Have you ever seen someone die? Unless you’re a soldier on active duty or work as an EMT, chances are that the closest you’ve gotten to death is viewing a loved one’s remains at a funeral home. Even though death still removes our loved ones from us, in most cases they are already at a nursing home or hospital, or are quickly whisked away to the emergency room, allowing us little first-hand exposure to the dying process and its irreversibility.
“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead…” (Ephesians 1:19-20a)
The entertainment industry hasn’t helped. The advance of modern day film-making technology has rendered it possible to deceive viewers into a fantastic frame of thinking, blurring the senses between fiction and reality. Clearly, animals do not speak, and people do not fly on brooms, change into other life forms, or disapparate. Neither do the dead come back to life. These things simply do not occur, but because we have been exposed to them on screen so often, while we cognitively understand the scientific facts of the world we exist in, we have become inured to awe of the miraculous.
Death in most cultures prior to the twentieth century was a simple thing. It occurred at home, typically surrounded by family and friends. Immediately following, the body remained in the home, and loved ones periodically went in to observe its finality, grieve, and reconcile themselves to the fact that this person was truly no longer with them. Depending on the temperature, eventually the natural processes of decay took over, necessitating the burial of the body to maintain proper sanitation. The result was that regardless of the specific cause of death everyone understood both its horror as well as its permanence. The Biblical accounts of Jesus raising Lazarus and the young man of Nain from the dead, as well as His own resurrection, were rightfully considered miraculous because everyone understood that the dead stay dead.
Today’s verse tells us that God’s power toward those of us who believe is of such an exceeding greatness that it is compared to the power God worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead. A wonderful woman whom I have the pleasure of knowing once remarked, “How can I know for certain that there is a resurrection? Who has ever come back from the dead to let us know?” Jesus is the one who has come back from the dead, and it is this same incredibly awe-inspiring and mind-numbing power that is at work toward His people!
Yet, we Christians frequently act as if we are completely on our own in our spiritual battles and struggles here on earth. 2 Timothy 1:7 tells us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Shortly before going to the cross, Jesus taught His disciples:
“…He who has seen Me has seen the Father…Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:9b-14)
Christ’s power is substantial and available; most of us simply fail to ask for it. James 4:2b-3 says, “…you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” The Complete Word Study New Testament (Zodhiates) says, “The promise in John 14:13, ‘Whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do,’ means He will do, not simply what we ask, but whatever is conformable to His character and to His purpose.” Asking rightly involves asking what Jesus would want me to ask for.
The extraordinary works we call miracles attest to the power of God, yet we rarely see them in our modern world. God is not in the business of providing a circus act. Just as Jesus refused to entertain Herod at His trial, God does not show His might and power to a society on whom such works would have no effect.
Yet He is as powerful today as ever. Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” While God may or may not choose to use the works we consider spectacular, such as healings or raising people from the dead, are the miracles of a changed heart and new birth any less spectacular? The purpose of the former is, in fact, to generate the latter! In John 15:7-8 Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit…” God’s desire is to use us to reach an unsaved world, and He will use His power—the same power that raised Jesus from the dead—in whatever capacity He deems necessary to accomplish His purposes, if we but ask!
Thank You for the exceeding greatness of Your power toward us who believe; use us to further Your purposes, for Your eternal glory! Amen.