Grieving With Christ

Article by David Nelson

Lazarus didn’t look good. Mary and Martha watched their brother grow weaker and weaker. His skin looked pale and yellow. He started coughing, sometimes with blood. They knew he was dying, so they sent word to the Healer.

Jesus received the news with seemingly little concern. “’Lord, the one you love is sick.’ When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it’” (John 11:3-4). Oh, so Jesus is going to go and heal His friend, right? “When he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days” (John 11:6). **** Meanwhile, Martha and Mary buried their brother and all hopes they had that Jesus was coming to heal him.

When I watched my dad turn from bad to worse in June 2014, I wondered whether God heard my prayers. Whether He listened to me as I cried for Him to heal my dad. Instead, I was left to watch my dad die in our family’s dining room — lying in the hospital bed hospice care brought over. I wondered where God was in these moments. In His loving kindness, God shows us His response to our pain.

For the Thinkers…

Martha stared at the stone in front of her brother’s tomb. “Where is he?” she thought to herself. She looked over the horizon and saw a couple of the disciples and then Jesus coming over the hill. She hurried over to Him and let out what she had been holding in.

“Lord, had you been here my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). I know how Martha felt. She felt betrayed, abandoned, and lonely. Moreover, she questioned God’s goodness. She knew, had Christ been around, healing would have come. Though we, like Martha, mourn over our pain and our loss, we must also hold on to what she said next. “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” (John 11:22).

Martha knows it is Christ who is in control. Ultimately, everything that occurs is by His hand. Every thing was created by Him, through Him, and for Him. He holds mastery over every situation, including those in dire straits. He could fix this problem and, Martha knew, He could raise Lazarus.

While Martha understood Jesus could physically heal now, she also needed to understand Jesus will restore everything in the future. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26). Jesus could have walked over and raised Lazarus right away, but instead He reminds Martha of the gospel. Why? Lazarus will, one day, be in the grave for good. Jesus needs Martha (and us) to understand that there remains a finality in death, but that a physical resurrection is coming. Jesus ensures we do not lose heart now or in the future.

For the Feelers…

Mary had a similar response to Martha, only with one glaring difference. “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’” (John 11:32). Mary had no sight of God’s sovereignty, God’s providence, or God’s power. She just felt grief. She just felt sorrow. She wouldn’t be comforted with a Gospel reminder, nor a lesson on future glory. She needed to be known.

“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35). Jesus offers Mary no words. No lessons on glorification, nor even of His resurrecting power. Instead, God gives Mary tears. He didn’t say anything to her, but He demonstrates to her that her pain is also His. He is not disinterested in the way she feels, nor off put by her sorrow. Instead, He reveals His compassion and love toward the hurting. The cries of the grieving are not met with God’s displeasure, but with His weeping.

The Glory of God in Suffering

Jesus waited a couple of days to see Lazarus. He did this, “so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). How was Jesus glorified? This entire ordeal demonstrated His knowledge, His wisdom, His compassion, His kindness, His gentleness, and, eventually, His power in raising Lazarus from the grave. Additionally, the death and resurrection of Lazarus is used so, “that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:42). Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead that we would come to know Him as the one who raises us up from the dead. Not just that Christ will one day raise our physical bodies, but that He raises our souls from spiritual death.

This is the message He gave to Martha and to us. “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” Every Christian in pain will agree to this statement in their minds, but they’ll struggle to believe this in their hearts. So, let it be known to such believers, that Jesus weeps with you today. Jesus doesn’t overlook or neglect your sorrow. He is the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. Moreover, He is the resurrection and the life. No one, including you, who believes in Him will die.


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