“That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…” Ephesians 1:19-21
The car of my dreams, when I was in my teens, was the Dodge Charger. As far as I was concerned there was no other car in the world. Eventually though, I was the proud owner of the family car. It was a Chrysler 300 with a 383 V-8, which would get me to the coast from Fresno in an hour and a half.
It was a great car — I was a lousy mechanic. Fortunately, I never had to do much work to keep it going. However, I wrapped it around a telephone pole the week-end I graduated from high school. Exit Chrysler enter Mercury Cougar with a 289 V-8. It didn’t have the power of the other car, but it was fun to drive and was sporty. That was important in those days just before gas rationing.
Unfortunately, the Cougar was another car that needed someone who was mechanically gifted, and that was not me. Actually, all it really needed was a good tune-up and some minor repairs, but at that time in my life there wasn’t anyone to teach me what I needed to know to keep it in running condition.
Exit Cougar, enter the Datsun B-210. It had no power, but wonderful gas mileage considering we were in the midst of gas rationing! For ten dollars I could drive from Fresno to the coast and back, which was really good considering the amount of money coming into my bank account at the time!
You may have noticed the declining horse power in my cars. In each successive vehicle the engine power disappeared in leaps and bounds! Dropping the horse power in my cars was not really what I was seeking to accomplish, however it did slow me down considerably. When the poor Datsun reached speeds anywhere near 70 miles per hour, it whined awfully loud! But the gas mileage was a definite compensation. Well, sort of, let’s face it there’s not much that can replace the thrill one receives from the power of a fast car!
Power is intoxicating whether it’s the power of a fast car, the power found in a computer chip light years ahead of its time, the sense of power that comes when someone has reached the pinnacle of their career, or the surge of power felt as you put in place your plans, the plans which leave you in absolute control.
Power can be a blessing or it can be a curse. Once on my way to see my future wife, while traveling in the Cougar, I met the nemesis of a powerful car; it was the CHP! The officer was actually quite nice about the whole thing. Maybe it was because I pulled over and waited for him on the side of the road. I’m not sure what it was that day, but he didn’t write me a ticket! Talk about grace, that was grace in my face. And as you can tell I have never forgotten that moment. It was a moment when I received exactly the opposite of what I deserved. Did I slow down? Yes, I did. No more 100 mph runs for me. That moment in time really did have an impact on me; it changed my attitude, my life. I experienced Grace in the form of a CHP Officer!
Paul points out that the power God uses in our lives is the same power He used to raise Jesus from death. Here is where we find the need to remember the difference between the earthly definition of death and the Heavenly definition. What has been understood as death on this world is defined by God as sleep.
Jesus taught the definition of death as sleep on two different occasions. First was the story of the synagogue leader’s daughter. By the time Jesus arrived at the home of this man, his daughter had died. As Jesus entered the home, He announced the girl was only sleeping. This generated much laughter at the expense of Jesus. What was this teacher-preacher-miracle worker saying! (Matthew 9:23-25 NIV)
Everyone knew the little girl had died. They knew a dead body when they saw one! Who did this Jesus think He was, and what did He take them for? Jesus called for the house to be cleared of people. He took the little girl’s hand and she sat up refreshed as if awakening from a nap. There would be no way to contain this story! Nor would the next incident make it any easier for Jesus to remain “under the radar”.
Jesus’ friend Lazarus was ill, so ill his sisters sent for Jesus. They begged Jesus to come immediately, however He waited. When questioned by the Disciples Jesus responded, “This will not end in death but to the Glory of God!” After four days had passed, Jesus announced it was time to go to Bethany. He told the disciples Lazarus had fallen asleep. Their response was to query about sleep being good for the person who has been ill. Jesus explained to them what had occurred. Lazarus had died. (John 11:33-44 NIV)
Most of us know the story of Lazarus, that four days after he died Jesus arrived at the home of Lazarus and his sisters. Jesus asked to be taken to the tomb, and requested that the stone covering the entrance be removed. There was a howl of protests from the mourners as the body had been decomposing for the last four days. In the midst of all this activity Jesus began to weep. As He wept the speculation as to why He was weeping was whispered from one person to another.
Why did Jesus weep at the tomb of Lazarus? Jesus knew He was about to tap into the power that was from His Father, that amazing power that put life back into those who were dead, or as Jesus reminded us, those who were asleep. Why did Jesus weep? Was He looking into His own future knowing the death He was soon to take on for all of humanity was true, eternal death, the one from which no one was to return?
Jesus would face what no other being had ever faced before, the reality of death, complete separation from His Father. We know, because of the ability to look back, what God’s Power did accomplish. Yet on that hot afternoon as Jesus was calling Lazarus to come out of his cave, Jesus recognized He would soon be in a cave of His own. It wasn’t fear that brought forth the tears. Remember, Jesus had human emotions, and those emotions responded as ours do. So even as this miracle was taking place God’s Grace was being processed in and through Jesus. It was love and grace which gave Jesus the courage to accept the plan of salvation even when He sought from His Father another way.
We know the outcome of both stories, Lazarus lived again. So does Jesus; He is still living. What Jesus accomplished for all of us is the reality no one has to face eternal Death. Jesus has already done that. The Father’s Power called Jesus back from that Death, this is the power that fuels God’s Grace in our process, the transforming power of God at work in each of us.
“Jesus has the power of God. And his power has given us everything we need to live a life devoted to God. We have these things because we know him. Jesus chose us by his glory and goodness…” 2 Peter 1:3 Easy to Read Version
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