“The Raising of Lazarus” by Caravaggio

Believest Thou This?

Christian and Kimberly Cardall

Christian: I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

Believest thou this? (John 11.25–26)

Kimberly: Good morning, and welcome! Christians everywhere have many beautiful and meaningful traditions in connection with Easter. We rejoice in our shared faith that

God the Father has given us the divine birth, the incomparable life, and the infinite atoning sacrifice of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. By the power of the Father, Jesus rose again and gained the victory over death. He is our Savior, our Exemplar, and our Redeemer. (Restoration Proclamation)

Because of Him, death holds no ultimate terror despite sorrowful separations from loved ones. Because of Him, our wounded souls can be cleansed, our strained relationships can be mended, and our broken hearts can be healed.

Christian: Jesus’ mortal ministry was almost finished when He declared to Martha that He was the resurrection and the life. When He asked her “Believest thou this?”, she answered that she did:

Kimberly: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. (John 11.27)

Christian: Like Peter at Caesarea Philippi, Martha believed in Jesus. However, while Peter and Martha were able to say the words, they did not yet really know what it meant to say that Jesus was “the Christ, the Son of God.”

Peter and Martha understood that to be anointed king in ancient Israel was to be acclaimed as God’s own son (Psalm 2; 8; 82). But since David and Solomon, Israel had long since been scattered, in exile, and dominated by foreigners. For centuries Jews believed that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would raise up a new son of David — a messiah, or anointed one — to finally fulfill His promises to redeem Israel from pagan oppression and raise the righteous dead to reign with justice and goodness over the whole earth (e.g. Isaiah 2; Isaiah 11). Martha, like Peter, believed that Jesus was this very son of David, the Hope of Israel, who embodied these hopes for Israel.

Kimberly: But Peter and Martha did not yet realize that the promised messiah could only accomplish all this through His suffering and death. This glorious anointed king would also be a suffering servant,

despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief… wounded for our transgressions… bruised for our iniquities… brought as a lamb to the slaughter …cut off out of the land of the living … [pouring] out his soul unto death. (Isaiah 53)

Jesus understood His identity and calling. But His disciples did not yet know that the man Jesus was Jehovah Himself, come to dwell among His people in a tabernacle of flesh (John 1.14) — just as the Lord’s presence dwelled with His people in the tabernacle prepared by Moses, and in the temple of David and Solomon. They did not yet see that in order to deliver His people from all things, God Himself would come and descend below all things.

Christian: It was in the midst of her own grief, over the death of her brother Lazarus, that Martha declared her belief through tears. She knew that Jesus had the power to heal, but she thought it was too late for Lazarus:

Kimberly: Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. … Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. (John 11.21,39)

Christian: But when Jesus assured her that Lazarus would rise again, she thought it was too soon. Who knew when the age to come would arrive, when all things would finally be set right, when the righteous dead would be raised together at the end of time? Nevertheless, she expressed her ultimate hope:

Kimberly: I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. (John 11.24)

Christian: Jesus wept, along with Martha, and with Mary and the others, walking with them in their grief towards Lazarus’ tomb.

Kimberly: Unlike Martha, I have not yet experienced the death of an immediate family member. But I have experienced what seemed like the spiritual death of one close to me — my own husband. With anxiety and pain I watched Christian drift into doubt and then unbelief. I knew things were not right. I feared greatly for myself, for him, for our marriage, and for our children — for our entire family and everything I had expected.

Christian: Kimberly and I had married in the temple with every expectation of continuing together in the Church. However, a toxic mix of scientific skepticism, unexpected historical information, and my own selfishness influenced my choice to depart from the covenant path for about 15 years. It was only four days in the case of Martha with Lazarus. Kimberly would have been more than justified in saying, “Lord, after 15 years, he stinketh.”

But let us return to Lazarus’ tomb.

Kimberly: They took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said,

Christian: Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. …

Kimberly: And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice,

Christian: Lazarus, come forth.

Kimberly: And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them,

Christian: Loose him, and let him go. (John 11.38–44)

Kimberly: And so Martha and Mary received their brother back to life. But as breathtaking as this miracle was, Lazarus was only raised back to mortal life. Eventually he would die again. The raising of Lazarus was only a signpost pointing to even greater and more eternal things.

Christian: The raising of Lazarus brought Jesus’ conflict with the authorities to a head.

Kimberly: He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth…

[And then,] He rose from the grave to “become the firstfruits of them that slept” (1 Corinthians 15:20). As Risen Lord, He visited among those He had loved in life. (The Living Christ)

Christian: It is impossible to overstate the impact of these resurrection appearances on Jesus’ disciples. Because the messiah was expected to overcome Israel’s pagan enemies, crucifixion by the Romans was seen as proof of a failed messiah. (In that era, many Jewish rebels and messianic pretenders, whose names are now mostly forgotten, were likewise executed.) This is why the disciples abandoned Jesus when He was arrested. This is why Peter denied Him three times. This is why the two disciples on the road to Emmaus were so downcast:

Kimberly: Jesus of Nazareth… was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people… we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel… [but] the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. (Luke 24.19–21)

Christian: This was contrary to their expectations of how the confrontation between Israel’s messiah and the dark powers of the world was supposed to play out.

Kimberly: But now, the empty tomb, His countenance, His voice, His body — here He was, risen from the dead! Even though things had not gone as expected, Jesus’ resurrection proved to His disciples that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the Messiah, after all; and not just an earthly king, but the great king Immanuel, God with us.

Christian: The transformation of Jesus’ scattered and disillusioned followers into the fearless and unified early Church of Jesus Christ is stubborn historical evidence for the literal reality of His resurrection. Nothing but His resurrection could have persuaded these first century Jews that Jesus crucified was anything more than a failed messiah. Nothing but His resurrection could have motivated the early saints to follow Him, enduring persecution and martyrdom in His name.

Kimberly: While not obvious to the world at large, God’s final victory of the great and last day had been brought forward into the present. It did not come with the expected devastating power and violent revolution. Instead, life beyond the powers of this world came as had been foreshadowed throughout Jesus’ ministry. During His mortal life, illnesses were healed and evil was overcome one person at a time, through patient teaching and self-giving love. Now at the end of His mortal life, God had overcome the world through the sacrifice and resurrection of the One — even His Only-Begotten Son.

Christian: And so Jesus became

the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12.2)

[He] is gone into heaven, … angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him. (1 Peter 3.22)

Kimberly: He thereby opened the way, so that we also may be

heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. (Romans 8.17)

[For] To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. (Revelation 3.21)

Christian: Scripture does not record Lazarus’ perspective on what it was like to be suddenly wrenched from death back into life. I can say a few words about what it was like for me to return from spiritual death.

At a certain point family circumstances jolted me into reconsidering the path I was on. Recognizing the stakes, I decided I needed to give the gospel another serious chance. I began talking to God in an unbelieving and tentative manner. But over the course of a few days and weeks I found myself asking what the next steps for me would be. In key moments I felt propelled forward, carried by the Savior’s power, almost as if I were on autopilot or watching myself from the outside. In seasons of sore repentance, I was not alone, but enveloped in the Savior’s love and power. I tasted of His goodness and experienced the immediacy thereof. I somehow knew that the Savior had my back, that regardless of the fallout, He would not leave me hanging. I was His; and regardless of whatever anyone else may have known or thought or how they might have reacted, I knew where I stood with Him. This made it possible to do what was necessary to change and heal.

In a handful of life-changing moments I experienced something that was tangibly physical but difficult to describe. Like a squashed sponge, my heart was crushed, even as dross was burned away. The words of Nephi have become my own:

He hath filled me with his love, even unto the consuming of my flesh. (2 Nephi 4:21)

To me this is as literal, tangible, and physical as it is sacred — truly, a newness of spiritual life that transcends even the death of the physical body, for

whosoever liveth and believeth in me, [saith the Lord], shall never die. (John 11.26)

Kimberly: For my part, I had known things were not right, and when Christian finally came forward it was not easy. But years earlier, I had sought the Lord’s help. Not everyone’s journey will be the same as ours; everyone must seek their own guidance from the Lord in responding to others’ hurtful and harmful choices. But in my case I had received a clear message, in the midst of my fear and anguish, that the Lord loved Christian deeply. I was given to believe that eventually he would come back. When the time came, even though I was hurt, I could feel the heavens rejoicing; and sooner than I would have imagined, I could rejoice as well. I found that the same love and power that enabled Christian to believe and change was also given to me in similar overflowing measure, to allow me to forgive and be sanctified as well. I experienced for myself that the Lord keeps His promises in His own time and way. And together we found that repentance and forgiveness are two sides of the same coin — redemption and healing through the love and power of Jesus Christ.

Christian: The Lord’s promises are both now, and not yet. But if we are willing to Hear Him, and Let God Prevail in our lives, He will show us with quiet but undeniable power the surprising ways in which it is both not too late, and not too soon.

Kimberly: Whatever our present situation, it is not too late for any of us to turn towards Him, as towards the serpent Moses raised in the wilderness for the children of Israel to look upon and be healed. Why look upon a serpent, the symbol of the adversary in the garden? It stands for us — or rather, Jesus standing in for us. When we look upon Jesus’ suffering in Gethsemane, and His agony on Calvary, we begin to see our own selfishness and rebellion. We see our need to control others and harbor resentments. And in seeing ourselves clearly, we open ourselves to healing through His transforming love and power.

Christian: The millennial age to come, when Jesus Christ will rule as King of Kings and reign as Lord of Lords, is not here yet. But His resurrection is a sure signal that new creation has already broken into the here and now, and that we do not need to wait to be renewed in new life. It is not too soon to enjoy His peaceful reign in our own lives as individuals, as families, and as the covenant people of the Lord.

Kimberly: When Peter stood before the crowd gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, he was a different man. Having received the Holy Ghost, and as an eyewitness of Jesus’ resurrection, he taught the Jewish multitude with courage and understanding.

Christian: Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call. … Then they that gladly received his word were baptized. (Acts 2.37–39,41)

Kimberly: Perhaps recently, perhaps today, perhaps at some point in the near future, you will have felt pricked in your heart as the Lord calls you. If and when this happens, it is time to respond to the Lord’s servants.

Christian: Who are these servants? As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we recognize that just as Jesus called apostles in New Testament times to baptize disciples in all nations, so also He has called prophets and apostles in our day, with the same great commission.

Kimberly: For those who are not yet members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, the apostles today send missionaries throughout the world, both Elders and Sisters. They are sent to teach and prepare all who will listen to be baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. You can recognize them by their name tags, here with us every Sunday. Or you can begin on your own at the website ComeUntoChrist.org.

Christian: For those who are already members of the Church but currently find themselves on the wrong side of the questions asked of those seeking baptism or preparing to enter the temple, the prophets have designated Bishop Pendley as the Lord’s servant He would have you see. He will help you put your life in order. He will walk with you with compassion and understanding as you allow the Lord to cleanse and heal you.

Kimberly: For those continuing on the covenant path after baptism, there is still a long way to go by way of sanctification and consecration (2 Nephi 31). This happens under the influence of the Spirit of the Lord, promised to be with us as we partake of the sacrament each week, administered under Bishop Pendley’s direction (D&C 20.77,79). In addition we attend the temple after receiving a recommend from the bishopric and stake presidency. In His holy house the Lord Himself teaches us more deeply, from the inside out, what it means to walk as disciples of Christ who belong to His covenant people.

Christian: We all have individual journeys toward, and back to, and along the covenant path. As each of us prays to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ to know what the next step is for us personally, the promise is sure:

the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do. (2 Nephi 32.2)

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. (Moroni 10.5)

Kimberly: Yet with these individual variations on a theme, the covenants with God that each of us must make and the basic pattern of God’s plan of redemption are the same for all. Each of us can see ourselves in Adam and Eve. Like us, they made mistakes and had to learn some things the hard way. Like us, they suffered through the challenges of a fallen world and the consequences of others’ choices. But like them, we can rejoice as we learn of and accept God’s Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who is full of grace and truth.

Christian: Blessed be the name of God, for because of my transgression my eyes are opened, and in this life I shall have joy, and again in the flesh I shall see God. (Moses 5.10)

Kimberly: Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. (Moses 5.11)

Of these things we gratefully witness and joyfully testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

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