"... the one you love is sick." John 11. 3
Last night we received the call we had been expecting, with that mixture of dread and relief which hangs over a situation where someone you love is near the end. You want their suffering to be over, yet you know their loss will be painful. And so you cherish every drop of life that remains. Dad's life has been diminishing for ten years, since Alzheimer's Disease kicked in. Throughout he has been lovingly tended by my mother and, latterly, by my sister and her family as well. For over a month now Dad has languished in hospital. Mum and Katrina have been in every day and all the immediate family have managed to negotiate the restrictions occasioned by Covid 19 to say our goodbyes. Best of all, my brother made it home from Finland - just in time - and is with him now. And still we wait...
When Jesus was informed that his close friend Lazarus was at death's door, his reaction was typically idiosyncratic: “This sickness will not end in death." But Lazarus did die. And Jesus entered fully into the emotion of the occasion, weeping in what has become famous as the shortest verse in many English translations of the Bible (John 11.35). The explanation of Jesus' remark, which emerges as the story develops, is that the Lord has chosen this as the occasion for his greatest miracle: bringing Lazarus back to life. It was temporary, of course. At least no one claimed that Lazarus never died a natural death in due course. But the point was made: death, as we know it, is not the end. And Jesus has power over it. Indeed in his gift is life that never ends.
This is what illuminates even these grim ordeals of waiting around the death-bed of one you love: the knowledge that those who die in faith have eternal life ahead of them - because they have embraced the promise that those who die "in Christ" will rise to eternal life "in Christ", never to die again. That does not eliminate the anguish we, who are left behind, feel. Indeed our mourning is all the more intense because we appreciate what our salvation cost. But it is also a great comfort to know that something far better beckons beyond the horizon. O, to see as Jesus sees! In the meantime, may it be enough to put our hand in his, to let him walk us through, to feel his arm around our shoulders, his voice whispering in our ear; "His life will not end with his death..."