Picture the cemetery scene in John 11: the hysterical wailing and shrieking; unrestrained weeping and the chaos that must have been; the stench that was coming from more than one body in that dug out tomb; the utter hopelessness of the situation.
The hopelessness of the people.
Martha says, “Jesus if you had only been here…but there’s nothing you can do now.” Mary says, “If you had only been here, Jesus…but it’s too late now.” The friends and the mourners say, “What a shame Jesus didn’t get here sooner to keep Lazarus from dying.”
All hope for Lazarus — this great friend, this brother — is gone because he’s dead.
But Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. Christ is the One who personifies victory and life and resurrection as powerful realities. And he’s standing right there! He’s angry at what death has done — and is doing — to his people, to his world, to his creation. His tears are not for Lazarus. He knows he’s coming up. Jesus’ tears, I’m convinced, are connected to deep anger. This scene is the result of sin and death. And Jesus is there — he’s here! — to reverse the damage.
They tell Jesus they believe. But they look at dead Lazarus and they feel hopelessness. It’s over. There’s no hope for Lazarus because he’s dead. They’re not expecting anything.
Satan uses our fear of death as a terrible weapon against us. Hebrews 2:15 says the devil holds the power of death and holds us in slavery by our fear of death. No wonder Jesus is so upset! He sees in this Bethany cemetery the ravages and devastation of sin and death and Satan in the people and the world he created.
Death is the enemy. But it’s no match for the Lord of Life. He tells the sisters the sickness will not end in death. He tells his disciples he’s going to wake Lazarus up. He tells Martha her brother will rise again. Even if you die, he says, if you believe in me you’ll live.
With Christ Jesus, death does not have the last word. Death does not have the final say. Death is not the bottom line. The Lord of Life is the ultimate power with the ultimate authority.
And as resurrected believers, we ought to live like it.
Afraid of death? No! Jesus has overcome death!
Dragged down by sickness or the other things that afflict us in this earthly life? No! Jesus has already defeated those things.
Is your hope stolen away by sin, by bad choices, by the destructive things you’ve experienced? No! Jesus has already obliterated it all.
So, why don’t we live like it? That’s what has Jesus so upset, that Satan causes the bad things that happen to us in this world to distract us from the reality that in Christ, we’ve already defeated all of it.
We are death-defeaters in Jesus. It’s already done. As baptized participants in the resurrection community, death has nothing on us now. And neither does sin.
The Dallas Cowboys claim they don’t retire jersey numbers. But they do. Yes, there are some members of the hallowed Ring of Honor who have seen their numbers worn by other Cowboys. And that’s OK. But, whether they admit it or not, there are some numbers — an exclusive two or three — that are just sacred. They should be retired. And they are. Whether the Cowboys call it that or not, they are. #12 is one of those numbers. And so is #74.
So there’s no #74 in our Red Ribbon Review today. Only one player has ever donned that number in Cowboys history. And I will not desecrate him or his name by mentioning him in this space.
There are 74 days left until Cowboys season. But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to get a second-best player.