Where was God in Vegas?

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It never gets easier. Does it?

This morning I woke up to the news of the Las Vegas shooting. My heart goes out to families that are dealing with the devastating loss of losing a loved one. 

Where is God in the middle of this? 

Tragedy is a reality of a broken world. Sometimes we’re affected by our own evil. We deal with the direct repercussions of our own decisions. Often times we’re affected by the evil of other people. They exercise their God-given free will to perform hideous atrocities. They make the choices. We pay the price. Other times, we’re affected by evil in general. Evil is like a contagious disease. The primary symptom is death. We see this tragic evidence everywhere.

What does God say about all of this? How could Jesus allow these deaths to take place?

 

Jesus encountered some friends that asked the same question.

In John 11 Jesus got some news. He heard that His good friend Lazarus was terminally ill. At this point in His ministry, Jesus had already healed blind people, beggars, lame people, and He had walked on water. If you were in trouble at this point in time, Jesus was your guy. After receiving news about his friend, Jesus stayed put…for 2 days.  In the meantime, His friend died.

When Jesus finally showed up, Lazarus’ family was devastated. His friend Mary didn’t even come out of the house to greet Jesus at first. When she finally spoke to Him, she only had one question.  “Where were you?”

It’s a good question. And it’s not one that Jesus backs down from.

Jesus did a few things.
 

 

Jesus showed up.

God didn't have to step out of heaven to endure the mess of our world. But He did. The incarnation teaches us that rather than taking a passive approach, Jesus came near. He became Emmanuel - God with us. He's close to the broken-hearted. He is close to those in need. Today, I'm begging Him to comfort those who are hurting. 

 

Jesus grieved.  

He openly wept with those who were weeping. Imagine watching God cry. That's exactly what Lazarus' friends saw. Those who were present even remarked, "See how He loved him." Our brokenness breaks the heart of Jesus. It's why He came to do something about it, once and for all.

 

Jesus answered the question.

US: Why did you allow this death?
JESUS: I am the resurrection and the life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. 

This is more than a religious cop-out. It's the tangible claim of God Himself.

 

Jesus conquered death.

This is a death soaked world. There is no policy that will end killing.  Over 50 people died in Vegas. Another 55 million people will die this year around the world. I’m disgusted by the Vegas gunman’s actions but I know who is behind it all. 


"The thief comes only to steal, to kill, and destroy…”
John 10:10


There is only weapon that will work against a brute this determined. It’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The only thing that Jesus kills is death itself. The cross ended evil’s claim on our lives. The empty tomb taunts a devil who longs to see you in the grave.

We have to tell people this story.  Ours is not a casual mission. Everyday, the Gospel is life and death. We have to be people of life. We have to set aside our small controversies, our personal grievances, and our snarky comments. The only controversy that will matter in 1,000 years is that people die everyday having never heard this message of hope. We have to realize that we’re living in a world soaked with death and the only answer is life.


God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.
Acts 2:24


I have a friend that came to church yesterday. He said that before service he had been in a dark place. He walked out onto the Morrison Bridge and contemplated jumping. Something in his heart told him to come to church. These small victories of life over death keep me going. These little stories remind me that there is a kingdom where death will be eradicated once and for all. For those that believe, the joy of that kingdom can meet us here right now.

Aaron is the pastor of Spring of Life, a new church in Portland, Oregon. He's the owner of Amplify Creative.