the dead those seeds of purpose and destiny and calling that he has placed within us.

You may feel like you’ve been in a lockdown tomb for four days – or twelve months! There may be promises of God that you have believed and clung to and trusted in, and now it feels like they are dead. The good news for us is that Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Tombs are no barrier to his purpose and his power. Invite him into the tomb of your pain to receive the resurrection life of his powerful word.

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