Summary: A short sermon for a morning service on All Saints’ Day, encouraging people to know that Jesus shares in our grief, and promises life for all believers for all eternity!
A Catholic priest was driving a devout but simple member of his congregation along a country road in Ireland one day when he accidentally ran over a hare. He stopped the car, and the two men got out and walked over to where the animal was lying. It wasn’t moving, and looked to be dead. But then the priest went back to the car and fetched a bottle from a bag he had in the boot. He opened the bottle and sprinkled a few drops of liquid on the hare. It immediately twitched and started coming round. He then sprinkled a few more drops on it and it sat up, looked around, and then hopped away. His passenger was amazed. ’My goodness, Father,’ he said, ’that must be powerful holy water you’ve got with you!’
’Not at all,’ replied the priest. ’It’s common or garden hare restorer.’ Of course the problem with any ’joke’ is that you may remember it more than what I’m about to say; but if it helps us to seriously pause to think about God and sickness, healing and dying I’ll be happy.
I wonder what situations of grief you are facing, what situations of grief you have faced, or what situations you will face in the future. I spent a few hours in Windsor with my 87 year old Grandma yesterday, and whilst I was there I couldn’t help but think about my Granddad, whose funeral I took nearly 4 years ago.
Today, All Saints’ Day is a day when traditionally the Church has remembered those who have gone before us, especially those who have lived the Christian life, loving God and loving neighbour. Today causes me to stop and give thanks for Christian friends who shared life with me, shared their faith, shared their doubts, shared their joys with me; and as I think of them I am so grateful, so thankful to God for each one; and it is also a moment to remember that because of their love for Jesus they are now in His nearer presence, safe and secure with Jesus for all eternity.
Jesus is Good News for the broken-hearted!
In my silly story about the Catholic Priest and the hare, the hare was not dead. It only looked dead. When Jesus arrived at the place where his friend Lazarus was buried, Lazarus had been dead for four days (11:39). Lazarus was the brother of Martha and Mary (11:19), two ladies who followed Jesus, and I never fail to be humbled and moved by the reaction of Jesus when he sees their grief. Verse 33, “When Jesus saw [Mary] weeping and [others] who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.”
Jesus the Son of God was both fully God and fully man, woven together in a way I will never fully comprehend, but here we see clearly the compassionate humanity of Jesus, deeply moved and troubled as he witnesses the grief of people close to him; and it is not something reserved just for those that Jesus knew during his earthly life. Jesus is deeply moved by grief you feel and grief you have felt.
St Paul in his letter to the Romans was describing qualities of love. As he did so he was describing the character of Jesus – the character that God desires to see developed in us. Paul wrote, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15); and James the brother of Jesus spells out simply the type of religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless: “To look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27).
So the grieving husband, wife, mother, father, son, daughter, friend, the grieving sibling is precious to God. Jesus is deeply moved by our sense of loss when someone we love dies, and Jesus calls us to also be moved and compassionate to those who are grieving. Jesus entered into the grief surrounding him, and in John 11:35 we come across one of the most powerful statements in the Bible: “Jesus wept”. He met Mary & Martha in their grief and wept with them.
What happened next was truly a miracle. Despite the obvious objections of the family (11:39) Jesus asked that the stone be removed from the entrance of Lazarus’ grave and what followed proved to be an amazing, life changing experience for many of the people who had come to visit Mary. Seeing what Jesus did, many put their faith in him (11:45). He called out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out” (11:43) and he did. Imagine the scene – gasps, shock, wonder, jaws dropping, fear perhaps, amazement, and joy for his family.