My husband died two weeks before Easter, which we sometimes think of as being Resurrection Sunday.
It was Easter and I wanted to go to church. I thought I could do it. When I got there, my throat constricted and no words could come out, and I began crying. There were many people coming in early and I slipped past those greeting each other and went to our Sunday school classroom to take back two lesson books I had taken home with me.
When I entered the room, I realized that I could not stay at the church without Don. The last time I had been there, Don had sat by the window sipping his coffee and everything was all right. I left the room and met the young associate pastor in the hall. He 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.”
The biblical story found in John 11:38-44 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 what is actually the human story of loss that we experience still today.
Lazarus, Jesus’ good friend and brother of Martha and Mary, became ill and was 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? It is reasonable to expect our friends to help at such a time. Surely, the sisters thought, “We have a need that my friend can fill, but we have not 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 not to go to 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 Bethany and to the tomb where Lazarus 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 through her tears because she was crying so hard. She was confused because Jesus had arrived 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?
Jesus wept because he knew the intense pain that Mary and Martha were going through.
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.
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. Christians look to the resurrection story to believe that we will see our loved ones again.
From my book “From Wife to Widow: What I Know Now.” Available in print and Kindle on Amazon.com. See all my books at amazon.com/author/taylorshirley