Preparing for Death
None of us know what a day will bring. Indeed, we all live with a measure of uncertainty; we cannot be prepared for every trial that comes our way. In fact, as many have pointed out, the only certainty of life is that it will end. We live in a fallen world, and we know “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Dying, therefore, is one reality for which we must prepare.
Any consideration of death and dying that doesn’t pay careful attention to Jesus’ words is incomplete. A great place to start, then, is the solid instruction that Jesus provided just after his friend Lazarus died.
Understandably, Lazarus’s mourning sisters were deeply concerned about what had happened to their brother. In response, Jesus said that Lazarus was going to rise again. Martha, not fully understanding this declaration, said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” At that point, Jesus took the conversation one step further, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
And then came the challenge for Martha: “Do you believe this?”
Your answer to that question affects both how you live and how you deal with death. Jesus has not only conquered death but also made a way for you to conquer death too. Even though your physical frame will fail you, when you believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life, death simply becomes a transition, a passing from one realm of life into another.
One challenge which faces believers regarding death is not simply to prepare ourselves for its imminence but also to learn how to help others face it. No matter the situation, though, Jesus’ words provide the foundation for loving counsel. We are to speak both biblically and honestly, explaining the reality of eternity and the hope that is found in Him. Our words, echoing Christ’s own, should not be abrupt or unfeeling but filled with wisdom and grace.
You cannot know how to live until you’ve settled the question of how to die. Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, but eternity is guaranteed to every follower of the one who is the resurrection and the life. You can prepare yourself—and your friends and loved ones—to meet the day of death with calm and confidence rather than with fear and uncertainty by holding these precious words close: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Yes, we believe this.
The Death of Lazarus
1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So, when he heard that Lazarus1 was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16So Thomas, called the Twin,2 said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
I Am the Resurrection and the Life
17Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles3 off, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life.4 Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
28When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved5 in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus Raises Lazarus
38Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
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