Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Listen Now. We will now be including the daily reading of Epistle and Gospel with The Prayer Team.
ENGAGED: The Call to Be Disciples
Go, therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19-20
Jesus said to her, “I AM the Resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” John 11: 25-26
Good morning Prayer Team!
Today’s “I AM” is probably the most quoted of the I AM statements of Jesus. It is often quoted at funerals. A popular Christian song bears the same title and quotes these verses.
These verses occur during the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, told in John 11. Lazarus, and his sisters Mary and Martha, were friends of Jesus. He would often stop in their home on His trips to Jerusalem.
One of the signs of that the Messiah has come was going to be that the dead would rise. Isaiah 26:19 reads “Thy dead shall live, their bodies shall rise.” When Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, He decided not to go to him immediately. One of the things that Jesus taught when He gave sight to the blind man in John 9, was that the works of God can be manifest in difficult times. Jesus actually allowed Lazarus to die. He chose Lazarus to receive the miracle of being raised to life, not to show off His power, but to show the power that Jesus has to bring life to those who have died. He has the power not only to give life anew in a physical way, as He did for Lazarus, but He has the power to give new life in the kingdom of heaven.
When Jesus arrived at the home of Lazarus, He was met by Martha, who was understandably upset. She said “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”(John 11:21) Yet in the very next sentence, she stated her faith in Him, saying “And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give You.” (11:22) Continuing on, “Jesus said to her, ‘You brother will rise again.’ Martha said to Him ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’” (11:23-24) The Jews, at least some of them, believed in a concept of “resurrection.”
Then Jesus said to her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life; he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” I believe in some ways, we need to redefine some terms. We say in our culture that “life” is the period of time we are on the earth. “Death” is the end of life. “Death” is seen as the ultimate evil, the end of the thing we love.
In Christian terms, “death” is the absence of God. And it IS the worst possible thing that can happen to us. Life is being in the presence of God. I consider our time on this earth a time of “preparation.” And the day that our time on earth ends, I consider that “passing”. After we “pass,” we go to God for judgment, and then we are judged worthy of “life” which is heaven, or of “death” which is hell. All of our souls will continue to eternity—it’s just a question of where they will go—to life or to death. Now, while preparing for eternity, we can experience “life” in Christ while on earth. This happens through prayer, worship, Communion, charity, love, etc. We practice “life” with God on earth in order to prepare for “life” with Him in heaven. If we have practiced well, we will be ready to go to heaven. If we have not, we will not be ready.
This is what Jesus means when He says “He who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live.” If we believe in Christ, even though we “die” in the sense of “passing away” we will continue to live with Him for eternity. “Whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” This means that whoever lives and believes in God will never find themselves separated from God—they will “live” with Him in heaven.
Jesus reveals Himself as the Resurrection and the Life, as the Savior by which eternal life becomes possible. He asks Martha “Do you believe this?” (11:26) Martha answers“Yes, Lord; I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, He who is coming into the world.” (11:27) This exchange is one of the most profound in the Bible. Ultimately, we are working towards the Resurrection, our own Resurrection. The things we have discussed here, that are written in John 11, are very difficult to comprehend. This is where faith comes in. Faith is believing in something we cannot fully see or fully comprehend. The question that Jesus asks Martha is the most profound question we have to answer in our life. Her answer is the correct one. It takes a long time to build a strong faith. That’s why we should take steps on a daily basis through prayer, scripture reading, and Godly living.
Lord, thank You for the gift of hope in the Resurrection to everlasting life. Help me to understand what this means. Help me to have faith in it. Help me to grow in faith each day. May I spend my life preparing for eternal life, and I pray that You will judge me worthy one day of Your heavenly kingdom. Amen.
Do you believe? What steps will you take today to grow in your faith?
With Roger Hunt providing today’s Daily Reading: Listen Now.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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