2 Chronicles 7-9 John 11:1-29
“Jesus said, ‘Your brother will rise and live again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know that he will rise and live again in the resurrection on the last day.’” (John 11:23-24 NCV)
Sometimes, Jesus is easy to understand; at other times, He’s difficult to understand. When you read His words, you must decide if He’s speaking literally, or figuratively. Sometimes His figurative sayings seem literal and His literal sayings seem figurative. Martha ran into that problem when she talked with Jesus after her brother’s death. When Jesus spoke to her, He was saying, literally, that Lazarus would come out of the tomb and walk on this earth again as a living being. Proviso here: most people being informed of this would find it hard to believe. Martha believed this statement, but in a figurative sense for now, only for it to become literal at the end of times. Did that confuse you? Imagine the confusion Martha felt as Jesus continued to tell her that what she wanted, but never believed could happen, would happen.
I can’t always figure out which teachings of the Bible are literal, and which are figurative. For instance: healings. Jesus healed people. Literally. He raised people from the dead. Literally. (And not just Lazarus.) The Bible says that “by His stripes we are healed,” (Isaiah 53:5 quoted in 1 Peter 2:24) but I still have a few nagging physical issues. Paul described my physical ailments when he used the figurative example of a thorn in the flesh – even though the example was figurative, it’s a great description of what’s literally true. In the midst of our confusion on this issue, though, we’re reminded that Jesus literally loves us and literally died in our place. He worked with Martha in spite of her lack of understanding that He meant that Lazarus would rise from the dead and walk on the earth again. We may not always understand when teachings are supposed to be literal or figurative, but we can always understand that God loves us. That’s the literal truth. We can always understand that we have the privilege, and the obligation, of sharing the gospel with others. That’s the literal truth. When I don’t understand God’s teachings, when I can’t make sense of what’s happening in this world, even, I fall back on these truths and gain the strength to follow God during the worst of times.
Lord, this world is so confusing. You alone have the message of hope, of reconciliation, of forgiveness, of salvation and yet the world turns against You and Your people. Help me to remember how much You love all people, even the ones who would persecute us. Help me to love as You would.
Scripture taken from the New Century Version®. Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.