John 11:32-44

see glory

An Activity

You will need yarn of two different colours.
Each person will need a short length (about 15-30cm / 6-12″) of one colour and a much longer length, several metres, of another. Wind the longer length into a small ball.

Hold the shorter length of yarn. This represents our earthly life, from birth at one end to death at the other.
Tie a knot very close to one end of the yarn to represent your birth. Tie more knots in the yarn to represent major life events, nearer to the birth end for things in your early years, in the middle for things in your adult life, nearer the other end for things later in life. The ‘older’ end may be blank for many.
Knot the ‘older’ end onto the little ball of yarn. This knot represents death and the ball of yarn is the life beyond.

For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.
2 Cor 5:1

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
 “Where, O death, is your victory?

   Where, O death, is your sting?”
1 Cor 15:54-55

A Reflection

Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?

Ouch. It’s an easy question to ask, and a good one. But it’s a hard one to answer. Of course he could have. So why didn’t he? Didn’t Jesus care? So many questions.

Yes, Jesus cared. This was a good friend. Lazarus and his sisters were very close to Jesus. It’s bad enough having a loved one die when you can’t do anything about it. How much worse to let them die, knowing you could have stopped it, but you didn’t. Ouch.

And it wasn’t just Lazarus. Martha and Mary were suffering too, and that cut Jesus to the heart. He wept hot tears of sadness for their sadness. This was a hard place to be. But he was there. He was there, with them in their desolation.

Their weeping was about to end, although they did not know it, but even without the miracle, Jesus would still have been there with them. Jesus did not raise every dead person. He did not cure every paralytic or blind man. Not every mother-in-law with a fever was healed. Some got worse and died. But that does not mean that Jesus did not care, nor that he was powerless to help. Sometimes he helped by healing the illness, and sometimes he helped by being there through it.

Now, just as then, some illnesses end in healing, either through doctors or though prayer (and if my child is sick I really don’t care which) and some illnesses, even with doctors and prayer, end in death, and that is hard. But death is not the end.

Now if you have lost someone you love, particularly a child, which seems so unfair, then you’d be forgiven tossing that comment aside as some trite religious sticking-plaster, slapped over a difficult bit of life to hide the wound. But it is not trite. It is true. It is an immensely and surpassingly vital truth. A vital truth – a truth that gives life. It is what this living and this dying is all about. Death is not the end.

Nevertheless, watching a loved one die is hard. And knowing that the crushing, aching hurt will ease eventually does not help. It hurts now. It does not matter if the way out of the dark maze of sorrow is in three paces, just around the next corner or in three miles. If you can’t see the way out then it might as well be for ever. And that’s a hard place to be.

If that is where you are, then please take this as a gentle hand on your shoulder. It is hard. I know it is hard. And nothing anyone can say will make it easier, so I’m not going to try. But know that you are not alone. And it will ease. Just keep going.

However, that doesn’t help with the question. He who opened the eyes of the blind man could have kept this man from dying. So why didn’t he? Because death really is not the end, and Jesus wanted us to see this. Death is hard when it happens to someone you love, but it is not the end. That is the important message. That is the big picture. That is the truly good news.

If Jesus had arrived four days earlier and healed Lazarus, it would have been a fabulous miracle, but it would just have been a temporary fix, until the next time Lazarus got ill or injured or old, and then he’d die. Oh, Lazarus died alright, eventually, but because of this miracle he never Died – never Died with a capital D.

You see, the reason that Jesus let his friend see death was in order to break it, to demonstrate to the powers of earth and above the earth and below the earth that Death Is Not The End. Death is not the ultimate destination of us all. Death is not the master to whom we must all bow. So while we all die, and that can be hard for those left, the Bible tells us of a glorious future for those who trust the Lord where there is ‘no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ (Rev 21:4)

A Prayer

Thank you, Eternal Father, that death has no sting for us.
Thank you, Lord of Now and Forever, that you have set eternity in our hearts.
Thank you, Resurrected Saviour, that your death and rising to life proved that death has no victory
and the we can have life forever with you.

Amen

Bible Text

John 11:32-44

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, ‘See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’

Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead for four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upwards and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


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