Death; June 16, 2018

Luke 7:15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

Sometimes God’s provision, what He gives, is entirely outside of the realm of the possible, as we see it. Jesus didn’t raise this man from the dead for his own sake, but for the sake of his mother, since there was no formal social welfare framework at that time. Actually, I think the same could be said of Lazarus. Jesus didn’t raise him for his own sake but for the sake of his sisters, and also as a clear sign of His own power and authority. When someone dies we tend to think we are mourning for them, but really we are mourning for ourselves and for anyone else who will feel the loss of that person. We have no idea what terrible hardship that person might have been spared by leaving this earth when they did. Death is indeed part of life, but we don’t like to accept that. I am reminded of Smith Wigglesworth, the illiterate British plumber who was saved and taught to read by the Lord and was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he had a powerful speaking and healing ministry across Europe in the beginning of the 20th Century. He had raised people from the dead, and when his own wife died he raised her, too. However, she said to him, “Smith, why did you do that?” He realized that he had done it for his own sake, and after about 20 or so minutes of talking together, he allowed her to go back to heaven. We need to come to terms with the reality that we aren’t supposed to be in these bodies indefinitely, but are created to grow into intimacy with our Creator and spend eternity with Him. Death is a tragedy for the individual only when they die in rebellion against God. There are very many such cases, of course, but those who do know Jesus should be laboring to reduce that number. I am reminded of the man (there was at least one, there may well have been more) on the Titanic who had a life jacket, but asked someone who didn’t have one whether they were a Christian, and when they said no, gave him the life jacket, saying, “I know where I’m going, but you aren’t headed there yet.” That second person naturally went on to become a committed Christian!

I well remember when my father died, after heart surgery at 64. My first thought was, “He won’t have to retire.” I recognized that was a special gift from God to my father, even though I missed him quite painfully myself. As a pastor I have been present at the moment of physical death quite a few times. For one of those, I had baptized him just three days before. For a believer, death is graduation, not destruction. However, for those close to them, it can feel like horrible deprivation. I have had to come to terms with the reality that it would be purely selfish if I were to try to resurrect my own wife, particularly since she went to heaven and came back when she was in her 20s. As the time, she was told that “Jack and the girls need you.” Indeed we did, and I’m very grateful for the 40+ years we’ve had her since then. Meanwhile, I am surrounded by people who aren’t on their way to heaven, but rather to hell, and I need to be fully available to the Holy Spirit to change that situation as much as possible.

Father, thank You for the assurance of heaven. Thank You that I have no fear of death, though I am concerned about how rough it would be for Cathy if I were to go first. I pray that my example and witness would draw many into personal commitment to Jesus as Lord, so that they may join me before Your throne some day, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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