Grief. That overwhelming feeling of loss that comes from the heart and chokes up the throat and brings hot tears to the eyes. We’ve all experienced grief of some sort. Some more intense than others. And more than likely we feel that our grief is far worse than we ever imagined it would be.
We have just come from Resurrection Sunday where the story is so familiar to us, causing us to lose the sense of grief surrounding those days. So, let’s go back because this resurrection story began before Jesus’ death and is actually our story today.
Lazarus, Jesus’ good friend and brother of Martha and Mary, was ill and about to die. Immediately the sisters sent notice to Jesus. Of course they wanted him to heal Lazarus as they had seen him do for other people. Isn’t that what friendship and love is about? I have a need that my friend can fill, but I haven’t heard from him. Did our friendship mean as much to him as it did to me?
Jesus got the message that his friend Lazarus was dying, but he made the decision to not go the Bethany to heal him. He gave some strange reason that fell flat on their ears. He even promised that “this sickness will not end in death.” But Lazarus died.
Then Jesus went to the tomb where he was buried.
In a reversal of roles, Martha ran to meet Jesus while Mary stayed behind receiving friends and neighbors into their home and being consoled. Jesus told Martha to go get Mary. The Teacher had something that he wanted her in particular to see. Martha remembered what he had said about the resurrection, but it was important for Mary to see this.
Running toward the garden where Lazarus was buried, Mary could hardly see because she was crying so hard. She was confused because here Jesus was after Lazarus died, and after her belief that if only he had arrived in time, they would not be here mourning her brother’s death.
“Where have you laid him?” Jesus saw her tears and then Jesus wept.
Those around him said, “See how he loved Lazarus!” But I don’t think that was why Jesus cried. I think Jesus cried because he knew the intense pain that Mary and Martha were going through. Remember, he knew already that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, so why would he cry for Lazarus?
Grief. Jesus could have healed Lazarus and he could have saved Mary and Martha from going through this loss. He knew their prayers, just as he knows our prayers when we are facing a loss. Jesus didn’t have an eternity to show those around the tomb about the Resurrection, so he used the 4 days to signify to us that we will live again – not on earth as Lazarus did, but with God in eternity.
Last Sunday was Easter. Two weeks after my husband died. I went to church. When I got there, I got so choked up that I started crying. There were so many people coming in early and I slipped through the greeters and went to our Sunday school classroom to take back two lesson books I had and realized that I just couldn’t do it. The last time I had been there, Don had sat by the window sipping his coffee and everything was all right. I left and met the young associate pastor in the hall and he just wrapped his arms around me and held me. I told him that I had thought I could do it, but I just couldn’t. As I was leaving, he said, “Don’t forget this Sunday is about the Resurrection.”
Our prayers of healing are never wasted. Jesus wept over Mary and Martha’s grief and I believe he understands our grief when we lose someone we love. And I look to the resurrection story to believe that we will see our loved ones again.