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“Jesus said to her, “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. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26).

Many of you are familiar with is what commonly referred to as “the seven ‘I am’ statements of Jesus.” They are pregnant with meaning about who Jesus is and who He claimed to be. Simultaneously they create awe and bring us great comfort. Here is a list of them as they appear in the Gospel of John:

“I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 6:48)

“I am the light of the world” (John 8:12, 9:5)

“I am the door” (John 10:7).

“I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11-14).

“I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

“I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

“I am the true vine” (John 15:1,5).

Given this is the Easter season, I would like to focus on the 5th of these: “I am the resurrection and the life.” To understand this we must look at the context (Isn’t this always the case?). In John 11 we see what appears to be a tragedy. Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, is dying. They send a message to Jesus telling Him of his sickness (11:1-3). Jesus was not startled but quickly told His disciples this illness was not going to end in death but ultimately demonstrate His own glory (11:4).

Strangely, the Great Physician tarried for 2 days without going to Lazarus’ bedside. By the time He decided to go (11:7) his friend had perished (11:11, 14). He arrives at a grieving household, making his entrance with the claim that Lazarus will be miraculously raised from the dead after 4 days (11:23). And on what basis did He make this claim? He tells them plainly, “I am the resurrection and the life.” He points to Himself – not the dire situation, the suffering family, or the stench of the deteriorating body. He says, “I am!!” He has the authority to overcome death and life and soon proves it (11:43:44). Based upon the command of Christ – “Lazarus, come out” – the dead man lives.

I could go on about the implications of this event in light of our being born again or regenerated. How dead men don’t make decisions and the power of God alone awakens us from our spiritual death (see Ephesians 2:1-10 if you want to examine the correlation) but I choose to focus on the physical aspect of this display of God’s power through the glory of the Son. As Jesus said to Martha, “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” And I believe this is true both spiritually and physically.

As we celebrate Easter, Christ’s willful death and eventual rise from the grave, it makes us ponder a painful reality of living in a fallen world; physical death. It is all around us and, as we age and have more experiences in life, we know that inevitably it will be our turn. If we don’t die from a terrible disease or accident, our bodies waste away, slowly eroding through toil and the passage of time. We have also lived through the grief of loved ones passing away, just like in this story. And their death and the prospect of our own can create an ominous outlook that begins to shape our thinking and our living.

The good news? Jesus is telling and showing us here in John 11 that through faith in Him we can physically live forever. Oh yes, His children will die an earthly death, but it is a transport not a termination. Because of His mercy and might, He will once again shout “come forth” to all those who believe and we will be raised and given new bodies (for more than a dash of comfort and hope, see 1 Corinthians 15:50-57). We will be healed and whole, spiritually and physically, for all of eternity. And we will be forever joined with Jesus and family and friends that have put their trust in Him, the Lord over death and life.

Do you believe? This is what Christ requires. This is what He told Martha – whoever believes in him, though he will die, will live on in Heaven – and this is what He is telling us. This Easter I urge you to surrender to Him so that what we celebrate, Jesus’ resurrection, will guarantee that His victory over the grave has been applied to you by His grace and faith.

If you don’t understand what all this means, please send me a note and I will gladly follow up with you. Or reach out to a trusted follower of the risen Jesus and ask them to help you. I’m sure they, like me, will be thrilled to do so.

“Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:13-15).

Emergent Church Members Get Tattoos of Jesus’ Death for Lent

I must say this one has me a bit baffled (see link above)…for an opinion, that is. But what about you?

I have no personal distaste for tattoos or suspicion of those who have them, even though I don’t personally have any “ink.” Many of the most devout followers of Christ that I know have some sort of body art, although most of those graphics appeared during a former way of life that was marked by rebellion and making corresponding social statements (ironically, having a tattoo used to be very counter-cultural, but with their rise in prominence it may now be more radical NOT to have a tattoo). But that isn’t the debate here. The question: Is this a viable medium for communicating one’s faith or just another trend in the contemporary Christian community’s efforts to mimic the world’s methods of communicating what we believe (the Christian culture is usually quite late to this kind of dance)? In other words, are we just blending in and thus watering down our faith or is this one more way in which followers of Jesus can engage and redeem our culture? Since I have no definitive opinion about the initiative described in the article (believing this may be more about motives than methods), I’ll let you ponder these questions.

The point I’d like to make is a theological, not necessarily a practical or spiritual, one. What do we do with many of these Levitical laws? A section of this article addresses the dilemma:

“According to Leviticus 19:28, “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

When asked how he and his fellow parishioners reconcile this verse with their planned art exhibit, Seay told CP that the context of the verse is important, noting that verse 27 states that a man should not cut the hair on the sides of his head or the edge of his beard.

“The problem was not with tattoos, but with the fact that getting a tattoo or cutting your hair/beard was a symbol that identified you with the worshipof pagan gods,” said Seay.”

Although I would probably not promote this kind of expression, Mr. Seay does have a point. There are many Old Covenant laws we aren’t held to today (animal sacrifice being a big one) and this particular book of the Bible is replete with such rules, as are other writings in the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible which is often call the “Torah” or “The Law”). Now we have correctly kept some (earlier in Leviticus 19 we see a partial restatement of the 10 Commandments found originally in Exodus 20), conveniently kept some of them we like (take tithing, for instance), and banished others. Seay makes reference to the rule against clipping our hair and beard that we certainly don’t practice today (Leviticus 19:27). My favorite is 19:32 which tells us to “rise is the presence of the aged,” yet I see no one standing when I enter a room!

So how do we determine which of these are rules to be adopted today or just principles that help us understand God, His character, and His ways? Clearly there doesn’t seem, at least to me, to be any real consistency in many circles as to how we conclude which of these “laws” remain and which are no longer in effect in the New Covenant.

So I’d like to share my opinion. It may ruffle some feathers or it may cause some reflection – but here it is:

  • First – did Jesus affirm such practices explicitly?
  • Second – did Jesus affirm these laws implicitly? (The implication must not be forced).
  • Third – did the writers of the New Testament affirm these rules either explicitly or implicitly (again, a clear reference) and thereby confirming or elaborating on the teaching of Christ and the New Covenant?

If not, in an extremely generalistic sense, I would suggest that these Old Covenant practices are lessons and principles to help us understand Father God and be guidelines for living. They are not meant to be practiced as “rules,” but, in some cases (like the dietary laws) can be employed as positive observances, object lessons, and spiritual/physical helps. But they are not to replace the sufficiency of Christ – who is He is, what He has done, and what He taught.

So what’s my recommendation? If you feel led by God and are pure in motive, go get a tattoo for the glory of God. But don’t expect me to be standing in line…I do have an aversion to needles. Nevertheless, this side of Calvary we are not bound by the law but have the freedom of grace. As long as it is for His glory, it reflects the precepts of the New Covenant framed by Christ Himself, and is not a compromise that bows down to our culture, then go for it! But leave me to my old-fashioned ways of caring for the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is my body.

If you are of a theological mindset, the link below might be of interest to you. As related to this post, pay particular attention to the section “Law/Gospel.” – New Covenant Theology – Theopedia, an encyclopedia of Biblical Christianity

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