John Chapter 17 is a passage that is packed, pressed down, and running over with the most revealing truth about the heart of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the plans He has for you and me. Early in His earthly ministry, the disciples had asked Jesus to teach them to pray…(Luke 11:1). In response, Jesus gave them an outline of a model prayer. However, in John chapter 17, we are given an incredible opportunity that allows us to “hear” our Lord offer a life-changing, extraordinarily comprehensive High Priestly prayer for Himself, the early disciples, and the subsequent believers of all ages after them. In this prayer, Jesus gathered the entire human race into Himself and stood before the Father to make supplication on its behalf. “Father the hour has come…,” He began, (John 17:1). The hour for which Jesus came into the world was the hour He would leave it; the hour He would lay down His life for the seed of Adam; the hour He would be scourged, beaten, spat on and cruelly nailed on a Roman cross for you and I- a most ignominious death. This is the background against which this remarkable prayer was offered. Jesus was well aware that Satan was preparing to unleash his unbridled, vile force on him. So much was at stake. The redemption of the whole human race was the crux of the matter at that moment. Jesus turned to His Father. He needed to speak with One who understood the unfolding events; One from whom He could draw strength to endure the impending harrowing experience. That is why this prayer is unique. It is dense with emotion and passion, and fills the reader with wonder and adoration for our Savior and Lord.
In this prayer, Jesus made an astonishing request to His Father. He said “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. ” (verse 24). Just pause for a while and contemplate on this stunning request and its staggering implications. Jesus, the Son of God, made this timeless request on your behalf and mine. He was calling you and I a gift to Him from His Father. Just think about the unparalleled worth this bestows on us. God saw you and I and decided to make us an eternal gift for His Son. We are God’s love gift to His only begotten Son. Jesus does not desire that we should be with Him because we have inherent goodness. It is because of His marvelously abundant grace. He loves us enough to want us to be with Him in glory!! In essence, He was saying to His disciples and to us who believe through them, “I will miss you and I want you with me where I will be.” How we all long to be wanted and loved not because of what we can give, but just for who we are. That the pre-existent second Person of the Godhead, the One through who all things were made, should think and long for your company and mine is a stunning thought. We were chosen before the foundation of the world and adopted of God so that, in the metaphor of marriage, we have become the corporate, spiritual bride of His Son (Ephesians 1:4; 5: 25-27; 2 Corinthians 11:2). Jesus wants us with Him in His presence not for a limited period of time but for eternity!!! If you are ever tempted to think that no one loves you, think again. On earth, believers only saw a silhouette of His glory. But in heaven Jesus’ glory is unveiled in all its magnificence. His power is unbridled. This is what He wants us to experience with Him. On that eve, over two thousand years ago, Jesus was obviously aware of the rigors, harshness and sordidness of the night of our earthly existence, and He desired to give us an eternal rest. Although He would be leaving the believers, His desire was to, ultimately, have us all gathered unto Him, an eternal gift from His Father. This is one time the gift will take on the appearance of the its recipient. “But we know that when He appears [to take us home], we shall be as He is…” (1 John 3:2). Of course, this does not mean that we shall take on His deity. Rather we will also have a glorified, eternal body, just as He has. No wonder the apostle Paul exultantly exclaimed that ““Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him, (1 Corinthians 2:9). In the book of Revelation, the apostle John was blessed with a vision of heaven and shared it with us. He said he did not see a temple there because the Almighty God and the Lamb are the temple. Nor did he see the sun or moon shedding light on the city of God because Jesus is its Lamp. The radiance from the Person of Christ illuminates the entire city for eternity because. There is not night there. Jesus is heaven’s infinite Light. They need no batteries or generators or power plants as sources of light there. Jesus shines forever. John saw Him in full disclosure. He was fully displayed as He has always been from eternity past, not as a flickering light but gloriously bright and incandescent, and we shall experience Him in this state forever. I don’t know about you, but this strengthens my resolve to be there with Him, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Lord. My spot is waiting for me because of Jesus who ever lives to make intercession for us, and I don’t intend to miss it.
Inside every believer a battle is raging between the flesh and the Spirit. The flesh’s agenda is contrary and hostile to that of the Spirit. A relentless gravitational pull constantly threatens to pin us and fasten us firmly to the natural world while dissuading us from focusing on the spiritual realm. Our own feeble efforts and determination to walk in the spirit yield pitiful results at best. It is a frustrating and terribly discouraging problem. But thanks be to God for the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the Remedy for this spiritual quagmire. The Bible states that when we accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, we pass from death unto eternal life (John 5:24). This becomes a new reality for believers even in this life and God always speaks the truth in His word, “Let God be true, but every man a liar,” (Romans 3:4). He also watches over His word to perform it (Jeremiah 1:12).
There are two parallel kingdoms running side by side: the kingdom of God (the spiritual) and the kingdom of this world (the natural). Although they are distinct from each other, they are not entirely separate. Sometimes they intersect, and believers can have access to both kingdoms through Christ Jesus. Celestial beings have also occasionally penetrated the terrestrial realm through visions and varied epiphanies. We are told that the spiritual is eternal and the natural is temporary (2 Corinthians 4: 18). Because the spiritual is the believers’ eternal reality, the apostle Paul exhorts us to set our minds on things in that kingdom and not on things in the other, (Colossians 3:2). We must be eternity-focused if we are to walk in victory in the natural. The biblical formula for a sustained eternity-focusedness is looking unto Jesus (Hebrews. 12:2). Jesus is the door and through Him we enter eternity. He came not only to inaugurate a new existence that is available for whosoever will, but He also came to make eternity enter into time so that eternal life has become qualitatively available right now for us living within the confines of time and space. Looking unto Jesus is a seemingly innocuous little phrase carrying only three words. But, in actual fact, this is a radical formula for life. It is dynamic and pulsates with astonishing energy. Everything hinges on it for we live, and move, and have our being in no other than Jesus (Acts 17:28). Not a single person has ever willed themselves to come into existence. The Bible states that without Jesus nothing was made that was made (John 1:3) including you and I. Looking unto Him entails more than just a casual spiritual glance. It involves fervent prayer, and spending quality time with Him. It is learning to hear His voice, to recognize it, and to distinguish it from that of the Enemy. “My sheep hear my voice,” He said, “and I know them, and they follow me,” (John 10:27). Looking unto Jesus is to meditate upon His life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His intercessory work right now. By looking unto Him our mind, soul, spirit, and will become radically transformed and aligned with His will. Looking unto Him is the antidote for a carnal mindset, and delivers us from the power of darkness to establish us into His kingdom (Colossians. 1:13). As we steadfastly look to Him, our choices, decisions and priorities are redefined. The losses we incur in this life become our eternal investments yielding exponential dividends. Looking unto Jesus gives us access to the Father and makes us habitations of the Holy Spirit. Because of Jesus, we have contact with our heavenly family and have divine presence within us. Our thought process changes and becomes like His (Philippians. 2:5). We begin to see that which is invisible, and it becomes our reality. The fear and dread of life’s harsh twists and turns, and death dissipate as perfect love is enthroned in our hearts.
As we fix our gaze on our Lord and Savior, we enter and remain in our resurrected state (Ephesians. 2:6). We begin to filter all our life experiences through the context and framework of eternity, which brings a transcendent richness. In adversity, we are able to see beyond the immediate so that we can exultantly echo the apostle’s words, “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians. 4: 8,9). Painful as life’s trials may be, we take heart in knowing that “… our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,” because “we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen,” (2 Corinthians. 4: 17,18). This is not to say that we are in denial of adversities and cruel hardships. Rather it is to realize that there is meaning in them beyond our horizon. Pain and suffering certainly beat upon each one of us at one time or another, tossing us back and forth in the sea of life, threatening to disrupt and even to shatter the moorings of our faith. But Jesus is the Compass that helps us stay on course with eternity in mind. One of the gloriously stabilizing blessings of being a Christian is the reality and certainty that our lives extend beyond the grave to a new beginning into the eternal present; the assurance that at death we cross the threshold of this rigorous temporary existence and enter into a peaceful rest. The apostle Paul urges us to keep an energetic and living perspective of our resurrected position in Christ, “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens, (2 Corinthians. 5:1). Jesus has made all this available for us. None of us has to work for it. He has already done all the work. All we need to do is to keep our gaze on Him; focused on eternity.
When Israel left Egypt, they walked away from a past of servitude, brutality, dehumanization, and pain into a future of redefined moral values, total freedom, and adventure with God. They were carved out to become a community that would serve as the historical framework within which the Messiah, the Savior of the world, would be revealed. They became recipients and custodians of strict dietary, social, spiritual, health, and legislative laws for that same reason. Their entire culture was drastically changed. But at the Red Sea their past began to close in on them with all its horrendous and cruel bondage. Their unfolding freedom and promising future was suddenly threatened by the churning and menacing waters of the sea. The Red Sea was literally an open grave. Precipitous mountains and rocks stood on either side, and a massive army wielding formidable military weapons was closing in on them from behind. There seemed to be no way of escape for them. It seemed as if their short-lived freedom would soon be snuffed out. The way things appeared, it was more reasonable to surrender and be led back into slavery than to pursue Moses’ ill-conceived and abortive attempt to free them. Unarmed former slaves were no match for a renowned world Empire’s seasoned army. But God had other plans. He never leads us backwards. His plans are to give us hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Call onto Me, He says to us, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know, (Jeremiah 33:3). Moses called out to God on behalf of the people of Israel and God responded by commanded nature to intervene with a night wind that parted the water and paved a path for the people to cross safely to the other side on dry ground, leaving clouds of dust behind them in the middle of the sea!! Water was standing on either side like a solid wall. Sadly, Egypt mistakenly thought God’s plans for Israel were theirs, too. Their cup of iniquity, arrogance, and irreverence was so full they assumed a sense of entitlement even toward God to their utter destruction. They believed they were entitled to be masters over other people forever. It was a fatal mistake that devastated the entire Empire.
Our painful experiences can be daunting. Each one of us has our share of Egypt experiences, as it were. They are often characterized by painful and harrowing suffering. Sometimes, severe trials akin to a fiery furnace beset us and plunge us into seasons of darkness devoid of even the promising glimmer of distant stars against the night of anguish. Our faith in God wavers; becoming almost fickle and hollow under the burden of intense pain. Chronic unhappiness and sadness endlessly stalk us, threatening to envelop us in a seemingly inescapable blanket of gloom. I do not know what type of sorrow the reader is facing right now, but I take heart in knowing that God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, is shining in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ, our Lord (2 Cor. 4: 6). God has given us Jesus Christ as our Eternal Light to guide us and carry us through our earthly pilgrimage. He is our victory. In God, the past has no power over us. He makes all things new by making a new creation of us, in His Son. Jesus has parted our Red Sea and the Enemy has lost his grip on us.
Most of us are familiar with the words orphan and adoption. Moreover, some of us are either orphans ourselves or we know someone who is an orphan. Orphanhood is often characterized by trauma, vulnerability, emotional distress, and material lack. The loss of a parent is a terrible blow at every stage in life. However, the blow is more severe when its victim is a minor and has to rely on other people for sustenance and other essentials of life. Orphanhood disrupts the very foundation of the child’s existence and wellbeing so severely that it can completely alter the entire course of its life. Inexplicable cords of affection and love unconsciously and deeply entwine parents’ and children’s hearts to each other. Parents provide a most intimate context for nurturing their offspring with unconditional love, psychological security, and material sustenance. Orphanhood robs the child of all this. Abigail Eaton- Master, a psychotherapist, claims that a parent’s bond with a child is so deep that it can help them sense when the offspring is in danger. When this bond is severed by the death of the parent, the effects can be catastrophic for the child. According to UNICEF, there are about 140 million orphans worldwide. Orphanhood leaves in its wake children beleaguered with anxiety, uncertainty, and despair. This why many people, both believers and non-believers, have committed themselves to care for orphans often through adoption. They endeavor to mitigate the intensity of the plight of orphanhood by assuming the role of surrogate parenthood.
However, as grim and heart-rending as the loss of biological parents maybe, nothing compares to spiritual orphanhood, which can shatter all prospects of the life to come. In The Fall of Man, humanity was severed and alienated from God, its source of life. Whatever is severed from its source of life dies. A collective death sentence was pronounced on all humanity that day in Adam and Eve. The curse of death spread to all succeeding generations because we were all in Adam’s loins in Eden. We became estranged from God. The God-shaped place in us turned away to pursue the enemy so that sin became strangely appealing. We self-orphaned ourselves by listening to the Enemy who claimed (and still does) to know more about what was best for the human race than God who created us in His image, and subsequently became one of us Himself in Christ, literally.
After humanity’s isolation from God, anarchy reigned supreme. Murder, theft, envy, moral decadence, and all sorts of despicable vices gripped the human heart, making it desperately vile and wicked. People flagrantly defied God and followed the inclinations of their hearts to glamorize and lust after the profane and to ridicule and scorn the sacred. Evil became unrestrained and gained momentum with each succeeding generation. Senseless killings that started with domestic homicide (Cain vs Able), hatred, rage, and many other forms of wickedness have increased to stunning proportions. Futile human laws have been enacted to harness the appalling depravity of human nature to no avail. A self-orphaned humanity has been strangely contented to bask in its self-inflicted spiritual squalor.
Fortunately, the grace of God transcends human rebellion and sinfulness. In His self-expending love, God became one with us to lead us to a place where could once again experience unmitigated familial love and care and protection. In the cross of Christ, you and I have the privilege of being adopted into the family of God. We are no longer aliens or strangers, but members of the household of God (Ephesians 2:19). We can come back home. This time forever. We arrive at the cross broken, homeless, sick, and mutilated by sin’s vicious blows, and cuts to the soul. Although outwardly, the world might view us as decent human beings who “have it together,” that is just a façade. Here is how the Bible describes our orphan status: As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things for you, to have compassion on you; but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born (Ezekiel 16 4-6, NKJV.
Rejected and cast out and exposed to the elements, we wallowed in our own filth in a deplorable condition. But moved with compassion, God in Christ, adopted us. He deliberately chose you and I to become His eternal children. The cross of Christ is the place where adoption takes place as we are crucified together with Him to this natural world and are raised with Him as God’s children with all the privileges that come with being His children including knowing Him as Abba! Father,” (Romans 8:15). The cross swings open the doors to a new and eternal familial existence. We become brothers and sisters with the rest of the human family with Jesus Christ as our Older Brother (Hebrews 2:11). God loves you and I the way He loves Jesus. As God’s children we receive corporate sonship and become a corporate bride for Christ. Jesus wrote our adoption papers and signed them with His own blood. Satan has no longer any legal claim to them who are in Christ; to you and I. As adopted children, we are chosen children, desired by the adoptive parent. Being adopted is to enter into a new existence, another world. It is to be close to our God.
Adoption is not an easy task for the adoptive parents. Much soul-searching and reflection goes into the decision to adopt a human being into a family. This is an undertaking for compassionate and courageous people. Often times, the child is adopted because of their problematic situation, and the adoptive parent’s desire is to alleviate the suffering associated with that situation. Similarly, God saw the abject degradation of humanity and unfolded His age-old plan to adopt us in Christ. Adoption is not cheap. The adoptive parents bear the cost of ensuring that the adopted child’s comfort and general well-being are met. They give the child their name and are responsible for it until they die. It cost Jesus His own life to seal our adoption. He emptied Himself for your sake and mine. Next time you doubt your self-worth, take time to reflect on the cost of adopting you into the family of God. That’s how special you and I are to Him whose opinion of us is the only one that matters, ultimately.
To comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, (Ephesians 3:18)
No one has had as profound an impact on the history of this planet as Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and rightfully so because He created it and sustains it: All things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3, JKV). Kingdoms and Empires have come and gone. Rulers and leaders of every stripe have arisen for a season and exited the stage of life only to vanish into the dusty trails of history. Some are remembered with honor while others have gone down into infamy. But Jesus has continued to be an imposing Presence towering over all historical events. Muggeridge succinctly observed this when he said, “Behind the debris of… self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”1
What is most astonishing and awe-inspiring about Jesus is His unquenchable love for the inhabitants of this planet; His eternal, unconditional and undying connectedness to you and I. There is no human language rich enough to adequately describe this love. But Scripture exhorts us to “comprehend…what is the width and length and depth and height of the love of Christ which passeth understanding…” (Eph. 3:18). How is it possible for us to comprehend love that is incomprehensible? Only with the help of the Holy Spirit can we catch a glimpse of this enigmatic attribute of our Lord, which the apostle Paul attempted to describe.
What is the width of Christ’s love? Blinded and exiled to the island of Patmos, the apostle John had a series of spectacular visions of heaven. He saw before the throne of God and the Lamb a multitude which no one could number. They came from “all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues,” (Revelation 7: 9). An inter-ethnic, multi-racial, inter-generational community of the redeemed stood before the throne of God- thousands and thousands of glorified saints. Such is the inclusiveness and width of Jesus’ love. No one is banned from it who desires it. Everyone who comes to the Lord Jesus has the privilege of basking in this eternal agape love. That is how massive and intense and vast it is. In His love, there are no social strata, no castes, no walls of separation, nothing that insinuates a disadvantage. Just one blood-bought community standing before Him on level ground. Demoniacs, prostitutes, tax collectors, turncoats, and abusers of human rights have an equal opportunity to enter into this love.
The length of Jesus’ love is its timelessness. It extends from eternity past to eternity future. This love existed before the foundation of our universe, which means it transcends time and space. It is as old as our Lord. It was the motivation for the Plan of Redemption. Jesus’ love never wears out. From generation to generation it crowns our existence. It covers our earthly pilgrimage, keeps us in Him in death, and will rouse us into eternal existence at the resurrection to become part of the eternal family of God and His Christ, forever. Never are we ever separated from it. Nothing shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus (Rom 8: 38, 39). Nothing can intercept or interrupt Jesus’ man-ward love, ever.
The depth of Jesus’ love is exemplified in His incarnation and all His experiences in His flesh. Of course, that was not the inception of His love for us. Rather that was when it began to be revealed and made manifest to us. Jesus condensed Himself so much that He injected Himself into the current of time and space not as an aristocrat but as a carpenter from a poor family. The apostle’s Christological hymn aptly expresses this: “Who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant… He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross,” (Philippians 2: 6-8). The Incarnation is the most astonishing and mysterious historical event ever! In it, God displayed His shocking humility. In this Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, God became one with you and I. He grew human limbs and organs and sinew. He had a skeletal system and a circulatory system, too. He became fully human subject to death although He remained fully divine. His life of self-expenditure on our behalf is incomprehensible. It is beyond the grasp of the human mind. The Creator of billions of galaxies and complex life forms became a creature Himself. He condensed Himself into an embryo in His creature’s womb and trusted her with all aspects of His childhood. Since the Incarnation, humanity has been elevated and dignified in a most amazing manner. Jesus allowed Satan to tempt Him, His brothers to doubt His divinity, Church leaders to deride Him and to finally hand Him over to a pagan Empire to crucify Him. On the Cross, He became the sinner’s substitute. Every type of human sin was laid on Him and, because of that, He experienced something He had never experienced before: He was separated from His Father’s face. All alone, He walked through palpable spiritual darkness to destroy the works of the Enemy. His was the greatest battle ever fought by one Man on a hill called Calvary-for your sake and mine. All the powers of darkness were unleashed against Him. The only weapon He had was His love for you and I, and that was enough. This is how deep His love is, and much, much more. But the story does not end here.
The apostle urges us to contemplate and to know the height of Jesus love, too! Jesus, the Eternal Prophet, Priest, and King burst out of the tomb to die no more. He de-fanged death and the grave could not hold Him back. “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death,” (Revelation 1:18). When He ascended back to His Father, He did not go alone, but took you and I in Him to sit on the right hand of the throne of majesty, above all principalities and powers. We have passed from death unto life because of Jesus (John 5:24). We have inherited what we do not deserve; what we never worked for – eternal life through Him and with Him. He has given us a weapon with which to overcome the Enemy, His blood (Rev. 12:11). We are now a kingdom of priests in Him who ever lives to make intercession for us. Furthermore, when He appears again, we shall be as He is (1 John 3:2). He will transform our mortal bodies to be like His glorious body (Philippians 3:2). His love has done all this for you and for I. Is it any wonder it passeth understanding?
1 Muggeridge, M. In Ravi Zacharia’s Book: Deliver Us From Evil: Restoring the Soul in a Disintegrating Culture, Dallas, USA: Word Publishing, 1996, pp. 187-8.
Without Jesus nothing was made that was made (John 1:3) and without Him, there is no resurrection. He is both the life and the resurrection. Life inheres in Him.
The intriguing story of Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, illustrates and authenticates the claims above. The Bible tells us that Jesus loved the family of Lazarus, Martha and Mary (John 11:5). They were hospitable and kind to Him and received Him in their home from time to time. Therefore, when Lazarus became terminally ill, his sisters sent word to Jesus to inform him about Lazarus’ illness. Ordinarily, when a good friend falls ill with a life-threatening disease, we make it a point to rush to their side to give them the support and comfort they need. But in this case, the Bible says that when Jesus heard about Lazarus’ grave illness, He said “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it,” (John 11:4), and He remained where He was for an additional two days during which Lazarus died. Strangely enough, upon hearing about the death of Lazarus’ death, Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus was merely sleeping. He seemed completely unfazed by Lazarus’ death. He did not even rush to attend the funeral. This must have really puzzled the sisters who must have expected Him to come and heal Lazarus the way He had healed other people, and even raised some from the dead.
Jesus finally went to be with the sisters. When He came near their town, Martha hurried to meet Him while Mary remained at home with the mourners. Martha told Jesus what she thought He would have done if He had been present: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died, (John 11:21). When Mary finally came to the burial site, she reiterated her sister’s sentiments. They both had faith in Jesus, but they did not understand why He had not risen to their expectations during a difficult time in their lives. May be right now the reader feels that Jesus has abandoned them while they are going through a difficult time. When my daughter died, I knew that Jesus could have healed her if He had willed. But He did not. I still believe in Him even when I do not understand what is going on in the spiritual world; behind the physical veil of this life. When Rick Warren was asked this question during a CNN interview after the death of his son by suicide: “Looking back, is it possible to begin to see purpose in your pain?” He said he had struggled with the “why” questions: “Why didn’t you [God] answer the prayer I prayed every day for 27 years?” The prayer I prayed more than any other prayer went unanswered. But… What you need in tragedy is not an explanation, you need the presence of God.” Truer words have never been spoken. God’s presence in our lives is what has kept my family going, too.
During His conversation with Martha, Jesus made a staggering claim that has forever changed mankind’s view of death: “I am the resurrection and life…,” He said. Martha believed in an eschatological resurrection as she confessed to Jesus. She understood the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. But Jesus was trying to help her understand that the resurrection was not an event, as such. It was the Person standing right beside her. He is the life. Where there is resurrection, death is impotent and where life thrives, death is absent. In a nutshell, in Jesus, there is no death. In Him the dead do not pass into oblivion. They live on although they are separated from the physical life. Lazarus was not late Lazarus to Jesus. He was just Lazarus. Indeed Lazarus’ body had ceased to function and his flesh was decomposing, going back into the dust. But although its chemical properties had begun to disintegrate and the blood was no longer circulating, Lazarus was still within earshot of the voice of Jesus. There is never a point at which we are beyond Jesus’ voice or reach. Before the multitude in Bethany stood One who substituted the present for a future event of hope. What had ceased to exist was merely the tent housing Lazarus (2 Cor. 5:1). But to Jesus, Lazarus was more than his physical body. Human beings are spiritual beings and that is what connects us to our Creator God since the flesh has no interest in divine things (Gal 8:8).
Barclay aptly observed, in “Jesus Christ, we know that we are journeying not to the sunset, but to the sunrise” of eternal life with Him. Jesus’ voice pierced the heart of darkness that had engulfed Lazarus in his death, and shone the light of His life. Jesus completely altered the character of death so that although it remains, it is a powerless leviathan to the believer because of the continuity of life inherent in the Person of Christ, our Lord.
Human understanding is always restricted and crippled by our experiences on this earth. The present so pre-occupies us that it has obscured the future, particularly in spiritual issues. Judging from what obtained in the present, Martha implicitly told the Lord that He was too late to do anything for Lazarus. Her view was confined to time and space: “If you had been here…” She thought that Jesus had to be physically present in their geographic location to heal her brother. Capitulation to the prison of time and space limits our focus to what we believe to be present reality, and makes us lose sight of that which is possible. Consequently, our straggling modicum of faith becomes frayed by our fixation to the present; to that which is temporary at the expense of the eternal.
Jesus’ own resurrection from the dead reveals to us that He has permanently defeated death. This means that we have hope even when our loved ones succumb to physical death…
All things were made by Him…In Him was life and the life was the light of men (John 1: 3, 4)
The phrase ‘to create’ is now loosely applied to the works and accomplishments of human beings. This phrase is no longer exclusively applied to God. For instance, movies, songs, art and many other accomplishments are often said to be creations of human beings. However, although the phrase is thus applied, there is still a great difference between human accomplishments and God’s creative genius. Only God can bring objects into being, ex nihilo, and impart life to them – both temporal and eternal life.
John introduces Jesus as the pre-existing One through whom all things were created; the Word and co-Creator. Only the source of life can impart life, sustain it, and have authority over it. He alone can destroy it or let it thrive. In the days of His flesh, Jesus demonstrated transcendent power over the regularities of nature. He called back to life dead, decomposing bodies. He infused life in the lifeless cells and tissues of lepers. He defied gravity and strode on water. He spoke to storms and they responded to His voice by quieting down. He demonstrated His power over demonic forces by commanding them to keep quiet and come out of their victims, restoring mental vigor and robustness. He restored sight to the blind using His voice or touch, nothing else. Jesus exuded life in all its fullness. He was the embodiment of life. Through Him inorganic and organic life came to be, spontaneously. He did not have to wait for it to evolve over millions of years from lifeless matter and energy into complex biological forms of life. Life in all its forms was inherent in Jesus although His main focus was eternal life (John 5:24). Earthlings cannot have access to eternal life in Jesus without passing through temporary life.
After the Fall, darkness descended on mankind in the form of sin and death. Mankind was unplugged from the Source of life. Jesus came to plug us back and to restore us to our original status and place in God. This is how He destroyed the works of the devil, with His own life. As the Light of the world, He dispelled darkness. In Him there is no death, nor disease nor sin, only life, and life thrives where there is light as is evident even in the natural world. The darkness that had engulfed our world was so intense that when the Creator arrived, it did not recognize Him (John 1:10). He came unto His own and His own rejected Him except for a band of a few women, fishermen, small business entrepreneurs, and tax collectors. But that was enough. The light He infused in them beamed across the ancient world and continues to do so as a witness to Him who is the Light and Life.
Síle Lane is a scientist who works as director of international campaigns and policy at Sense about Science, which is a charity organization that endeavors to challenge misrepresentations of science and scientific evidence. She advocates for honesty and transparency in scientific research.
It is reported that much information and data related to clinical trials is deliberately being withheld from the general public.1 The data costs not only money and time, but human lives, too. This means that not all medications that are approved and placed on the market for consumption are safe. The health and wellbeing of the general public relies on decision makers composed of physicians, regulators and researchers. However, the effectiveness of decision-making can be compromised if some decision-makers have access to only 50% of the results of clinical trials. In the 1980s a drug called Lorcainide was tested in clinical trials both in the United States and in Europe. Although the findings indicated that individuals who took the medication during the clinical trial were more likely to die than those who were not given the medication, these results were not published until more than 10 years after the drug had been authorized to go on the market. As a consequence, approximately, 100,000 people died from it. Another case involved Tamiflu, an anti-flu medicine. A government regulator in the United Kingdom recommended that the government should buy the drug, based on findings from clinical trials. The government bought it at about £473 million to prepare for a possible flu pandemic. But investigations and analyses of clinical trials about the same drug by an independent research network known as Cochrane found that it was ineffective.
As a response to this alarming scenario, the European Union has passed, which will go into effect in 2018 in which it will be required that all clinical trials conducted within the Union be registered on public databases even before they begin. This way, interested individuals will be able to follow the trials as they unfold. Within one year after the trial is completed, a summary of its findings will be required to be posted on the database. There are also organizations and movements that are springing up such as AllTrials composed of researchers, patients and other stakeholders demanding that policy makers and sponsors of clinical trials publish the findings before they are destroyed. In 2016, the United Nations released a report asserting that all clinical trials results should be published and available to whoever wants to have access to them. Being informed is being armed with power to make appropriate decisions from a position of authority. Ignorance in such cases is not bliss.
Lane, S. (2017). The hidden truth about our prescription medications. Science. IDEAS.TED.COM Accessed from http://ideas.ted.com/the-hidden-truth-about-our-prescription-medications/
Lack of knowledge can be a source of a warped worldview that distorts our outlook to life and hinders us from tapping into the resources available for our physical and spiritual well-being. Lack of knowledge can also lead to a twisted view about reality which can, in turn, can lead to ghastly repercussions. For instance, improper knowledge about HIV, in some parts of the world, led some people to believe that sleeping with a virgin could cure the disease. Such a horrifying distortion of reality can lead to untold suffering as innocent people are placed at risk for infection, which can lead to an exponential spread of HIV. Thankfully, sustained rigorous and aggressive community education by public health professionals has corrected that paradigm. Reality never changes and, as long as we live, we will have constant encounters with it wherever we are, one way or another. But if our knowledge of it is inaccurate, our encounter with it will be painful or even deadly. This is just one of the numerous examples of the deleteriousness of lack of knowledge.
A second example is that lack of knowledge regarding traffic rules will not prevent accidents. The reality is that if we do not stop our vehicle when the traffic lights are red, we can cause an accident that could endanger our lives and those of other innocent people. Lack of knowledge cannot insulate us from inevitable consequences of erroneous behavioral choices.
In the spiritual realm, lack of knowledge about how to inherit eternal life has negative eternal consequences. Jesus told Nicodemus that being born again (of water and of the Spirit) is the prerequisite to see and enter into the kingdom of God (John 3: 3-5). Denying this axiomatic truth does not change it one bit. God’s Word is infallible. It is neither dependent on popular opinion nor is it impacted by rejection. It stands forever because God will not alter the thing that has gone out of His mouth (Psalm 89:34). Our spiritual life is the most important aspect of our existence because it determines our eternal destiny. Therefore, right knowledge about our salvation is paramount over any other prospect.
On one occasion, St. Augustine made this remarkable declaration, “The book of nature and the book of Scripture were both written by the same author, and will not be in conflict when properly read and understood.”1 More recently, in 1987, Pope John Paul II said that “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.” Both these statements challenge the prevailing worldview that there is a conflict between science and religion. Yes, I know, I have written about this before, but this is an ongoing dialogue and there is a lot at stake.
St. Augustine and Pope John Paul II both seem to suggest that science and religion have the potential to complement each other and that they are necessary tools for expanding human knowledge about the natural and the spiritual realms. As physical beings, humans need to study and grasp the laws that govern their natural environment. As spiritual beings, they need a good and coherent understanding of the spiritual realm. Few people seem to have found the balance of being both stellar scientists and deeply religious people. Commenting on the wonders of the solar system, Sir Isaac Newton confidently asserted that “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord overall; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called Lord God “Pantokrator” or Universal Ruler.”2 This is the conclusion of one of the world’s intellectually eminent astronomers and physicists renowned for his scientific discoveries. Other scientists believe that there is a conflict between science and religion.
Stephen Hawking, another eminent scientist, has concluded that the universe created itself. Hawking argues that the laws of nature such as the law of gravity have the potential to create a universe from nothing. But he does not explain how these laws of nature already in existence could create a universe from nothing. Besides, if the laws were to create a universe, it would not be from nothing. It would be from the laws of nature! The question would be: Where did these laws come from if they were not part of the universe they created? The laws of nature do not of themselves have the potential to create anything. As John Lennox, professor of mathematics (emeritus) at the University of Oxford argues, Newton’s law of motion has never been able to move anything from point A to point B.3 It has never moved a soccer ball from one goal post to another. As such, the laws of nature are there to describe the conditions and occurrence of events in the universe. They do not explain why.
People who mistakenly believe that religion and science are in conflict cite the case of Galileo and the Catholic Church. But, in fact, the real issue with the Galileo case was the “dogmatic embrace of Aristotle’s” teachings by the Catholic Church at that time about geocentricism.4 Galileo’s study convinced him that all planets, including planet earth, revolved around the sun (heliocentrism). Aristotle’s views were vehemently embraced by some Catholic bishops who thought Galileo’s theory of heliocentrism was wrong. This was the real source of conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church. It was, in essence, Aristotle versus Galileo with some powerful Catholic bishops rooting for Aristotle in his corner. It was not based on the teachings of the Bible.
The world is indebted to scientists and their discoveries that have alleviated indescribable suffering and have tremendously improved the quality of life. But to insinuate, let alone declare, that science is the source of ultimate truth and knowledge or that the more scientific discoveries we make, the less relevant God becomes is to slide down the dangerous slope of trying to transform science into a Golden Calf. Whatever science has discovered does not render the existence of God null and void. Rather, it points the teachable mind to the creative genius of the Agent who brought such an astonishingly, intricate universe governed by the regularities of natural laws into being. He alone sustains the laws of nature since He established them, and He is the only One who can interrupt these laws anytime to cause what we call a miracle. That is why Jesus who is the express image of God could interrupt and reverse the natural law of decomposition of a human body after death, and bring Lazarus back to life four days after death! No one else has ever done that since the universe came to be. But since He created these laws, He can also set them aside for His purpose. They obey Him.
Although science describes to us how our universe operates, it still cannot explain certain realities such as energy, consciousness, gravity… Another area in which science is limited is semiotics, which is the study of the complexity of language using signs and symbols as elements of meaningful communication among people.5 Just how are those squiggly lines and symbols we draw on boards and pieces of paper able to convey specific meaning from one person to another and propel them into responding appropriately? Who can explain, using physics, why we are able to see the letters l-i-f-e- and derive meaning from them? Talking about life, we now know that life is contained in a nucleic acid known as DNA. For human life, this DNA is a humongous database that contains a word not less than 3.5 billion letters long, and carries within it the genetic information and instructions for development of life. Science cannot explain why these letters carry the meaning they do. It can only describe the process they use to develop life. Where there is intelligible information such as the one contained in the DNA molecule, there is a mind behind it to put it together. Scripture says that is how God created the universe; using words and information to call into existence both animate and inanimate things. “He spoke…and it stood fast,” (Psalm 33:9). A great and awesome mind is behind the creation of our universe and all that is in it. Denying it does not make this truth go away.
1.Sheahen, T.P. (2016). Idolatry in Science. American Thinker. Accessed from http://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2016/12/idolatry_in_science.html
2.Newton, I. General Scholium. Translated by Motte, A. 1825. Newton’s Principia: The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. New York. Daniel Adee, 501.
3.Lennox, J. (2010). Stephen Hawking and God. RZIM. Just Thinking Magazine. Accessed from http://rzim.org/just-thinking/stephen-hawking-and-god/
4.Schirrmacher, T. (2000). The Galileo affair: history or heroic hagiography? Creation Ministries. Accessed from http://creation.com/the-galileo-affair-history-or-heroic-hagiographyandhttp://creation.com/the-galileo-affair-history-or-heroic-hagiography
5.Lennox, J. (2007). God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Wilkinson House. Accessed from http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/Nave-html/Faithpathh/Undertaker.html