I think it would be fair to say that I have been known to weep at the lectern at Trinity Church , or at the side of someone who is hurting at the side of one who I love. I often say that my greatest strength is the big heart that the Lord gave me for his people and I also say that it is also my greatest weakness for in order to have a big heart we must be prepared to be vulnerable to be sensitive and so we must be prepared to hurt.
The day after Paul, our last minister died, his wife Kate asked me to visit her. Although in my prayers all I had wanted to do was sit beside her and share her grief, the thought terrified me, it terrified me because I couldn’t possibly know her pain. I felt impotent, because I knew there was nothing I could say, there was nothing I could do. When we were alone, we sat together and cried, we held each other and together we wept as we shared our personal and unique grief, because that was all we could do, because there are not words in a situation like that.
I shared my experience with my tutor at college, I also shared my disappointment in myself when I weep with those I love, when I in front of you. I shared my fear of weeping when I lead a funeral, my fear of appearing weak, inadequate, thin skinned with a heart too big and too vulnerable for ministry. It was this scripture that my tutor turned to and it was these words which I read with relief;
35 Jesus wept.
36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
Jesus wept, Jesus saw Mary and the others suffering and their grief tore at his heart and he stood beside them and he wept.
There are times in our life when all we can do is stand with people we love and weep with them, we weep with them in their suffering because we have to let their suffering take its course. We sit beside them in their dark places and we wait for the light to return, for those of faith know the light will return he will shine again. Jesus knew that day that Lazarus would return to them, but still he wept.
One of the hardest things I find as a mum is watching my daughter suffer, I think we all know the feeling of powerlessness when our children are hurting. All we want to do is take whatever is making them hurt away. Jesus must have felt that way as he saw his friends hurting. But he knew that we have to have faith in Gods timing even when God’s timing isn’t as immediate as we would like. Jesus knew that there are times when God allows us to be in difficult places. Because sometimes we need to be in those dark and painful places to draw near to God, to rely on God and to allow him to change something deep within our lives. Because sometimes it is in the darkness of the tomb when something has to die in order that it might be made new, and when something dies there is pain but in that death and through that suffering a greater purpose is revealed.
Sometimes we have to be in the dark tomb to know the blinding sunshine when we walk out of the darkness into the light. Sometimes we need time in the tomb before Jesus calls us by name and we walk into the light leaving behind a part of us which needed to die. Sometimes we have to let go and we have to let things die, but in that death a greater purpose is revealed. The difficult thing is the not knowing and that is where faith comes in. Some of us may be in our own tombs today and we may feel that the light will never come. But it will. It will in but in Gods time.
When we come to this story we already know what happens in the end, but remember those gathered at the grave that day, the last thing they expected was a resurrection from death. Lazarus had been dead for four days, Martha and Mary thought that all was lost and that they would never see their brother again and yet his death and his resurrection happened in Gods time, and it led to Jesus declaring His most powerful statement of His ministry: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. “
We are those people we are a resurrected people, and to be resurrected something has to die; something has to perish so that we might find life, that we may be made new and that hurts.
As a result of this dramatic resurrection it says;“ many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” The effect of Lazarus’ resurrection was so powerful that people were brought to faith. There was a reason for his death, there was a reason for his loved ones mourning and suffering and the reason was to bring about the faith of those Jesus was going to die for.
But still, Jesus wept.
Why? Because God takes no pleasure in our suffering. Because God knows our pain and sorrows and He’s saddened because of what we endure. That’s why Jesus wept. Jesus is by our side in our weeping he is with us in the darkness and he sends the spirit to comfort us, it says in the word; “… the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.” the Spirit weeps with us, feels our pain and communicates the depths of our emotions to God the Father.
We may feel alone in the tomb, but we aren’t, we may not see any light but the Lord is waiting to call us by name. There will be times in our lives when we may not know how to express our pain and suffering. And even if we could put those feelings into words – it wouldn’t begin to touch how deeply we’ve been hurt. But that doesn’t matter! Because, God shares our suffering and we don’t need to put our sorrows into words, because God’s Spirit intercedes for us with groans. Those words which we can not find, those words which we cant express are shared with the father through the Holy spirit. And through the Holy Spirit God KNOWS precisely how we feel at every moment in our lives. He is there at the best of times and he is there at the worst of times and when we are hurting, when we are in those dark places he weeps. He weeps because;
He cares for you.
He understands you.
He loves you so much He wants you to know that He feels your deepest sorrows.
He wants you to know that he weeps with you because he loves you.
You may feel in a dark tomb today but the story of Lazarus should encourage you, it should remind you that the Lord is not only with us but he weeps with us, he comes to us in our dark places and he will create something new and something beautiful. He will call us by name and he will bring us into the light in his good timing so we must be patient and have faith. Mary was impatient with Jesus, she questioned his timing because she didn’t know the end of the story. But we do, so we can be assured that God will always hear us and God will always answer our prayers and God will always bring us into the light.