"The last enemy to be destroyed is death." (1 Corinthians 15:26)
I don't know if it's still true, but when we were younger, my sister would never read a new book without first checking the ending to make sure it was a happy one. To me, this was sacrilege. Where was the surprise? What was the point of going through all the story in between? Cindy would say she didn't want to read sad books. Who wants to get invested in characters, only to have everything go south for them?
Last night our church community lost a beloved person. It was sudden, it was painful, it left everyone involved reeling. We had prayed and the answer was No.
When things are bleakest, we remember there is one story to which we already know the end: our human story. In the Gospel of John, Jesus faced his own beloved community, reeling from the death blow dealt to their dear friend and brother Lazarus. We recognize the emotions: grief, anger, disbelief, disillusionment. "Lord," says Martha, straight-shooting as ever, "if you had been there, my brother would not have died." If you had come. If you had heard our prayers. If you had said Yes.
Jesus answers, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha responds, effectively, "Yeah, yeah, so they say."
What follows, Jesus' miraculous resurrection of Lazarus, is God's response to our hollow, comfortless pieties. No, says Jesus, by his actions. I mean it: Lazarus will rise again. He will live forever. Everyone who believes in me will live forever. Here is my proof that what I say is true.
Our dear friend will live again and forever because of her faith in Jesus and what he does for us. End of story. We just have to get through the rest of it.