Wednesday, December 04, 2013

When Grief and Redemption Intertwine


Jn.19: 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:
34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.
35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.
36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.
37 And again another scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.
41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid.
42 There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.

Have you ever been to a funeral of someone you truly loved? Early in the morning way before the sun came up in a single bed hospital room I watched my mother slowly die at age 44. I was 21 years old. I was so grief stricken that throughout my life I have developed a defense mechanism where I rarely ever think of her or that event. I can feel pain as I write. And I refused to go to the viewing because I was emotionally incapacitated. I remember standing at the side of the coffin and as it was made ready to lower into the ground. I have never felt such grief since.

Death is such an horrifying enemy. Many days after my mother died I can remember feeling an intense sense of irreversibility and emptiness and helplessness. I have presided over many funerals as a preacher and I have witnessed outpourings of those same emotions. I have seen babies, wives, husbands, teenagers, and young and old buried. The feeling you get when you watch as someone dies is indescribable. I have been by other hospital beds and seen people slip into eternity. I have seen a car accident right in front of me as I stood along a roadside and saw a man literally killed.

It is a numbing experience which also includes all kinds of emotions. But if you have witnessed a loved one die, or have had to attend a loved one’s funeral, you know that it can devastate your emotions. You feel such a sense of brokenness and despair. Even when as believers at a funeral for another believer there is still a sense of death even though we do not despair as those which have no hope. The shortest verse in the Bible says that “Jesus wept” at the funeral of Lazarus.

So the narrative I have provided depicts the story of when the body of Jesus was taken off that cross and the two Mary’s along with some help prepared His body for burial. Even though we have the luxury of hindsight we still can feel a sense of deep sadness if not for anything else at least for His unspeakable cost and suffering He endured…for us. I think of His limp body, covered in bloody wounds, and actually disgusting to behold yet precious to those who have found redemption within those wounds.

Jesus has conquered death by dying. Please do not expect me to unpack that mystery and explain it as if I am teaching a math class. I cannot even begin to put in human context how God can die, and still be alive, and then resurrect again upon this earth. But what I do know is that the death of Jesus in all its horrific glory paid the price for sin for every and any sinner who would believe. Oh what a price He paid. Oh the excruciating pain He endured. Oh the protracted sufferings that permeated His being. And now look. He his dead and His body is lifeless. The paintings have cleaned Him up, but make no mistake, His body was a visual massacre. And if you look further you will understand that what he suffered went far beyond human nerve endings. He suffered the penalty of sin for us. Who among us can comprehend the depth of such pain?

His mother must have felt emotions that only a mother can experience. Yes, she knew He was different but still even she did not completely understand everything about the son she carried for nine months as a virgin. She must have been overwhelmed. And Mary Magdelene had been forgiven and cleansed of seven devils and had loved Jesus far above a love for a mere man. And there she is helping top perfume the body. I cannot even imagine preparing my mother’s body for burial, so to think how these two women felt as they rubbed His body with perfume is beyond me.

But in three days He will come forth to the amazement and unspeakable joy of His followers. And today we have experienced His love and redemption and through Him we have been made whole. But that should never insulate us from returning to Golgotha often and allowing the Spirit to further impress within us the significance of that death. And the deeper you allow yourself to see and experience the grief associated with His death then the more you will understand the depth and horror of your own sin. Sometimes I can hardly bear to think that not only did He bear the sufferings for my sin before he redeemed my soul, but He suffered for the many sin I have committed even after I came to know Him. Even now it brings tears to my eyes.

I was not, nor am I now, worthy of such love. When I return to the foot of the cross and see that bloody bag of bones I am unmasked and relieved of all religious pretence. I have nothing, absolutely nothing, but His grace. Do you think I have some writing talent of my own? Oh, my dear friends, you are wrong. Without Him I have nothing about which to write. Without the Spirit I am nothing but robotic machine typing out some meaningless thoughts. If you have been rescued by His grace, and if you have returned to that place of the skull, then you know as well as I that we stand naked before Him with not one shred of righteousness that does not wholly belong to Him.

And even in the midst of such joy and wonder, it refreshes the soul to return often to Calvary and see just how vile was and is our sin as well as just how magnificent was His atonement.

And yet the human death that we can see is just a portal the terrible second death.

Rev.20: 14 And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

It is not wrong to feel emotional about the death and sufferings of our Savior. In fact it seems to cleanse our hearts. But now I want to draw your attention to the profound and fathomless price that was paid. Who among us can profess to know and understand the place called hell? If you take the time to read all the New Testament descriptions of hell that alone should make us tremble. And that is clearly why death is an enemy and why Christ had to die if there to be any souls in heaven.

Away with all these false and self serving preachers who tell people fairy tales about how Christ died so that you can be rich and enjoy yourself here on earth. Our pleasure and fulfillment can never be found here. It must always be found in Christ. Those who attempt to use Jesus as a golden goose will soon be recompensed for their lies and damnable heresies. But we who have seen the light and realize how we were once headed to eternal punishment but now are headed to eternal bliss with Him are grateful for His earthly care but we are looking for Him and Him alone. Pilgrims we are and pilgrims we will still be until we see Him who actually did suffer and die so that we could see that day of eternal glory.

Oh what a Savior! Halleluiah to our Great Redeemer! How great Thou art our Wonderful Lord! While still in these mortal bodies we can still feel grief over what He suffered and over our own sin. But on that day when we are given immortal bodies we will be able to see Him as He is. And there are those nail wounds still visible in His heavenly hands. But now we feel no sadness and no remorse. All the tears have been wiped away, and in a final act of immeasurable grace we now can worship our King with all the unending fullness that He so richly deserves.

So as we walk in this religious but hollow culture let us never get caught up in all the sentimentality of a so called “season”. Let us be ever mindful of who Jesus was and is and what He endured for us. That was no season…that was for all eternity.


Anonymous said...

Appreciate your sharing. So sorry for your loss at such a young age, the both of you.

May God be with you all of your days as you reflect upon a life that was and is ordained by our Creator. Mere words seem so shallow in the midst of intense sorrow and the forthcoming Eternal Glory.

Anonymous said...

We are praying for you, dear brother in Jesus Christ

Anonymous said...

"our pleasures and fulfillment can never be found here."

Yes, very true. The majority will tell you that you can have happiness and fulfillment here.Whether in or out of the "church." People are really dulusional.