Scripture: John 11:17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
Observation: Jesus’ dear friend Lazarus died and his family was mourning, including his two sisters Mary and Martha. Jesus spoke of the eternal life he came to give all believers. This doesn’t mean that believers will no longer die a mortal death. It’s just that death is not the last word. We too will be raised up on the last day, along with Lazarus and his sisters. To lend credibility to his teaching, Jesus literally raised Lazarus from the dead – though Lazarus had been dead for several days.
Application: I’m at the age in which those in my family a generation older than me, my parent’s generation, are beginning to die off. There’s intense grief at the time of death, for sure. The sense of loss can be overwhelming. But an interesting thing happens eventually. The sting of grief gives way to the pleasant memories we’re left with.
Within the last year I’ve lost two of my uncles – Richard and Charles (whom we called Ricky and Charlie). When I was very young my mother and I lived with my grandparents for a while. Ricky and Charlie were still living at home, so we spent a lot of time together. They would take me to the movies, take me to the corner store for candy, and generally spoil me rotten. I loved those guys.
Fast forward several decades, I visited my Uncle Ricky just before his death. Charlie had died a few months before. I had a chance to thank him for the love he’d shown me many years ago. Because of a major stroke he couldn’t speak back, but it was obvious he understood me. We prayed together and remembered that while death might separate us for a while, we will one day be reunited in the life to come. It made us both smile as we cried at the same time.
This coming Sunday is All Saints Sunday in many churches, including the church I lead. We’ll remember our loved ones who have gone ahead of us in the faith from this life to the next. And while we’re honoring the dead, I’ll be remembering myself as a young boy with a lollipop in one hand and my uncle’s hand in the other. And I’ll give thanks to God that one day we’ll see each other again.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, as we remember those who have gone ahead of us into the next life, we give you thanks for the promise of eternal life to come. Amen.