I was 19 years old and engaged to be married in less than two weeks. (Yes, we were married as infants.)
My dad called: “Jenni, Papah is the hospital. It’s a bad case of pneumonia. He should be fine, but Grandmommy wants some company”.
Papah (pronounced Pa-paw) and Grandmommy are my dad’s parents. My dad was an only child, so they followed us everywhere we ever moved. I grew up with them seconds away at all times.
Papah and I were especially close. My dad inherited Papah’s humor and I inherited Dad’s. The three of us were a mess, albeit a funny one.
We were there for probably 3 hours while the doctors performed some tests and a low-risk procedure. The whole family was waiting, playing games in the waiting room when we hear over the loud speaker, “Code Blue, Room ____.”
I don’t even remember the room number, because my heart stopped when I heard the words “code blue.” Granted, we were in the hospital and announcements like that happened all the time, but I just knew.
It seemed like we all knew. The next 10 minutes felt like 2 hours.
A doctor came in to ask for my dad to step outside with him for a moment.
Dad walked back in. Grandmommy broke down. Papah was gone.
His lungs and weak heart couldn’t handle the stress of his illness and just gave up.
Dad asked me if I wanted to go say goodbye to him. I didn’t. But I went anyway.
I don’t think it is possible for the room to have been 10 degrees colder than the hallway outside, but it sure felt that way to me.
He lay there on the hospital bed in silence. I walked over to him – it was just the two of us in the room. I guess, just the one of us. He was so still. His skin was ashy. I didn’t touch him, but I watched him for a few minutes.
I saw nothing. I heard nothing. He had been there and now he was gone. I couldn’t get past the strangeness of his still chest. No up and down. No inhale, no exhale.
Death had stolen his breath.
What do you do with that? How do we face death? It feels so final, so powerful.
Most of the time when I want to know what to do and I have no idea, I look at what Jesus did.
There is a story about Jesus I love.
His friend, Lazarus, is sick and he’s asked to go and heal him. He makes plans to go, but hangs out where He is a few more days. We read later that Jesus knew His friend had already died. At that moment, He knew that His friend had stopped breathing and was being buried. He knew that Lazarus’ sisters were in mourning. He knew that the community was rallying around this family experiencing deep and true loss. Knowing all of that, here is what He says: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.” John 11:11 (NLT)
But, I am going there to WAKE. HIM. UP.
And wake him up, he did. Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after 4 days in the grave.
This is our God. The God who looks at death and calls it sleep.
The God who can and will wake all the sleepers.
The God who makes dead things alive.
I remembered the words of Jesus in that moment in that too-cold hospital room, “he’s asleep.”
He’s asleep. The God I serve belittled and embarrassed death by the Resurrection of Jesus. Death is only sleeping. What seemed to be final, so powerful minutes before was rendered powerless by sacrificial love – on that day at Calvary, and in that hospital room, in my mourning.
Death cannot defeat God. Over and over again in scripture, death is defeated. In small ways and in big ways, death is cheated of its prize.
Have you noticed this theme in Scripture:
Dead things don’t stay dead.
This narrative lives throughout the ENTIRE BIBLE, not just after the Incarnation and Resurrection. Death is cheated. Death is defeated.
- Aaron’s staff – dry, dead wood – blossoms before the Pharaoh. Not just life, but beauty. (Numbers, Chapter 17)
- The widow and her son are met by the prophet Elijah in a famine and drought – “we are making our last meal.” God does a miracle, and they experience plenty, life sustained when it should have been lost. (1 Kings, Chapter 17)
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are thrown into an actual furnace, so hot it killed the guards who threw them in – and they emerge alive, not even smelling of smoke. Fire and death, cheated. (Daniel, Chapter 3)
- Jonah lives in the belly of a fish at the bottom of the ocean. Life sustained, even at rock bottom. (Jonah, Chapters 1-2)
- Daniel made friends with a pride of lions. Death in submission to Life. (Daniel, Chapter 6)
- Ezekiel, overlooking a valley of dry bones – a great army brought back to life when God asked him to call the wind – Breath, Life into bones (Ezekiel, Chapter 37)
- Not to mention the people Jesus raised from the dead during his public ministry . . .
- And, Jesus. His Resurrection was a final sentence on Death.
The best part about worshipping Jesus is that He not only resurrected, but He is the Resurrection.
He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” John 11:25 (NLT)
Jesus is the Resurrection. We can’t fully serve Jesus without believing that nothing is too dead for Him to raise to New Life. We can’t fully serve Jesus without believing in the resurrecting power of His Spirit.
The existence of Life precedes death. Life is the launch point from which all of Creation sprung forth. Death is only a temporary absence of life. Temporary.
Our God promises that He is making all things new. Nothing will be as it is. Dead things won’t stay dead – they can’t.
Life wins, because Jesus lives. Just like snuffing out a candle does not mean that fire does not exist, the existence of death does not mean that life is gone. Life cannot be defeated by death.
There is always more breath because there is always more of God.
Resurrection demands death, yes. But, it also defeats it. Death can come time and time again, but Resurrection will follow.
Life will live long after the memory of Death.
What about the dead things? Our God is breathing, even now, raising them to Life.