Day 30: The Promise of Resurrection

10 Mar The Promise of Resurection

Illustration: Juliana Crownover

The son of a widow was lying dead in an upper chamber, Elisha came and drew himself…over the child and he put his mouth on the mouth of the boy and his hands on his hands and his feet on his feet. If, instead of contracting and decreasing himself, Elisha had expanded and increased himself, the widow’s son would not have been restored to life; and so it was, in order to give life, that [Christ] made himself less. Although he was in the form of God, he received the form of humanity; thus did he decrease that through him we might increase.[i]

Jerome (d. 420), Doctor of the Church

Opening Prayer

Heavenly Father, grant us, with all who have died in the hope of the resurrection, to have our consummation and bliss in your eternal and everlasting glory and with you and all your saints to receive the crown of life which you have promised to all who share in the victory of your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.[ii]

Old Testament Lesson

In the preceding verses in 2 Kings 4, we learn that Elisha, the prophet of the Lord, promised the Shulamite woman a son, despite being well passed child-bearing age. However, many years later, the young lad suddenly died. So the woman sought out Elisha again, thinking he might be able to do something about it. Elisha sent his servant Gehazi, who was unable to do anything. It is only when Elisha goes himself and prays (something suspiciously absent in Gehazi’s actions) that the situation starts to improve. Elisha risks his sanctity by coming into physical contact with a dead body, something that would have made him unclean according to the OT Law (Num 19.11).[iii] Thus it is God, responding to the humble prayer of Elisha, who raises the boy from the dead.[iv] Elisha serves as a type of Christ, the one sent from God, whose humility and intercession brings about the raising of the dead. The woman’s great faith in Elisha and by extension, God, results in this great miracle, which provides a foretaste of the promise of our own resurrection which is still to come.

2 Kings 4.25-38

25Then the woman went up and came to the man of God on Mt. Carmel. Now it happened when Elisha, the man of God, saw her from afar, he said to Gehazi his servant, “Look, there’s the Shulamite woman. 26Now run and greet her; say to her, ‘Are you well?’ ‘Is your husband well?’ ‘Is your boy well?’” And she said, “I’m fine.” 27Then she came to the man of God on the mountain and she latched onto his feet. And Gehazi came near and pushed her away. So the man of God said, “Relax, her soul is troubled, but the LORD has concealed this from me and has not told me about it.” 28Then she said, “Have I asked for a son from my lord? Did I not say, don’t deceive me!”

29Then he said to Gehazi, “Gird up your loins and take my staff in your hand. Go and if you encounter someone, don’t greet him and if he greets you don’t answer. Put my staff on the face of the child.” 30And the mother of the child said, “As the LORD lives and as your soul lives, I will not leave you.” Then Elisha arose and followed her. 31But Gehazi went on ahead of them and put the staff on the face of the lad, but there was no sound and no consciousness. So he returned to greet Elisha and told him, “The lad did not wake up.”

32So Elisha came to the house and the lad was lying down dead on his bed. 33So he went in and closed the door. The two of them were alone. Then he prayed to the LORD. 34He got up and laid down on the boy and he put his mouth on his mouth and his eyes on the boy’s eyes and his hand on the boy’s hand. As he bent down over him, the flesh of the boy become warm. 35Then Elijah turned and walked here and there in the house. Then he went up again and bent over him and the boy sneezed seven times; and the lad opened his eyes. 36So he called for Gehazi and said, “Summon the Shulamite woman.” Then he called for her and she came to him and he said, “Take your son.” 37Then she went in and fell at his feet and bowed her head. Then she took her son and went out. 38And Elisha returned to Gilgal.

New Testament Lesson

Once again, Jesus is being criticized for working on the Sabbath. Jesus’ answer to his critics was that since He is “from the Father” and His Father “has been working,” so too Jesus can work on the Sabbath. This is a clear statement of Jesus’ deity. The reaction of the Pharisees shows that they understand it in those terms. The Rabbis taught that even though God “rested” on the seventh day after creation, he was still actively involved in the world and in upholding the universe.[v] This is what Jesus is now claiming for himself. The astounding work that Jesus foresees is the miracle of resurrection, which he develops at the end of the passage. Thus, according to this text, at the final judgment, all will be resurrected, but only those who have “done good” will be resurrected to life. Yet this future promise of resurrection is being realized now in believers, as the Son gives spiritual life to those who were once spiritually dead. True disciples of Jesus have eternal life now, even if that promise is only finally consummated when God resurrects believers from the dead.

John 5.17-29

17And Jesus answered them, “My father is working until now and I also am working.” 18Therefore, because of this, the Jewish leaders were seeking all the more to kill Him since, not only did He violate the Sabbath, but also was calling God His Father, thus making Himself equal with God.

19So Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing on His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son also does likewise. 20For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all things that He Himself does. And He is showing Him greater works than these and you will be astounded. 21For just as the Father raises the dead and gives life, so too the Son of Man is able to give life. 22For the Father does not judge anyone, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23so that everyone may honor the Son as they honor the Father. No one honors the Son who does not honor the Father who sent Him.

24I solemnly assure you, he who hears my message and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and will not come into judgment, but has passed over from death into life. 25Truly truly I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those hearing will live. 26For just as the Father has life in Himself, so too He has granted the Son to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to execute judgment since He is the Son of Man. 28Do not be amazed by this, since the hour is coming when everyone in the tombs will hear His voice — 29those who have done good to everlasting life and those who have done what is wicked to the resurrection of condemnation.”

Reflection Questions

  1. In our skeptical age, some have problems with the great miracle stories of the Bible and assume that stories of resurrection are just pious myths. What do you think about that? If Elisha’s story isn’t historically true, how are we so sure that Jesus was resurrected? How can we be sure that we will have eternal life?
  2. Why does Gehazi, Elisha’s sidekick, not have good results when he goes, at the prophet’s behest, to visit the sick boy? What is the difference between his approach and Elisha’s?
  3. Jesus makes a clear statement about his deity in our lesson from John. Yet many say Jesus was just a very good man or a very good teacher. Do you believe that Jesus is God? If not, why not?
  4. Why do you think Jesus centers resurrection to eternal life based on what we’ve done? Yet, in the same text, Jesus also promises eternal life to those who hear his message. Is Jesus contradicting Himself here? How do you reconcile what Jesus is saying?

Reflection by Kevin Dodge (email)

The great promise of Easter is the “death of death.” We loudly proclaim at Easter that Christ’s victory over the grave portends great things for believers. The promise of eternal life, of life without pain, tears and disease rings in the air.

But isn’t this just wishful thinking? After all, the human death rate is still very close to one-hundred percent. At Easter, we say the same things; sing the same songs; proclaim the same promises year after year. And here we are, a year later, doing the same things, having lost a bevy of friends and loved ones.

For most of us, we live our lives in light of the reality of death. We have a finite amount of time on this earth and we want to put that time to good use. In fact, we treat as mad anyone who believes that they are immortal right now. Yet didn’t Jesus just say that those who believe in Him have eternal life now?

So, if Jesus promised that His resurrection would put an end to death and if Jesus was really resurrected, why is the stench of death still in our nostrils? Why do we have to still put up with these mortal bodies that are wasting away?

Put simply, we still die because we are still in our sins. St. Paul couldn’t be clearer about this: “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom 5.12). We die because we sin. Without sin (in humankind’s original pre-fall state), we were designed to live forever.

Thus, unlike many today who speak of a “cycle of life” or who see death as simply a “natural” part of life, the Christian view could not be more different. Death is a terrible rupture in the created order. It is the unmistakable sign that something is desperately wrong with our world. We lose loved ones. Families get broken up. The pain of it is unbearable. There is something simply not right about this.

Both our lessons today depict the firm promise to turn this around. But, like so many things in the Bible, there is an element of “already, not yet” in it. Jesus has already come. He has already been resurrected. He has already sent His Spirit. He has already handed down to us His Word. His work of redemption on the cross has already been completed.

Yet it is perfectly obvious that we still await something greater. We await Christ’s return and the resulting recreation of the world that this will bring. We await the eradication of sin and, thereby, the eradication of physical death.

When Jesus tells us that believers have passed from death into life, we should hold onto this. But what Jesus always assumes is that we continue to walk faithfully with Him. Assurance comes from faithfulness. Jesus’ promise that we will not come into judgment doesn’t mean we won’t be judged. It means that we won’t be condemned at our judgment. Like we clearly see in this passage, there is a final judgment based on how we practically have lived out the reality of our faith. But what Jesus promises is that true disciples will survive that final judgment and enjoy unending fellowship with Him.

When we confess in the Nicene Creed, “we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come,” this is the basis of Christian hope. When we say these words, we are confessing that while many things have been accomplished, we still await the final consummation of our redemption which will occur in resurrection.

Thus, in being resurrected, Jesus wasn’t unique. He was simply first. We look forward to the redemption of the world, the death of death, which will come when we are raised from the dead and the world is recreated and returned to its pristine state before the fall.

Potential Applications

  • Study

Read 1 Corinthians 15 and Revelation 20. How do these passages describe our resurrection? Is it a physical bodily resurrection that is envisioned or a spiritual one? Is the scope of redemption just about us or is the whole creation involved? Far from being an esoteric doctrine, note that the author of Hebrews (Heb 6.2) thinks that this is something even a young believer should know.

  • Gratitude

Spend some time giving thanks to God for the life He has given to you. Give thanks to Him for the promises He has offered to you. For the rest of Lent, write down ten things every day that you are grateful for. See, if you are not happier at the end.

  • Contemplative Prayer

Pretend you are the Shulamite woman and your son has just died suddenly. In the story, she shows very little emotion, but is stoic, curt and matter-of-fact. Why is this? Play the story out in your mind while you are sitting quietly. How would you react? How would you feel about the great promises the prophet had made to you? Why would you trust him?

[i] Saint Jerome, Homilies on the Psalms, trans. Marie Ewald, vol. 1, Fathers of the Church (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press, 2001), 197–198.

[ii] The Book of Common Prayer, 481.

[iii] T. R. Hobbs, 2 Kings, vol. 13, Word Biblical Commentary (Waco, TX: Thomas Nelson, 1986), 48.

[iv] Volkmar Fritz, 1 & 2 Kings, Continental Commentary (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Books, 2003), 251–252.

[v] Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII, 216–217.

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