WEDNESDAY AFTER THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
"Apart from Me you can do nothing."
Many think that being a true Christian means having certain opinions about God, and following certain Christian principles. But in this reading, Jesus teaches something different.
You can be a Christian only by having such an intimate fellowship with Christ Himself that His life becomes yours. The branches on a tree live because the sap flows up through the trunk into the branches and throughout the tree. Only then can buds burst, leaves sprout, and blossoms bloom and bear fruit. But if the branches break or rot, so the flow of life from the trunk stops, then the foliage withers, the leaves fall, and there will be no fruit.
That's the way a Christian is. Paul says the exact same thing using a different analogy: We are members of Christ' body (1 Corinthians 12:27). An arm can live only as long as blood from the heart pulses through it. If you wrap a rope around it and tie it too hard, it becomes numb and cold, then gangrene can set in, and your life is endangered.
In the same way, we depend upon Christ for our life. This isn't only a question of attitude and behavioral patterns. It's a question of a living faith that creates an intimate fellowship, a constant relationship with Christ Himself so His life flows in us with forgiveness, with a power that heals our wounds, and with a warmth that constantly allows us to act, driven by His love.
Therefore, we need, first and foremost, to be integrated, engrafted, and incorporated in Christ. This happens to us in Baptism. Maybe the connection has been terminated, but it can also be restored. That's what "to remain in Christ" means. It's very literally meant—just as the branches are connected to the tree and just as the individual members are integral to the body. To remain in Christ is to believe. Faith is something invisible, but many of the characteristics of faith are noticeable and visible. Prayer belongs to faith, as does constantly returning to His Word, listening to it, and taking it to heart. That's the way sap from the vine flows into the branches. The words of Jesus are spirit and life. They're the blood of life that flows from Christ's heart to all His members. Where this happens, one can say with Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Galatians 2:20).
My Lord Jesus Christ, it seems too audacious to believe that You could live in me with Your love and be here on earth even today, here in me, a sinner. Every day I have to be forgiven again, and this is precisely why I need You. I know that it is You who comes to me to forgive everything. I could never be free from my guilt if You hadn't given me a part of Yourself. So You are here with me. Therefore, I dare to hope and pray that You will be with me with Your love, with Your victory, and with Your new resurrected life. Come, Lord, and work in me. Do what only You can do: the work that bears the kind of fruit that will glorify Your Father. Amen.
; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (from Psalm 13 9)! Amen.
THURSDAY AFTE THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
"I am the resurrection and the life."
Bethany is on the other side of the Mount of Olives, the road to Jericho passes by there, approximately a mile and a half before the city gates. John had taken this road many times and knew it was a half-hour walk—or 15 stadia by Greek measurements. Because the village was so close, many came, as good custom demanded, to console the sisters and share in their sorrow. When Martha heard that Jesus also was coming, she went to meet Him. John records their conversation and, as always, he does it with a sense for the essentials.
As with other devout Jews, Martha believed in a resurrection on the Last Day when the Messiah would come and hold court, and then the dead would receive life again. There was something about this belief that Jesus had to set right. Many Christians make the same mistake when they believe that eternal life comes after death. The most important aspect is lost. The resurrection is connected to Jesus and His resurrection. "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25). We will be resurrected after death because Christ has been resurrected. He is the firstfruits. The life He received through resurrection He can also give to others.
Jesus goes on to say that faith is needed to receive this new life. Those who believe in Him shall never die. They already are a part of Christ, and so they already have a part of this life now—"the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us," as John later wrote in 1 John 1:2. He who possesses Christ really has something that can never die. He is a part of the One who is the resurrection and the life.
Martha, like the other disciples—understandably enough—couldn't comprehend Christ's resurrection. When Jesus asked: Do you believe? She answered a little evasively, saying that she believed He was the Messiah, God's Son. She at least dared to say that much, and it was a good answer. This is also a good answer for us to use when we have difficulty understanding what Jesus says and when we don't really know what we should believe. We do know one thing and we should confess this to Him and ourselves: He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God, our Savior, who knows the truth, shows us the way, and gives us life. When we hold onto Him and trust in Him in everything, He will help us see and understand everything we really need to know.
My Lord Jesus, You are the resurrection and the life. We have You to thank for the fact that there is a resurrection—a resurrection we will experience. Everything depends on You. Everything is in Your hands. You sought me out. You gave me a part of Your own life. You incorporated me, an unworthy person, into Yourself and You won't forget those who are members in Your body. So I know I will never die. With You, death is only a sleep, a comforting rest before a joyous awakening to a new day. I couldn't ask for anything more. I believe that You are God's Son. I believe in Your promise, and I thank You for it. Amen.
WEDNESDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
"Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep."
We have already seen that John writes about only a few of Christ's miracles, but he comments on them in great detail. He takes into account small illuminating details and lets the words of Jesus Himself explain what has happened. In this way He has the opportunity to instruct us on the major points of the Gospel. In the eleventh chapter, He instructs us about the resurrection and eternal life.
He starts with Lazarus being sick. We are told that he was a brother of Mary and Martha, and the three of them were among the disciples who were particularly close to the Master. So the sisters sent word to the Master, who at the time was on the other side of the Jordan. When Jesus received their message, He said to the disciples, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him" (John 11:11). Since the disciples didn't know that Lazarus was dead, they misunderstood Jesus. He meant that Lazarus was already dead.
Jesus often referred to being dead as sleeping. He did this when Jairus's daughter was dead: "The girl is not dead but sleeping" (Matthew 9:24). We find again and again in the New Testament that the dead are referred to as "those who have fallen asleep" (1 Corinthians 15:6, 18).
Therefore, death is a kind of sleep. It's easy to misunderstand this expression because people often have an incorrect assumption about natural life and natural sleep. They think life is something we "own," something we have control over. Sleep is a pause, a period of rest in this life. We still own our lives during sleep and we will wake up. If death is called sleep, it must mean that we still possess our life. We possess immortality, and we will also wake up.
But life isn't something we possess. It's something we receive. It's a gift from the Creator. We are in His hand our entire lives, completely dependent upon Him. We live only as long as He continues His creative work and, second by second, gives us life.
That's what sleep is too. The biblical truth about sleep is found in the psalms: "I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me" (Psalm 3:5). I'm in God's hands the entire time, completely dependent on Him, night and day, at work and while I sleep. If I wake to a new day, it's because God has sustained me.
When death is called sleep, it means that the dead are also in God's hands. The Creator has the same power over them that He has over those who are alive. The dead aren't "gone." Neither are they immortal. They can't count on a continued existence that is their own and have control over it the way they believed they controlled their lives in this world. They, too, are in God's hands, completely dependent upon Him.
O LORD, where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there! If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night," even the darkness is not dark to You; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with You. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (from Psalm 13 9)! Amen.
TUESDAY AFTER THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER
"I and the Father are one."
God is often spoken of as our Shepherd in the Old Testament: "The LORD is my shepherd" (Psalm 23:1). He, not we ourselves, made us His people and sheep in His flock. "You are My sheep, human sheep of My pasture, and I am your God, declares the LORD God"(Ezekiel 34:31).
It may seem confusing that Jesus also speaks about Himself as the Good Shepherd. Actually, this allows us a better understanding of who Jesus is. What the Father does, the Son does also. Everything the Father is, the Son is also. The Son and the Father are one. God is one. But the Trinity is a part of His nature. If God were a man, talk about the Trinity would be complete nonsense. None of us can at the same time be one person and three persons. But in God's boundless, unfathomable, and inexhaustible nature, there is an abundance and a profundity we can't understand. What we know about God's nature is only what God has let us know or perceive, and God has let us know about the Trinity. He, who eternally is the one and only God, appears to us as the Son and the Spirit. That's how He speaks, that's how He works, and that's how He enters into a relationship with us. Yet it's always the same one God who speaks and acts.
It was blasphemy to the Jews when Jesus said He was God's Son. For many people it appeared to be a fantasy or delusion. Here is the decisive difference of opinion among people. In this way God came into the world, came to meet us to show us who He really is. Here we can get to know the Father's heart. No one has ever seen God. But in Christ's face, God's glory is radiant. The Old Testament doesn't give us an inferior picture of God, but the picture isn't quite complete. The Scriptures needed to be carried out and fulfilled. That happened through Jesus Christ. There's the correct interpretation, the complete revelation. We have it in Christ. That's His mystery: "The Father is in Me and I am in the Father" (John 10:38).
Lord, You are the Lord of Israel. You led Your people as a shepherd leads his flock. You promise to seek out the lost, lead them back, and heal their wounds. I thank You because You've come to us as our Good Shepherd. I thank You because You revealed Your nature and mystery in this way. You've shown us who You are. You saw the crowds and You pitied them because they were in such a pitiful condition and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. You sought out each and every one that had been led astray and lost. You ate with sinners. You became a friend to the despised and the lost. I praise You, my Lord and my God, because You're like that. To You, merciful Father and all-comforting God, belong the kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever. Amen.