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 . . . John 11:25-26 (NIV)
Death takes its toll on everyone. When we lose a loved one it feels like death’s reached up from the grave to suffocate us. An obituary in The Star Phoenix newspaper began; “Turn off the sun. Drain out the sea. Let the moon fall from the sky because our wife, mother, sister, grandmother and great grandmother is gone.” The angst of this Phoenix family, though uniquely expressed, is not exceptional. As we’re well aware; “The world is a very dangerous place – we never get out of it alive” (Anonymous).
There’s no scalpel sharp enough to cut the umbilical cord connecting us to the grave. Yet even though we can’t avoid death, some of us do everything in our power to delay it. Billions of dollars are spent on age defying creams, dietary supplements, preventative medicines and risk avoidance measures. Yet regardless of how much we fork out on cosmetic surgeries or elixirs of life, the final frontier draws closer every day.
Intriguingly, while most of us try to shun death, God deals with it. In fact it’s in death that God does His greatest work. The story of Lazarus’ resurrection (cf. John 11:1-44) is a case in point. When Christ called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43); Lazarus did as he was told – exiting the tomb still wrapped in the burial cloths. Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead definitively proves that Christ is neither bound by death’s timetable nor limited in His power to intervene. The astonishing truth that we glean from Lazarus’ story is this: When death appears to have won, it can be, and is, unshackled at Christ’s command.
Now some have argued that the resurrection from the dead is a hollow and deceptive philosophy. I fundamentally disagree with them. God’s power over death is real, and as such, has enormous personal implications. Because Christ has convincingly conquered death, I believe I’ll live even though I’ll die. What liberation! What a confidence booster! What hope! Death doesn’t have the final say. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me . . .” (Psalm 23:4).
The point is this: When we’re willing to confront death and believe in the resurrection from the dead, we discover life. Accepting our mortality and believing in the life to come helps us live this life for all its worth. This is central to our faith . . . We have to die before we’ll hear Christ say, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go” (John 11:44), and we have to live knowing that, in Christ, the grave clothes have already been removed!