“Deeply moved in the spirit and troubled, Jesus asked, ‘Where have you laid him?’” and “Jesus wept”
John 11:33 – 35
The signs of spring are around us, even though we had snow just a week ago. It a beautiful time of year, although I would like it to be a little bit warmer. But as I look around I see signs of the devastation of the winter storms – of broken and cut off branches, And as some flowers and trees begin to bloom there are others which show bare branches reminding us that this is, a season of yes but not yet, a season of betwixt and between.
We live our lives in the midst of the yes but not yet, of the betwixt and between, between birth and death. We are reminded of this by the news of death coming near. Death comes near and often without our having much to say about it. We struggle against it. We strive to put off its inevitability.
Death is a reality of our life. We hear of it almost daily in the news. We find it in the Bible – from Genesis 3 through to Revelation, death is part of the story. Death is more than moving away or change in in circumstance. It has a finality which makes it so frightening and why so many work to leave a legacy. It may be a monument, or some achievement, or, as is the case in story of Abraham and Sarah, a family.
I remember my first experience of death. It was my grandfather who had been ill with cancer and heart problems. I had turned 6 while we were visiting him as we had for every summer up to then. We had made the drive back to Idaho from Iowa arriving late. The phone call came early in the morning the next day. So, after a few loads of laundry, my brother, mother and father got back into the car and drove the straight through the night.
I remember the sadness, especially of my mother. I remember the stories and the discussion of whether I should go to the funeral. (I did, but I didn’t go to the cemetery.) I remember seeing my grandfather’s things around the house and the sudden realization that he would not be back.
“Deeply moved in the spirit and troubled, Jesus asked, ‘Where have you laid him?’” and “Jesus wept” (John 11:33 – 35)
Some who there and saw it where touched that Jesus loved Lazarus and wept. Others, more cynical questioned why Jesus couldn’t have kept him from dying. Perhaps we have the same question when death comes near to us.
At times like that what I don’t need are simplistic answers and clichés which so easily trip off the tongue. What I need is a presence and the surety of the promise that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Lazarus found this. The thief on the cross found this. The Apostle Paul found this when he wrote – “O death where is our victory. Death, where is your sting.”
But the promise of Easter, the promise of the resurrection isn’t just something for our future when our bodies succumb to illness, or injury, or age. It is the promise for a renewed life now. Or as Gerhard Frost wrote in poem in his retirement: “Expect more! Expect to see more light in what you’ve understood; more beauty; more truth; more goodness.” And “Thank you, God, in this late hour that you are there.”
God be with you in life and in death, for that is the message of the cross and resurrection.
Pastor Ron Kempe