Read: John 19:31-42
Nothing hurts quite like the death of a loved one. Whether it happens after a long life or after a short time battling health issues, it always cuts us to the core. Even though death appears to be the natural course of events, it never feels natural. It feels wrong, intrusive, and overwhelming. This topic is fresh in my mind after a friend of the family recently passed away. He was elderly and had a heart condition, in addition to other health complications. He left behind a sick wife, his daughters, his grandchildren, and many heart-broken friends. It’s one thing to know about death, it’s another thing to experience grief. When death comes near, you may heal after some time, but your life is never the same.
In today’s passage, we find those who loved Jesus under the dark and heavy burden of grief. Jesus, who had performed miracles of all kinds and who had proven His authority as King, was now dead—an ordinary corpse in need of handling and burial. When we read this passage today, we know what’s coming. We know it doesn’t end here. But I challenge you to not jump ahead; there’s a reason the Scriptures make us linger here.
In some churches, there is a tradition on Good Friday—when we gather to remember the death of Jesus—that no one tells you when the service is done. It ends with silence, and eventually people leave when they decide. I imagine it was the same with the disciples, Mary, Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, being left behind in heart-broken silence. They had no hope, no prospects; they were without guidance or direction, just trying to figure out what to do next.
Maybe you have felt this way, or are in the midst of grief now. That inescapable feeling of being filled with disappointment and fear, wondering if it was all a lie. Where is God when we lose someone after having prayed for so long? Where is God when we follow Jesus through pain and injustice and don’t see our circumstances get better? How can we keep trusting God when we don’t find any relief? Look at Jesus. Look at the cross—meditate on it. It’s not something that can be understood at a glance. We have to feel it and know it intimately in order to believe and know the mystery at its center.
Jesus, God in the flesh, suffered and lost it all. Our human reality is of a quality that makes this kind of sacrifice absolutely necessary toward restoring humanity to our loving God. Because of Christ’s death—and His later resurrection—you are not alone in your pain. God, sees you, understands, and suffers alongside you. Jesus walked the path of ultimate suffering, and sometimes He invites us to follow Him into our own valleys of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). It’s not punishment, it’s not cruelty, it’s Him shaping us into the image of Christ through painful circumstances so that we also can redeem the broken world around us by entering into brokenness. He is our guide in the valley, and He is the relief we experience when nothing else makes sense. Cry out to Him. Let Jesus take your fear, and let your heart be comforted by His tender presence. He is present in your pain, turning what was meant for evil into good.
The Psalms can be read as examples of prayers during hard times. If you are grieving, suffering, and seeking Jesus, read the Psalms prayerfully, laying your burdens down at the feet of the One who suffered for us all. Read Psalm 22-23.