Jesus Hates Death Too


A hospital is an eerie place. The blank walls and waxed floors mixed with the soap dispensers and nylon gloves create a sterile environment that to me feels strangely unnerving. Some rooms are filled with patients who are waiting for treatment or recovery. Other rooms contain people waiting for the haunting inevitable, transforming the hospital into a queasy gateway which leads out of this world and into the next. All the while the background noise of beeping heart monitors only further add to the aura of mortality.

Few things can make you feel as powerless as a hospital. There is nothing you can do to change the outcome of a friend or family member trapped within its walls. You just sit and wait. You cry and pray. Perhaps worse of all, hospitals force you to consider big questions that many of us would rather ignore for the time being. It forces you to think about death. It compels you to consider what comes next, and how to be prepared for it. Hospitals also prompt tough questions of the goodness of God and how he can allow people to suffer, struggle, and ultimately die.

But my dislike of hospitals is rooted in my hatred of death. Perhaps you can relate. Something inside me rejects the idea of death; yet sooner or later we all will one day fall into its grasp. It is a somber if not morbid thought.

It is unlikely that Jesus shared my hatred of hospitals, but he sure did share my hatred of death.

John 11 contains an interesting narrative of Jesus being confronted by the death of his good friend Lazarus. Earlier we learn that Jesus knew Lazarus was sick, terribly sick, and to say that Jesus took his time getting to his dying friend is an understatement. By the time Jesus finally arrives to see his friend in need, he is late. Four days too late.

This is all a shame because Jesus has built himself quite a legendary reputation as a healer and miracle worker. There is no question that had Jesus made it there on time, Lazarus would still be alive. That is what Lazarus’s broken family argue. They are hurting, and they are looking for answers. Is Jesus indifferent to their pain? And if he isn't, why does his perplexing inaction appear to speak so differently?

John 11:33 picks up right as Jesus is facing these questions. "When Jesus saw her (Mary, Lazarus's sister) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled." It is interesting that the word "troubled" could also be translated as "angered" and "deeply moved" as "groaned in Spirit." Such a strong reaction seems to be a curious response in light of the current circumstances. Jesus has a right to be very bothered, but why would he be mad?

Many argue that Jesus is upset at those around him. There these people are, crying and mourning in unbelief, while all along The Resurrection and the Life is standing before their very eyes. Perhaps Jesus is thinking, "You have seen me turn water into wine, feed 5,000 men with five loaves and two fish, and make a blind man see--and still you do not believe that I am the Son of God? Come on!"

While this is all plausible that Jesus would be angered at the unbelief of his friends and disciples, I am not convinced. From what we know about Jesus (and especially in the book of John) he has been more than patient with humanity's inability to discern Spiritual realities. Passage after passage we see him answering the Pharisees accusations that he is a blasphemer, and page after page we see Jesus repeatedly explain to his followers what he means when he uses loaded terminology such as "living water," "born again" or "Bread of life." Furthermore, though the people had seen the miracles of Jesus, they had not yet seen a dead man come from the grave. After having Lazarus dead for four days, I cannot say that I blame their doubt.

Instead of Jesus's anger directed toward the "Oh so stupid people," I think Jesus has something different in mind. I believe he is angry and disturbed in his spirit because of Death. That great enemy. Right here, before the weeping masses and a closed tomb we see Jesus the Son of God come to a face to face confrontation with the consequences of sin that we know all too well: death and decay. And Jesus is angry! he hates it. He knows that death is not the way it is supposed to be, and just a few verses later he weeps because of it.

But what is more is that Jesus is not content to let death have its way with the world. He is not satisfied to sit back and watch. Jesus is resolved to do something about it, and while He rebukes death and raises Lazarus in John 11, he is still not finished with his enemy. Not until the cross, the reason He came to earth in the first place. It is in that irony of the cross, that the tables were turned and through Christ dying, Death was the one that was conquered once and for all.

So while we grow old and decay here in this life, and we see friends and family pass on, may we remember the cross. It is through that cross and the ultimate resurrection of Christ that we who believe likewise have freedom over sin and death. As Paul writes: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

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