The reports about Andrew Brunson’s release are just another example of how little the media know about evangelical churches.
Too many gospel presentations offer only a ticket to heaven when you die. And too many Christians are walking around with hope of comfort tied exclusively to that end of life anticipation.
We can easily make the Martha mistake. I don’t mean the Martha in the kitchen mistake though. At the end of Luke 10 we see Martha graciously rebuked by Jesus for desperately trying to love her neighbor as her first priority, when she should have first loved the Lord and allowed Him to minister to her before she tried to minister to others. We easily and maybe regularly make that Martha mistake, but I am not referring to that.
We can easily make the Martha in the street mistake. In John 11 we see Jesus at a key point in his ministry coming to Bethany where Lazarus was ill and then died. Martha runs to Jesus and expresses her grief, that if Jesus had been there, then Lazarus would not have died. Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. But now Lazarus was dead and buried, Jesus was too late, and Martha understandably made a mistake. What was it?
Jesus told Martha that Lazarus would rise again. What do you say to a grieving sister? Maybe this was just one of those platitudes that we hear at Christian funerals. Comfort, but distant. Martha took it that way. She assumed that Jesus comes to us and points off into the distant future – comfort for the by and by. She was mistaken.
When Jesus told Martha that “I am the resurrection and the life,” he was not just referring to the far off future. What she didn’t know was that this person stood before her was about to reinforce the Jerusalem leadership’s decision to kill him. What she didn’t know was that this person stood before her was soon to enter into death deliberately and with dignity. And what she didn’t know was that in a few weeks this person stood before her would stand up and walk out of his own tomb as the conqueror of death.
If Martha could have seen the next few weeks, then she might have anticipated more in the next few minutes. Jesus is the resurrection and the life, and Lazarus was about to be miraculously resuscitated after four days of stone cold death.
We can easily make the Martha mistake. We can assume that Jesus comes to us in the tough times of life and ministry in order to point our hearts into the future – that far off time when we will be with him and all the tears will be wiped and the presence of sin dusted away and we will forever enjoy what we were made for, fellowship with the Trinity. This is all true. But this is not all.
Jesus comes to us in the midst of hurt, and sorrow, and challenge, and struggle, and betrayal, and fatigue, and tears . . . and he comes to give us life now.
Too many gospel presentations offer only a ticket to heaven when you die. And too many Christians are walking around with hope of comfort tied exclusively to that end of life anticipation. Jesus is the kind of Savior who comes to us, by his Spirit, in the midst of the mess we experience. Jesus is the kind of Savior who gives us life now.
Martha misunderstood the physical implications of Jesus meeting her that day. We can misunderstand the spiritual implication of Jesus meeting us today.
As conqueror of death and Lord of life, what is it that Jesus offers us today as his beloved friends and family? He offers us hope for the future and a new standing with God, of course. But never let the good news diminish into a merely status-based future hope. Jesus offers us the loving intimacy of the Trinity by the Spirit poured out into our hearts reassuring us of God’s love, urging us to call God our Abba.
Jesus offers us eternal life now, which is to enjoy fellowship with God our Father and Jesus Christ whom he has sent. Jesus offers us transformed hearts, filled hearts, tenderly loved hearts. Jesus offers us his presence, his comfort, his concern and his companionship. Jesus offers us life, now.
I thank God for Martha. Her mistake in the kitchen in Luke 10 is a mistake I make all the time. Jesus’ gentle rebuke of Martha resonates deeply as a loving rebuke for me. And her mistake in the street at Bethany in John 11 is a mistake I make all the time. I too tend to live my life as if Jesus’ presence is nice today, but the difference Jesus offers lies off in the distant future.
Jesus lovingly corrected Martha’s grieving error by giving her the embrace of her brother that day. Jesus lovingly wants to correct our similar error by giving us his embrace, today. That is life, eternal life. It is not only life forever then. It is, in the midst of all the mess I experience, life now.