As you may or may not know, one of the things I do at the newspaper I work for is write obituary stories we call Postscripts. I used to jokingly say my beat at the newspaper is “old people, dead people and God,” but with this past year of so much death and sickness, that seems terribly flippant and disrespectful to those who are grieving.
Recently, I talked to the loved ones of 12 people from Citrus County who died this past year from COVID-19. The people who died were dads and granddads, mothers, grandmas, spouses, neighbors, friends.
One couple, Angie and Bo Trascoy, were married for 67 years and died three days apart, three weeks before Christmas.
The oldest person was 97, the youngest only 51.
One woman told me she and her husband were both in the hospital with COVID-19 at the same time, but only she came home. She also lost a daughter to the disease and several other people close to her. Death is our enemy.
This morning I was reading about Jesus and his friend, Lazarus, whom the gospel of John says Jesus loved. Jesus also loved his friend’s sisters, Martha and Mary.
It’s an interesting account: Lazarus is very sick and Jesus is out of town when he gets the message to come quickly — and then he stays away for two more days. On the way back into town he tells his disciples, “Lazarus is dead.” He didn’t, however, tell them he was going to raise him back to life.
Here’s what caught my attention: Even though Jesus knew what he was about to do, that it would bring joy to Martha and Mary and all who loved Lazarus, when Jesus saw their grief, he wept. The shortest, most poignantly telling verse in all the Bible: “Jesus wept.”
Different Bible translations of the verse prior to that say Jesus “groaned in the spirit and was troubled;” he was “deeply moved to the point of anger at the sorrow caused by death;” he was “moved by their pain” and “greatly distressed.” The creator of the universe moved to tears, weeping with those who wept.
About this passage, Taylor Worley, a theology professor at Trinity International University, writes, “The love and mercy demonstrated here will define him (Jesus) forever. “Jesus can’t feign heartbreak; instead his compassion reaches, moves and eventually descends into outright agony. It is agony at the loss of a friend, but also, it seems, grief over all death.”
One of the things Jesus came to do was conquer and abolish death.
“And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain” (Revelation 21:4).
Until then, we get sick. We get injured. We die and others weep.
But Jesus weeps too.
His Spirit is our great comforter, in all things small and great.
He groans with us, because he knows what it’s like to be a frail human.
Even more than that, as Almighty God who became flesh and dwelt among us, picked up his cross, carried our sins, died the death we deserved, he also weeps tears of mercy and compassion for the very ones who caused his death.
Our God who weeps — what a savior!