Please read John 11:1-45
Every single one of us has known death and grief, haven't we? We can put ourselves in the place of Mary and Martha, and the friends who are weeping at the death of Lazarus. We also may be familiar with the disappointment of Mary and Martha, who had sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was ill and he had not come until now, when Lazarus had been dead. For four days the family has been waiting, as their feelings of grief are compounded by disappointment and perhaps anger. We too may feel disappointed and even angry that our prayers have not been answered the way we wanted. After four days, the initial shock and disbelief is still raw but perhaps beginning to fade just a tiny bit. And now, here is Jesus, at last, too late they think. And Jesus, seeing the pain and grief of all those present, wept at his friend's tomb before calling him forth from the tomb. I think that is one of the most comforting verses in the Bible (and also the shortest, depending on your Bible translation). Jesus weeps with us, in all our pain and sorrow and grief, through our feelings of disappointment and lamentation and anger, through the whole span of our lives. Even though we know and believe that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, even though we believe in him, even though we believe that when we die, we will yet live, it is the human thing for us to have all these feelings. It is good for us to remember that even Jesus, who knew who he was and what he was about to do, had a heart that was so in tune with the pain of everyone there, that he himself wept.
When we grieve the death of our loved ones, life might feel like nothing but ashes as we lament there will be no more memories to be made together, no more hugs to share, no more glimpses of our loved one's face in this life. We all know this feeling because we're human beings on this earth for a short time. But when we sink into the heart of our grief, we will find God. In all of the ashes of our life, God grieves with us. In all of our despair, in walks Jesus who speaks to us of love and resurrection and new life with tears streaming down his face. Jesus understands there is no avoiding our human condition. There is no avoiding the pain we so often inflict on ourselves and others. There is no avoiding the pain of separation when our loved ones die. But we are invited into this story of Lazarus and his family and all the other stories in scripture to draw near to the heart of God, who bears our pain with us and calls us to rise again. In our story, Lazarus does rise physically from the dead, and as word of that miracle spreads, the fate of Jesus is sealed. Although there was danger for himself, Jesus chose to come near to grieve with Mary and Martha and remind them that he is the resurrection and the life . . . and he will always come near to us. Nothing ever stops Jesus from coming to us, through every valley that is shadowed by death, through every horror and injustice we face in the world, through the ashes of all our grief and despair, to share our sorrow and remind us that he is the resurrection and the life, and that death is not the end of any of our stories. When we decide to follow Jesus, we have indeed begun our own journey into eternal life. We know that rejoicing comes in the morning, no matter how deep the ashes get during the night. During Lent, as we draw ever nearer to the foot of the cross, let us remember that it is into the hands of God that we commend each other, knowing that God enfolds us all now and forever.
Gracious God, though we may feel our world is spinning out of control, we are comforted that you know our pain and never leave us to face our troubles alone. We are comforted that you call us forth from the ashes of death into the rejoicing of new life. May we follow Christ's lead to comfort and encourage one another as we journey together in Christ's name and for his sake. Amen.
Rev. Deb Bolen
Minister, First Christian Church of Cambridge
Spiritual Life Committee
The full Lenten Devotional Booklet can be downloaded by clicking HERE.