The twenty-six year old nephew of a dear friend died at midnight after a long and courageous battle with cancer. The death of a loved one is never easy, but the death of one so young, so fine, and so loved is inconceivable. Yet it happened in spite of many hopes and prayers. How are we as believers to handle such losses and disappointments?
When Lazarus died, those who saw Jesus’ deep emotions at the grave asked “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying” (John 11:37)?
The confusing answer is “yes,” Jesus could have kept Lazarus—and my friend’s nephew—from dying. So then the question becomes if Jesus loved Lazarus and his family, and He did (John 11:3), and if Jesus loved this young man and his family, and He does, WHY did He allow these deaths?
I can’t answer that question, but let me share what I do know. Jesus was deeply moved at Lazarus’ grave when He saw the tears of his sisters and friends, even though he knew He was going to raise Lazarus. The word used signifies “to be painfully moved; to express indignation against.”1
Seeing the anguish of the ones left behind evoked a strong emotional response in Jesus. He knew that raising Lazarus from the dead brought only temporary relief. Death would eventually revisit every person there. Even His own sacrificial death for each of them was only days away.
Pain is often redirected as blame or anger. God, who is often the target, understands and can handle this. However, Romans 5:12-20 sets the record straight: death came from Adam, not God, and life comes from Jesus.
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (17, NIV)
Also look at 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 (NIV),
For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the deadcomes also through a man. 22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.”
The effect of Jesus’ act of righteousness is much more than the effect of Adam’s sin. That is an amazing thought when the ravages of sin and death are so painfully obvious. As devastating as death is, it is temporal — limited to this life — whereas Christ’s death brings eternal life to those who receive His provision of grace. Since this life is all we know, it is hard to wrap our minds around this. It is like telling a three year old in April he will have a new baby brother or sister at Christmas. How do we grasp a concept we have never experienced? By faith we trust that our eternal God trumped the effects of cruel death through the sacrifice and resurrection of His Son. A bright everlasting morning will dawn after the long dark night of grief.
When Jesus heard about Lazaras’ sickness, He 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” (John 11:4). Those who know Jesus can stand on this hope. Death is not the end of a believer’s story—eternal life and God’s glory trump the grave.
Enjoy this beautiful song called Blessings.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide.
1Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for embrimaomai (Strong’s 1690)“. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2011. 9 Apr 2011. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?