It all comes down to what you believe.
“Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never die.’” John 11:25
While many of us have read these words more times than we can count, let’s review them with fresh eyes. Jesus made an extremely bold statement when he announced (my paraphrase):
“I am the resurrection. I am the life. Absolutely anyone who believes in me will live – and I’m not only talking about here on earth. It’s a matter of fact that everyone who believes in me will live on after this earthly life; they will never cease to exist.”
It’s clear from the passage that belief plays a huge part in this astonishing reality. It’s a word we use every day, so let’s also take a fresh look at what it means to believe. Some of the entries you’ll find in a thesaurus include:
Jesus constantly emphasized the importance of belief. When he first began teaching, he announced, “The time promised by God has come at last! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” (Mark 1:15). A passage that’s often seen on posters at televised sporting events is John 3:16, which says everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. In John 6, there were those who said to Jesus, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?” Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent” (John 6:28-29). In the same passage, Jesus said, “It is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life.” Finally, in John 6:47 Jesus makes it about as simple as it can be: “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life” (John 6:47). It’s clear that our job is to believe (emphasis mine on ‘believe’ in prior passages).
Jesus, being fully human while on earth, understands our struggles, which include the realm of faith and belief. In Mark 5:21-43, Jesus told Jairus he would come to his home to heal his young daughter. While en route, messengers arrived to tell Jairus his daughter had died. Jesus’ response? “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” The healing was about more than simply Jesus’ presence; it involved faith. When two blind men asked to be healed, Jesus involved them in the process. “Do you believe I can make you see?” he asked. They affirmed their belief. “Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘Because of your faith, it will happen.’ Then their eyes were opened, and they could see!” (Matthew 9:27-30). He tied the miracle to their faith, further strengthening their belief.
While the disciples lived with Jesus for three years and were first-hand witnesses to astonishing miracles, they too struggled with belief at times. When their boat was being swamped in a storm and they panicked, Jesus calmed the storm – and pointedly asked them “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25).
Jesus’ resurrection was hard to believe for some disciples, and he rebuked them:
“But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her. Afterward he appeared in a different form to two of his followers who were walking from Jerusalem into the country. They rushed back to tell the others, but no one believed them. Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their stubborn unbelief because they refused to believe those who had seen him after he had been raised from the dead” (Mark 16:11-14).
“When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted!” (Matthew 28:17).
Isn’t it interesting that the gift of eternal salvation is predicated upon belief – not perfect adherence to external things such as behavior or achievement? It’s both liberating and yet also a striking commentary on the stubbornness of human will and the strength of our minds. The Lord gave us free will and minds to use. We can choose to close our minds to what Jesus taught us, or believe him who cannot lie, and receive the free gift of life with Him, forever. Embrace this truth with all of your mind.
Father, thank you for making the way open to heaven as simple as believing you. I believe you! You’ve given me the gift of faith, for even the faith to believe you comes from you. Where I have doubted you, bring fresh faith. Where I’ve believed you, bring new depths of faith to journey ever deeper into the goodness that is you. Amen.