Perhaps you have stood under a little tent in a cemetery for a funeral of a close friend. Maybe you visit the cemetery to decorate the grave of a husband or son.
The cemetery is not always an easy place for us to go. And it was not easy when Jesus visited a cemetery long ago.
That cemetery was a cave in Bethany, just two miles south of Jerusalem. Jesus had some close friends who lived in this little village — Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.
One day Lazarus became sick. His sisters sent word for Jesus to come. But before He could come, Lazarus died.
Why? That’s the question Martha had when Jesus finally arrived. She put it this way: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21).
Death always makes us wonder why. The Bible tells us death entered the world when sin did (Romans 5:12). It’s part of the consequence for human rebellion against God which began with Adam and Eve. Like it or not, none of us can avoid it.
But why is it so often sudden and unexplainable? A disease takes a victim just months from diagnosis. A car accident steals a life instantly. Often it seems like it could have been prevented.
That’s what bothered Martha. She knew Jesus could have come and healed her brother like He had done for so many others.
Jesus delayed on purpose. He knew about Lazarus’ sickness. He had said to his disciples that it was “…for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby” (John 11:4). God allowed a man to get sick and die for a purpose. Ultimately God was glorified in it. It was no surprise to Him.
In just a few weeks Jesus would ride into Jerusalem from that same little village of Bethany. Jerusalem was enemy territory for Jesus. He would be crucified there. But that would be no surprise to Him either.
From God’s perspective death is not a permanent reality. Death seems that way to us, but it is not final. Jesus told his disciples, “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11:11). Lazarus was truly dead. But for Christians, death looks like sleep. God will awaken them.
So what was Jesus’ answer to Martha? What comfort could He give her now that her brother was dead? He comforted her by revealing His identity to her.
Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26).
It seems like a paradox that a person can die and yet live, but Jesus is the Lord of life. He showed it that day in Bethany when He called, “Lazarus, come forth!” He proved it in the garden tomb when He raised Himself from the dead the third day.
Eternal life, presence with the Lord and bodily resurrection can all be yours when you trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Pastor Stephen Howard is from Morrow Bible Church.