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Bearing Our Grief

The belly-sick feeling of the loss of a loved one…the anguish of wrongs done by a partner…the heart freeze of bad news…tormenting memories of death, abuse, divorce, financial ruin, life changes – Is there any end to the list of human sorrows rooted in sin or sickness that every member of the human race faces? And yet we live on.

One divine example of walking through loss and injustice is found in Yeshua, Jesus of Nazareth, active in His days as a prophet, must deal with the troubling news of the death of His forerunner and cousin, Yochanan, John the Baptizer. John, imprisoned by Herod for John’s public condemnations of Herod’s woes, especially that of taking Herodias, his brother’s wife, to marry, is suddenly beheaded. Imagine the atmosphere then… the seductive dance of the wife’s daughter leads to the murder of the prophet, accounts of his head being brought to the girl and mother on a platter. Besides the flagrant immorality and political trysts of the Herods in a Roman-governed Jewish society, now comes the killing of a known man of God! What would happen next? How much more could God fearing people bear? Where was God? Where was Jesus??

“When Jesus heard about it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself, but when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities.” (Matthew 14:13)

Believe it or not, Jesus was as human as you, and felt the pangs of John’s death just as you would, and how much more? John was the one who had immersed Him in the Jordan, opened His ministry, declared Him the Lamb of God, spoke of his own decrease as Jesus increased. They baptized together for a season, and had shared Shabbats and feasts when the extended family was together. And how much more pain was added as time of John’s imprisonment wore on in Herod’s prison at Machaerus? John had begun to question his own existence and that of Messiah’s presence, sending his disciples to ask, “Are you the one, or do we wait for another?” After seeing the heavens opened at Jesus’ baptism, after hearing the heavenly voice endorse Son of Man as Son of God, in the anguish of imprisonment, in his solitude, in darkness and under the weight of Herod’s atmosphere, he now doubted everything, possibly until the day of his cruel beheading. Jesus hadn’t gone to see him, responded to the disciples by reminding John of the miracles. How did Jesus feel about that now? Regrets? Loss? Worsened grief? Wouldn’t any human? John had questions for Jesus. Did Jesus have them for the Holy Spirit?

Maybe in the wrestlings, the Spirit reminded Him of Hosea [HoSheyah, Salvation, Deliverer]:

“O Death, I will be your plagues! O Grave, I will be our destruction!” (Hosea 13:14)

“And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them and healed their sick. When it was evening, His disciples came to Him saying, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food.” But Jesus said to them, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish. He said, “Bring them here to Me…” (Matthew 14:14-21)

Matthew states it all so simply… Jesus had to get away, but the people just wouldn’t let him (can I get a witness anyone?) The needs would never end…there would always be sick needing healing, waywards needing finding, disciples needing instruction… He responded first with His own withdrawal (good for Him!) and in that I am sure He prayed and arrested the workings within His own soul.

Then He faced the people, and rather than lashing out (as some would have probably done… like, “Give me a stinkin’ break! Cut me some slack, Back off, Go away” or a dozen other less-than-Jesus kinds of remarks). No.

He responded in compassion… Love for them in the presence of their needs drew Him higher than His own needs. The role to just be Himself was fulfilled in the face of death and in the grip of grief. Leaning into the very action from Genesis 1 that portrayed the Spirit’s hovering or rush to respond to something fallen (Gen. 1:2, Hebrew, Rachaph) He let compassion move Him (racham)…and then He goes above and beyond. Besides laying aside His fatigue and feelings, He ministers, heals, then teaches the disciples even more about His heart. He fed the entire crowd. You know the story…using His blessing and disciples own hands, He feeds more than five thousand, with twelve baskets of leftovers. Maybe that was enough to show every tribe He was the Bread of Life, or evidence for twelve slow learning disciples that what they were doing was real, to trust that the gift of God could heal you in any situation. In any case, He’s our lesson for the abundance of grace available to press beyond our grief, sorrows, anxieties, moments of despair and darkness, and just keep living.

From Isaiah to Hebrews’ epistle, we read that Messiah bore our griefs and carried our sorrows, was made like His brethren, was tempted in all points as we were, and is able to rescue and save us to the uttermost with mercy and faithfulness (Isaiah 53:3-5, Matthew 8:17, Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15 , 7:25). Even looking into the bitter cup He would drink, He took joy’s strength to face the cross (12:2)…a violent death, in joy.

As you look to the Lord for redemption out of troubles and grief – and He is more than enough, as is our Comforter, the Holy Spirit - watch for His ways in helping you redeem another’s situation in the wake of your own hurt. Let the joy of knowing “my Redeemer lives” give you the strength to not only bear where you’re at for the moment, but bless beyond your questions. This, my friend, is to truly live.

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