John 11: 21-26 (MsgB)
Martha said, “Master, if You’d been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Even now, I know that whatever You ask God He will give You.” Jesus said, “Your brother will be raised up.” Martha replied, “I know that he will be raised up in the resurrection at the end of time.”
“You don’t have to wait for the End. I AM, right now, Resurrection and Life. The one who believes in Me, even though he or she dies, will live. And everyone who lives believing in Me does not ultimately die at all. Do you believe this?”
We English-speakers have a real disadvantage at times when it comes to understanding some of the nuances found in the original New Testament Greek texts. The ancient Greeks, for example, knew full well that there needed to be different words for common household words like ‘love’ and ‘life’.
In the English language, for example, you and I can ‘love’ hot dogs, ‘love’ the opera, ‘love’ our spouse, and ‘love’ God, all with one word. The Greeks, on the other hand, knew that there were different types and levels of love, thus they used at least three or four different words to help define these types of ‘love’. ‘Eros’ meant sexual love. ‘Phileo’ referred to a virtuous, human love. ‘Storge’ referred to a deep affectionate love found within families. Finally, ‘agape’ referred to an unconditional, limit-less love. The New Testament writers used the Greek word ‘agape’ when referring to the heaven-breathed love that comes only from the Father Heart of God.
The Greeks also had three different words for our common English word, life. The word ‘bios’ refers to the common plant and animal life found on planet earth. We get our words ‘biology’ and ‘biological’ from this Greek word. The second word for the common forms of human life found on earth was ‘psyche’ from which we get our words ‘psychology’, ‘physics’, etc. This Greek word for ‘life’ emphasized our unique human ability to think, reason and relate to our surrounding environment. Finally, the Greeks had a unique word for ‘life’ that was spirit-breathed. This highest form of life, a life that excels far above the human existence, was the Greek word ‘zoe’.
When Jesus states that He is ‘Resurrection and Life’, the Greek word used here in John’s writings is the Greek word ‘zoe’. This unique word is used extensively throughout the New Testament and many times is translated as Real & Eternal Life. John, the gospel writer, used ‘zoe’ thirty-two times in his writings to distinguish this unique God’s life as compared to that ‘life’ which comes from lessor earthly sources!
In truth, according to John’s writings, Jesus is Zoe.
Jesus, then, is Real and Eternal Life. Time-less & Death-less Life. Life Outside All Boundaries. Unending, Unlimited, Un-Restricted Life. Life to the Full. Life Brimming Over With Life. Life that is Fully Alive. Vibrant, Animated, Life-Giving Life. Life Beyond This World. Life Beyond Death. Life that is Complete. Life without End. Real and Eternal Life. Amen and Amen.
So when you and I read these amazing words of Jesus printed in red, we English-speaking folks unfortunately skip by so easily as we read the words ‘Resurrection and Life’. But, as I see it, 1st century folks would have responded much differently! When they heard the Greek word, ‘zoe’ being used to define the life Jesus is promising to His followers; they most likely took a deep breath. A big pause. One huge step back. Marveling at what Jesus has just said about Himself.
Maybe we need to take a moment here and do the same?
My prayer: Jesus, when you say that You are Real and Eternal Life (zoe), this was a game-changer for those who understood that all other life on this planet was much less than ‘zoe’. If this is true, than my human existence (bios) and my human intellect (psyche) must decrease, so that Your life (zoe) might increase. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I settled for ‘bios’ and ‘pysche’ in my human existence? How has my life been limited because I fail to reach toward Jesus for that higher life that ‘zoe’ defines? What might my life be like, if I started asking God for more ‘zoe’ to be working in and through my life? Might others notice as well, as I operate more out of ‘zoe’ than ‘pysche’ or ‘bios’?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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