Death Stinks – literally and figuratively! In the beginning, God created everything beautifully, completely and perfectly. Each day, He looked out over His creation and “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning…” (Genesis 1: 31) Death, decay and destruction were never a part of His divine design! Sin entered the world through Adam and death came through sin. (See Genesis 3 and Romans 5:12)
In John, Chapter 11, we are reminded of a loving family –two sisters and their brother, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Apparently, Jesus frequently visited these friends since they lived in Bethany, only two miles from Jerusalem. (See, for example, Luke 10: 38-42) Jesus knew and deeply loved this family and they knew and deeply loved Him in return.
On this particular occasion, Jesus had gone “back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. Here He stayed and many people came to Him… And in that place many believed in Jesus.” (John 10: 40-42) It was while Jesus was there that the sisters sent word to Him that Lazarus was seriously ill, asking Him to come to them. But instead of “dropping everything to rush to Lazarus,” He stayed where He was for two more days, telling His disciples, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11: 4) Notice, especially, Jesus did NOT say that Lazarus’ illness would not cause his death; rather He said that the illness would not end in death! Lazarus did, in fact, die and was buried.
So, when the time was right, Jesus and his disciples returned to Judea and to Bethany. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet Him, and in effect, said something like, “Lord, if only… Lord, You could’a, should’a, would’a!” “Lord, Martha said to Jesus, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask.” (John 11: 21-22)
“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told Him, ‘I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’” (John 11: 23-27)
Jesus, who is the resurrection and the life, miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead and “Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in Him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” (John 11: 45-46)
Caiaphas, the High Priest that year, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, predicted that it was better that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish. “He prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God to bring them together and make them one.” (John 11: 51-52) The divine irony is that Jesus raising Lazarus to life caused His death, which in turn, causes our life – and brings eternal life to all who believe!
w Jesus asks us, as He asked Martha, “Do you believe?” We often try to give Jesus “all our best advice” and answer Him, “Lord, if only… Lord, You could’a, should’a, would’a!” May we, rather, by faith and the work of the Holy Spirit in us, answer, “Lord, I do believe that You love me; that trouble will NOT destroy me; that You will lead me through the Valley of the shadow of Death (Psalm 23: 4); and that You are the resurrection and the life!”
It’s true – death stinks, but life in Christ is fragrant, fresh and beautiful, just the way God first designed and created it!
See you in church this Wednesday and next weekend!
Blessings in Christ,