Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

August 18, 2020
Jesus shares our grief during times of loss

If anyone has ever played Bible trivia or tried to pad their numbers for a scripture memorization contest they are most likely familiar with the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Even if you have never been interested in Bible trivia or Jesus  in general, you may find it interesting that arguably the most significant person in human history was weeping. 

I have often felt in seasons of loss I would have liked to see another statement like “Jesus laughed” but it does not exist. Do I believe Jesus laughed? Absolutely. Do I have scriptural proof? Not directly. And while I don’t usually like to argue from a point of absence you will find that Jesus brought joy with Him even from the time He was in Mary’s womb (Luke 1:44). 

That being said the context of this shortest verse is far more important than my speculation about divine laughter, because it tells us something about Jesus entering into our grief and loss. If you would like to read the context in full for yourself, and I recommend that, you will find it John 11:1-44. 

Chapter 11 opens by introducing John’s readers to a friend of Jesus who was ill named Lazarus. Lazarus’s sisters had sent word to Jesus, that His dear friend was very ill. Jesus and His disciples were about twenty miles away when the news reached him. But Jesus did not leave immediately, in fact He waited two full days before He told His disciples it was time to go to Lazarus in Bethany. 

Life is complicated and sometimes it feels like grief and loss could not come at a worse time. You may have secretly identified with the sign that says “Cheer up, things could be worse, so I cheered up and sure enough things got worse.” The complication in this case was that Jesus was a wanted man and not in a good way. The last time He was in the area of Bethany there were people seeking to stone Him to death. Some of the disciples were concerned about going back and when Jesus told them Lazarus was dead it made a potential visit even less attractive. One of the great ironies of scripture is the man who was better remembered for his doubt than his courage steps in at this point of the story. “Then Thomas (called Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (John 11:16 NIV). 

The burial of the dead in the culture at that point in history was done immediately at the time of death. Lazarus had been in his tomb four days. Jesus had not quite reached the home of the sisters when one of them, Martha, came to meet Him and said “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21 NIV). The one word that always appears in the midst of loss and grief is “if” — only two letters to carry such an enormous burden. “If only the doctor had. If only he hadn’t gone out. If only I hadn’t left her alone.” The other sister, Mary, the one who had earlier poured perfume on Jesus, now added her own “if.” 

Then Jesus looking around at the other mourners, those with allegations and doubt and shed tears and then called Lazarus from his tomb. 

Jesus does not leave us alone in the circumstances or complication of our grief. While we may not see or feel His response He is always on time, sharing our burden in the face of accusation, doubt and faithlessness. 

Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.

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