Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“’Don’t panic. I’m with you. There’s no need to fear for I’m your God. I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you. I’ll hold you steady, keep a grip on you. Count on it…Because I, your God have a firm grip on you and I’m not letting go, I’m telling you, don’t panic. I’m right here to help you…Don’t be afraid.’”
Isaiah 41: 1-. 13. 14, Amplified Bible
Falls ever across the way,
And I know the sound of His friendly feet
Wherever I chance to stray
It does not matter; in rain or shine,
His hand is always clasped close in mine.
Its harvest of peace and rest;
He whispers until my tired heart sings
As I lean on His waiting breast.”
Will D. Muse
I love the story told by Pastor John McNeill, a Scottish minister and evangelist:
“I remember one Saturday night as a young boy. It was nearly midnight, when I started to tramp six or seven miles through the lonely glen to get home. The road had a bad name. This particular night was very black, and two miles outside our little village the road got darker than ever. I was just entering the dark defile, when about one hundred yards ahead, in the densest of the darkness, there suddenly rang out a great, strong, cheery voice. ‘Is that you, Johnny?’
It was my father – the bravest, strongest man I ever knew. Many a time since, when things have been getting very black and gloomy about me, I have heard a voice greater than any earthly parent cry: ‘Fear not; for I am with thee.’ And lo! God’s foot is rising and falling on the road before us as we tread the journey of life. Let us never forget that.”
Pastor John McNeill
Today’s Study Text:
“(Jesus) said these things, and then added, ‘our friend Lazarus is at rest and sleeping; but I am going there that I may awaken him out of his sleep.’ The disciples answered, ‘Lord, if he is sleeping, he will recover.’ However, Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that He referred to falling into a refreshing and natural sleep. So then Jesus told them plainly Lazarus is dead.”
John 11: 11-14, Amplified Bible
“The Fragrance of His Presence” Part 19
“What Jesus Said About Death”
“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
I Corinthians 15: 55, K.J.V.
Have I lost someone to the venomous sting of death?
How would I have felt if I had been with the disciples and had Jesus tell me that my beloved had died and was sleeping?
“The foolish fear death as the greatest of evils, the wise desire it as a rest after labors and the end of ills.”
“For man is by nature afraid of death and of the dissolution of the body; but there is this most startling fact, that he who has put on the faith of the cross despises even what is naturally fearful, and for Christ’s sake is not afraid of death.”
Athanasius of Alexandria
“For so He giveth His beloved sleep.”
Psalm 127: 2, K.J.V.
It had been a memorable trip. Having returned to Bethabara where John the Baptist had called for repentance, preparing the way for Jesus’ ministry, our Lord was able to reap the harvest from the seeds planted by the bold John who confronted the evil Herod and ended up losing his head as a consequence.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that indeed the good deeds we take up on behalf of our Lord and Savior live on long after we pass from the scene of action and this is exactly what happened with the ministry of John the Baptist. The disciple John makes note of the fact that “many came to Jesus, and they kept saying…’everything John said about the Man was true.’ And many people there became believers in Him” (John 10: 41, 42, N.I.V.).
If ever you feel that what you are doing for Jesus in your life doesn’t seem to matter that much, please take a moment to think of John the Baptist who dedicated his short life to being a planter of seed and long after he was martyred, in the words of the Apostle John in the book of Revelation: “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord…Yea, saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14: 13, K.J.V.).
Just think about the “many” who accepted Jesus because of the faithful witness of John the Baptist who laid down his life for his Lord and Master – Jesus Christ. After this encouraging harvest, Jesus informed His disciples that they would return to Judea, no matter the perceived danger. And so the group began their journey when, without so much as a warning, Jesus dropped more shocking news – “Our friend Lazarus sleepeth, but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep” (John 11: 11, K.J.V.). At first glance, this appears to be great news. By the disciple’s response, we can conclude they came to the same conclusion you and I would make if we had been told that Lazarus was sleeping. “Then said His disciples, “Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well’” (John 11: 12, K.J.V.). What a relief for these disciples were close friends with Mary, Martha and Lazarus too. No doubt, they had benefited from Martha’s cooking skills and the pleasant atmosphere of this home in Bethany also provided them with needed relief in their lives as well.
But as we continue reading John’s transcript of the events during this time in Jesus ministry, he reports that Jesus unexpectedly informed those closest to Him that, “Lazarus is dead.” John writes that “Jesus spake of Lazarus’ death; but they thought that He had spoken of taking of rest in sleep” (John 11: 12-14, K.J.V.).
Talk about miscommunication! This was it. It appears that Jesus view of death didn’t match with the disciples. And maybe we can also learn something from Christ the Son of God. Not only was He the “Light” that makes our pilgrimage on earth a bright pathway as we walk with Him, but now the second attribute which Jesus carried in His being – the gift of Life – was going to be revealed like never before. As Pastor J.R. Macduff eloquently pens, “Death as sleep! How beautiful the image! Beautifully true, and only true regarding the Christian…The gospel takes us to the tomb, and shews us Death vanquished and the Grave spoiled. Death truly is in itself an unwelcome messenger at our door. It is the dark event in this our earth – the deepest of the many deep shadows…a cold, cheerless avalanche lying at the heart of humanity, freezing up the gushing fountains of joyous life.” I have to agree with Macduff’s detailed description of the toxic consequence of sin – death.
But “Praise God” death doesn’t have the final word on planet earth. For the “abolisher of death” came to our planet to set the captives free. I love the way Pastor Macduff describes the results of Jesus entrance into our sin-sick world: “It is said of some venomous insects that when they once inflict a sting, they are deprived of any future power to hurt. Death left an envenomed sting in the body of the great victim of Calvary. Death was forever disarmed of its fearfulness! So complete, indeed, is the Redeemer’s victory over this last enemy, that He Himself speaks of it as no longer a reality, but a shadow – a phantom-foe from which we have nothing to dread.”
Thank God! No wonder the Psalmist David, when talking about the Valley of Death calls it the “Valley of the Shadow of Death.” The stinger is removed and it can’t fatally kill any child of God. No wonder our Lord could call death – a sleep. As Macduff concludes, “The figure of a quiet slumber is no hyperbole, but a sober verity.”
With this great confidence in our hearts, we can better understand the Apostle Paul’s words when he told the Christian members of the new established church in Corinth:
“Death swallowed by triumphant Life!
Who got the last word, oh, Death?
Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?”
I Corinthians 15: 54, 55, The Message Bible
“For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud cry of summons, with the shout of an archangel, and with the blast of the trumpet of God. And those who have departed this life in Christ will rise first. Then we, the living ones who remain on the earth, shall simultaneously be caught up along with the resurrected dead in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so always through the eternity of the eternities we shall be with the Lord! Therefore comfort and encourage one another with these words.”
I Thessalonians 4: 16-18, Amplified Bible
“For all the saints who from their labors rest,
Who Thee by faith before the world confessed,
Thy name, O Jesus, be forever blest.
William W. How, 1823-1897
“Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I Corinthians 15: 57
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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