Going Out With Joy
The mangled diesel locomotive engine was dragged into the Winnipeg workshop for repair. Every trade began to swarm all over it, like ants on a freshly-trodden cockroach, each carrying away bits and pieces. My workmate and I had the task of replacing and/or repairing anything that had to do with pipes on the unit. With a play on words, we affectionately called the project ‘the wreck of the Ella Fitzgerald’ – after the ‘The Wreck of Edmund Fitzgerald,’ a Gordon Lightfoot song about a ship that sank with all hands lost in a storm of mystery on Lake Superior back in 1975. We were happy not to know whether anyone had died at the controls of this mangled mess of a locomotive when it had crashed. We also were happy to be kept in steady employment, my mate and I often saying, ‘They wreck’em, an’ we fix’em.’ Who would have thought that such a wreck as this could have been brought back to life! In the process of time it was a joy to see the finished item go out, with everything put back together in full working order, and proudly sporting a glowing new coat of paint. Joyous applause!
It’s amazing what they can do with broken human bodies too. Like the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ of the 70’s they can rebuild us, and in some ways, make us better than before. When I got a ‘bionic’ replacement lens for my left eye the pages in my books were no longer jaundiced, but glowed white again. Mind you, repairing bits and pieces of us is a far cry from our being raised from the dead. But wouldn’t that be nice? However, the fictional Frankenstein monster with all his ‘railway track’ scars is not what we have in mind! Yet some folk arrange to have their bodies frozen when they die in the hope that medical science of the future will be able to raise them from the dead. All Christians die in the hope of the resurrection. But our hope is not that of crossed fingers, but rather the belief that God will resurrect us all from the dead, that we’ll be better than before, that the mortal will put on immortality, that the bodies of corruption and decay that we have grown so accustomed to will put on incorruption.
Lazarus, a man who had Jesus for a friend, died. Jesus said to one of Lazarus’ sisters, ‘Your brother shall rise again.’ She mistakenly thought the Lord was referring to the resurrection on the last day. But, ‘Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”’ John 11:39. Two old friends of mine (who knew each other) died of unrelated illnesses within two days of each other. I attended the funeral service for each, the second of which had an ‘open casket’ in church. I was thinking to myself as I looked upon the face of my friend at rest, ‘I’ll see you again, but you’ll look far, far better than you’re looking now!’ Is the God, who in the beginning spoke, and things that were not became things that are, not able to do a simple thing like bring my old friends back to life?
Like Lazarus’ flesh, when we die our flesh will see corruption. But even though Jesus was beaten to pulp, a crown of thorns thrust upon His head, nailed hands and feet to a tree, and a spear thrust into His side after He was dead, when He was laid in the tomb His flesh saw no corruption (Acts 2:27&31; 13:37).
Jesus raising Lazarus is a token of our Christian hope. The resurrection of Jesus Himself is the evidence of our hope. No one will be able to deny the evidence for His bodily resurrection when Christ Jesus returns again to earth, for every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7). Along with Job we can say, ‘I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!’ Job 19:25-27.
Dear reader, have you been duped into thinking that death is the end and that you cannot take anything with you when you die? Then, before you go, make sure that you have Jesus for a friend. For He carries His lambs across the threshold of death and shall raise you on the last day. For the Lord says, ‘Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.’ John 5:28-29. To believers He says, ‘For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.’ Isaiah 55:11. Isn’t God wonderful?