Summary: Death, through our eyes, is ‘the end’. Death is not the grand finale called “THE END”. It is the 2nd DVD to the story!
FRIENDS & FOUNTAINS
St. John 11 (Selected verses)
It is wonderful to have friends. I hope you all have at least one good friend and wish that for you. We can share our hearts with friends and they understand us like no one else can.
Jesus had three such friends. He travelled a lot and didn’t own a home. He never had a job where he made lots of money or saved for retirement. Certainly, Jesus knew he would not be around that long because his coming from heaven to earth was for a special reason, as we will see shortly. Jesus’ three friends lived two miles from Jerusalem in a small village called Bethany. Whenever Jesus went to Jerusalem for various reasons, he would stop in and visit with his three friends – two sisters and their brother – Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
Today’s visit would be different though. Today, he was facing the news that his friend Lazarus had died. Mary and Martha were grieving for their brother. Death is painful, no matter the age or the reason. It is painful to lose someone you love and it is painful to realise it is the way we will all go.
Another painful reality of life is the shortness of it. Jesus drew attention to it when he mentioned “twelve hours in the day” (v9). He spoke in the context of the Jewish calendar of course. But whether twelve or twenty-four-hour days the message is the same – we only have so much time – so much time to live life, to invest in people, to prepare for eternity. While we mustn’t rush life and lose the gift of enjoying what is in front of us, the lesson also holds true that we must not waste it because we only have so much time before our turn comes and we face the eternal question, “Are we ready to meet God?”
Jesus speaks to this concern in verses 9-10. “If anyone…” There are two meanings. The obvious meaning of what he is saying is the daylight hours are the best hours to get a job done. When we’re in the dark we stumble around because we can’t see. I remember my dad working on his cars in the night. Even with a trouble-light it was difficult to pierce through the dark and get that nut or bolt.
Jesus was getting to a deeper message than normal darkness. It is the darkness of not being right with God. The way to get right with God is through Jesus. Jesus said of himself in John’s gospel chapter 8, verse 12, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Jesus is challenging the people with him and is challenging us that the greatest work we will ever do is the work of getting right with God. He challenges that there comes a time for all of us when the dark of death comes in and if we’re not right with God it will be too late for us. The alternative is to accept Jesus as God’s light to keep us from darkness so that when death pays us a visit we can say to him, “you can’t come in!” Physically yes, but eternally and spiritually we live as real as we’re living now – the question is, where will you live – in light, with God or in darkness?
Jesus takes us to see what happens when someone is right with God. He said to his followers “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep but I go, so that I may awaken him out of sleep.” (vs. 11) Jesus’ followers thought Jesus meant Lazarus was physically sleeping which is good when you’re sick. Jesus went on to explain that Lazarus had died, that night had come. At this point Jesus takes a physical reality to help us see a spiritual one.
Death, through our eyes, is ‘the end’. It is that image of watching an old movie which concludes when the words “THE END” comes up on the screen. We conclude that the movie is over and we move on either in laughter or tears. Jesus presents a different picture. He doesn’t call it death – but sleep! Death is not the grand finale called “THE END”. It is the 2nd DVD to the story! The Bible is full of examples of people having died but people say they are “asleep”. It is because when people are right with God, physical death is the moment in time when we exit physical life to enter into the spirit world of complete life with God. We cannot occupy both spaces at the same time so that to move into the higher life in the spirit world our spirits have to leave this physical world.