We have faced a lot of death in the last season. A father of five children unexpectedly died one morning preparing his coffee. A grandfather who had faced multiple strokes over the recent years didn't make it out of the hospital from his last one. A 22 year-old Youth Pastor we had raised up, prayed for and sent from our church to do ministry in the East Coast died in a tragic car accident. An 89 year-old, gracious lady died suddenly and unexpectedly after surgery on her broken hip. A citrus-grower-grandfather discovered that the recent chemotherapy hasn't done the job hoped for on the bone cancer, and my grandfather has called in hospice care after his year-long battle with pancreatic cancer. Facing death has run the emotional gamut from painful to disorienting, but I've been most amazed at the resolve and the increase of faith that have come as a result.
Jesus faced death over the course of his life. His cousin, John the Baptist, was killed by Herod Antipas. His friend, Lazarus, died as the result of a sickness. He spent time in a room with Jairus' dead daughter. He encountered a funeral procession of the son of a widow in the town of Nain. Many scholars assume that his step-father, Joseph, died before Jesus' public ministry began at the age of thirty. Let alone the death that he faced during his own arrest and crucifixion. He truly is “a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief" (Is. 53:3). What did a man so acquainted with death say and do as he stared death in the face?
First, His words, like many a funeral would attest, were powerful. To Lazarus' sister, Martha, he said, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying." To Jairus' dead daughter he said, "Little girl, get up!" She did. To the widow grieving the loss of her son he compassionately said, "Don't cry!", and then to the dead son himself he said, "Young man, I tell you, get up!" The son did. Even in the midst of his own, slow, painful death he said only seven recorded statements; two with which he asked for forgiveness for this tormentors and made long-term care arrangements for His grieving mother. In the face of death, His feet remained resolutely planted in the truth of a greater Life that death could not extinguish and His words sung the melody of the tune of that Life.
Second, I'm most struck by His responses in the face of death; His deep grief and mourning. When he was told about John the Baptist' death he remained silent and went off, away from the crowds, to be alone, deeply and personally affected. After declaring that He was the resurrection and the life to Lazarus' sister, He wept at the graveside and "a deep anger welled up within Him, and He was deeply troubled" (Jn 11:33). He was moved to reverse the deaths of Jairus' daughter, the widow's son and His friend, Lazarus. And His response in light of His own impending death on the cross? "For the joy set before Him[, He] endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). And with all that He had he declared the most resolute "It is finished!" that the world has ever seen.
So, if you find yourself in the face of death, stand with Jesus. Declare with me the truth of the One who has the words of Life. Join me in declaring Life in the face of death. Let us mourn deeply and grieve with those who grieve. May we do something life-giving in the face of death. We will declare together, "Thank God, He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:57). Jesus, let our resolve deepen and our faith increase as we stare in the face of death together.