I was texting with a friend yesterday. We were talking about how this Easter would be a little tough. She just lost her mom. I miss her mom too. Just last week her absence was felt at my husband Jason's birthday celebration at work. For past birthdays, and on ordinary days you could count on her smile and sweet countenance to light up any room.
I love holidays, but Easter, and especially Christmas are difficult for those who've endured loss. I've always said that special occasions and remembrances heighten our emotions. The glad get gladder and the hurt can deepen for those who are missing someone they love.
I have several friends who have suffered terrible loss in the past six months. Some have lost a loved one to a death. The pain of that death stays with them. Another has lost her zest for life. She's so tired. And still another has lost her confidence. She puts the weight of the world on her shoulders with the knowledge that she can't possibly carry it all. Though we still have our earthly bodies, some of us carry around death.
As you could imagine, I found myself reading about death and resurrection today. But it's probably not the one you're thinking of. I'm talking about the death and resurrection of Lazarus. John, chapter 11, tells us about Lazarus' death. Prior to his dying, his sisters sent word to Jesus that their brother was sick.
Jesus intentionally stalls before going to them because he wants to show observers something they need to know. When He eventually goes to Mary and Martha, Lazarus has already been in the tomb for four days. The sisters are mourning.
Mary and Martha separately make the same statement to Jesus, a statement we've all likely felt if we haven't said it...
...if you had been here...
(John 11:21, 32)
These sisters thought that if they'd had Jesus' presence they wouldn't be in need of a now kind of resurrection. If he'd been there he could have healed Lazarus. Now, they figured, he was dead and they'd have to wait.
Martha's faith had become future focused . "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." John 11:24 She believed, not in a present resurrection, but only in a resurrection that was coming; a distant resurrection.
Though Martha believed that Lazarus would someday be raised from the dead, she was making two statements.
- You weren't here.
- Lazarus will rise again, but for now we face death.
Jesus shared the good news. He told her, and he tells us,
I am the resurrection (...don't forget this part) and the life (!) (John 11:25)
He told Martha that the one who believes in Him will never die.
As believers, the only death we're intended to carry around is the death of Jesus; a death that resulted in resurrection... for all who would believe. Christ' resurrection affords us life (and his constant presence). THAT'S what we can carry, even on life's most sorrowful days!
Our sin and alone-ness was put to death the day Christ died. Death died that day too.
While Lazarus still lay in the tomb and Martha's heart was still wrapped up in sorrow. He asked, Do you believe this? (v.26) We're asked the same question.
You probably remember the next part of the story (there is no ending...)
Martha tells Jesus that she indeed believes. She, Mary and others follow Jesus to the tomb where He gives a few more life instructions. He commands those surrounded by death to remove the stone sealing the tomb. He tells them to take off Lazarus' grave clothes. And then he tells them to let Lazarus go. Death no longer has a hold on him. Jesus is the resurrection. Those of us who believe, have life. And he is with us, always.
We have a future resurrection to look forward to. But we live in Christ's resurrection today.
Are you mindful of His presence? Are you sure of His defeat over death? What layers of death will you ask Him to remove so that you can live in the resurrection today?