It may sound a strange question, but how much of your time is spent dealing with or avoiding death?
I’ll give you some examples. If you work in healthcare your whole career is devoted to enhancing and prolonging life. Every time you eat, exercise or sleep you are investing in, maintaining and prolonging life. Each pension payment you make is designed to help you with your last years. Each life insurance payment you make is to cover possibilities.
When you drive you are told to obey safety rules in order to avoid death. The words “health and safety” come into working weeks, every week.
Then again who does not know a relative or friend who has passed away, leaving you to attend a funeral, tend a grave, cherish a memory and deal with loss?
Everyone over eighteen probably has experienced bereavement which means everyone you meet carries some grief in their souls – along with you.
We spend huge amounts of time, energy, and money, dealing with, preparing for, or avoiding death, even if you don’t think of it every day.
It is when you, or someone you know, nears death that its ultimate reality forces itself into your life, interrupting every agenda and raising its profile in your mind.
We cannot know when an opposite awareness formed fully in the mind of the Son of Man. As he grew he became fully conscious that he had power over death itself. He carried within him the quality and quantity of hope that could overcome death. Pause for a minute and think how painful it must have been for him to carry this power and ability within himself while watching those around him die, grieve and mourn.
The records show that, probably before the events we are examining, he had raised a widow’s son, and a synagogue leader’s daughter, both within hours of their death.
But this day would be different. This was a close friend, this was near Jerusalem (two miles away), this was a man who had been dead for four days (the prevailing belief was that during the first two or three days after death there could yet be hope but not with four and not with decomposition setting in).
It is in these events that everything changed for the Son of Man. Allow me to paint some backdrop.
It’s emotionally supercharged. Jesus arrives to comfort two sisters. The closer he gets the more he is stirred, deeply moved, troubled and then weeps. Years of watching death around him combined with his love for his friends overwhelms his tender soul and he weeps.
In so doing he gives us all permission to be real in the face of reality. Strong man as he was, he wept, his own tears of sorrow, but also weeping with those who weep.
But before he wept he had spoken. He explained to Martha, the busy one, the one who loved work, the action woman, that resurrection had arrived, life had arrived. If you believe in him, even though you die you will live, or to put the same thing another way, living and believing means that you never really die.
Years of reading the story may dull the astonishing truth here. The Son of Man is setting himself apart from everyone before or since. He is bringing hope, drawing the sting of death and declaring his ability to overpower this last enemy of life.
Before you go any further please notice that this greatest of claims, which goes right to the heart of his message and purpose, revealing his highest and strongest power, was shared first with a woman. It was shared with the sister who was all about work. Not long after this another woman, Mary Magdalene, would be the first to see Jesus’ own resurrection. Jesus was revolutionary in so many ways.
I don’t need to repeat the story; you can read it in John’s 11th chapter. What about this question however. How would your day-to-day working life be changed if you carried with you a fully formed consciousness that you’ll never die? The resurrection power of the Son of Man sits in your soul.
You have to do the work for yourself, but here are a few suggestions. In the light of eternity do some things matter less? Getting, acquiring possessions, power, status, is that what really matters? What you fight for, fight over, does it really matter?
There are things worth fighting for, winning and achieving. But they are different if you are a resurrection person.
Be careful to notice that the Son of Man is describing a dynamic.
Resurrection and life. Believing now and living forever. This dynamic is the one which connects your seen life with your unseen future. Jesus is that connection, and believing in him is the key.
So this week notice how his life impacts yours, his approach to women impacts yours, his emotional reality impacts yours, his power over death impacts your approach to death and please remember you are invited to believe, he does the resurrecting!
Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 (This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair.) 3 So the sisters sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days,7 and then he said to his disciples, “Let us go back to Judea.”
8 “But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
9 Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. 10 It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
11 After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
12 His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” 13 Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
14 So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When 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. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
28 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.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When 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.
32 When 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.”
33 When 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.
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
38 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. 39 “Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
40 Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said,“Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here,that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.”
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year,spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.
55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.
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