The day comes to all families when death wins over this fragile flesh. While those we love go on to glory and are immediately embraced by Yeshua upon stepping over the threshold of this life, we are still here on this earth without them. They are met with love, joy, and freedom, and we are happy beyond measure for them. But our hearts ache for their tangible presence in this life, where we must live without them until our own bodies give way to the earth.
I’ve been struggling with the mundane tasks of life the last couple of days. I made food, I changed diapers, I bought groceries, and all the while, I wondered where my family was. The dear brother and sister that God gave my husband and I were hurting today. They probably spent most of the day hovering near a hospital bed, talking to doctors, and making heart-wrenching decisions. I feel frustrated that things in life “go on” when grief strikes us and lays us bare. It doesn’t seem right that in one moment, our entire lives can be changed, people can be torn away from us, and the rest of the world keeps spinning as if nothing had happened.
Thus far I have only lost one grandparent. My father’s mother, my Bubbe, died about four years ago on Chanukkah, the day after Christmas that year. I was not allowed to go to her memorial because my Zayde is a Rabbi and having a believer in Yeshua at her funeral would have dishonored her memory and shamed my family before the entire Jewish community. Of course, it’s not widely known that I believe Yeshua is our Jewish Messiah, but my father and my aunt’s family knew I would not be ashamed to share it. My sisters went. I heard accounts of the funeral and the shiva at my Zayde’s apartment in New York. By all accounts, it was horrific. Death always is. I had been at home, going about “what needed to be done,” feeling the way I do now, wondering how things continue after someone we love does not. How insidiously evil death is to make a person feel so small and insignificant in the moment when they need the most strength.
And yet, even while life goes on, the world keeps spinning, and the minutiae of the day needs attending to, there is a truth so soul-shaking, so heart-stirring, so earth-moving, that we can place our entire lives in the hands of God. A truth so revealing of His great love for us and His eternal empathy, that we cannot help but run to His feet in our grief. A truth so infinitely vast that it can consume all of our doubts, fears and sorrows.
“Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.” – John 11:32-35 ESV
Jesus knew that He was about to walk to cave of Lazarus’s tomb and raise him from the dead. Jesus knew that in mere minutes, He would again hear his friend’s voice and see his face. Jesus knew that He had come to bring the dead to life and there was no doubt in His mind that this would take place. And Jesus still wept.
Even the unbelieving Jews that had come to mourn with Martha at the tomb marveled at how Yeshua must have loved Lazarus. His display was not a perfunctory display of tears and He did not hide His grief before those gathered around the mourners. He felt the pain of Mary and Martha in losing their brother and the sting of death on the earth. It was unfathomably bitter and Jesus, “deeply moved,” wept with Mary and Martha for the loss they had just suffered.
Death on this earth does not negate the promise of eternal life. We who believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was a sacrifice thus giving us free access to God and life everlasting in heaven can never lose sight of the amazing eternal plan God has for us. However, Jesus Himself, when confronted with severity of death, wept.
He could have told Mary and Martha, “Stop crying, don’t you know I can raise him back to life?” But, Jesus didn’t say that, He wept. He could have rebuked them saying, “Do you not believe that he is now in paradise and will live forever?” He did not say that either, instead Jesus wept.
Sometimes, we want to comfort people by trying to pull them out of their grief. People say a myriad of things to mourners that do not need to be said because they want to make the person “feel better.” The presence of grief commands self-examination. For Jesus, this process led Him to weep. He knew the reality that He had come to take the keys of death and the grave, but He still allowed Himself to feel the sting of mortality on the earth.
The Word of God says that it is better to be in a house of mourning than in a house of feasting and that the heart of the wise is there (Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4). Psalm 116:15 says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Yeshua said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” We have the unspeakable, profound, privilege of being comforted by the Holy Spirit and He is faithful to comfort us when we grieve.
Wherever you find yourself today, remember the sober truth that, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
If that’s a confession you have not yet made, today is your chance. There will be a day when “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,” but that’s a promise made only to those who believe in Yeshua. That promise is not made to the “good people,” or the “nice people,” or the “did enough good deeds” people. That is a promise reserved solely for those who trusted God enough to put their faith in His Son’s ability to save them.
The woman for whom we mourn today was taken from us suddenly, but she is with the Lord, Jesus, even as we weep. You do not get to choose the day of your death. The only way to make certain of where you will be when that day comes is to surrender yourself to the reality that you do not have control over your life or the ability to save yourself and to put your trust solidly in the only One Who does.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” – Romans 5:6-11