The situation is becoming a more familiar one. I was visiting friends, a couple and had just sat down when one of them asked “have you heard our bad news?” She went on to tell me about a close relative, just 24, who had died very suddenly and unexpectedly. It didn’t take much imagination to have an idea of the impact of this on top of another huge bereavement just a few years before. Still, it was told matter of factly, with no sign of bitterness, just a shrug of the shoulders and a ‘that’s life’. The usual sense of helplessness started to creep in. What can I say that wouldn’t be either trite or unfeeling? “Jesus wept!”
Jesus wept. Where did that come from (-apart from as a slightly quaint expression of bitter frustration)? It’s in the story of Jesus with Lazarus, his sisters and friends. Lazarus was dead. It wasn’t right. It didn’t change the fact. His friends were gathered with the family, grieving with them. They knew what a close-knit family this was. How precious Lazarus was to his sisters. Jesus knew it too. Jesus wept. Some saw him. “Look how much he loved him.” Others then asked “why didn’t he keep him from dying then?” Why? Angrily? Resignedly? Still the question is there even if unspoken. Jesus wept! Moved to tears. By what? The fact that Lazarus was dead? But he’s about to raise him. At the sight of their agony? That has to be part of it. He shares our pain at losing those who are precious to us. But was there more to it than that even? Was it partly also that they appeared to have no hope?
So, back to the question, what can I say? The fear of sounding hollow and sanctimonious or insensitive, a “Job’s comforter” silences me? Fair enough, silence is better than “inappropriate, glib words”. It’s perhaps a much better way to demonstrate genuine sympathy. Still I feel a need to share something of the hope we have in Jesus that death isn’t ‘it’. Jesus wept along with them, yes, but that’s not where the story ends. How do we go on to share that happy ending? What do you think? What has brought you most comfort in your grief and pain?
Jesus raises Lazarus 11:17-44