It is Saturday. The day after the worst day of their lives.
The unthinkable deed has been done.
Jesus—the expected Messiah, Mary’s first-born son and the disciples’ beloved friend and master—has been crucified and his body lies in a sealed tomb.
What can be more final than death?
What grief… what confusion… what mixed emotions Jesus’ loved ones must have experienced! How forlorn they must have felt.
I can recall feeling devastated when my mother died.
I can recall:
- the mixed feelings of peace and assurance that she’d gone to be with the Lord,
- the relief that she no longer had to endure loss of dignity and suffering,
- the void in my life that she left behind.
As I considered what I should write about today and how I should tackle the theme of this post, I remembered searching for the right poem to read at my mother’s funeral. I wanted a poem which would adequately express my family’s feelings. Although this was not one of my choices, the following poem came to mind, as one which eminently suits the circumstances of our Saviour’s death.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sun on ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there; I did not die.1
Now in the case of our Lord and Saviour, the above words have a particular resonance because we know that Jesus, is God. He fills all and is all. He is the First and Last, the beginning and the end. He is Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8, 11).
More importantly, Jesus told his disciples that he would arise from the dead.
And so, unlike our mortal loved ones, even though Jesus had died, he’d previously declared to his disciples that he would not only live again but they’d see him alive with their own eyes. In fact, he even arranged to meet them in Galilee (Mark 16:7).
However, the disciples found this a difficult concept to wrap their head around—as would you or I!
And so, despite being present when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead2, despite being aware that their Messiah friend had brought a young man back to life during a funeral procession3, despite witnessing the astounding resurrection of Lazarus who’d been dead for 4 days4, the disciples either did not believe Jesus, or were so overwhelmed with grief that they failed to remember his words.
Before his death, Jesus had given them words of comfort and assurance which should have been a solace to them. He was saying in effect: Yes, I am going to die. But, No – it is not permanent. It is not goodbye!
And as I considered these things it made me think about how many times, we as God’s children, may hear the Word of God and know his promises yet fail to believe them, or fail to remember them, even at times fail to allow them to be a source of comfort, or strength, to dictate our behaviour, or guide our decisions.
I can imagine that alongside their grief, the disciples struggled with condemnation. They had failed their Messiah friend. And those who were the closest to him, had run away in fear during Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter, despite declaring that he was ready to die with Jesus, denied him in no uncertain terms. And poor Judas was so remorseful about the treacherous part he had played that he hung himself.
Now, as I mentioned above, we often look for words which express our heart and feelings towards our loved ones, to share at their funeral. We have seen that Jesus left behind words of assurance for his disciples and loved ones, which they either disbelieved, or failed to remember.
I wonder what words of comfort Christ might wish to speak to us today. I imagine they could be something along the lines of this:
Friends and followers, I pray my message today will remind you that God is loving, merciful and forgiving. That is why he sent his Son to die for us.
Jesus did die. The deed was done. But hallelujah! He faithfully completed the task God sent him to do. It is finished!
Today, let us be thankful to our Heavenly Father that it’s not goodbye to second or third or even a million chances. It is not goodbye to God’s blessings, grace and mercy. And for those of us who enjoy an ongoing spiritual relationship with our Father God and with Jesus Christ – it is not, and will not be goodbye to his precious presence – forever!
Carol (aka Lady Cee)
1 – Written by: Mary Elizabeth Frye – source link:
2 -Mark 5:22-24; 35-42
3 – Luke 7:11-15
4 – John 11:38-44