“Jesus wept” The sorrow of losing a dear friend
Do you know the hymn “What a Friend I have in Jesus”? When I was at Sunday School, this was one that we sang regularly and one that I really loved. As an only child I became very used to relying on my own company but there was something very reassuring in knowing that when I did feel a bit lonely and wished I had a sibling or a friend at my side, I need not worry because Jesus was my friend and was always with me though good times and bad.
Jesus as friend to all is an important foundation of our faith. It doesn’t matter who we are, what we do, how we look, Jesus accepts us in all our brokenness and invites us in to His company just like He did during His time on earth. However unworthy we might feel of His love, He continues to reach out to us and indeed it was that inclusivity that often led to Jesus being criticised by those who viewed themselves as the more respectable side of Judean society. Jesus loved to hang out with all the people others would actively ignore. He chose to spend time with the lost and the lonely, not because He had to but because He longed to draw them into a relationship with God that would be life- giving.
But we need to remember at the heart of Jesus’s incarnation was HIs humanity as well as His divinity. And part of being human is the need for connection with others, having people in our lives that we can truly relax with. Jesus had such people in HIs life, notably Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus. He was always welcome in their home, which was a sanctuary to Him, somewhere He could kick back and enjoy good food and fellowship with those dear to Him.
However tragedy strikes this family as we read in John 11 as word reached Jesus that Lazarus is sick Now you would think that on hearing that his dear friend was so poorly, Jesus would go haring back to Bethany to see him. That would be the natural reaction of most of us. But Jesus remains where He is for a further two days, during which time Lazarus dies. Jesus knows this but when He arrives at the home of His friends He still has a very natural emotional response – “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) – the shortest verse in the Bible but one of such poignancy that it certainly brings tears to my eye as well. In HIs divinity Jesus knows that Lazarus will be resurrected but in His humanity He weeps for His friends, for Lazarus’s death and his sisters’ grief.
Many of us have lost people we have loved over these past few months, not just to Covid-19, but to other causes. It has been hard to mourn as we might normally do, with restrictions on visiting people who have been ill and the numbers able to attend funeral. We lament the loss of of loved ones while trying to celebrate all that has been good in their lives.
Jesus knew what it felt like to lose a friend, He understood how grief can tear us apart, He comforts us as we weep.
Unlike Lazarus, we will not see the earthly miracle of our loved ones being raised from the dead. But a miracle will occur nonetheless. We may not see our friends in this world again but we are assured that we will be reunited with them in the place that Jesus prepares for us all. Whatever we envisage heaven to be, that is where we will once more know the presence of those who go before us. That is our hope and that is the promise of God.
Throughout this week we have reflected on all sorts of friendships. In our own lives we will experience friendships that will bless us in different ways. Jesus knew the value of true friends. They are indeed a gift from God. So let us continually thank God for that gift – for friends far and near, for those that bless us now and for those whose presence we sorely miss, and let us pray for our friends that they too might be blessed in this life and the next.