It’s been a blah day. Did I say day?–month. January is notorious as “divorce” month, and it is undoubtably the coldest month for northerners to endure. So yes… blah. Picture the adults from Charlie Brown kind of blah. Everything a blur of garbled words, of unconscious motion. And the sense that the -11 temp had somehow seeped into my heart. Trying to turn up it’s heat only fogged up my mind.
I needed truth and grace when all I seemed to have was tears and anger.
This lovely exposition popped up in my google search; since then, I’ve been reeling.
It’s a talk given by a speaker whom I love, only days after 9/11.
First the prayers. Individuals from different backgrounds and cultures praying for a hurting nation after the greatest tragedy since Pearl Harbor. A city and nation which prided itself with accomplishment and power was left unhinged. And the grieving began.
And.. so did the lame-sauce “answers” for the tragedy:
1. We are being judged–for (Democrats) our lack of care for global justice (Republicans) our lack of moral values.
2. THEY are the evil ones (even subhuman.) WE are the good.
In the midst of this, the best leaders spoke not of answers. They spoke of hope– a hope to see new life come blazing from the ashes.
And then this story
Jesus hears a good friend of His is dying. So he hits the road and on the way into Bethany, meets up with both of the sisters of his now dead friend, Lazaras. Though Jesus is intending to (and later does) raise Lazarus from the dead, he also responds very acutely to what he’s hearing from Lazarus’ sisters.
the first sister
Martha said to Him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
There’s the truth that no one was expecting. Jesus claims not only to hold the power to raise the dead, but claims to embody that power–to be new life for anyone who believes. But he doesn’t stop with speaking the truth…
the second sister
“Then when Mary came where Jesus was and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord come and see. Jesus wept.
Truth, Tears, Anger, & Grace Why is it that out of those four all I really hear about from Christians are the two bookends–truth & grace.
Though it’s translated “He groaned in the spirit and was troubled” the actual Greek words used refer much more to the emotion of anger. He was angry. Angry at death and the havoc it had already caused. And though he knew he would conquer it, death was still worth being mad at.
And then He was sorrowful, and in his tears he didn’t just weep out of sorrow for His own loss. I believe His own grief was for not just the temporary loss his friend’s life, but the lives of countless others before and after. The sting of death was felt by God even before the cross, and He wept.
grace, a gift undeserved
While still grieving, Jesus told the people to roll away the stone over the tomb where they’d placed Lazarus. Four days his corpse had been rotting, so with some convincing, they consented.
Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said. “Father I thank you that You have heard Me. And I know that you always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this. that they may believe that you sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice. “Lazarus come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with grave clothes. Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the religious leaders and told them the things Jesus did… Then from that day on they plotted to put him to death.
Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead knowing this would eventually lead to his own death– all as a prequel of what he did for the rest of humanity on the cross. He knew pain, injustice, tragedy more deeply than any human to walk this planet. And he did not stop there; to prove that suffering is never a waste, He made a way to God through His own. He died so that real death would never have to touch anyone again.
Whether or not you can believe this story to be historical truth, the process with which Jesus grieved–truth, tears, anger & grace will always be the only complete way to find hope amidst evil, tragedy, and death. This kind of hope doesn’t seek cheap answers. This hope weeps, curses loss, and yet rubs the joy of new life in the face of death.
**this is my own mini-recap of a talk given by Tim Keller entitled “Truth, Tears, Anger, and Grace” props to him.
the bible passage can be found in the book of John, chapter 11.