Last Thursday, our senior pastor and his wife lost their twenty-four year old son to a failed liver transplant. Yesterday, I stood in to preach for our pastor. In my short time of preaching and teaching, this was the hardest message I’ve ever given. The message was designed to help people feel the truth that death is not how it’s supposed to be, and one day, Jesus will finally make all death come untrue.
God was gracious to greatly encourage many people in our congregation to fix their eyes on Jesus in the midst of so much pain. I’m praying God uses this tragic even to spark renewal in our church family and wider community.
Here’s an excerpt from the sermon:
Now you might be asking throughout this sermon, “What kind of a God allows such suffering in the world? I can’t worship a God like that!” Truly, friends, I say to you, let’s ask a different question: “What kind of God offers up his only Son to suffer for you and me?” This is where Jesus Christ enters the picture…Jesus destroyed the power of death through his own death on the cross. When Jesus died, death died.
Your first reaction to this may be, “This seems too soon to talk about Jesus conquering death. Death is too real right now.” Death is real, but throughout Scripture, whenever death shows its ugly face, God is quick to point us to the victory of his Son.
Christianity does not give us all the answers for why bad things happen in the world; but it does reveal a Person who is sovereign over all creation, yet intimately familiar with suffering and death. God is not some mythical deity who sits above the earth and does not identify with his broken creation. He did not say, “Good luck with sin, death, and hell, I hope you find a solution.” No, he said, “I will be your solution. I will bear the weight of death itself for you.”
Christianity is unique among all the world religions in that God became man in the person of Jesus so that he would know heartache, suffering, pain, loss, tragedy, injustice, betrayal, and death. Jesus Christ, the God-man, is not immune to pain. No, he is Immanuel—“God with us”—especially in our sufferings.
But Jesus did not stay dead. If he had, he would have merely been a martyr. An example. An inspiring story of a 30-something whose life ended too soon. But he was—he is—more than that. He is Redeemer because he rose from the dead. In John 11:25-26 (ESV), Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Jesus tells us that the power to conquer death—spiritual, physical, and eternal death—is to be connected to him by faith. Listen again to his magnificent words: “Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” Just a few chapters earlier in John 8:51 Jesus said, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.” “Even though your body dies,” Jesus says, “your soul will not die because I will be your life and if you are connected to me, then my life becomes your life.” Jesus is life, and if you are connected to him by faith then even when you die, you conquer death through Jesus, and you live. Paul said, “To live is Christ and die is gain.” Even when you die, you live.
Listen to the whole message.