June 8, 2017/On Death

 

A close friend lost her sister today.

As an only child, I have never known what it is like to have brothers and sisters, but I do know that losing anyone close to you is difficult at any time. Having lost father, mother, in-laws, aunts, uncles, and friends, I have become adept at attending funerals.

As you stand in lines, the greatest difficulty is knowing what to say.

How do you provide comfort when the reality is that this person’s exsistence has been halted? The families don’t always want to be reassured that they will see their loved ones again because they are hurting. Even those who are Christians and know that their loved ones are believers face the reality of loss.

There is just no way to put a good face on death. It is hurt, loss, and separation at best; bitterness, sorrow, and anger at worst. The one we loved has vanished from our presence.

How do we come to terms with this? How do we walk on?

Oh, yes, time does heal. And if our loved one was suffering we may admit that we are glad that suffering is over. But the fact remains that one we loved is gone.

John relates the very real experience of watching Jesus deal with death.

John 11: 1- 45–Now a certain man was sick, named Lazarus, of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. (It was that Mary which anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick.)
Therefore his sisters sent unto him, saying, Lord, behold, he whom thou lovest is sick.When Jesus heard that, he said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus. When he had heard therefore that he was sick, he abode two days still in the same place where he was. Then after that saith he to his disciples, Let us go into Judaea again. His disciples say unto him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone thee; and goest thou thither again? Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world. But if a man walk in the night, he stumbleth, because there is no light in him. These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, which is called Didymus, unto his fellowdisciples, Let us also go, that we may die with him. Then when Jesus came, he found that he had lain in the grave four days already. Now Bethany was nigh unto Jerusalem, about fifteen furlongs off:And many of the Jews came to Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Then Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met him: but Mary sat still in the house. Then said Martha unto Jesus, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee. Jesus saith unto her, Thy brother shall rise again. Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world. And when she had so said, she went her way, and called Mary her sister secretly, saying, The Master is come, and calleth for thee. As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly, and came unto him. Now Jesus was not yet come into the town, but was in that place where Martha met him. The Jews then which were with her in the house, and comforted her, when they saw Mary, that she rose up hastily and went out, followed her, saying, She goeth unto the grave to weep there. Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! And some of them said, Could not this man, which opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died? Jesus therefore again groaning in himself cometh to the grave. It was a cave, and a stone lay upon it.
Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days. Jesus saith unto her, Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him.

Let us examine Jesus’ words–The sickness that was given had an eventual purpose. Beyond the tragedy on the face of Lazurus’ illness lies a lesson on faith and reassurance for all.

I am going back among those who hate me enough to kill me. You haven’t figured out, as of yet, that although darkness and death is a part of this world, I have come to bring you a light that shines eternally; a new way of life in which darkness, death, and sadness will be forever banished.

Death is like sleeping. Sleep separates the physical body in the same way that sin separates our soul. Those who sleep give the appearance to the eye, in a way of death–yet they awake. Our spiritual souls become deadened once sin intrudes but Jesus allows our spirit to regain the life God envisioned for us at the beginning of communing with Him.

Lazurus, my friend, is dead…and while I am saddened, I see how God will use him according to His purpose to again show you just who I am.

Your brother will rise.

Your faith and trust in Me will be honored–for now I will truly illustrate that I have been granted the power over life and death forever. Here is but another bit of my destiny in that before I take on the cross, God is allowing me to show you just who I am and why I have come…for all of you…those that I have loved here on earth and any yet to come who will simply believe. Do you believe?

Where is he?

Take away that which is blocking us.

Did I not tell you that you would see God’s power?

Father, I know You are always with me and know my heart, mind, and intentions…but because others are watching, I will speak aloud my plea so that they may believe in your glory and power.

Lazarus, come forth. You who were dead, rise to illustrate the eventual chains of sin that will be broken by my upcoming atonement. I, God’s Son offer myself in your place.

Here, before Christ offers His ultimate sacrifice for us, He experiences the depth of human grief at losing His friend and offers a tiny glimpse of just how great is the journey He is about to undertake for us. Jesus and God are still united at this point in time. God is allowing His Son this miracle as an illustration of faith to His believers…but the time fast approaches when their tie will be separated as Christ bears the burdens of all sin for humanity…

Through our mourning in death, through our sadness, through our loss, we receive only a miniscule glimpse of the burdensome load of sins Jesus must have carried. It is good for us to cry and mourn those we love…but we are to remember that once we trust Christ as our Saviour we will meet with those who have gone before us at our ultimate destination in communion with God.

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