Sir, We Would See Jesus: In the Presence of Death

V. “In the Presence of Death

John 11:1-7, 11-15, 17-53

March 17, 2013

AUDIO – In the Presence of Death

Sir, we would see Jesus.”

From time to time, each of us faces up to fear. Day after day most of us do battle with temptation. Evil is an all too real part of our lives and of the life of the world. Crises occur so often that someone has described our age as going through a “monotony of crises.”

We have seen Jesus in the presence of fear, of temptation, of evil, and of crisis. Now, we would see Jesus in the presence of death. For though our fears be great or small, though our temptations vary in number and degree, though evil plague us, or leave us almost unscathed, though crises affect us in different ways….death comes to us all.

The rich person dies….the poor person dies….the mighty and the noble person….so do the weak and the foolish.

Someone compared people facing death to a game of chess….”while the pieces are on the board some are kings, some are bishops, some are knights, and some are pawns. But after the game, all the pieces go into the same box.” Death is the universal experience.

Let us see Jesus in the presence of Death.

I.

A ruler of the synagogue, Jairus by name, has a very sick daughter. Twelve years of age the young girl lay’s dying.

Jairus comes to Jesus seeking to persuade the Master to come to his home to see the girl….to heal her.

Jesus gives permission.

But on the way, so great are the multitudes demanding Jesus’ attention that the Master is delayed. During the time of waiting, a messenger comes from his home to Jairus. The word is…that the little girl has died. Will not Jairus now return to his home? There is no use in bothering the Master anymore. Jesus hears what the messenger says. He speaks to Jairus…”Do not fear. Only believe, and she shall be well.”

This appeal to belief was a fundamental part of Jesus’ teaching.

On previous occasions, He said, “All things are possible to him who believes.” “With man it is impossible, but not with God, for with God all things are possible.”

The faith and belief of Jairus is rewarded. For though the people laugh at Jesus as He enters Jairus’ home, He goes into the room where the little girl is lying. He says, “Little girl, I say to you Arise!” And she rises, and is given food to eat.

In the presence of death, Jesus calls first of all for belief….Have faith in the power of God. God can conquer even death. Do you believe that??

II.

Luke tells us of a day on which Jesus is standing outside the city of Nain. He sees a funeral procession. The only son of a widow is being carried forth for burial.

Jesus, noting the sorrow of the mother, says to her, “Do not weep.” He stops the procession. He says, “Young man, I say to you, Arise!” The young man sits up, he begins to speak. Fear falls on almost everyone. Some say, “A great prophet has arisen amongst us.”

Others say, “God has visited His people.”

Note the word of Jesus….”Do not weep.”

We sorrow too much about death. When our loved ones have achieved the eternal home; when sorrow and sighing are no longer a part of their lives; When the infinities if life are no more; when all weaknesses have been overcome; when even the grave has been conquered, then ought we rejoice at the victory and the peace which is the culmination of our Christian faith and heritage?

It has been phrased; “We are too stupid about death. We will not learn, How it is wages paid, to those who earn,

How it is the gift, for which on earth we yearn, To be set free from bondage to the flesh;

How it is turning seed corn into grain, How it is winning heaven’s eternal gain, How it means freedom evermore from pain, How it untangles every mortal mesh.

We are so selfish about death. We count our grief far more than we consider their relief, When the great Reaper gathers in the sheaf, No more to know the seasons  constant change; And we forget that it means only life, Life with all joy, peace, rest, and glory rife, The victory won, and ended all the strife, And heaven no longer far away or strange.

Their Lent is over and the Easter won, waiting till over Paradise the sun Shall rise in majesty, and life begun, Shall grow in glory, as the perfect day moves on, To hold its endless, deathless sway.”

III.

Then there is the Lazarus story. The case of the man dead, four days. The remarkable event that occurred at Bethany. Lazarus was ill. His sisters Mary and Martha were much concerned.

They sent word to Jesus, pleading that their friend, who had demonstrated so many miraculous powers, would return to Bethany and restore their brother to health and strength.

The carriers of the word found Jesus. They delivered the message.

Remarkably, the chronicler tells us “When Jesus heard that Lazarus was ill, He stayed two days longer in the place where He was.”

(We wonder about that, and yet, as we shall see, it was according to God’s own purpose that He stayed two days longer, rather than rushing immediately to the home of His friends. There is indication in the narrative that Jesus knew, that by the time the messengers arrived, Lazarus was already dead.)

Jesus Goes to Bethany. He finds that Lazarus has already been in the tomb four days.

Martha meets Him, even before He gets into the village saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” They talk. But Martha knows her sister has been longing to see the Master. She returns to the house, calls Mary. Mary comes to where Jesus is, sees Him, falls at His feet, and says to Him, as had her sister, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus see’s her weeping. He see’s those who came with her weeping. He is deeply moved. He says….”Where have you buried him?” They say, “Come and see.” Jesus Stands before the cave on which a stone lays. He says, “Take away the stone.”

Martha involuntarily shudders….she protests…”Lord, by this time there will be an odor for he has been dead four days.”

Jesus says, “Did I not tell you that if you would believe, you would see the glory of God?” They take away the stone. Jesus prays, and after He prays, He cries with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”…The dead man comes out…hands and feet swathed in bandages, faced wrapped with a cloth. Jesus says, “Unbind him and let him go!”

It is reported that when word of this got into Jerusalem, the Chief Priests and Pharisees, gathered the Council of the San-he-drin together,

and they determined that as soon as possible, this man Jesus must be put to death.

This is the Lazarus story. The case of the man dead four days. The remarkable event that occurred at Bethany.

Note this….1. Jesus assures the sister of Lazarus: “Your brother will rise again.” This in itself is good news: to know that death is not the end; to be assured that we and our loved ones are more than a whim of circumstance, an unpredictable happening amongst unforeseen events; to be assured that what we loved and love in our dear dead has not ceased to be,

but is as real as ever, and that one day we shall find our lost again.

It is good to know this. Martha is convinced of it. She says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. But still both she and Jesus know that it is not easy.

There is the ache, the longing, the loneliness, the emptiness, the blank where loving hearts keep forgetting and listening for a footstep that never comes; the ear that still imagines it hears the cry from the sick room; the eye that almost sees the beloved coming up the walk.”

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”But it is still not easy.

2.-Then there falls from the lips of Jesus that majestic, solemn, almost unfathomable proclamation: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live; and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

Who can fathom the depth and wisdom of that proclamation of our Lord?

We can understand Him when He says, “I am the light of the world” for He is a light, and a guide, His word, His teachings, His very life.

We can understand when He says: “I am the good Shepherd,” for we can hear Him saying “Come, my pastures are green, my waters are calm. Find rest unto your souls.”

We can understand Him saying: “I am the bread of life,” for feeding upon Him through faith, we have felt new strength flow into our bodies, our minds, and our hearts.

But to understand this: “I am the resurrection and the life, he who believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”

This is more difficult.

And yet…it is true. It is true in the present life…for the man who is Christ, for the man whose life has been touched by the Master, there is a new quality of existence…a new dimension of being, and that is an essential part of the present world reality.

There is a faith to believe, a will to act, a power to do, beyond anything that was true up to this time.

The nature of life in the present is different because of the resurrection power available in our Lord Jesus Christ.

But beyond that, is the realization, that though physical death does occur, there is the tremendous promise, that beyond the grave there is life, and that, that life is in a new dimension.

There is a state of being of which “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor has there entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”

3-We have particularly noted that when Jesus heard of the serious illness of Lazarus, He remained two days. Perhaps He knew, that by the time the messengers had come, Lazarus was already dead. But even then, a natural inclination would have been, to go and comfort the beloved sisters of His dear friend. And yet, the delay.

What was it that Jesus said? “This illness is not unto death, it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.”

There is a purpose in the death of Lazarus. It is that God may be glorified in Christ, it is in order that man may see, and believe, the power of God in Christ over even the arch enemy of all  mankind, the enemy of DEATH….And out of death, there comes LIFE.

IV.

Yet, greatest of all, is the fact that Jesus, who taught about death, who encouraged, and sustained, and comforted, and blessed others as they went through this experience, or faced up to it, shared in death Himself. This is the greatest story indeed, the greatest story ever told.

It is that He who said, “I am the resurrection and the life….though he died, yet shall he live…”

Though He died, yet He LIVES.

But, see Him in the presence of His own death.

As He hangs upon the cross, He speaks “Seven last words.”

The first, is a word of forgiveness which has to do with others: “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.”

The second is a word of salvation which has to do with a thief: “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.”

The third is a word of compassion, which has to do with His mother and the beloved disciple: “Woman, behold thy son. Son, behold thy mother.”

The fourth and fifth were words which had to do with His physical life:

“I thirst.” “It is finished.”

But there are two words which bear directly upon His encounter of the experience of death: “My God! My God! Why have You forsaken me?”

The bitter anguish of that hour, when for a moment it seems that unbelief and sorrow are triumphing, that the purposes of God are not being realized….the moment of fear, of doubt, of despair, which comes to us all.

But then, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.”

Trust and confidence supreme…God’s purposes are realized as Jesus shares the ultimate experience of us all.

V.

We have seen Jesus in the presence of death.

We have heard Him call for trust.

We have heard Him plea that we not be overwhelmed by grief.

We have seen Him submit to death as the working out of God’s own purposes, both in the lives of others and in His own life.

But what of us?? So often we are too greatly discouraged as we see this thing happening to others.

Yes, and we are too fearful, as we think of it in relationship to ourselves.

We do just about everything in the world to avoid facing up to reality.

Death comes, we seek to cover its face with cosmetics; we cradle it in satin and bronze; we bank it with numerous flowers; we kid ourselves with concrete vaults, guaranteed imperishable for centuries.

In short, we do about everything but, accept the fact that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

And that he who believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live, and living and believing in Him shall never die.

To us, it is given by Jesus to have the assurance of the resurrection of the dead, to have it affect our present life in the here and now, from Him to learn how to trust in God, and control our sorrows, and see the working out of God’s own will and way.

To us, it is given by Jesus to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and to be able to echo with Paul:

“O death, where is your sting….?

O Grave, where is your victory….?

Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Amen.

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