Devotional: ‘Asleep in Jesus’

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Acts 9:40 But Peter put them all outside, and knelt down and prayed; and turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand and raised her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he presented her alive. 42 And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. ESV

Peter performed a great miracle that day. He raised someone from the dead. Scripture speaks of the ‘signs of an apostle’ which the Lord’s first disciples were able to perform. (see 2 Corinthians 12:12) We read also in the gospel of Mark that as the disciples went out to preach the gospel, “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” (Mark 16:20) Although Tabitha’s resurrection was a great blessing to her friends, the Lord enabled Peter to perform this miracle so that the gospel message might continue to go forth.

To be honest, I wish I had the ability to raise the dead. During my years in the ministry, I have had to perform too many funerals of saints whose death left a great void in the church. I do not have the ability to raise the dead, but I know one who can.

John 11:17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” ESV

Martha said to Jesus what many of us often think – “Lord, if you had chosen to, you could have kept my loved one from dying.” Why didn’t Jesus keep Lazarus from dying? The Bible says that Lazarus’ death was for ‘the glory of God.’ (see John 11:4) God has a special purpose for each of our lives and even our deaths. Sometimes His purpose brings us pleasure. Other times it brings us pain. Yet, whichever way it may be, if it brings Him praise, we should receive it.

Many years ago I was called upon to pray over someone who had cancer and to anoint them with oil. (see James 5:14) I prayed for that dear person with everything that was within me, yet eventually they died. Afterwards I questioned the Lord as to why He allowed it to happen. Was it because of a lack of faith on my part? Had I somehow failed them? But then the Lord began to speak to me and to help me see that even though He raised Lazarus that day, eventually Lazarus died again. The resurrection that Jesus was speaking of was more than the physical resurrection He was about to perform. It was an eternal resurrection where the body and soul never dies.

Though our loved ones may die physically, if they know Christ as their Savior, they will never die spiritually. What’s more, there is coming a day when their diseased and decayed bodies will be resurrected from the grave and changed into a body like that of Jesus. Perhaps that is why scripture refers to the death of believer as ‘sleep.’ (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

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