Jesus’ View of Death Might Not Be What You Think

I wrote in previous posts about how human beings have a visceral revulsion toward death. We hate it. You might be surprised to learn that Jesus hated death too. How do we know? First, Jesus wasn’t exactly thrilled to have to be tortured and endure a Roman cross to secure the salvation of his people. In the garden of Gethsemane he prayed three times that God would take this cup of suffering from him, and from Luke 22, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Death was no picnic for Jesus. But in another scene, in the Gospel of John, when he confronts the death of another we observe his own visceral revulsion to the existence of death.

“Jesus wept.” The shortest verse in the Bible. To me, one of the most powerful. We read these words in John 11 as Jesus is standing in front of the tomb about to raise his friend Lazarus from the dead. Don’t you think this is a strange response when he knew in a matter of minutes that he would bring his friend back to life? It is not strange at all.

Jesus is looking at the ultimate consequence of his creation marred, looking upon the ugliness and smelling the stench of the wages of sin, and he hates it! It broke his heart. More than that, the word wept implies anger. The image of God in man has been defaced, and it is a tragedy, literally, of biblical proportions.

One of the reasons the Bible’s explanatory power is so convincing to me, is that it never, anywhere, apologizes for, or is embarrassed by death. In the Bible’s most direct confrontation with the pain of sin and death, the Book of Job, God refuses to apologize or explain anything! While we are never privy to the eternal Trinitarian councils as to why God created everything and allowed this disease to infect his creation, we know from God’s revelation that the plan all along was to solve the problem.

Jesus before the tomb of Lazarus brings to mind David in Psalm 23 speaking of walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.” How is it that death could cast a shadow? Something can’t create its own shadow. Rather it is the light of God’s revelation, in nature and Scripture, that tells us, death is wrong. It staggers me that most people would rather just ignore this very uncomfortable fact of existence; it seems not to occur to them to ask, what in the world does this thing called death mean? We must teach our kids that death is the ultimate question mark. And our God provides the answer. This means talking about it more than we’d probably like, but we cannot let it be ignored.

Let’s see what the materialist/atheist alternative explanation is, and see if that might make more sense to our kids than God’s answer. I heard a talk by Christian apologist William Lane Craig laying out the implications if atheism is true:

  • Death is the end, the dirt is our future.
  • There is no ultimate purpose to life
  • There is no ultimate justice
  • There is no basis for morality—Darwinian morality is all

The atheist/materialist will argue that the last three points are irrelevant because we in fact all experience purpose, long for justice, and act in moral ways, right or wrong. And atoms that came together by chance for no reason at all can explain all this? Do you see the absolute poverty of the atheist/materialist worldview? It really is an easy case to make to our children.