‘After that He saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth.’
The death of true Christians is ‘sleep,’ and not annihilation.
I. It is a solemn and miraculous change.—The sharpest sting of death is the sense of unpardoned sin. Christians have nothing to fear for their bodies in the change: they will rise again by and by, refreshed and renewed after the image of the Lord.
II. The grave itself is a conquered enemy.—It must render back its tenants safe and sound, the very moment that Christ calls for them at the last day.
III. ‘Comfort one another with these words.’—Let us remember these things when those whom we love fall asleep in Christ, or when we ourselves receive our notice to quit this world. Let us call to mind in such an hour that our great Friend takes thought for our bodies as well as for our souls, and that He will not allow one hair of our heads to perish. The grave is the place where the Lord Himself lay, and that as He rose again triumphant from that cold bed, so also shall all His people. He that has Christian faith may boldly say as he lays down his life, ‘I will lay me down in peace, and take my rest: for it is Thou, Lord, that makest me dwell in safety.’
‘ “Our friend Lazarus.”—The disciples had been entertained by the family of Bethany as well as He. This gentle and beautiful touch is to enlist their sympathy in His plans and movements for the sake of the family. How different from the selfishness of ordinary human grief, which prides itself on a monopoly of mourning, and in proportion to its fancied intimacy with the departed tries to exclude others from the right of expressing their sorrow! “Sleepeth.”—This is one of those occasions when the human mind of Jesus exerted the Divine Omniscience to which it was indissolubly united, but which it did not always employ, just as it did not always employ the Divine Omnipotence.’