The Sign of Death Undone (John 11:38–44)

Read John 11:38–44.

We were never made to die. Perhaps that’s why when we’re young we imagine we’re invincible, and why, later on, there are midlife crises to go through and bucket lists to knock out. We try so hard to swim against the current of time, but none of us are strong enough to make it to shore. Death overtakes us every last one of us and pulls us under.

The grave makes certain our lives are incomplete, no matter how many years we have on this earth. Things are always left undone. Every funeral is the final, cruel chapter to an unfinished story. Many have tried to philosophize this ferocious tragedy away, uttering nonsense about death being a natural part of life. To those with such rubbish on their lips, I say, “Go back and read the book of Genesis.” We were made for everlasting, abundant life. We were meant to be caretakers of paradise. And we were designed to enjoy unbroken love and friendship with our Creator and with each other. In the beginning, death was not a part of the very good world God made. It is a curse, a trespasser, an enemy whose day of reckoning is coming.

Jesus came to put death to death, once and for all. He’s restoring a world where God lives with His people once again and where there is no more dying, sorrow, or pain (Revelation 21:3–5). We have known nothing but this poisoned, bleeding, sick world, and our sin has alienated us from our heavenly Father. As a result, such a dream seems too good to be true. But God, in His mercy, shows us the way things will be.

Every miracle is a flashing neon arrow pointing to the new creation. The Gospel of John records seven such signs, each meant to reveal Jesus’ identity through the kingdom He’s bringing: the wine flows, the sick regain their strength, the lame walk, the hungry are fed, the Lord walks among His people, the blind see, and… death is undone!

The (very) public raising of Lazarus is the seventh sign, a grand finale that outdoes everything that has come before. When Jesus shouted, “Lazarus, come out!” (John 11:43), and the man stumbled out of his tomb, still wrapped in the linen strips he was buried in, death and sin were put on notice. Nothing will be able to hold God’s people down. The Lord is paving a road to a new age, a new world, a new order, where God’s will is done “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The grave will be able to slow the river of life flowing from the presence of God, and no attack from the realm of darkness will be able to fell the tree of life.

Jesus gets the final word—not this world or any power in it, not Satan or any spiritual darkness, and not even death itself, who is “the last enemy to be destroyed” (1 Corinthians 15:26). Death’s own funeral is coming soon, though I suspect there will be no mourners in attendance.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!


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