What is the paradox of death? What did Jesus mean when he said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” ? Randy Bushey explains.
The Paradox of Death
Jesus said to her,
“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Do you believe this? (John 11:25,26).
Paradox: something that initially appears contradictory, but on closer inspection is true.
I’ve often witnessed paradox – sometimes frankly, closer to outright contradiction – at funerals.
I was thinking of a business friend who died a few years back. I had talked to him of the gospel and my faith. I wrongly thought that with his terminal illness increasingly quenching his life, he’d be in a position to listen. He told me he used to be “religious”; he’d even taught Sunday School many years ago. But he had come to a cynical conclusion: when you’re dead, there is nothing more. Life is over; existence is finished; the story has ended.
And so I was surprised when at his funeral, his family – reaching for comfort in any possible form – paradoxically hired a clergyman who conceded that he didn’t know the deceased. This man prayed, read from the Bible, and tried to comfort the family with hopes of life after death.
My friend would have been stunned – and angry! To use the old, crass metaphor, he’d be rolling over in his grave! He had emphatically, repeatedly rejected the gospel. He had banned God from his mind, and increasingly from our conversations. However, his grieving family, trying to make sense of dying and death – turned to the Scripture and the hope of eternal life. An arresting incongruity.
The Paradox of Grief
It’s paradoxical to read the Bible to those grieving.
At a recent funeral, I told the assembled group that I intended to read from the Scripture. The woman, whose ashes were before us, was a Christ-follower; her faith in the Lord Jesus defined her life. Through her suffering, she was often comforted by the simple reading of the Word. It was therefore appropriate – necessary even – that we read from the Bible as we celebrated her life and commemorated her passing. But I acknowledged what I knew to be the obvious truth: my reading the Scripture would be a welcomed comfort to some, but a source of discomfort, disquiet, and even distress to others.
The Paradox of Lazarus
And that brings me to the death of Lazarus, a familiar biblical character who is paradoxically never recorded as saying anything in the biblical narrative.
After receiving word that His friend had died, Jesus intentionally delayed His arrival. Martha – to my mind, one of the most perceptive theologians in the gospels – met Jesus with these words: “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give You whatever You ask” John 11:21,22).
Her words show insight and great faith. What did she expect? Surely nothing as dramatic as what resulted – or did she?
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die.” Do you believe this? (John 11:25,26).
Do You Believe This?
Beyond paradoxical, these assertions of Jesus would be characterized as downright contradictory by many I know. And yet these same friends and acquaintances see nothing absurd in believing the universe created itself; have concluded that complex lifeforms happened by natural, undirected, causes; that our human ability for language, abstract thought, creativity and art, love, self-consciousness – are merely the consequence of arbitrary, somewhat capricious electrical impulses firing in our brains. That every dimension of the human condition is the consequence of random chance, as are our incredibly complex DNA molecules.
But Jesus was clear: as the Creator and Author of life, He is the Necessary Being; in the words of Thomas Aquinas, the Being that cannot, not be.
And I think His assertion “whoever lives and believes in me will never die” gives us confidence that the transition from life on earth to life in heaven is a continuity of eternal life – that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). The qualifying issue is faith – not merely mental assent, but placing one’s trust in the Son of God. Therefore, His evocative question, Do you believe this?
The Tears of Jesus
Takeaway: The tears of the Lord Jesus and His deeply passionate response continue in His present role as our Great High Priest. His response in this day, is an echo of the affection revealed for Lazarus in the biblical narrative.
Octavius Winslow was a 19th century British Baptist pastor and contemporary of Spurgeon. In his devotional work “The Sympathy of Christ with Man”, he elegantly observes the Lord’s response to the death of His saints:
“Here was bereavement, and the affection that soothed it. Here was death, and the Essential Life that conquered it. Here was the grave, and the Resurrection that emptied it. Here was the melting, weeping sensibility of man, in the closest alliance with the Divine majesty and commanding power of God. What a study! The Creator of all worlds, the Author of all beings, the Upholder of the universe, raining tears of human woe and sympathy upon a grave!”
You can listen to pod casts from Randy’s show, “The Faith Factor,” by clicking here.
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Images Courtesy of:
The Raising of Lazarus- Sebastiano del Piombo