It was supposed to be a day to remember life, and resurrection. Instead, Easter Sunday became a day for death.
We all knew it was coming. Over the past several weeks Gladys,* the mother of my close friend, had grown weaker and weaker from the cancer that was claiming her body. She had borne her burden bravely, walking slower and slower until she was confined to a wheelchair, and then finally to a bed. Gladys always had a ready smile on her lips and warm words of greeting for her many visitors.
Easter morning dawned bright and clear, but in Gladys’ room it was clear to everyone that the end was near. Throughout the day friends softly came and went—some bringing with them the gift of music that seemed to lift the spirits of everyone in the room. The day slowly wore on until only the closest of friends and family remained. As the evening glow of the setting sun cast shadows around the room, Gladys took her final breath.
A few years later it was my own mother who was dying. One Tuesday morning I received a call informing me that she had suddenly become very ill and had been taken to the hospital. Separated by an entire continent, I had to say goodbye over the phone. How wonderful it was to know that this was not a final goodbye! How wonderful to have the hope that only Jesus can give!
But sometimes there seems to be no hope. As the casket is closed for the last time, or the ashes are scattered, those who are left sob with sorrow that cannot be consoled because the mourners do not know the Life-giver, or think that He doesn’t exist, or that if He does exist He is not someone they would like very much. How can we bring hope to the hopeless? How can we introduce them to who Jesus really is?
“I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full,” Jesus explained to the doubting Pharisees (John 10:10). “Don’t cry,” He said to the sorrowing widow of Nain, before He turned to her dead son and commanded, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” (Luke 7:13, 14). “Don’t be afraid; just believe,” Jesus assured Jairus after the ruler of the synagogue learned of the death of his daughter. Then taking the small limp hand in His, the Life-giver commanded, “My child, get up!” (8:50, 54). “I am the resurrection and the life,” He told Mary shortly before proclaiming, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:25, 43).
Before carrying out this very public miracle, “Jesus wept” (verse 35). But He was not weeping for Lazarus, because He was about to raise him.
“The weight of the grief of ages was upon Him. He saw the terrible effects of the transgression of God’s law. He saw that in the history of the world, beginning with the death of Abel, the conflict between good and evil had been unceasing. Looking down the years to come, He saw the suffering and sorrow, tears and death, that were to be the lot of men. His heart was pierced with the pain of the human family of all ages and in all lands. The woes of the sinful race were heavy upon His soul, and the fountain of His tears was broken up as He longed to relieve all their distress” (The Desire of Ages, p. 534).
Only God can bring life out of death, good out of bad. As I reflect on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the more amazed I am at everything He did, and is doing, to give me—and everyone who will accept Him—real life, abundant life, forever. I can hardly wait to spend eternity with Someone like that.
* not her real name