Friday, 1 January 2016

“Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.

In your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect… 1Peter 3:15 NIV
My brother-in-law’s wife died suddenly this past week.  She had suffered with debilitating depression most of her life – her depression ultimately winning the battle but losing the war!
Donna Jean had a deep and abiding faith in her Savior, Jesus Christ.  We enjoyed many theological debates but I can never recall a single moment when we disagreed on the grace and glory of God.
Death is ugly however it comes.  Death and decay was never God’s intent for this world – He created it in perfection.  God also gave us freedom of choice – to choose intimate and abiding fellowship with Him, or rejection and sin.  Amazingly, Adam and so many others have chosen the latter.  And so we all suffer the consequences.
As I thought about Donna Jean’s death I was reminded of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus.  He died way too soon also.  Jesus got angry – very angry.  We pick up the story in the Gospel of John, Chapter 11.
When Mary arrived and saw Jesus, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 
When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. 
They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Then Jesus wept. The people who were standing nearby said, “See how much he loved him!” But some said, “This man healed a blind man. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” 
Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. “Roll the stone aside,” Jesus told them.
Most people know John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” as the shortest verse in the Bible.  Like those in the story, most interpret his weeping over the loss of his dear friend.  But this interpretation does not seem to make sense in the context of the whole narrative.  Jesus had known four days earlier that Lazarus was dead.  Why start weeping now?
I would suggest that Jesus’ anger and tears were over the tyranny of death itself.  I note elsewhere in Scripture that when Jesus got angry... He didn’t get mad – He got even!  He wasn’t about to let death get the better of Lazarus, or later Himself and us.  “Roll the stone aside!” Jesus commanded.  Then Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!”
The next time we see the stone being rolled away it was in front of Jesus tomb.  Again, Jesus defeated His arch enemy – death.
For Donna Jean the stone was rolled away many, many years ago, the moment she acknowledged Jesus as her Savior.  
And the dead man came out, his hands and feet bound in grave clothes, his face wrapped in a head cloth. Jesus told them, “Unwrap him and let him go!”  John 11:43
And now Donna Jean is enjoying the 'hope' of God's promises. 
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:3-5 NIV
I am ceaselessly in the wonder of God's grace.