Losses must be grieved.
The greater the loss, the more devastating the grief. In His grace, the Lord provides a healing context for our grief. We learn about this from the Gospel narrative.
The long Sabbath day between the crucifixion and the first day of the week was a day of grief like no other. The anonymous faces in the Jerusalem crowds who had only seen Jesus or heard His voice grieved the loss of a hope, mild though it may have been, that Messiah would come and deliver them from the iron grip of Rome. Those who were once were blind, deaf, dumb, sick, and lame who could now see, hear, speak, work, and walk in fullness of health had lost their healer. They must have grieved their loss even in their new found health.
Mary of Magdala was one of these.
She had been possessed by seven demons and had served at the pleasure of countless cruel men, yet the life she knew before Jesus was stark and empty. Her grief at the loss of Him threatened to return her to that desolate state. Grief compounded by fear would have made her a fountain or tears if she had had any tears left to shed.
The disciples scattered, each grieving in his own way.
James and John, the “Sons of Thunder,” were silent, unable to think, or to imagine life without Jesus. Peter, the third member of the inner circle of the disciples, could not stop thinking, remembering his sniveling denials, trembling leaf-like before strangers and a servant girl, pleading no knowledge of the man on trial. He, the boaster, the leader, the confessor, was now the broken, the liar, and the coward.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus of Bethany
This family grieved the loss of a true friend and more than that, the loss of hope; His absence was more commanding than His presence had been.
- Mary could still smell the aroma of the perfume on her hands from the alabaster jar she had broken. Her premonition of His death did little to comfort her now that it had actually happened.
- Martha thought of all the meals she had prepared for Him and the joyful way He had consumed her offerings. He made a meal of life, living each day to its fullest. The thought of never serving Him again, was almost more than she could bear.
- Lazarus knew more than the others about where Jesus went when breath left His body. He tried to imagine what Jesus’ entrance into Abraham’s bosom would be like—surely those dead and waiting there would live again—he had!
Mary and the Family of Jesus
Grief had touched the family of Jesus once before, when Joseph died. When death claimed the man who helped Jesus grow to be a man, a craftsman, a businessman, a responsible and loving man who could shoulder a man’s responsibility, Jesus comforted the rest of the family. Who would comfort them now?
Mary had lived most of her life treasuring things in her heart that most people never imagined.
She knew the awful prophecies of Isaiah about how Messiah must suffer and bear the sins of all. She remembered the words of the old man Simeon at the Temple on the day that she and Joseph presented Jesus to the Lord, “A sword shall pierce your heart.” On this Sabbath she felt the sharp blade of the sword. Unlike the others, Mary’s grief was tinged with hope. She had learned to listen carefully to the words of her Son and to remember them. He predicted His death, surely enough, but usually with another prediction—he would come back from death in three days. Even in her weakened condition, exhausted from the horrid spectacle of the trials, scourging, and crucifixion, this hope restrained her grief. Perhaps she was the only one of His follower who rested any at all on that Saturday.
That Saturday of grief slowly melted into night. The mocking sun, with it empty promise of light, retreated in shame beneath the western horizon. The darkness somehow did not feel the same. Perhaps tomorrow…
Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
“We are going up to Jerusalem…and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
It was Preparation Day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. The women who had come with Jesus from Galilee followed Joseph and saw the tomb and how his body was laid in it. Then they went home and prepared spices and perfumes. But they rested on the Sabbath in obedience to the commandment.
Lord Jesus, Your redemption is so complete You even provide a context of hope in which we can grieve our losses. You give us hope as the antidote for our grief and as we focus on You the antidote takes effect and our grief is abated. Losses will come to us in this life, but You have walked this path before and even now You are our Companion-in-the-way. Many time in each our lives we feel like we occupy the days between the empty cross and the empty tomb, days of grief to be sure, but also days of hope. Thank You, Lord. Amen.
O Sacred Head Now Wounded
Words: Bernard of Clairvaux; Music: Passion Chorale (Hassler)
1. O sacred head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,
Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, your only crown.
O sacred head, what glory and blessing you have known!
Yet, though despised and gory, I claim you as my own.
2. My Lord, what you did suffer was all for sinner’s gain;
Mine was the transgression, but yours the deadly pain.
So here I kneel, my Savior, for I deserve your place;
Look on me with thy favor and save me by your grace.
3. What language shall I borrow to thank you, dearest Friend,
For this, your dying sorrow, your pity without end?
Lord, make me yours forever,a loyal servant true,
And let me never, never outlive my love to you.
© 2017 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved