Summary: The Christian response to disaster and grief as modeled by Jesus.
The World Trade Center...the Murrah building in
Oklahoma City...Columbine High school...
The list of names that fill the obituary columns daily...
We try not to notice. But sometimes you can’t help but
notice...when the tragedy is as big as the New York skyline
or as close as the passing of a loved one. There is always
that awkward “I don’t know what to say” feeling that
causes us to send flowers instead of placing a phone call.
But, as awkward as it is, perhaps I could entice you to join
me at yet another funeral this morning...
The air is arrid and dusty. You can’t help but notice how
unbearably hot the soles of your feet grow -- as we walk
together down this well-worn, heavily traveled highway
between Jericho and Jerusalem... It wouldn’t be so bad
except that the we are travelling up-hill. Climbing out of
sea-level with every tiring step.
The Jericho Road.
You hear someone pant, “Why doesn’t someone pave this
road...Would make for much easier walking..” Another
answers gruffly, “We don’t need no Roman Road.”
It seems as if we are going to walk all the way to Jerusalem
as we come to the foot of the Mount of Olives...
stopping at a crossroads.
You look up -- almost straight up --toward the top of the
mount -- . Your feet ache at the thought of climbing that
last leg to the top-- not sure if you’ll last. And even if you
make it to the refreshing decline on the other side that leads
into the Kidron Valley -- You don’t know if you’ll make it
up that last short climb to the great walled-city.
But here, at the crossroad, a cool wave of relief washes over
While you’re shaking the sand and rocks from your
sandals-- you realize that the group leader is heading east
now-- away from that horrible climb...down...down to the
town of Bethany.
For the first time your mind is off your burning feet and and
aching calves -- and you can concentrate on what is going
on around you. Not as many Roman soldiers and foreigners
on this road... A lot more kinsmen...many
merchants...caravans of families...and several animals...but
even with these --traffic is not as heavy as it was on the
We are not even close enough to the town to hear the bustle
of the community when you notice a woman walking
quickly toward our company....As she nears -- you see her
face caked with soot and dust...Her clothes rent and torn in
the appropriate places at the appropriate lengths -- for a
person in mourning...
After a brief conversation with your group leader she
re-enters the town...only to return shortly with another
woman at her side...
A brief exchange of words and now we are heading into
As we near the tombs -- whitewashed in limestone -- you
can hear flutes and the sound of psalms pouring out from
the broken hearts of the grieving...you see faces you
recognize --friends, relatives, some
acquaintances...Everyone dotted with ash and dust from
head to foot... Everone wailing with strained voices and
tear-soaked faces...but the loudest are the ones you don’t
recognize... the professional mourners....
“O Lazarus! Blessed Lazarus! May you rest in Abraham’s
bosom! Blessed Lazarus! O Lazarus!”
It is sobering, to say the least, as you watch your own loved
ones covered in ash beating their chests... wailing in
gut-wrenching sorrow...broken in grief...especially Mary --
her torment gushes from within so powerfully -- her body
heaves with every draining wail -- trembles with every gasp
But your heart stops -- as you turn to one side -- turning
directly into the face of Jesus... Looking full into those
tear-drenched, swollen eyes of God... sobbing...
sobbing in uncontrollable heart-break as he looks on Mary.
A man of sorrow...acqainted with grief...The sorrowing --
Most of you will remember how the story goes -- for those
who are unfamiliar with it -- it has a wonderful ending.
Over top of all those other human voices crying out the
name of Lazarus -- only to the voice of one man do the
dead respond... Only one man...One voice...One authority.
“Lazarus! Come Forth!”
Lazarus lived again.
Thanks a lot Jesus! What am I supposed to do with this?
My friends....relatives....friends of my relatives are
Lord, they’ve just lost their children to angry, bitter young
men with pipe-bombs and sub-machine guns...All within
the safety of a 10’ chain link fence...the parameters of
school zone signs...over watched by dozens of adult
supervisors and educators.
Lord, the tornado just ripped that 3 month old baby from its
Lord, she carried the child 9 months...the nursery is all
prepared...Noah’s Ark on the wall...Stuffed animals in the
crib..pretty pink trim and satin lace...But that precious little