There is an old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt.” Another phrase, attributed to Ben Franklin but perhaps based on a Yiddish original states, “Fish and houseguests stink after three days.” Yeshua put it this way: “a prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and in his own house.”
A group of social scientists at MIT did some research to determine if indeed it is true that people tend to dislike what or who they know most about. They discovered that it was true. They did research on people using a dating site, and after about five levels of experimentation discovered that people tended to like people more the less they knew about them, and that upon meeting people they thought they would like, they were more likely to find fault with them. It seems that people tend to like people who are most like themselves. When they find some character trait or other feature that is different, they are more likely than not to find this to be a negative. On top of all this, the researchers found that after finding fault with someone, one is more likely to reevaluate their traits which one formerly found positive, and begin to see even those in a negative light.
Indeed, familiarity does breed contempt.
But what does this have to do with prophecy, and with the subject of the day, resurrection? The resurrection is, next to the virgin birth I suppose, the most well known characteristic fact about Yeshua of Nazareth. Everyone knows that Yeshua believers hold that Yeshua was resurrected. However, the end result of this great familiarity with the fact of his resurrection is a form of contempt, what I call “the ho-hum factor” or perhaps “the so-what factor,” or “been there, done that.”
Today, looking at some prophetic foreshadowings, I want to refresh our enthusiasm for the world’s most underrated reality, the resurrection of Yeshua of Nazareth.
Let’s start with a recent Haftarah reading, (prophetic passage read in cycles ever year). This is another passage which is very familiar to most people, even if only by reputation. After reading it, answer two simple questions about it. And if you have difficulty answering them, this will demonstrate that the very familiarity of the passage has made you inattentive to its details.
37 With the hand of Adonai upon me, Adonai carried me out by his Spirit and set me down in the middle of the valley, and it was full of bones. 2 He had me pass by all around them — there were so many bones lying in the valley, and they were so dry! 3 He asked me, “Human being, can these bones live?” I answered, “Adonai Elohim! Only you know that!” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones! Say to them, ‘Dry bones! Hear what Adonai has to say! 5 To these bones Adonai Elohim says, “I will make breath enter you, and you will live. 6 I will attach ligaments to you, make flesh grow on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you. You will live, and you will know that I am Adonai.” 7 So I prophesied as ordered; and while I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound; it was the bones coming together, each bone in its proper place. 8 As I watched, ligaments grew on them, flesh appeared and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them. 9 Next he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath! Prophesy, human being! Say to the breath that Adonai Elohim says, ‘Come from the four winds, breath; and breathe on these slain, so that they can live.’” 10 So I prophesied as ordered, and the breath came into them, and they were alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army! 11 Then he said to me, “Human being! These bones are the whole house of Isra’el; and they are saying, ‘Our bones have dried up, our hope is gone, and we are completely cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy; say to them that Adonai Elohim says, ‘My people! I will open your graves and make you get up out of your graves, and I will bring you into the land of Isra’el. 13 Then you will know that I am Adonai — when I have opened your graves and made you get up out of your graves, my people! 14 I will put my Spirit in you; and you will be alive. Then I will place you in your own land; and you will know that I, Adonai, have spoken, and that I have done it,’ says Adonai.” (Ezekiel 37)
The questions are these: Who is resurrected? What is the nature of this resurrection, in other words, what happens?
The answers are that it is the people of Israel that is resurrected, and this resurrection entails a return to the Land, where we will then serve God faithfully, from the graves of exile, where we were banished because of our violation of his statutes and ordinances.
The resurrection of the Jewish people from the grave of exile is a demonstration of the faithfulness of the Living God of Israel. This is really what resurrection is all about, in any context: the demonstration of the faithfulness of the all-powerful Living God of Israel.
At the core of this is the assumption that where God has promised life, the end of the story cannot be death, because the all powerful God of Israel is faithful. And where God has promised his faithfulness, the end of the story can never be abandonment.
And by the way, when we think of Messianic Prophecy, we never should restrict it to prediction. Messianic prophecy includes foreshadowing—events or dynamics that will be demonstrated in a deeper way later on. This is what we find in the story of the Prophet Elisha and the Shunammite woman, another example of this principle of God never allowing the promise of life and the promise of his faithfulness to end in death.
Here’s a great story. Please read it.
8 One day Elisha visited Shunem, and a well-to-do woman living there pressed him to stay and eat a meal. After this, whenever he came through, he stopped there for a meal. 9 She said to her husband, “I can see that this is a holy man of God who keeps stopping at our place. 10 Please, let’s build him a little room on the roof. We’ll put a bed and a table in it for him, and a stool and a candlestick. Then, whenever he comes to visit us, he can stay there.” 11 One day Elisha came to visit there, and he went into the upper room to lie down. 12 He said to Geichazi his servant, “Call this Shunamit.” He called her; and when she arrived, 13 he said to him, “Tell her this: ‘You have shown us so much hospitality! What can I do to show my appreciation? Do you want me to say anything to the king for you? or to the commander of the army?” She answered, “I’m happy living as I do, among my own people.” 14 He said, “What, then, is to be done for her?” Geichazi answered, “There’s one thing – she doesn’t have a son; and her husband is old. 15 Elisha said, “Call her.” After he called her, she stood in the doorway. 16 He said, “Next year, when the season comes around, you will be holding a son.” “No, my lord,” she answered. “Man of God, don’t lie to your servant!” 17 But the woman conceived and gave birth to a son the following year when the season came around, just as Elisha had said to her. 18 When the child was old enough, he went out one day to be with his father, who was with the reapers. 19 Suddenly he cried out to his father, “My head! My head hurts!” He said to his servant, “Carry him back to his mother.” 20 When he had taken him and brought him to his mother, he lay on her lap until noon; and then he died. 21 She went up and laid him on the bed of the man of God, shut the door on him and went out. 22 She called to her husband and said, “Please send me one of the servants with a donkey. I must get to the man of God as fast as I can; I’ll come straight back.” 23 He asked, “Why are you going to him today? It isn’t Rosh-Hodesh and it isn’t Shabbat.” She said, “It’s all right.” 24 Then she saddled the donkey and ordered her servant, “Drive as fast as you can; don’t slow down for me unless I say so.” 25 She set out and came to the man of God on Mount Karmel. When the man of God saw her in the distance, he said to Geichazi his servant, “Look, here comes that Shunamit. 26 Run now to meet her, and ask her, “Is everything all right with you? with your husband? with the child?” She answered, “Everything is all right.” 27 But when she reached the man of God on the hill, she grabbed his feet. Geichazi came up to push her away, but the man of God said, “Leave her alone. She is in great distress, but ADONAI has hidden from me what it is, he hasn’t told me.” 28 Then she said, “Did I ask my lord for a son? Didn’t I say not to deceive me?” 29 Then Elisha said to Geichazi, “Get dressed for action, take my staff in your hand, and be on your way. If you meet anyone, don’t greet him; if anyone greets you, don’t answer; and lay my staff on the child’s face.” 30 The mother of the child said, “As ADONAI lives, and as you live, I will not leave you. He got up and followed her. 31 Geichazi went on ahead of them and laid the staff on the child’s face, but there was no sound or sign of life. So he went back to Elisha and told him, “The child didn’t wake up.” 32 When Elisha reached the house, there the child was, dead and laid on the bed. 33 He went in, shut the door on the two of them and prayed to ADONAI. 34 Then he got up on the bed and lay on top of the child, putting his mouth on his mouth, his eyes on his eyes and his hands on his hands. As he stretched himself out on the child, its flesh began to grow warm. 35 Then he went down, walked around in the house awhile, went back up and stretched himself out on the child again. The child sneezed seven times, then opened his eyes. 36 Elisha called Geichazi and said, “Call this Shunamit.” So he called her; and when she came in to him, he said, “Pick up your son.” 37 She entered, fell at his feet and prostrated herself on the floor. Then she picked up her son and went out. (2 Kings 4).
The key in this story is that the Prophet of God had brought life out of death as a reward for the woman’s faithfulness. She was barren, her husband old, and as far as having a son, they and their situation were dead. The Prophet promised her life in the midst of death, that she would have a son. She does, but when the son then dies prematurely, she comes back to the Prophet. Notice what she says to him in verse twenth-eight: “Did I ask my lord for a son? Didn’t I say not to deceive me?” In other words, I didn’t ask for this, but you promised me a live son, and now I have a dead one. You promised me life, instead I have death.”
Elisha quickly moves to reverse this situation not simply because he is compassionate, but because it is contrary to the faithfulness of God, and in this case, of God’s manifest servant, the Prophet, to promise life and deliver death. It would bring dishonor to God to leave things that way.
Resurrection is all about God’s almighty power and his faithfulness to his promises to his people. Two more prophetic readings make this clear. In Psalm 16. we read David expressing a principle: the all-powerful God will prove faithful to those who have faith in him, whose end will be not death but life.
8 I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices; my body also dwells secure. 10 For thou dost not give me up to Sheol, or let thy godly one see the Pit. 11 Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fulness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures for evermore.
For the people of the Bible, it makes no sense whatsoever that those who prove faithful to the God of life should end up extinguished by death. God’s faithfulness precludes this. One of the early rabbis, in answering an objection about the idea that God can resurrect the dead, answered, “The God who created life where there never was life can certainly bring life back to something that had once been alive.”
Peter taps into David’s logic about God’s faithfulness to his promse in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost:
“Men of Isra’el! Listen to this! Yeshua from Natzeret was a man demonstrated to you to have been from God by the powerful works, miracles and signs that God performed through him in your presence. You yourselves know this. 23 This man was arrested in accordance with God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge; and, through the agency of persons not bound by the Torah, you nailed him up on a stake and killed him! 24 “But God has raised him up and freed him from the suffering of death; it was impossible that death could keep its hold on him. (Why was it impossible? He tells us in the next verses. It was impossible because God had promised otherwise! 25 For David says this about him: ‘I saw ADONAI always before me, for he is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken. 26 For this reason, my heart was glad; and my tongue rejoiced; and now my body too will live on in the certain hope 27 that you will not abandon me to Sh’ol or let your Holy One see decay. 28 You have made known to me the ways of life; you will fill me with joy by your presence.’ (Acts 2)
So what is the point? The point is that where God has promised life, life is all we can expect. God promised that this descendant of David would not be abandoned to Sh’ol and would not see decay, so it was impossible that death should hold him. In other words, it is impossible for God’s promise to be broken.
What does this have to do with us? Just this. There are promises connected with Yeshua’s resurrection, promises of life. And it is impossible for these promises to be broken. Just as it was impossible for Israel to remain in the grave of exile, and just as it was impossible for Yeshua to remain in the grave, so it is impossible that the righteous dead should not rise again at the last day. It is also impossible Yeshua’s word, his promise, his prophecy about those who trust in Him should be broken.
When faced with the death of her brother, Marta/Martha confronts Yeshua and he answers her in accordance with what we are discovering together today:
21 Marta said to Yeshua, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” 23 Yeshua said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Marta said, “I know that he will rise again at the Resurrection on the Last Day.” 25 Yeshua said to her, “I AM the Resurrection and the Life! Whoever puts his trust in me will live, even if he dies; 26 and everyone living and trusting in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.” (John 11)
Yeshua was promising Marta the same thing that David expected. He expected not only for the Messiah but also for himself, that death would not be the last word. God would not let his Holy One remain in the grave, and because of that, David could say that his own “heart was glad, and (his) soul rejoiced; (his) body also dwelt secure.” He knew that where God has promised life, the end of the story cannot be death, because the all-powerful God of Israel is faithful. And where God has promised his faithfulness, the end of the story can never be abandonment.
And that is why the promise of life in Messiah, God’s Holy One, and faithfulness of God, and the resurrection of Messiah are the best news going today and every day, and why the resurrection of Yeshua is the world’s most underrated reality.
Don’t let your familiarity with the term “resurrection” breed contempt. It’s all about the faithfulness of God, and the future of the people committed to him, to whom he has committed himself.
He is Risen! And because he lives, his people will live also.
It’s impossible that it could be otherwise.