The Despondency of Death

Jesus wept.
–John 11:35

In John 11 we learn that not only is there a universality of death, but there is also an accompanying despondency of death–a sadness of death. Not long ago I was talking to one of our church members whose husband died. I asked her, “How are you doing?” She said, “I guess I’m doing okay. But every morning I wake up with the sensation that something is not quite right. I suppose I will carry that feeling with me until the day I die.” That’s the despondency of death that accompanies every loss. The reason for that despondency is what death represents. The word for “death” in Greek means separation. A physical death is the separation of our spirit from our body. Spiritual death is the separation of our spirit from God. Any kind of separation is painful no matter how brief that separation is.

We see the despondency of death in John 11. Four days after Lazarus died, Jesus finally arrived. “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see’” (vv. 33-34). And then we see the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (v. 35). Literally, the verse says He wept uncontrollably. Now, we understand why the Jews wept. Their friend Lazarus was dead, and many of the Jews did not believe in the resurrection from the dead. They thought they would never see Lazarus again. We understand their grief. We also understand the grief of Mary and Martha over losing their brother. But how do you explain the weeping of Jesus? Why was He “deeply moved in spirit”?

Jesus knew the truth of the resurrection. He knew better than anyone that in just a few moments He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. But separation, no matter how brief it is, is painful. It doesn’t matter what you believe, there is still a despondency that comes with death. Many of you know that despondency. You have lost a loved one. Well-meaning Christian friends tell you, “Just have faith. You need to get over this.” Of course, most people who say that have never experienced a loss themselves. The fact is, there is a grief that accompanies death. And grief is not only normal, but it is also necessary.

Paul wrote about the despondency that accompanies death in 1 Thessalonians 4:13. He said, “We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep [those who have died], so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope.” Notice that Paul did not say, “I don’t want you to grieve at all.” Instead, he said that as Christians, we don’t have to grieve as those who have no hope. We know that however real grief is, it is also temporary. The despondency of death will ultimately be followed by the victory over death.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “A Tale from the Crypt” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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