Summary: Death has been swallowed up in victory...for good!
Jesus: 1, Death: 0
There is a true story of a chaplain at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania. A few years ago an event happened late one night while she was on duty. She was called to the bedside of a woman who had a severe heart attack. By the time she got there the woman had been pronounced dead. All the staff had gone except a doctor and a nurse. She turned to leave, but she felt God telling her to stay. So she entered the room, sat down, and started to pray for the woman and her family. As she prayed she felt the Holy Spirit praying through her. Suddenly, the dead woman bolted straight up and cried, “What’s going on here?” I don’t know who was more frightened, the woman, the staff or the chaplain. Fear is a natural thing. It’s a reaction to the unexpected. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never had a dead person sit up on me, and I’m not sure if I want one to! But, if we did, I think we would better understand and sympathize with the women in our gospel story today.
This one particular event in Jesus’ ministry is an event that helps us understand the heart of Jesus for us.
In this story of the death of Jesus’ good friend Lazarus, we see Jesus grieving. Jesus is a close personal friend of Lazarus and his two sisters, Mary and Martha. We know this because Jesus was often found in their home sharing a meal, talking about life, and no doubt having a few laughs.
Jesus is in another town when word of Lazarus’ sickness comes to him. Now, we would think that, upon hearing this Jesus would have dropped everything and come running. But God has his own schedule and plan. Jesus does nothing for 2 days! All He does is make a prophetic statement; "This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God." (Vs. 4)
Taken from the perspective of Mary and Martha, Jesus is late and he is possibly even negligent in their eyes. In our eyes, Mary and Martha have a right to be a little ticked off. They had sent word to Jesus: “Lord, the one whom you love is ill.” Interesting wording, isn’t it? You see, love sees with special eyes. The sisters were sure that Jesus loved Lazarus so much that he would hurry there. But He doesn’t. By the time he does get there Mary and Martha have already buried their dead brother. And they’re upset and filled with grief. Can’t you just picture Martha running to Jesus and beating on his chest: "Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died." (v. 21), or Mary in the house grieving over the loss of her brother.
I would venture that most of you here today understand what grief is. Grief is a word all of us know, because death is universal. Even at weddings we say, “until death do us part”. In the NIV, Vs.35, “Jesus wept”, may be just two words long, but I believe it’s one of the biggest verses in the Bible. It shows the heart of God - One who fully understands our situations, who is "deeply moved in spirit and troubled" when He sees our tears. When we cry, He cries with us.
Author and lecturer Leo Buscgalia once judged a contest to find the most caring child. The winner was a 4-year-old child whose elderly neighbor had recently lost his wife. Seeing the man crying, he went and climbed on the old man’s lap and sat there. When his mother asked what he had said to the neighbor he replied, “Nothing. I just helped him cry.” Just like Jesus.
I was at the service for Mary Ellen’s father this past Monday. There was grief. There were tears. But I sensed God’s presence there, as well. Through the grief, when the tears were flowing, He was right there, crying right along with the family and friends, feeling the pain and loss every bit as much as they did. One other thing I remember
about the service was the poem one of the priests read in the first person, as if Dan were speaking to each of his family and friends. Two lines really struck me. He said if they needed him to call and he would be there. They may not be able to see him or sense his presence, but he would be there. I thought to myself, just like Jesus. And when they walk that same journey, he would be there to greet them. Again, just like Jesus. Jesus is always right there when we need him. When we’re happy, He’s happy. When we cry, He cries right along with us.