Posts Tagged ‘Death’
I'm kind of stuck in Hebrews 2. I want to move on, but I keep going back to it over and over because I keep seeing something in it that captivates my attention. Today what caught my attention is not so much a 'what' as a 'who.' It's Jesus, of course. Today I noticed something different about the chapter and how the suffering of Jesus stands out boldly, how the suffering of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the work and life of angels.
He said, "Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we've heard lest we drift away from it." Now he goes on to give us more details about the contrast between Jesus and angels with a particular focus on the suffering of Jesus.
- 2:9: Jesus was crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death. And in this suffering, he tasted death for everyone. It was by grace, he writes. Jesus took death into himself and spared us.
- 2:10: Jesus was 'made perfect' through suffering. And in this suffering he sanctifies us and calls us brothers.
- 2:14: Jesus partook of death that he might destroy death and the one who holds the power of death, the devil. And in this he delivers those who live in fear of death and in captivity to death.
- 2:17: Jesus was made like us in every way and was a propitiation for our sins. And in this suffering he has become our great high priest before God on our behalf.
- 2:18: Jesus suffered. And in this suffering Jesus is now able to help those of us who also suffer and are tempted.
In chapter 1, we are told Jesus is 'the exact imprint of God…' (1:3). We are told he 'is the radiance of God's glory' (1:3). We are told 'he is superior to angels' (1:4) We are told he is God's last word to the world (1:2). In effect, we are told Jesus is God who created, spoke, made purification for sin, sits at God's right hand, upholds the world, and is the heir of all things. The adjectives and superlatives all point to the supremacy of Jesus and his ultimate greatness. The first four verses of Hebrews are simply grandiose in their exaltation of Jesus, the Son of God.
Then we get to chapter 2 and we see something else. We are told over and over that Jesus suffered. We are told that Jesus is made a little lower than the angels (2:9). This grand figure of 1:1-4, who is far superior to angels in every way (1:5-14) is now a little lower than the angels. In other words, he's like us. And so as one of us, what does Jesus do?
Well, he tastes death. A terrible meal. It's that plate full of green stuff that our parents wanted us to eat as children. Jesus ate it for us. As a man, Jesus tasted death.
Again, he calls us brothers. We have very few friends on earth even if we have many acquaintances. Jesus suffered like us and is not ashamed of us. We sin. We foul up. We make bad choices. Yet Jesus remains steadfast by our side. He will not abandon us.
Then, Jesus shares our flesh in blood and partook of our life. In doing so he destroyed death. He set us free. He helps us. We are without excuse, in a sense. We cannot blame God for not understanding because he does just that: he understands.
Finally, he was made like us in every respect. He is the exact image of God. He is like us in every respect. He gets it. He gets us. And he goes before God and explains us to God. He is a high priest before God explaining to God–as if God doesn't get us–what we need. He is our help precisely because he gets us because he was one of us.
Each time we are told that Jesus is like us, that he shared our flesh, that he represents us, that he suffered and endured all the things we suffer and endure. That thing that Job cried out over and over again, "There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both" (Job 9:33). Jesus is that Arbiter. So what holds us back? What prevents us from trusting him? What stops us from crying out to him?
He eats death like us. He calls us brothers. He sets us free from fear. He suffers like us. He helps us. All because he became like us, we are not alone. He is with us. All the time. All the time. He is with us.
Jesus Undoes Death
Genesis 5, Luke 6
Something that has always bothered me about the daily paper is the obituaries. I understand why the obituaries exist, but I have not so much a fascination with them. Some people make a habit of reading the obituaries—its like it’s part of their religion and if they don’t read the obituaries they might somehow be struck down by Thor or Zeus or whatever god they profess to worship and follow. I have found that older folks are especially fond of reading the obituaries. Some have jokingly said to me in the past, ‘I read them to make sure I’m not in them.’ It’s always a good laugh we have together.
Reading through Genesis 5 is difficult to say the least. It’s like reading through a 4,000 year old obituary and not knowing a single soul or caring that they died. Frankly, it’s a terribly depressing chapter of Scripture and one might wonder why such a chapter would be included.
Fact is, there are many chapters like this in Scripture. They are genealogies and they necessarily are obituaries. Each generation passes on to the next. People live, people die. The overwhelming message about man in the Bible is that man (people) die. Nothing can stop it. Nothing can halt it. Nothing can prevent it. Nothing can slow down man’s onward march towards the inevitable.
So, in a sense, when we read Genesis 5 we do know the people we are reading about and we do care that they died: They are us. We see in their lives and in their deaths our own march, our own date with inevitability. We see our own destiny in the flesh: Death. We see a refrain that reminds us, as a good refrain does, over and over again, that the problem is death and that everyone is subject to it. The world, chapter 5 reminds us, had become a place ruled by death. It’s grip inescapable. The breadth of its dominion, wide and deep. Death works hard to control, gather a congregation, and attain more and more power.
In Genesis 5 we see death’s power growing and gaining. Genesis 5 is our early and present history. Death reigns.
Then we come along to our other reading today from Luke 6 and we meet again this person named Jesus. In particular, verses 1-11 of chapter 6 relate specifically to Genesis 5. In my reading, Luke 6:1-11 is about far more than Jesus undoing the Sabbath and undoing the anally retentive sour-pusses who watched his every move and criticized his every step. Yes, the Sabbath teaching was important, but more important, I think, I Jesus’ undoing of the chaos of death; undoing the degeneration of the human life, flesh. Here is Jesus reversing the effects of death.
You see it there? There was a man with a shriveled hand. He could have been young, or old. I hardly think it matters. What matters is that there was a man in the synagogue who had a shriveled hand (I’m reading the English, so there might be a more specific connotation in Greek) and Jesus heals him. I think the best part of the entire eleven verses is this one: “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” Just picture that! Jesus wanted everyone who was in the synagogue to see what he was about to do. He wanted everyone to see the man with the shriveled hands. He wanted everyone to see the disfigured, shriveled, useless hand.
Jesus stuck it right in their faces.
Jesus wants those people to see that it is He who has the power to halt the effects of the curse. Jesus made the man’s hand new again, useful, alive. If Jesus can do this to a mere hand, how much a whole body? If Jesus would do this to a mere hand, how much more can he prevent the same effects in the whole being? That is, if he cares this much for a hand, how much more the whole person? But Jesus’ power is too much for them. They are unwilling to see that this is power come upon them. All they can see is a violation of sabbath. Jesus gave them an advance sign and they missed it. He stood that man up so they would not miss it, and they missed it. The essence of a pathetic life is missing the obvious; ignoring the God who makes himself known.
They were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. The essence of a miserable life is being so angry at when and the way people do things that we miss what the person has actually done. They were so consumed with the sabbath, they missed the miracle; they missed the advance sign.
Death reigns and the apostle makes it clear that the last enemy to be defeated will be death. Until that time, we can continue to hope that someday, hope against hope, the obituary pages will finally be blank. In the meantime, we continue to hope against hope that because Jesus lives, so also shall we.
I finally managed to find my CD copies of my manuscripts from The Dangerous God sermon series of which I have posted a couple of the mp3’s here. I will be posting more of the mp3’s, but for now I would like to provide you with the sermon manuscripts. These sermons are filled with quotes from authors like David Wells, PT Forsyth, Mark Buchanan, Philip Yancey and more. Expository sermons from the lives of Gideon, David, Joshua, the disciples and more. I hope they are a help to you.
Dangerous God, pt 2: 1 Samuel 17:1-58, The God Who Does Greater with Smaller
Dangerous God, pt 3: Joshua 1:1-18; 5:13-27, The God Who Does the Impossible with the Improbable
Dangerous God, pt 4: Matthew 1:18-25, Revelation 12, The God Who Enters Chaos to Bring Order
Dangerous God, pt 5: Luke 23; Various, The God Who Saves in the Midst of Loss
Dangerous God, pt 6: Acts 2:22-36, The God Whose Life is Greater than Our Death
Dangerous God, pt 7: Acts 9:1-18, etc., The God Who Uses the World’s Rejects
Dangerous God, pt 8: Matthew 5-7, The Dangerous God’s Message to His People: A Radical Way of Counterculturally Living
Thanks for stopping by. Again, I hope you find these sermons helpful.
And, as always,
Soli Deo Gloria!
I happened to be visiting Live-Science.com this evening and I came across an interesting article titled 10 Species You Can Kiss Goodbye. It is a picture essay listing ten different animals that are considered ‘endangered’ by someone who is, evidently, an expert. Doing my part to spread this disturbing news, I will here list the 10 species that are on the list and the cause of their endangerment.
- California Condor: poaching, lead poisoning, habitat loss
- Sumatran Orangutan: habitat loss
- Ganges Shark: rampant fishing, habitat degradation, river utilization (presumably by evil humans)
- Mountain Gorilla: deforestation, hunting, illegal pet trade, civil unrest by evil humans in central Africa
- Philippine Crocodile: habitat loss, death by dynamite fishing, human disturbance
- Black-footed Ferret: human development of grasslands, destruction of prairie-dog colonies, habitat destruction, pest-elimination programs by evil humans who hate pests, disease
- Siberian Tiger: habitat loss by evil humans who want the logs, development, poaching for fur and bones
- Red Wolf: devastation by predator control programs, habitat loss, dearth of breeding partners caused them to breed with coyotes reducing the number of genetically pure wolves
- Western Gray Whale: “Their only known feeding ground off the northeastern coast of Sakhalin
Island in Russia has since been annexed by oil companies whose
exploration and mining activities, including high-intensity seismic
surveying, drilling operations, increased ship and air traffic, and oil
spills, are driving the 30-ton mammals to extinction.”
- Sumatran Rhinoceros: Illegal poaching, destruction of habitat in the ‘name of [evil] human progress, zoos have little success breeding them in captivity.
Well, there you have it. I’d like to do my part to help out these animals, but I’d also like to, in the interests of the current presidential campaigns being conducted in America, contribute my own creature to the list of endangered species and cite the primary causes of their demise:
11. Human beings: Abortion, terrorism, sin.
Here’s hoping that our current presidential candidates will do everything in their power to get human beings taken off this endangered species list.
I have to be away from the blog for several days. This past week I have been at my in-laws. We were able to be together for the last four days of my brother-in-law’s life. Bobby was 30 and died from a brain tumor. He died Saturday evening around 7:30 or so. This morning we worshiped with his congregation in Poland, Ohio.
Crowder always seems to have words.
I thank God that death had no claim on Bobby. Thanks be to God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ–our hope!
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 21For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. 22For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. 23But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 24Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. 25For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.”
Praise God! My sister in law said something amazing this morning at worship. She said, and I don’t even know if she planned it or not, but it was brilliant: It only took 30 years for God to accomplish in and through Bobby all he desired to accomplish. Bobby was a changed man because of Jesus Christ and a powerful testimony to all who knew and loved him. Bobby was so changed that he more than once gave testimony that he ‘thanked God for [this] disease.’
He died quietly and peacefully. He was surrounded by his friends, family, and a friendly dog named Cody who roams the halls of the Hospice. But more importantly, he was surrounded by the grace of God. We thank God Bobby is safe and hurting no more. We thank God for his abundant grace that saved Bobby 6 years ago. If you breathe a prayer for us, especially his wife Brandi, thank God that Bobby didn’t have to liner on for days. Thank God for His grace.
Thanks for stopping by for a visit. I’ll be back blogging soon. I have several posts churning around inside my head. I hope to write them soon and post them. Thanks again.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I have written a post at my other blog A Pastor’s Prayer Journey on the subject of Silence and Envy. These are reflections on the recent death of an acquaintence of mine. If you are interested, here’s the link: It’s My Silence You Detest: Reflections on Envy.
I think there is actually something to this. If you think about it, this has its roots in the very sin that pervades our existence. Remember, in the beginning, the Lord said, “It is not good for man to be alone.” (I fully realize there is a difference between being ‘alone’ and being ‘lonely.’)
Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but some people have it much worse. These individuals consistently feel lonely for years, often despite having friends and family. Researchers have long known that such chronically lonely people are less healthy. They suspected cortisol, a hormone that regulates the body’s response to stressful or threatening situations, was to blame, because it’s found in higher levels in people who feel isolated. But the mechanism remained a mystery, and one nagging question persisted: If inflammation drives most loneliness-linked diseases, how can cortisol, with its anti-inflammatory properties, be the culprit?
I agree that research should be done into this field, but I disagree with the conclusion that researcher Steve Cole comes to:
Cole hopes doctors will someday be able to use the genetic markers his team discovered to identify at-risk patients and keep them healthier with anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin. “We can’t change them into the happy, laughing life of the party,” he says, “but we can keep them out of the coffin.”
I confess that I don’t really know what he means by this. Is he saying, “Out of the coffin at an early age,’ or ‘Out of the coffin forever’? I hope what he means is the former because the latter is just hubris.
Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. 27Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him” (Hebrews 9:26-28, NIV).
I’m not disagreeing with the article. I’m just saying that I think our lonliness is deep seated precisely because of sin. I agree that over the course of time sin has so warped us that it probably has disrupted and corrupted the genetic structure of our lives.
Finally, and I don’t mean this is a sarcastic way, but it has been argued that the environment affects our gentics. I wonder if the research indicates how the environment has affected the genese they are concerned about in this particular study. Finally, I wonder if perhaps there is any evolutionary advantage to these lonliness genes? I’m being serious because for all the joking around I do, I think lonliness is a serious problem in our increasingly solitary world.
If you are interested in the full study, Science has made it available in .pdf form here. If I get time, I’ll read it too. My thoughts above are only on the article reporting the study itself.
I have posted one thought already about evolution providing us no hope for the future because it establishes in us no purpose in the present. (I’ll say more about this below as I discuss how death is the prevailing experience in this world in general and Darwinism in particular.) Sadly, I think this has done more to ruin the human race than any other idea in the world. After all, if we have no purpose for living, what’s the point of living, we may as well ‘eat and drink for tomorrow we die’? Darwinism as a philosophy of nothing has rendered us unable to fit into the world except as mere predators. Yet, even though we continually fight against our environment for survival, we are still doomed to only death, decay, and destruction. I cannot say that Darwinism has instilled in humankind any really significant reason to actually continue as a race. I cannot say that Darwinism has done anything to improve our lives on this planet. Again, science has by awakening our eyes and ears to the wonders of God’s creation and the Majesty of the Creator, given us much to be thankful for. But Darwinism, in reducing us from creatures made in the image of God, instilled with purpose and a goal, to mere by-products of a random, guideless, purposeless process has essentially ruined any hope people might have for a meaningful existence.
By the way, evolution doesn’t give me purpose. I just want to know how the universe works. It’s a selfish desire, nothing more.”
I responded to him with the words of Jesus: “What good will it do for a man to gain the whole world yet forfeit his soul?” This is another aspect of life that Jon and the other Darwinists who invited themselves to my blog fail to understand.
What I wonder is how many humans, fed a steady diet of evolatheism through their years in public education and college and through pop-science journals and PBS television specials and Discovery channel documentaries and so on and so forth, have wandered through this meaningless existence unhappy, depressed, turned criminal, and killed themselves or others? Darwinism teaches us that the only way to survive is to survive–whatever it takes: beg, beat, borrow, steal, kill–whatever it takes! Granted, humanity in general does this, even professing Christians sometimes turn criminal and turn from Christ, but one wonders how far reaching are the effects of Darwinism on the culture in general. (I think about the Racism of Nazi Germany and how doctrines were developed entirely on the basis of Darwinism. That’s only one example of what I think it part of the far reaching effects of Darwinism.)
But there’s another problem too: Death. According the wise among us, we have been evolving (or life has been evolving) for millions or perhaps billions of years. I don’t understand why Darwinism has not managed to evolve us out of death. (Maybe I’m asking for too much!) One would think that with all those years of experimentation under our belts we would have simply developed the mutated genes necessary to kill disease, eliminate viruses, destroy death entirely. And yet we haven’t. In fact, if Darwinism has done anything for humanity, it has only increased the amount of death that we see in the world, and our appetite for it, and the violence it necessitates. In fact, it seems to me that Darwinism is only as effective as the death since death is required in order for a new species to ‘appear’ on the scene. “Nature red in tooth and claw,” I think is how I read it somewhere.
Still, even the best of us get at best 70-80 years. Well, that is frankly appalling in light of a million or half a million years of evolution. And if that number is inflated to a billion or more it is even more pathetic. I would think that death would be done by now, and that our lifespan would be at least, on average, 120 or so. But through all this evolution we have supposedly undergone, we have yet to figure out a way to contend with the very environment that my friend Jon says is the major catalyst in the mutation of the genetic code. We are continuing to lose the battle against our environment. It is killing us, not making us stronger or more evolved.
Why so much death? Again, death is necessary. Even Hitler recognized this as he went about his pogram. He understood perfectly the survival of the fittest. He understood perfectly well that a superior species must necessarily eliminate an ‘inferior species’ so that the species in general will be perfected. But we are rightly appalled at Hitler’s ideas of Darwinism as he carried them out to their logical, necessary conclusion. (Sadly, it was also Darwinism that was part of the foundation of American slavery as certain races of humans were considered ‘less evolved’ than others. Slavery is also a necessary end of Darwin’s theory that Darwinists conveniently overlook and disregard.)
Why so much death and why has it not been overcome? Darwinism necessitates death and Darwinism will not, finally, overcome death: It cannot if it expects to continue its own existence. Death is a frontier that evolution cannot overcome and will not overcome. And in my estimation, it is this fact of death that is one of the major problems that evolutionists, Darwinists, face in trying to explain this world.
What about creation? Well, creation in and of itself has not overcome death, but the God who claims to have created this world has. And it seems to me that only the God who created this world has sufficient power to destroy our nemesis and bring this world to its intended End, which is Christ. For those of us who believe that God has made us in His Image there is no futility in this world, and our lives. We believe that we have purpose in this life, that life is not an exercise in futility, that life will not end in death. Here is what the Gospel says about the Creator:
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55″Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?”
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:50-58, NIV)
I am interested in life and living and so is God who created us. Death is an aberration of Creation; death is a necessity of Darwinism. Darwinism is interested in nothing but death and dying. I hate to be so blunt about it, but the truth is, Darwinism has not overcome that one aspect of life that is most perplexing to us: Death. I suppose that if Darwinism ever happens to find a way to overcome death, that last enemy, perhaps we can have a conversation about whether Darwinism is a valid explanation of all that we see, hear, and experience.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I have been enduring the mindless gibberish of a couple of my atheistic, evolutionary friends lately. They continue to visit my blog even though they are quite aware of the fact that I’m not about to give any credence to the theory of evolution. So, since our conversation has been taking place on a ‘back lot’ of my blog, I thought I’d put a few questions here on the main page for them to see. These are in no particular order of importance.
First, would you please interact with the essay by Freman Dyson that I posted earlier.
Second, (for Dan) why do you feel sorry for me? I’m the one with hope. I don’t really need your sympathy. Seriously, I’m not the one who is going to die someday and simply die. I’m already alive and will be long after you have ceased breathing.
Third, (for Dan) how does my use of particular inventions prove that we have ‘descended with modification’ from anything? What does my use of medicine or computers or running water for that matter have to do with proving anything evolves? All it tells me is that curious people have tinkered around with their environment and made some cool stuff that makes life slightly less complicated. (Although, I should also point out that science has given us nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, hazardous waste, cloning, and a hoste of other things that are in no way beneficial, or at least only moderately, superficially beneficial, to humans.)
Fourth, if evolution is so evident, why do so many people, including many, many scientists, reject it out of hand? And why do so many argue, much better than I (and with supporting, logical, factual evidence) that evolution is a fraud?
Fifth, if evolution is so evident, why have some scientists felt the need to perpetuate it, from time to time, with lies, fraudulent fossil ‘evidence,’ and other suspicious ‘evidence’?
Sixth, (for Dan) do you mean, with reference to heliocentrism, that the world does not revolve around you? Well, if that’s the case, then of course I believe in heliocentrism! (Oh, I’m just kidding. Of course the earth goes round the sun. Only really shallow people don’t believe that.) However, what does that have to do with proving evolution again? (Seriously, Dan and the rest of you evolutionists need to lighten up a bit. If you would learn how to laugh at yourselves you’d have a lot more fun blogging.)
Seventh, for all, I want all of you evolutionists who are so angry at people who believe in Genesis 1 (and all the other chapters and books of the Bible) to know this one thing: I’m not nearly as offended at your acceptance of something as ridiculous as evolution as I am at your rejection of Christ. (And please, all you ‘christian evolutionists’, spare me your drivel. I’ve already explained how I feel about that nonsense and if my point doesn’t stick, ask Richard Dawkins if you can be a Christian and an evolutionist. On this point, Dawkins and I are in complete agreement: there is no such thing.) But my point is this: Even though I don’t believe the two are compatible, I’d rather you believe it (evolution) and be a Christian than not be a Christian at all.
Eighth, now here’s where it gets rather technical. Michael Denton, certainly has not argued for a specific creationist point of view, and I don’t even know if he claims to be a Christian (I don’t think he is, and at any rate, I don’t believe that evolution and Christianity are at al compatible so even if he is a christian it is a ‘christian’. He doesn’t even argue that things are suited for specifically ‘our’ version of life, but rather what he calls an ‘advanced carbon-based humanlike or humanoid life.’ That’s encouraging.) Anyhow, he wrote a handsome volume called ‘Nature’s Destiny.’ I’d like to begin this inquiry by quoting from him and asking you to respond.
He writes, “There is simply no tolerance possible in the design of the celestian machine. For us to be here, it must be precisely as it is.” (14)
Denton also writes, “…both the Darwinian and the creationist worldviews are based on the same fundamental axion–that life is an unncessary and fundamentally contingent phenomenon. Where the creationist sees organism as the artifacts of God the supreme engineer, The Divine Watchmaker, Darwinists see them as the artifactual products of chance and selection.” (xviii)
OK, so I’d like to begin with how you would assess that statement. True or false. (PS–Denton has an earned Ph D in developmental biology from Kings College, London).
Well, that’s all for now friends. I appreciate your time and patience. I’m sorting through all of this. I’m trying hard to understand how I can be the product of a meaningless, random process and still have value, purpose, and a reason to wake up tomorrow. On the other hand, if I am created in the image of God…well, now that’s something else entirely and I’ll gladly wake up and enjoy each breath I take, and every fly that buzzes around my head, and every bee that crawls on my sunflowers. I might even enjoy my stupid dogs.
To end my thoughts, I’d like to post a passage from the Scripture that is simply amazing:
28And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34″Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35Jesus wept. 36Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Death. It is a terrible word. It is a word that makes me shudder with apprehension, recoil in disbelief, grow nauseated in disgust. Death is not a happy word. Down through the ages, death has reigned. Ever since the Garden. Sadly, evolution has not found a way for man or any creature to overcome death. “It is appointed for each man [person] to die once, and after that face judgment.” We live each day, each moment, with the prospect that death is looming large, like a shadow we cannot escape. Death is always near. And death’s purpose is very clear: It is hungry, never satisfied, always lurking, waiting, hoping for another taste, another victory. Then came along one day Someone who changed all that. Along came One who turned death’s purposes upside down. One day, Someone came along and used death. Oh, yes. He used death to accomplish His own ends. Thus death became a tool, a pawn, another piece of the plan.
“For the believer, the time of death becomes far less daunting a factor when seen in the light of eternity. We have already seen that, granted we lived under the sentence of death, the exact timing seems less foreboding a subject that it does for people who feel that threescore years and ten are their due. But now something more positive can be introduced. Although death remains an enemy, an outrage, a sign of judgment, a reminder of sin, and a formidable opponent, it is, from another perspective, the portal through which we pass to consummated life. We pass through death, and death dies. Christians whose hope is genuinely lodged in what it means to be ‘for ever with the Lord’ cannot contemplate what the world would see as premature death with the same indignation. Indeed, from one perspective, such death is a great blessing.” (DA Carson, How Long O Lord, 133)
Along came Jesus.
You see, death was never part of the plan. Life was the plan. That’s why God put in the Garden the Tree of Life and not the Tree of Death. Although he certain gave an option in the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil: On the day you eat of it you will surely die. And die they did. It is perplexing though why, even then, we were more intrigued by death than we were consumed with life. But for some reason, that day, the day of Adam and Eve, they were hungry for something they had not before tasted: Death. So they ate; and all were satisfied.
I’m not a big fan of death. I have no particular interest in involving myself in any studies of death any time soon. I have no particular reason to want to do a thesis paper on death or write a doctoral dissertation on death. I don’t happen to think that Jesus was particularly enamored with death either: Death was, to Jesus, the greatest enemy. And part of his work on this earth was to destroy that enemy once and for all.
Mary said the same thing to Jesus that Martha had said: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Neither Mary nor Martha knew that it was precisely because Jesus wasn’t there that their brother would live.
Jesus looks around and what does he see? He sees scores of people weeping and grieving and mourning. Great distress had overtaken these people at the death of Lazarus. Jesus saw it and, John tells us, He was ‘agitated and angry.’ He was terrible bent out of shape, so to speak. He saw this death of Lazarus and he was outraged at the hubris of death, enraged at the coldness of death, beside himself at the capriciousness of death. Death is no friend of humanity and Jesus makes that known by his actions. Jesus was not weeping because he had lost a good friend or because he saw the others weeping at their lost friend. Remember: Jesus already had in mind what he was going to do (see verse 4). Jesus was weeping here at the outrageousness of death, at the implacability of death, at the violence of death. But even they misunderstood Jesus’ tears that day.
You see our greatest enemy is death. And can you imagine that the Son of God saw that and wept?
But many in this life are still on course for communion with death. People continue to lead reckless lives that are filled with the same hubris and madness that characterized Adam and Eve’s choice in the Garden. People are hungry for death and they don’t even take time to notice how offensive death is. They court death. They taunt death. They sneer at death. What they don’t do, sadly, is take time to realize that death can be, has been, and will be overcome at last. What evolution has failed to do: increase life expectancy to any significant degree, Christ has done. What evolution has failed to accomplish: the defeat of death entirely, Christ has done completely.
We preach the Good News of Jesus Christ in the hopes that more and more people will realize that death is conquered only in Christ. That apart from Christ, people are living dead, dying while they are walking, dead before they die. My hope is that all people will surrender to Christ and rise to walk in newness of life. Jesus hates death, and only Jesus has the power to do anything about it. As he will show us in our next meditation.
Soli Deo Gloria!
17On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, 19and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. 21″Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27″Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”
Christians remember that the Jesus who testifies to the contents of the book of Revelation promises, ‘Yes, I am coming soon,’ and the church replies, ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus’ (Revelation 22:20). Christians live in the light of the End. Much of what we believe and much of the suffering we are prepared to endure derive their meaning from the prospect of vindication and resurrection. Without that prospect, without the reality that that prospect anticipates, Christianity does not make much sense, and neither do major planks in any Christian perspective on evil and suffering. ‘If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others’ (1 Corinthians 15:19).” (DA Carson, How Long O Lord, 117)
Jesus ‘found’ that Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, but there is also more than a little hint that he knew how long Lazarus had been in the tomb. Here Jesus is met by the grieving Martha. She is the first one he will console at the loss of her brother Lazarus. She comes to him, no doubt weeping, face patched with red. She is undoubtedly very emotional, extremely fragile. I have, in the course of my years as a preacher, buried not a few dead people. I have seen the range of emotions that accompany the grieving. Tears flow freely. Wailing happens loudly. It is quite an emotionally charged atmosphere at a funeral. The way I understand it, those who lived in the days of Lazarus, Mary, Martha and Jesus, there were ‘professional mourners’ who would accompany the family in their grief with their own tears and wailing.
But Martha was no professional mourner. Martha was Lazarus’ sister; her grief was deep, and real. “If you had been here,” is, I suspect, Martha’s quiet rebuke: Lord, why didn’t you care enough to come right away my brother would still be alive. Is she angry? Is she grief stricken? Is she overwhelmed by her emotion and speechless? But she doesn’t stop there, and like Thomas, seems to have at least a modicum of faith or belief in Jesus, or maybe it’s a little deeper: “I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” I think she really believed that. Even though Jesus had ‘let her down,’ maybe he could make up for it now by asking for something special? Did Martha believe in Resurrection? Did she believe Jesus could, would, do something beyond the ordinary?
She, like the disciples, didn’t get what Jesus was saying. The disciples thought Jesus was talking about ‘sleep’, she thought he was talking about the ‘end’. When Jesus said, “Your brother will rise again,” it doesn’t appear that she had any idea whatsoever that Jesus had intended all along to raise Lazarus from the dead. She probably took these words, at this point, to simply mean something like, “Death will not have the last laugh in this life. Your brother will not remain forever in the grave. A Time will come when he will escape its hold.” I think this is evident by her response, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Martha was no Sadducee, but Jesus was about the change her outlook on exactly what Resurrection and Life means. Let’s look at it phrase by phrase.
“I am the Resurrection and the Life.” There is no Resurrection or life apart from Jesus. Full life, complete life, is possible only with Jesus.
“He who believes in me will live, even though he dies.” Death does not have the last word. More, we will not only live then, but if we believe we live now. Our eternal life has already begun. Those who believe cannot help but live and be full of life. This is why Paul says in Thessalonians that we do not ‘grieve as the rest of the world who have no hope’ (1 Thessalonians 4:13). This is why we do not fear death, this is why death has no grip on us. Those who believe are not just looking forward to life in some eschatological sense, we are living; we are already resurrected.
“…and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Somehow our lives must be in concert with our belief. Whoever believes in Jesus will never die. Never. Jesus. I am all for hope, but this verse is actually very exclusive and does not leave much hope for many because many simply refuse to believe in Jesus. Jesus was either telling the truth and the life is very limited, or he was lying and there are a bunch people who are deceived and deceiving. Jesus said elsewhere, “Broad is the road that leads to destruction and many find it; narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it” (Matthew 7:14). He is saying: If you want to live, I am the only way that it can happen.
“Do you believe this?” That’s the key, right? Unfortunately, sadly, mysteriously, there are many, many people in this world who simply do not, will not believe. They don’t believe Jesus can deliver. They don’t believe he told the truth. They don’t believe there is any imminent threat from death that they need to head off in the power of Jesus. I wish that everyone believed. I wish that all people on earth would believe in Jesus. What is beyond me is this: Why would anyone turn down the free offer of life? Perhaps there is someone out there reading who will assume it’s true that Jesus can fulfill his words, and tell me why they have chosen to reject life.
Now remember Martha? She is the one who ran out to greet Jesus when he arrived on the scene four days after Lazarus had died and been buried. She went out to Jesus in her tears, in her grief, in her mourning, in her sorrow. I suspect she went out to him expecting to be consoled with a hug, or words of comfort, a quotation from the Psalms or the Prophets. But Jesus does none of that. He doesn’t quote Scripture. He doesn’t hold her. He doesn’t say something to make her forget about her grief or her brother. He doesn’t do any of those things that we would typically associate with grief counseling. Instead, notice what he does: He turns her eyes upon himself. That’s right. Essentially Jesus says, “Martha, in your grief: Look to me!”
We should do that more often. I understand that psychologists and psychiatrists have, in their infinite wisdom, devise a plan of action for grieving individuals. They have it all mapped out the way we should grieve, the steps we should go through, the path we should take so that we grieve properly, so that we don’t make a mistake and miss a step in the grief process. Personally, I think all of that is a bunch of nonsense, but who am I? (Evidently, according to evolutionist, I’m wrong on where I came from; according to atheists, whether there is a god; according to homosexuals, whether being sexually perverted is a sin. So I’m willing to concede that I could be wrong about the grief process.) Still, we should do this more often: Point people to Jesus. This is why we don’t grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. Our hope is in Jesus. Our hope is in resurrection. Our hope is that no matter how much the body whither away, no matter how much it decay, no matter how much it dies: We will not taste death even though we die. We have thrown all our eggs, so to speak, in the basket of Jesus. We put all our hope in Him and therefore have nothing to lose.
But if what Jesus said is true, then Christians are the most blessed of all people and unbelievers are to be most pitied. I actually feel for the atheist who doesn’t believe. He is dead already. Not so the Christian: He is already Alive.
If you are reading, and haven’t trusted Jesus, can you say the same? Can you say that you have any hope beyond the grave apart from Jesus?
Soli Deo Gloria!
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18, NIV)
“Hence the real point of death is no longer parting from, but home-going to. As death is deprived of its sting and poison, as it is no longer a personal fulfillment of God’s wrath, it is only a biological mask that has no bearing on fellowship with the risen Lord.”–Helmut Thielicke, Living With Death