Summary: Like it or not, death intrudes on our lives all the time -- our friends die, our loved ones, and eventually death comes to claim our lives. Jesus says he is the resurrection -- that if we believe in him, even if we die, we will live. But do we really be

When Death Intrudes

by Maynard Pittendreigh

John 11:1-57

On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home. "Lord," Martha said to Jesus, "if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask."

Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." Martha answered, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day."

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." And after she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. "The Teacher is here," she said, "and is asking for you." When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died."

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. "Where have you laid him?" he asked. "Come and see, Lord," they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!" But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?" Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said. "But, Lord," said Martha, the sister of the dead man, "by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days."

Then Jesus said, "Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me." When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" The dead man came out.

When my father died a few years ago, I found a box at his house with a label. It said, “Things I want my son to keep.”

Inside there were no bearer bonds or gold coins. No age old stocks. Nothing you would list on and try to auction off on the Internet.

It was a strange collection. A hodge podge.

I found a broken pencil. Strange pencil. It was shaped like a rifle. Pull the tiny trigger and lead comes out. Not bullets of lead, but you know, a long thin line of lead you write with. Open the shoulder rest and there is an eraser. It is absolutely worthless. It is terrible condition, but there was a small note attached to it that was written in Dad’s handwriting. It read, “My mother’s pencil.”

I also found a pearl. Not a very pretty one, and in fact, was quite small. But Mom had found it while eating oysters at a dinner. How could you throw something like that away.

There was an envelope filled with teeth. Human teeth. Not adult size teeth – children’s teeth. I don’t even know whose teeth they had been. My teeth? My sisters’? Some bully Dad had beaten up in the 2nd grade. Who knows?

There was another envelope. It was labeled “Missy’s hair.”

Missy was my sister, and so I opened the envelope expecting find a small lock of her hair.

But instead, inside was all of her hair. Enough for a small wig.

You see, 41 years earlier, Missy had become sick and had to have brain surgery. She was only six years old. And of course, they had to shave her head. Looking at this envelope of hair, I imagined Mom or Dad gathering up the hair as the orderly or nurse shaved her head, and then keeping it as if someday it might be all that was left of the child.

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Phil Kitchin

commented on Jan 21, 2011

Thank you so much. Deeply moving with the faith and mystery of death.

Charles Wilkerson

commented on Feb 21, 2017

I want to thank you for the story of your sister. As I preach this passage on 2/126/17 a young widow and her 9-year-old daughter will be there to hear it. Her husband and the father had also become my best friend over the 25 years I've pastored Kenton Church. My prayer will be that they hear the hope that our Lord brings to each of us even in the nasty times of life. Once again, brother, your sermons are ones that I go to often. Thanks again.

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