Another Multitude of Lessons
This week’s text is John 11: 1-45. This is another lengthy passage that contains multiple lessons that we could consider. Mostly it centers on the story of Jesus visiting the home of Lazarus and the subsequent illness and death of Lazarus. This also sees Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead and many coming to believe in Him because of this. This passage also sees Jesus commiserating with the family over the loss of Lazarus. It is this aspect of the passage that I wish to focus on.
A Very Human Jesus
This story sees Jesus comforting a group of close friends at a time of loss. This is an experience we have or will share. We all lose someone close to us and/or we try and comfort those close to us who have suffered loss.
At a time of loss, especially for those that die young, many will ask why. It seems that at times of extreme stress and grief people seek the answers to the most eternally challenging questions. However, this is not the response of Jesus. The first thing to notice is that Jesus does not even ask the question, why is there loss. He simply accepts it as a reality. There is much that Jesus does not claim regarding God in His domain, such as when the end is coming. Jesus says it will be like a thief in the night (that is unannounced) and that our role is to simply be prepared. In the garden, Jesus does not ask His father why He must suffer and die, simply that if it be His will then he will drink from that cup. This silence regarding the mind of God is best brought out by Paul in Philippians 2:6 “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” If Jesus does not want to grasp equality with God, then we better not even think about it. So, the question then becomes, not why but what now?
The ”what now?” for Jesus is to deal with the reality of loss as a part of our (and His) humanity. The response of Jesus to loss is as human as it gets. He grieves. He wept over Lazarus, He also wept over Jerusalem. He grieves at all the kinds of things you and I grieve over. Jesus was fully human; He laughed, He got angry, He worked and played and yes, He grieved at the loss that all humans experience. He fully understands that we should do the same. It is necessary that we grieve and that we give voice to our pain. It is critical that we gather around those in mourning to lift them up and sustain them. The critical aspect of all that Jesus did is to meet us wherever and however we are and to gather us into a community that can carry us through these painful times. That is always what Jesus did and that is what we can and should do ourselves.
This is a wonderful and edifying lesson on how to approach loss. Amid all our loss, Jesus points the way forward for all of us. He keeps His eyes on the eternal promise of a God that will not forsake us, even in times of great loss, that He will pursue us and seek a relationship with us, no matter the circumstance. That relationship will be made manifest by the relationships we have here with each other and by the love and care we provide to each other, especially in times of great pain.
It is also helpful to keep in mind the big picture. No matter, how awful things get on planet earth, God will bring His people home. Therefore God sent Hs son, to show us the path toward that eternal relationship and for Jesus to pave the way for us, to remove all obstacles in our path to that relationship. That is why in times of grief and loss we should turn our eyes toward the Cross and the empty tomb behind it.
That is today’s takeaway. Our faith has established our eternal relationship with God. This faith will sustain us even in times of grief and loss. Keep your belief with you always, in times of loss our obedience looks just like a grieving Jesus. He is enough.
Praise Be to God