GRAVE ROBBER

Grave Robber header

Working on The John 11 Story has been an interesting experience for me. Sure, I’ve known the whole story about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead for years, but taking it from this new angle was a pretty amazing opportunity. And sure enough, it looked as if God had pre-prepared the story to fit the format in which it is crafted here, with specific lessons to pick from on Love, Faith and Hope. And I love the way it all rounds up on my favorite story: Life over Death.

The first installment, Love, tells of the part when Jesus first heard that Lazarus was sick. He loved his friend so much … that he waited and let him die. I gotta tell you, this blew me away. But that’s what Jesus did, because He knew it was best for His friend. It didn’t matter that others would see it as downright inhuman, He saw the Big Picture and He lived according to that.

The second installment, Faith, shows us a little bit about ‘walking in faith’. It’s an assurance we have based on God’s reality that affects all that we do and how we live. Others may not see into this other reality, so walking in faith may look crazy to them. That’s probably how Jesus must have looked to his disciples and friends back then. With discouragement on the outside it can be quite hurtful. But He held on, not changing His conviction and confession.

And then, it all boils down to the final installment. Hope.

To many, hope means nothing more than a baseless expectation. Some even preach and teach –with the best intentions, I’m sure— that hope is inferior to faith. But they are so wrong.

But Hope is a word very dear to me. It’s entwined in my heart and in all my stories. I see Hope as … uh, like a rope –a sure and steady rope— that keeps us connected to our expectation. It’s like you’ve been on a ship sailing, with nothing but water for miles. Then suddenly, your shipmate yells from the crow’s nest, “Land ho!” Suddenly everyone rushes to the starboard side to catch a glimpse of the land to which we’ve been headed and they turn the ship toward that direction. We can finally see where we’re going. In a sense, we feel connected to that place already because, on the inside, we are finally home.

That’s Hope.

For children of God, we have a sure and steady hope waiting beyond this sea we’ve been sailing all our lives. It’s an anchor in another world, waiting just beyond this one. We know that we are going to still live even after we leave this world. And why will we live? Because we believe in Jesus, the One that is Life Himself. So no matter what we go through in this world down here, everything seems worthwhile. It is worthwhile because the satisfaction waiting for us is much greater, much better, more grand, extravagantly more amazing than anything down here. Such joy, such peace, such fulfillment and satisfaction in that Other World called Eternity.

And because of this Hope we have on the inside, we are connected to our Home. We already experience the joy and peace and life and love waiting beyond. It’s a life rooted in Eternity, and we call it Eternal Life. It flows on our insides like a river, and overflows to bless this world. It’s literally Heaven on Earth … through us. That’s what Jesus was probably talking about when He said that “The Kingdom of God is within you” in Luke 17:21.

We know it’s not a baseless hope because of the One Who has been there already, and made a way for us to get there. His name is Jesus. He died and rose to life so that He could open the portal for all that believe in Him to join Him, so that they can also have Eternal Life. Nothing can beat that. Not even Death.

Ha! Even death is no match for Eternity’s Conqueror.

He defeated Death so that we would not have to fear it anymore (Hebrews 2:15). The fear of death keeps us from living life to the full. It holds men in bondage all their lives until it finally snatches them away. But Death does not ‘snatch’ those who have Eternal Life. It serves them to bring them Home, at the right time. If you believe in Jesus, you need not fear Death any longer.

But Jesus ended all that. He literally dealt with Death, and rose up to life. It’s actually more awesome than the way I described it, but you get the gist, right? Because He is alive, our faith is effective! Because He is alive, we have Hope, a real Hope. Because He is alive, we can go the extra mile for others out of Love. Because He lives.

But then, it did not end there. He did not just defeat Death that day. Something bigger is coming.

 

The Grave Robber is Coming.

Here’s how the Bible describes it.

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

1 CORINTHIANS 15:51,52

One day, everyone who believed in Jesus before they died will rise to life and their bodies will become immortal. Death’s very throne room –the graveyard— will be raided instantly, and everyone that belongs to Christ will rise to meet Him and be with Him forever. And everyone who is alive and believes in Jesus will also join them. It would all happen in an instant, ‘in the twinkling of an eye’.

There will be no more death for us ever again. Ever. Forever.

We’ll have finally reached the shore.

———-

That’s part of why I love this Hope, especially since my father went Home a couple of years ago. I don’t talk about it much, I know, but one good thing God brought out of all that is that my attention has shifted from this world to the next. Sure sometimes I get distracted by the holograms of this world and forget my true identity, but my Home –my true reality— is in the next. Nothing fulfils me completely except it’s also rooted in that World. I tell myself, “Oi, if you ever want to see your Dad again, you better be good!” I believe in Jesus. My father also did. Our Hope is in Jesus. And I believe that one day we will both meet together at that Grand Reunion. But I get the feeling that our attention would be taken, not by ourselves, but by the One that got us in this great story in the first place.

Jesus. Eternity’s Conqueror.

So I’m no longer afraid of death because I have Jesus.

But I’m not suicidal, no. I don’t go around looking for death. I just have the confidence to live to the full without being afraid of death. I’ve got the Eternal Life of Jesus Christ in me. He influences how I live, so that I can bring His Light into the darkness around. This is what my life is about. The Hope and freedom that I have in Christ is what I share in my writing and artwork, so that you can see Him in me and come to the Hope we have in Him. You don’t have to fear death any longer.

Jesus is here. He loves you sooooooo much! Yes, He really does. Really.

Come to Him and find Life. Outside Him there is nothing but darkness and gloom and fear and Death.

Have you received Jesus? You can receive Him today.

 

Below are the words to one of my most treasured songs. It’s called Grave Robber, by a group called PETRA, and it explains everything I’ve been talking …uh, ‘writing’ about so far.

 

GRAVE ROBBER

(Based on Hebrews 9:27, John 4:14, 1 Peter 1:24, Romans 8:11, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 51-55, Revelation 7:17)

There’s a step that we all take alone
An appointment we have with the great unknown
Like a vapor this life is just waiting to pass
Like the flowers that fade, like the withering grass
But life seems so long and death so complete
And the grave an impossible potion to cheat
But there’s One who has been there and still lives to tell
There is One who has been through both heaven and hell
And the grave will come up empty-handed the day
Jesus will come and steal us away

(Chorus)
Where is the sting, tell me where is the bite
When the grave robber comes like a thief in the night
Where is the victory, where is the prize
When the grave robber comes
And death finally dies

Many still mourn and many still weep
For those that the love who have fallen asleep
But we have this hope though our hearts may still ache
Just one shout from above and they all will awake
And in the reunion of joy we will see
Death will be swallowed in sweet victory

When the last enemy is done from the dust will come a song
Those asleep will be awakened – not a one will be forsakened
He shall wipe away our tears – He will steal away our fears
There will be no sad tomorrow – there will be no pain and sorrow

 

The day is coming. And everyone will see. Believe in Jesus and receive the life He came to give.

The Grave Robber is coming for His own.

 

We who have run for our very lives to God have every reason to grab the promised hope with both hands and never let go.

It’s an unbreakable spiritual lifeline, reaching past all appearances right to the very presence of God…

HEBREWS 6:18-19

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THE JOHN 11 STORY: Hope

<< INTRO

<< Episode One: Love

<< Episode Two: Faith

John 11_hope

And so we got to the tomb. A rock was fixed in place over the entrance of the cave to seal it. And there I saw him. No one else could see him except me. I saw the enemy himself.

Leaning on the gravestone, his hands folded, my foe stared at me through hideous eyes cold from millennia of nothing but darkness. He just stared at me, an ugly sneer playing at his lips.

“It appears we meet again, Son of God,” he said, sarcastically dragging that last part.

So this was the monster that had held man bound for years. The one whose lethal sting festered in the blood of men, bringing them slowly to the grave through sin. This was the one that had kept humanity in chains, in oppression because of sin.

“What do you think you can do here?” he hissed. “Too late to heal this one, so you want to take him out of my hands? Like you did in Galilee? What’s your deal? I have a right to keep them, and you know it. However, you’re too late. It’s been four days. This one’s spirit is long gone.”

Yes, this is the monster that I will defeat on a cross. The last enemy. A painful reminder of what is in store for me.

But I was not there for him. Not yet. I was there for Lazarus. My gaze was set on what lay beyond Death. I would not let him have the final say here. I would not engage him before his time.

I turned to my disciples. “Brothers, take that stone out of the way.”

Martha started at that. “Master, are you—? I mean … he’s … he’s been dead for days! Four days—“

“Martha…”

“His spirit’s gone and I get it that you want some closure – I probably even get that more than you do – but … the stink! He’d be rotten by now.You don’t—“

“Martha, dear Martha … didn’t you hear me say you would see God’s glory if you believe?”

She stared at me, wondering if she should dare believe in what I was implying.

Yes, I dared her to believe, to expect the ‘impossible’. Let hope be rekindled in your dear heart. She stared at the tomb, her mouth agape.

“Go on,” I told my disciples. “Get the stone out of the way.”

They were already pushing the large rock. Behind me the crowd gasped in shock, some in horror. It was downright disrespectful disturbing the dead, they must have thought. To some I must have appeared like a hopeless rebel adamant to see my dead friend’s body one last time. The cold interior was opened. And, sure enough, the putrid odour drifted toward us. The others withdrew behind me. But I kept on staring into the darkness beyond, where my friend’s dead body lay.

“So that’s it?” Death scoffed. “You’re just going to ignore me now?”

Never again will death oppress those that believe in me, and those that will believe. The day will come when I will take all that Death has got for their sake, and dump it all on myself. I will die too, yes. But I will rise again. Death will lose its sting. The grave will lose its victory. That’s my Father’s plan.

“You do know that you are just a man,” Death growled. “All men eventually come to me. Men die. You may have taken three or so from my claws … but who will raise you when you fall into my hands, hmm?”

One man would die for all men to be saved. That would be me. It is all playing out as my Father had said. Death’s biggest mistake would be to take me, the one who is Life.

“I will maim you, and crush you, and destroy you before their very eyes, Son of God.”

See? The winner has already been decided. It is already written.

I lifted my eyes. “Thank You, Father! Thank You because You have heard me! Of course, I know You hear me always. I just said that for the people standing here, so they can believe that You have sent me.”

Some thought I had finally snapped. Death was furious, seething because I gave him no heed.

“I will deal you the worst death ever,” he said.

“LAZARUS!” I called out. “COME OUT!”

You dare take him from my hands—?!“ But then, he vanished. No doubt, with vengeance in his heart.

Death was gone.

The crowd peered into the darkness from a safe distance. In the silence that followed, the passing breeze and the chirping of birds filled our ears. Heavy breathing echoed behind me.

And then there was a scream. Someone had observed movement in the tomb. But then she was not the only one.

“Look! There! Do you see it?”

“See what? Oh, wait … oh my! Oh my—“

“Where? What’s going on?”

“It’s a GHOST!”

“Good God!”

But he was not a ghost. My friend bounded out of the tomb to their screams and cries for mercy. I’ll admit, it’s not every day you see a dead man come to life. He was still bound and wrapped up in strips of cloth so he could barely move. “Quick,” I said. “Someone, unwrap him. Get him out of those … clothes.” They hesitated at first, but then some of my disciples went ahead, the others too scared to come. The sisters held back, crying.

When the sheet from his face was removed we all saw him. Lazarus. Thank You, Father.

The sisters ran to embrace him, crying out loud. The screams of terror turned to cries of joy. The man held his sisters, joy streaming from them. The news was spreading, the grapevine already reaching the village: Lazarus is alive! So many people that doubted before believed now. They had now seen what my Father is capable of.

It was totally amazing as faith rose that day. I saw people trust in God again. Many who had given up on God’s saving power were now filled with faith. They could now see that God could do anything, that He was here for them, and that He had sent me here. They had faith in me. These people were getting set up for the days of the kingdom, after the final battle comes to pass, and is won. They will believe. They do believe.

It does not matter that they may not continue believing. My story is not done.

I will die. I will rise. All who believe in me will be filled with eternal life, and they will never fall into Death’s hands. Death will become my vehicle to victory, and theirs too.

It will be painful for me. Torturous and unearthly for me. So that you can be free.

And the result will be awesome. Everyone who believes in me will be filled with the Life that conquers Death. Yes, everyone— even you!

Ha!

It surely is worth it.

 

‘Whoever has this hope in him purifies himself, just as He is pure’

1 John 3:3 (NIV)

 

———-

[POST-CREDITS SCENE]

In the recesses of the study in this palatial mansion, a group of men meet to discuss. They are leaders and priests, the top in the land. And the high priest sits with his fist on his mouth, deep in thought. A messenger has just arrived with the news.

“Are you certain?” one of them asks.

“Yes, sir,” the messenger says. “I saw him with my very eyes. The man lives.”

“BAH! There must be an explanation,” another says dismissively. “No man can bring the dead back to life.”

“He’d been in that tomb for four days, sir!”

“Do you expect us to believe that this demon-possessed Galilean – a chronic blasphemer– can raise the dead?”

“Well … I, uh—“

“It’s a trick, nothing more. A very costly one. There must be a logical explanation.”

“But his sisters mourned four days. We all saw them—“

SILENCE!”

“Even worse,” another puts in. “With such miracles – or rumors of miracles – this Jesus will have many more people believing in him. They’ll make him some sort of Deliverer. A … a messiah.”

“Some think he’s the Messiah.”

“That could be dangerous.”

“There would be an uprising. They will try to defeat the Occupation.”

“The Romans … they won’t take this lightly. There will be bloodshed. They’ll tighten their control—“

“And we’d be removed from our positions!”

“That … that would not do. For the sake of the people, of course.”

“We must stop this Jesus!”

A very deliberately audible groan from Caiaphas makes them all fall silent. His hand is on his forehead. “You’re all so stupid! Isn’t it obvious what we must do?” He stands, staring them down. “One man dies, and this uprising is no more. One man’s death, and our nation is spared destruction.” The priests warm up to what he’s implying. “He dies … and everyone is saved.”

Truer words have never been spoken, unbeknownst to him.

In the shadows, Death smiles.

It is all playing out as my Father said it would.

Now, more than ever…

…it has begun.

 

THE END?

 

This story is inspired by the eleventh chapter of the account of John Bar Zebedee on the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, the Son of God.