The last ten days have found me thinking about mourning more than I ever have. Just last week a dear young wife and mother in our church family, the fathers of two different church members, and a young jungle pastor many in our church know all passed from this earth into Glory. The grief was palpable in our church last Sunday, even as we worshiped and rejoiced. There were many tears and there will be tears in the weeks to come.
Jesus’ words in front of Lazarus’ tomb, found in John 11, are one way to describe why we are sorrowful yet rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10). I often turn to John 11 when I think about death, partly because of Jesus’ riveting proclamation: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” (Jn 11:25-26)
Rather than comforting words, you could see Jesus’ words to Martha as a riddle, spoken in her time of grief. Why would he talk in what seems like a paradox? What does he mean in one breath that those believers who die yet live, but in the next breath that those who believe will never die? Wasn’t Lazarus already in the tomb?
Jesus so often amazes me. We should expect to be amazed by God in the flesh, but sometimes we are surprised by His words of life. Only One who can call Himself “Resurrection” and “Life” can talk this way.
Jesus lovingly acknowledged the fact that people–like Lazarus–die. There is a finality felt by those who lose a loved one. While we know that our believing friends and relatives who have died are experiencing nothing but gain (Phil. 1:21), we know that we are experiencing loss. Do you hear His words? “Whoever believes in me, though he die…” Christians die. And Jesus wept as He stood in front of that tomb with Lazarus’ grieving friends and relatives. Jesus didn’t tell them to stop the funeral and have a celebration of life service; He entered into their suffering.
We cry. Jesus cried. But oh, how we love and cling to Jesus’ next words: “…yet shall he live…” Christians never die. This is the “gospel paradox.” Death is real, yet eternal life is oh so real. Christians die, yet Christians never die. Jesus said both truths in the same sentence.
It’s ok to call it a funeral (Ecc. 7:2). It’s ok to say that death is an enemy (1 Cor. 15:26). It is Christ-like to weep (Jn 11:35).
But our weeping is temporary, just as Jesus’ weeping was. Because we know that for those who are in Christ, “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:54). We know that for the Christian, what is mortal is “swallowed up by life” (2 Cor. 5:4). We know that the same Lord who wept is the same Lord who will wipe away every tear (Rev. 21:4). And we know that the same Lord who commanded Lazarus to come forth from the dead will joyfully command the dead in Christ to rise first (1 Thess. 4:16). It is true–praise God that it is true–that because of Jesus, “it is not death to die.”
2 Replies to “Jesus Wept with Gospel Hope”
Having lost a spouse and for the first time truly experiencing grief, the one thing that always impacted my of this passage was that Christ (Who knew we was going to raise Lazarus shortly after he weeps) still wept. losing a loved one really really hurts in so many varied ways one cant help but shed many a tear. I was always encouraged that it was OK to cry and to mourn the loss. The one interesting thing to me though is that while in a sense it provides some comfort knowing the lost loved one is with Christ (when they are a believer) nothing ever really takes away the sting of knowing on this earth you will never see them again or that you can’t share life with them on this earth ever again. To me, THAT is what hurt the most in grieving and why knowing they were ok and that I would see them again always provided limited comfort to me and I suspect many others. But knowing God is in control and is carrying us through the grief did. It took me almost a year to fully let my wife go and to fully 100% accept she was gone forever. It was not until I mourned all of the primary and secondary impacts of losing her that comfort came. But even today any death I see still hurts. I think it wont be until we are all in heaven that I will truly be able to say “Oh death where is thy sting?” and that I can see death has truly been fully swallowed up into victory. For only then will every tear be truly wiped away and the pain of each loss will be gone. This I only learned from experiencing a significant loss… But it is good to hurt with those who hurt and to mourn with those who mourn, for here on this earth death does still sting, and sting painfully. This makes me so glad that Jesus did weep and that its ok for me too weep too for now when death comes to someone I know…
Thank you for sharing, Patrick. Praying for you and your precious girls this morning.