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COLUMN: The believer need not fear death

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By Steve Gettinger

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?” (John 11:25-26)
In writings of the Apostle John chapter 11, he tells about two friends of Jesus named Mary and Martha, whose brother was sick and dying. Can you imagine the sadness that gripped their hearts, to see their brother’s life slipping away? I am sure that their minds were searching for something or someone who could help in this emergency. Then they remembered Jesus, their friend.
They knew to turn to Jesus because they knew he could heal and work miracles. They did not have cell phones back then so they sent a messenger to tell Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick”. (John 11:1-3)
As a follower of Jesus, you can be sure that Mary and Martha had people praying for their brother, Lazarus. I imagine that they probably sought out the best medical help available to them in that day before sending the messenger to Jesus. In spite of all their efforts, their brother’s condition grew worse. Their hope in Jesus coming to heal Lazarus soon turned to discouragement when Jesus did not arrive before Lazarus died. Sometimes it seems that Jesus comes too late and misses the moment. After Jesus heard about Lazarus being sick, he stayed where he was two more days and Lazarus died.
Scripture does not record Mary and Martha’s response at the death of their brother Lazarus, but I am sure they were cut to the heart. I imagine the cold hard reality of death squeezed the hope right out of them. They probably stood in stunned silence realizing that they had lost their race against time and that all hope to save their brother was now gone. Death had won and they had lost. It probably seemed to them that Jesus was too late and that Jesus missed the critical moment.
But Jesus didn’t miss the critical moment. Jesus did arrive after Lazarus died, but that was so that he could show his power over death. Jesus does not make mistakes.
When Jesus arrived, Martha comes out to meet him and said: “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Jesus said to her: “Your brother will rise again.” With those compassionate words Jesus lifted the crushing burden from Martha, and placed it onto himself. Jesus was willing to relieve Martha’s burden of grief by raising her brother from the dead and Jesus is willing to relieve our burdens of grief with the promise of resurrection to eternal life.
Listen to the conversation as it continued between Jesus and Martha, as recorded by the Apostle John in verses 24 to 27: “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.’”
Listen to the conversation between Jesus and Mary in verses 32 to 36:
“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.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept . . . then the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’”
Then out of love he went to the tomb and raised his friend from the dead.
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “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.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 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.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 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.”
What an amazing miracle. Even at the moment of death, Jesus’ coming is not too late, because Jesus has power over death.
Each one of us will taste death, even Lazarus, who was raised from the dead, eventually died. We do not have to fear death, because as God’s precious child, He has promised to take us by the hand and raise us up to eternal life. The world laughs at the promises of God to raise us from the dead, because they have no faith or hope in Jesus.
The Apostle Paul spoke about these kind of people when he said:
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:15).
Do you want to know what real power is? Real power is when Jesus speaks and things happen. Things like; you are my beloved child, your sins are forgiven you, today, you will be with me in paradise, when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death I am with you.
Many of you here today have experienced the loss, pain, and grief that comes with the death of a loved one. It can hurt very deeply. I encourage you to take your pain and sorrow and lay it at the feet of Jesus. Someday, like Lazarus, each one of us will die. But I want you to remember that as a baptized child of God you do not have to fear death, because Jesus has given each one of his children the gift of eternal life by faith in him. It is a sure promise, because it is backed by his shed blood on an old rugged cross and verified by an empty tomb. So don’t be afraid, just believe!