Summary: Second in a series about finding significant answers through intimate encounters with Jesus.
How Can I Face Death Confidently?
DRAMA: “Mr. Peepers Goes to Sleep.”
It can be hard to talk about death, even if it is “just a bird.” In talking to my father, who is 78, about this message, he told me that when he was growing up death was not mentioned in polite circles, it was a taboo subject. Maybe that’s why William Randolf Hearst, the late, famous newspaper editor in California, never allowed the words "death" or "dying" to be mentioned in his presence. But now we have almost gone to the opposite extreme. Books about life after life & out of the body experiences are best sellers. Films like “Ghost,” “Meet Joe Black” and “Six Sense” try to explain what happens after we die and the “Weekend at Bernies”satires just flat out make fun of death. Some are obsessed with dying and look to such things as cloning, cryonics (body freezing) or genetic engineering to defeat death.
But both extremes: nervous silence and constant obsession, are indications of the uncomfortableness that death holds for us. No matter how strong your faith, death is still "the great unknown" and facing it is one of the few human dilemma’s that cannot be solved through technology. Well, here in John 11 is the story of one of Jesus’ closest friends who dies. The passing and raising of Lazarus as well as the questions of Martha may not explain death but it does gives us some lessons on how we can face it with confidence. Let’s look at 3 principles from this text that will help us do that.
I. BE REALISTIC: Admit our own mortality
First, we need to be realistic about our present existence. Our present existence is not meant to last. The Bible says in Heb. 9:27 that death is an appointment for every person. It says: “Everyone has to die once...”(MSG) It makes no difference who you are, how much status you have or even how close you are to the Lord. In fact, this passage teaches us very clearly that death is inevitable for even those who are the Son of God’s closest friends.
Jesus loved the family of Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary. And in vs:3 we see that the two girls send a message to Jesus saying, "Lord, the one you love is very sick." This family was so close to Jesus that when Lazarus grew gravely ill the sisters wanted Jesus to know because they knew He would respond to the news. Kind of like when someone tells you that a close friend is sick and they say, "I knew you would want to know." The relationship between this family and Jesus apparently was that close.
Now, knowing that makes Jn. 11:6 very interesting. 11:4 says about Lazarus being sick, "...when Jesus heard about it..." and you expect to read, "He went immediately." But that’s not what it says. Even though Jesus loved this family, even though he knew a member of the family was seriously ill, vs:6 says, “..he stayed where he was for the next two days and did not go to them.” Did He stay away on purpose? He certainly didn’t hurry! Why did Jesus do that? I think there are 3 reasons why He may have delayed.