Jesus: Death Means Resurrection

Life_in_Tension_web“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, Where have you laid him? … When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out.”  (John 11:33-43 ESV)

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

When Jesus weeps, the dead are raised [1]; when Jesus dies, we have life. Our grief is redeemed, becomes godly grief, when we grieve over the sin that separates us from Christ [2].

The Apostle Paul framed our view of Christ in these words: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:10-11 ESV) Paul furthermore advises us to imitate Christ when he writes: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Rom 12:14-15 ESV) We are to place our emotions in God’s service so that the world might too be redeemed.

The hope of the resurrection permits us to look beyond grief to our future in Christ. The Prophet Jeremiah understood this point when he wrote:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jer 29:11 ESV)

Hope redeems our mourning. Paul talks about all of creation groaning as in childbirth [3] because a mother’s pain is overcome by the joy of seeing her baby. In fact, we can hear an echo of Jeremiah in Jesus’ next words in the Sermon on the Mount about anxiety when he says:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matt 6:25 ESV)

Anxiety is a form of grieving over our daily challenges—what to eat or what to wear.  In Christ, even the ultimate challenge of death does not have the final word (1 Thes 4:13).

The Apostle Paul sees this inward tension as critically important in our spiritual formation. He writes: “For godly grief (θεὸν λύπη) produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” (2 Cor 7:10 ESV) Paul uses an entirely different word for grief in the Greek which means: “pain of mind or spirit, grief, sorrow, affliction” (BDAG 4625). In Paul’s analysis we see grief tinged with guilt and shame—a motivator for repentance.

In grief over sin we lament our brokenness and after we pour it all out, we are able to turn to God. For this reason, the Psalmist can write:

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psa 126:5-6 ESV)

Here we see Luke’s version of the Second Beatitude:  “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.” (Luke 6:21 ESV)

Through grief God gently leads us to salvation.

 

[1] Also: Mark 5:38-41; Luke 5:13-15.

[2] Isa 6:5; 2 Cor 7:10.

[3] Jer 4:28; Rom 8:22.

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