Death is conquered (John 11:25-26)

| Sun, Dec 21, 2014 | Set 4 Week 52

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“I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”—John 11:25-26

89615289On April 23, 2007 my neighbors Bob and Beth, lost their son Brice, an army soldier killed in Iraq. I came home that night to find Bob uncharacteristically sitting in front of my house staring up into the night sky. As I approached, he reported in quiet agony, “my boy died today.” By early morning, their front lawn had been covered with dozens of tiny American flags (courtesy of the local Junior ROTC unit) testifying to a tranquil neighborhood not yet awake, the news that Bob had so starkly declared the night before—his boy had died. Soon after, we were rising to our feet in a church to honor the young man in the flag-draped coffin who just a week before had been joyfully washing his truck with his teenaged brother outside his parents’ home—my lasting image of Brice.

In the ensuing weeks and months after Brice’s death I witnessed Bob and Beth’s deep sorrow and very real pain spliced with the comfort they received in remembering Brice’s words to them as he went off to war: “I’m not afraid to die because I know where I’m going.” I remember thinking Brice’s words every bit as stark as Bob’s were; and just as stark as Jesus’: 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. The setting was the same—a graveside. How can such words be uttered on such an occasion, in the midst of such deep sorrow and real pain? It is here, however, that Christ shows himself best to be the all-sufficient God.

What is worse than death that seemingly has the power to halt the world and banish all joy? It is an enemy, the final plague—literally (Exod 11:4-6)–and spiritually (1 Cor 15:26). Death is powerful and seems to have the last word for all of us. It robs us of those we love and leaves us impotent to help or heal the grief of those unwillingly parted. Even as we seek to give comfort, we are uncomfortably reminded of our own appointment.

I live near an historic cemetery with expansive grounds. Walking through its paths, gravestones rehearse the roll-call of death in the same manner as the Genesis genealogies which end, “and he died.” Into this bleakness Christ speaks the first two words that change everything—I AM. Death may shake the foundations, but Christ says ‘look to me’ and be secure—I am with you, I am constant, I am powerful over death’s temporary victory. Consider when Christ died, graves opened!

As sufficient as Christ’s “I AM” is for us, he adds still more–he is “the resurrection and the life.” Not only does he conquer death’s power but he gives life in its place. This is the comfort that Job knew (Job 19:25-26) which was enough to stay him in the face of great loss. It is the promise that teaches Christians how to grieve with hope (1 Thess 4:13-18). It is the truth that releases Christians from the fear of death (Heb 2:14-15). This is who Christ is—he does not merely bring life, he IS that life and in him alone is the resurrection from the dead. In him the Christian hopes–and through him, can withstand every loss that would come to undermine faith and cause fear.

To these declarations of hope, Christ makes two statements that sound oddly opposite—those who believe in him “die but live” and also “live and never die.” How can these things be? Christ does not deny that humans die (he uttered these words at the grave of Lazarus) but he wants us to know that death is not the end for those who believe in him; “though he die, yet shall he live”–either immediately as in Lazarus’ case, or later at the resurrection (in Christ shall all be made alive—1 Cor 15:22). As the first fruits from among the dead, Christ leads all his own in triumph over death’s sting (1 Cor 15:56-57). The seemingly opposite claim—lives and believes in me shall never die—is actually the same promise, only looking at its ultimate end. In truth, the believer never dies for absent from the body is present with the Lord. Christ is giving spiritual eyes to see what happens beyond what earthly eyes can see. When death’s veil is parted we see living souls alive with Christ. This is the truth that sustains us when all else fails. And it is the truth that gives deep-seated rest when understood and held onto, as Christ prodded Martha to do.

Every year on the anniversary of Brice’s death I send flowers and a note to Bob and Beth; remembering Brice but much more remembering his words to them. On the first anniversary in 2008, I sent today’s Fighter Verses. As I contemplate it now, I see how these verses help in the fight for faith in Christ’s love and power, the fight for truth against the lie that death is more powerful than it truly is, and the fight for hope in the face of grief. All of this is possible only through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life.

Think about it:

  1. In the week ahead, how can Christ’s “I am” be of strength and comfort to you?
  2. In what ways can these verses help you when speaking about death with your unbelieving friends or family?
  3. Describe a time when Christ’s death and resurrection gave you joy.
  4. As you gather to remember Christ’s birth this week, this Fighter Verse passage would be a precious Christmas meditation for you and your family.
Gio is a Brooklyn NY native who first attended Capitol Hill Baptist Church (CHBC) in 2000 when she was a student. She later became a member when the Lord directed her back to DC for work in 2004. She now faithfully serves at CHBC in administration for Children’s Ministry. Gio partnered with Children Desiring God last year to bring the IMPACT: The Next Generation Regional Conference to the DC area. In her spare time, Gio enjoys hiking, camping and 18th century English country dancing.

Note: Next week will be a review week before we start memorizing Set 5 the week of January 4, 2015. Watch our website next week for a special Fighter Verses promotion to encourage you to re-commit yourself to Bible memory in 2015!

Children Desiring God (CDG) publishes Fighter Verses and offers products to support you in your Bible memorization efforts. CDG also publishes God-centered Sunday School curriculum for children and youth, parenting booklets to equip parents to spiritually shepherd their children, and the Making Him Known series of books for family devotions.

One Response to “Death is conquered (John 11:25-26)”

  1. Stephanie Smith Says:

    Wow. Just wow. Such a beautiful story. It hurts deep to read…. My mother suddenly passed away on February 15th of this year 2016. I always imagine her up in heaven with Jesus and this story gave me a better understanding of that. My mother struggled sometimes with believing and nonbelieving but at the end of the day I know she loved God and Jesus. If God is as forgiving as they say, he will understand why she had difficulty believing in Christ. I pray and hope that Jesus has her soul because she was cremated. I really hope she’s with Christ and that she can see me l. I hope she knows how much I loved her. Goodnight Mommy. I’ll love you forever and always…


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