Monday, May 18, 2009

Life or Death, Which Will It Be?

The older I get (just had a birthday last week) allows me to get closer to death. My friends and the flock get older too, and thus are closer to death. Lately, I have witnessed an increase in those affected by cancers, heart conditions, and various other illnesses that carry the specter of death around them. But death is not a respecter of age, for even this morning one of our senior church members lost an adult child to an accidental death, much to the tragic shock of all of us. Personally, my soul is wearied by those called to such suffering, my heart aches for them in their pain, suffering, and loss.

My prayer for them is that they will know deeply the presence of the Lord during their period of suffering and/or grief. I pray for His abiding peace to truly guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord. (Philippians 4:6-7)

With all this in mind, this week's Biblical sermon text is even more striking and powerful. In our sermon series, "Changing Our World for Good," we look over the shoulder of Jesus as He encounters death face-to-face in the death of his dear friend Lazarus. (John 11:1-44)

There are, of course, many things to discuss and ponder in this encounter, but here is what grabs me today, and a question that has arisen in me numerous times over the years, it is, "why did Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead, was is not better for him to remain in heaven?" Now, I realize that Jesus did state that by His act of compassion in raising Lazarus people would come to believe in Him (John 11:15) and that God would receive glory (John 11:40).

But, is there more?

I believe there is.

In addition to God's power being displayed. In addition to a validation of who Jesus is. In addition to the restorative comforting His act provided to Mary and Martha. I believe Jesus also reminds us of the importance of life.

Life was God's creation, not death. We were created for life, not for death. I don't think we were even created for heaven, we were created for life with the Living God. We were created for living communion with the One God, who has eternally existed as a Tri-Unity. It is in the bringing of Lazarus back to life that Jesus is declaring that life is a good thing, it is that thing for which we were created.

Too often, my focus (our focus) is either on the tragic aspects of death which surround us, or upon the reality of life after death (which I admit is a great truth). But when are focus is solely upon those aspects we miss the truth that we have been given life, and life to be lived right here, right now. Jesus declared in John 10:10, that He came to give life and that life in abundance. In other words, is the raising of Lazarus we see that this is not such a bad place to be, this place called life on Earth, even with all its pain and suffering. In fact, it is the life we have now in Jesus that brings us the grace, compassion, steadfastness and hope to live this life.

For me to live is Christ!

So, shall we live?