The painful reality of loss…
As February arrives, many of us in the parish and further afield have been struggling with the painful reality of loss and bereavement. Never is this more in focus than at each of the funeral services that I have had the privilege and responsibility of taking over the last couple of weeks. Amidst the sadness, it is of course good and right to celebrate, to give thanks for times shared and the legacy left, but we must never lose sight of the fact that the death of a loved one can be truly heart piercing.
It has often struck me that when Jesus hears of Lazarus his friend’s death, even though he appeared to be aware of the tragedy as it was unfolding, we catch a glimpse of something remarkable as we are presented with the shortest verse in our translation of the Bible: John 11:35 “Jesus wept”.
The Greek words used to describe Jesus’ emotions are difficult to convey in English – they imply that he was shuddering and shaking with emotion – disturbed and angry even. Certainly, the pain of losing Lazarus is real and raw, yet within the humanity of Christ, and witnessed in Jesus’ grief and sorrow I think we see a lot more. This is not simply a pain brought about by inadequacy or worry that Lazarus couldn’t be revived, but rather I think, the sense of utter dismay, the abhorrence and offensiveness of death bought so close to Him through the loss of a clearly loved friend, offending the very nature of the one called to reign as the Prince of Life.
Death is a grievous thing and it’s important that we don’t sentimentalize any aspect of the claim that death has over each of us. And yet for those of us with faith, the story of Lazarus points to a deeper truth than simply a story with a happy ending. As Jesus comforts and challenges Lazarus’ sisters, we see the sting of death overcome.
It is important to acknowledge the grief and anger that may never totally depart those who are left in this life. But we believe that that is not the end – a higher truth then rings out and reigns. Because death does not have the last word.
We have our hope, not on things on this earth but in the power of the cross of Jesus and the resurrection of those who look to Him. Jesus’ words of John 11:25 are the resounding gospel note that must be heard on this day and every day: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live.” And as Revelation promises: “See, the home of God is among the people and He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
May all who are struggling with loss and bereavement in this season, know the intimate embrace of the Father who understands our sorrows and meets us in our pain and offers us His peace.
Much love and prayers, Tim
Priest in Charge Loves church pioneering, family, guitars, Macs, jeeps and Jesus, not necessarily in that order...