28th November 2018

A Reality Check?

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”
John 5:24 (NKJV UK)

God created human beings; he knows us through and through. And yet, one of the Bible stories, I believe, lends insight for us. In the story of Lazarus (John 11) we learn that after Jesus knew that his friend was ill, he deliberately delayed going to see him. As Martha said, perhaps reproachfully, when finally he made the short journey to Bethany, “If you had been here my brother wouldn’t have died.” But Jesus had said all along that Lazarus wasn’t going to remain dead, he said, “I am going to wake him up.”

Still, it would appear, focused as he was on the power of God and the miraculous sign he was to give here, as I read the story, he was pretty much oblivious to any other effect all of this was having on those involved and those around him. It isn’t until we reach verse 33 when Jesus seems finally to grasp the weeping and wailing that follow human death. It says that he became “troubled.” And then that “Jesus wept.” And those keeping vigil with Martha and Mary then noted how much he had loved Lazarus by observing that he too now mourned.

Many commentators have difficulty with all of this. After all, Jesus knew he was going to raise Lazarus, so why groan and shed tears? Not for Lazarus, I suggest, but for the misery he was now witnessing, and perhaps understanding for the first time what death means to human beings. Yes, he knew what he was about to do, and yes, he saw the power of God at work here; but the ladies and their friends only experienced utter despair. They didn’t see any way back for Lazarus, only the normal progression of human life and death. And I suspect that Jesus, focused as he was on the power of God that he was about to demonstrate, hadn’t really cottoned on. He was elated and buoyed up, but now he saw, really saw, the reality of death and what it wreaked on the human psyche.

This mighty sign is only recorded by John. Why not in the other gospels? Could it be, as Jesus had told the disciples of John the Baptist (Luke 7:22) to tell about what Jesus was doing, including the raising of the dead. All the gospels mention that Jesus raisied people from the dead, but none, other than John, mention this one. And John does, not because of the miracle, but because of the sign.

And so Jesus learned that death, a temporary state as far as God is concerned, has much more acute ramifications for mortal human beings, or more so for those who survive the death of a loved one, and they grieve. We may not mourn like others in this world, because we know of the certainty of the resurrection, but still we grieve the passing of a loved one. And that’s how it should be.

Merciful Father, even with all faith in your promises of resurrection, death is still a painful, final reality for us. Thank you for your understanding of what death means to us and that you assure us that you have overcome, conquered death. In Jesus’ name we pray.

Study by John Stettaford

About the Author:
John Stettaford is an Elder in the Reading Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God UK.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Reading
Prospect School, Room A1 (Main Building)
Honey End Lane
RG30 4EL

Meeting Time:
Saturday 11am

Local Congregational Contact:
John Stettaford
Phone: 01923-241426
Email: pastor@wcg-reading.org.uk

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