Although we’ve now moved into February, today’s post finishes up a series from January talking about Godly emotions and attitudes. We wrap up with how to mourn well as a Christian.
Mourning is a part of life. We cry when our loved ones die. We cry when life changes unexpectedly, and there’s seemingly nothing we can do about it. We weep for the lost around us, those who don’t know Christ. We weep over sin in our lives. We mourn. But how do we do it in such a way that God is glorified by it?
In John 11:17-44, Jesus Himself shows us how to mourn with Godly sorrow over the loss of a loved one. In this passage, He does something we would not expect.
Jesus has learned that his friend Lazarus has died, so He goes to Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters. He comes to comfort them and be with them, but, as we also know, He’s come to raise Lazarus from the dead. So Jesus, it would seem, would be okay. There would be no need for Him to mourn, because He knows that this is temporary. He even says it in verse 11, right before our passage starts: “After saying these things, he (Jesus) said to them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.'” Jesus is fully aware that this is not the end for Lazarus.
And yet, when we get to verse 33, we find Jesus “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” Jesus is literally a few minutes away from raising Lazarus from the grave, and yet, Jesus is still greatly troubled. And then we come to verse 35, the shortest verse in all of Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
Jesus wept. The King of all creation wept at the loss of His friend. Here Jesus shows us that He really is fully God and fully man, as He both weeps over the death of His friend and, as God, overcomes death.
So what can we take from this? Three things:
1) Death is not part of God’s good design. If we go back to Eden, the punishment for sin was death. We read in Romans 6:23 that the “wages of sin is death.” Christ, in His weeping, understood the horror of the fall, of the death that has come to God’s creation as a result of sin–both physical death and spiritual death. Isn’t this a beautiful image? The God whom we have sinned against weeps over His fallen creation. The holy God of the universe has compassion on His sinful creatures. And in Christ, He’s done something about it.
2) Death is not final. Jesus, in verse 43, yells inside the tomb and cries, “Lazarus, come out.” Here we have a small picture of the victory Christ wins over death. At the end of the book of John, we see the risen Christ, eternally conquering death for those who turn and trust in Him. Paul describes the resurrection of the believer in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22–“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” If we are in Christ, that is, we are submitted to Him as Lord, trusting Him to help us follow Him, and we trust in Him for salvation, we will conquer death as well. In Christ, there is no eternal death. And one day, death will be no more: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”–Rev. 21:4
3) Until that wonderful day comes, it is okay to weep, even as we trust God’s promises. Here’s how we mourn in such a way that it honors God: We weep while believing the promises of God. Jesus wept, while knowing that Lazarus’ death was temporary. He wept as He went to the cross in our place, knowing that He would be raised from the dead. And we weep now, truly and genuinely experiencing loss, angry and broken at the fallen world around us and the sinful flesh within us that caused it. But we are also hopeful, believing the promises of God: that for those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no eternal death. We remain hopeful, looking forward to the day where we, the body of Christ, and the rest of the world, are finally and fully redeemed.
Christian, if Jesus wept, you are most certainly free to weep. The hope of the gospel does not take away the legitimate pain we feel at the loss of a loved one, or at the suffering we experience in this world. But it does give us assurance that death, sin and Satan do not have the final word. Jesus does, and He has declared victory for everyone who trusts in Him as Lord and Savior. That victory will not be fully realized until He comes back. Our hope is not in having “our best life now,” but in the life that is to come, where we are with Jesus forever, where our love for Him and joy in Him is complete, where we are just like Him, and sin and suffering are gone forever.
My grandmother on my dad’s side passed away this week. I didn’t know her all that well, but I had the joy and privilege of meeting her and spending time with her before she passed. And while I don’t know much about her, I know that she trusted and loved Jesus Christ, and I know that she is with Him now. So while there is great sadness over loss, and sorrow that she is gone, we rejoice in the hope of the gospel. We mourn well, trusting God in good times and in bad.
Lord, in the hard times that this life brings, in the midst of intense suffering, whether it’s the loss of a loved one, persecution, or just tough life circumstances, may we trust in your promises. May we find in you, Jesus, the freedom to weep, to mourn, to grieve, all the while trusting that you are still God, and that one day, we will see you, and all of our loved ones in Christ. May we “always be ready to make a defense for the hope” that we have in you, a hope of eternal life, a hope of salvation, of perfection, that one day will be fully realized when you come back. Hasten that day, Lord.