Live as those prepared to die

The Standard January 28, 2021

Tragically, last week COVID-related deaths in the U.S. climbed to over 400,000. At this point, most of us have grieved the loss of loved ones represented in this statistic. God knows our pain. Shortly before the Passover and Christ’s passion, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that their brother Lazarus was sick. “When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’ Now, Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” (John 11:4-6) Jesus then told his disciples that Lazarus had died and that he would go to the village of Bethany in Judea.

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.” (John 11:32-35) “Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.” (John 11:38-39) Jesus prayed to the Father then called to Lazarus to come out. Lazarus, who had been in the tomb for four days, walked out.

Jesus knew that Lazarus’ illness would not end in sadness, but would demonstrate God’s power over death. He knew there would be a happy outcome. Still, we read how moved and troubled Jesus was by this death and the grief of the mourners. Perhaps Jesus wept in part because death was not God’s ideal plan for humankind. Maybe he also was grieving the human sin which led to this reality.

”The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” (Genesis 2:15-17)

“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-26)

Dealing with death is not easy, and God understands our grief. As we reflect on the loss of loved ones, we are reminded of our own mortality also. We should live as those prepared to die. Let us pray.

“O God, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray. You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking. Give to us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity. Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and death. Help us to live as those who are prepared to die. And when our days here are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that living or dying, our life may be in you, and that nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.” (United Methodist Book of Worship)

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