Christmas has came and passed. As I turn my attention to the imminent new year, I reflect on the wonderful holiday that seemed to leave as quickly as it came. In my opinion, Christmas time is a time that should be characterized by family, songs, jollity, and devotional contemplation. Most likely, when you gathered with your local body for corporate worship at some point during this holiday season, you sung the classic Christmas hymn, Joy to the World. You may have noticed that the blessed carol has a most intriguing third verse. It reads:
“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found, Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.”
As I contemplate these lyrics, my mind transports me to 1st John 3:8,”The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” We are told throughout the bible that sin and death are the handiwork of Satan. As we find ourselves at the various crossroads of this life, we are met by the dark shadow of their unremitting tyranny. Whether it is through the tragic loss of a loved one, the poignant repercussions of broken relationships, or the dejected feeling of unrequited affection, we are cruelly reminded by their icy touch that this world is fallen.
Jesus knew this very well. Indeed, he was well “acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3). But like a candle placed in a dark room, the Son of God was sent to a world of the shadows and blackness of sinful mankind. Death was not originally a part of creation. It entered the world as a result of sin (Rom. 5:12). Death is the enemy of man. He came into the world to abolish death’s dark reign and bring Satan’s kingdom to ruination by ushering life and reconciliation to God through his propitiatory death and triumphant resurrection (Rom. 5:18).
In the eleventh chapter of John’s gospel account, we see Jesus brought face-to-face with the reality of death’s intrusion upon his Father’s creation. Death, like a vandal had violently invaded the lives of Jesus’ loved ones and pillaged them, leaving only consternation and misery in its wake. In the midst of this, we see Jesus brought to weeping. At the sight of Jesus’ lamentation, the mourners respond,“‘ See how He loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?’”(vv.36-37)
It is true, Jesus did indeed love Lazarus. In fact, the texts informs us at beginning of the narrative that this was the reason for his delayed arrival to Bethany (v.6). Jesus was fully aware of every intricate detail of the situation, and he knew that he was going raise Lazarus from the dead (vv. 11, 26, 40). Now we see Jesus break down in tears as he bears witness to the desolation wrought by the blight of sin. As Jesus is moved with grief, he erupts with rage. Death is an intruder, a trespasser, this is not his Father’s perfect desire for His creation.
The Jews see his grief, but because of the hardness of their hearts, they miss Jesus’ purpose and mock his power. They recognize that Jesus had miraculous power, but tragedy has struck, Lazarus is dead, and Jesus is three days late. Unbelief has that tendency to blind the one from seeing God’s purpose for His glory and their good. In response to their impudent remarks, the text informs us, “So Jesus, again being deeply moved within, came to the tomb. Now it was a cave, and a stone was lying against it” (v.38) In the Geek, the text carries a nuance that suggests the emotional anguish that shattered inside of Jesus eventually turned to righteous fury as He went to raise Lazarus from the grave.
“When He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’”(v.43) Jesus surged with rage as he stood before the tomb. Jesus asserted his sovereign authority as the Lord of life as he called his friend out of that cold slumber. The very same voice that called out a dark void of blackness for light to be birthed, cried out to the dead man in the darkness of his tomb and bade him rise. By His very command, the decaying ceased, the heart returned to rhythm, the blood resumed its coursing, and the breath to fill his lungs with oxygen is sent. Death bowed in submission as it relinquished its prisoner to the Lord Christ. This time, it was death who was ransacked.
Lazarus arises from death and foreshadows the event of Christ’s own resurrection. Yet even Christ’s resurrection is the first fruits of the great plundering that will come about when the Lord returns to establish His kingdom on earth. All of Death’s vaults will be opened and all of its spoils will be plundered, as the Lord will resurrect His people to be with Him forever glorified and enjoy the unbridled fellowship of His presence into all eternity. It will be on that great and glorious day the people of God will attend the funeral for death!
As we turn our eyes to the dawning of this new year, let us look in hopeful anticipation to the return of our Lord. To the world that is languishing beneath the oppression of the curse of sin, let us endeavor to proclaim the savior who is making all things new with unsurpassed vigor. Let us trust the Sovereign God who promises resurrection from the ashes of the effects of sin that permeate every aspect of our lives. This year allow the gospel to breathe rebirth to your life as far as the curse is found. Believe the sovereign God who loves you and look to the Savior who is faithful. He is the resurrection and the life.
O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.
‘Till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more,