Jesus Experienced Grief
Losing someone we love really hurts. Grief often takes over and like a vine, begins to choke the life out of our soul. Our emotions are numb. Tears don't seem to stop. All we want to do is be alone and be by ourselves. Losing a family member or a friend is a very personal and emotional experience. Even Jesus himself experienced the gamut of emotions that comes with losing a friend. When Jesus' friend Lazarus dies, he weeps. Even though he knew he would raise Lazarus back to life, he was still overwhelmed with emotion that he just began to cry. Jesus teaches us that it is ok to grieve. It is ok to cry.
Jesus not only lost his good friend Lazarus to death, he also lost his dear friend and cousin, John the Baptist. John the Baptist died a terrible death. John was arrested by Herod, because John was vocally disapproving of Herod's sin. However, after the debase Herod watched a teenage girl's seductive dance, he gave her the opportunity to ask for anything. At the influencing of her mother, she asked for the head of John the Baptist. John the Baptist, whom Jesus called the greatest born of men, died by beheading at the request of a teenage girl. John's disciples took care of burying his body and they went to tell Jesus.
Jesus Responds to Grief
In Matthew 14:13, we are told that when Jesus heard the news about John, he got on a boat and went to head to a desolate place. You see, Jesus was grieving. He was heartbroken to hear what happened to John. And Jesus wanted to just spend some time alone, praying and thinking. You have to wonder what thoughts were running through Jesus mind when he heard the news. I imagine that he must be thinking about his mission, the cross. Jesus knows that what happened to John the Baptist is going to happen to him. Jesus knows that he came to die for the sins of humanity, and he knows that the cross is coming. I'm sure hearing about the death of John made Jesus painfully aware of his coming death, and filled with emotion, he just wanted to be alone with His father.
So Jesus gets in the boat and heads to a desolate place. However, the crowd hears where Jesus is going. So they travel by foot and meet Jesus on the other side. As Jesus is approaching the shore, he sees the crowds gather, waiting for him to arrive. You almost feel kind of sorry for Jesus. The guy just wants to get away to mourn the loss of his friend, and he can't get away. Life is like that isn't it? It never slows down. You lose your family member or friend and your back at work the next day like nothing ever happened. All you want to do is get away and be by yourself and grieve, but the demands of life don't allow it. Life just moves to fast.
Put yourself in Jesus' shoes for a second. How would you respond to seeing the crowd on the shore? You might think, "Really God, ministry now, I just want to be alone!". You might even hate these people, wishing they would just all go away. However Jesus doesn't respond in either ways. Jesus sees the crowd and he has compassion on them and he immediately got to work healing their sick. Although Jesus grieves the loss of his dear friend, his grief empowers him for ministry. In the midst of his emotional pain, Jesus turned outward instead of inward. Rather than turning in on himself and thinking "woe is me", he turns outward to serve and to love the crowds.
Our Grief Empowers us for Ministry
What does Jesus tell us about how to handle grief? He tells us that we must use our grief for ministry. We must be so very careful that in our mourning we don't turn our sorrow in to self-pity and loathing. Our sorrow empowers us to love and serve others. All that hurt, all those emotions you feel, take them and use them to show compassion on people who desperately need the love of Jesus. In your brokenness, God is able to use you to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with others. In your desperation, your dependence on Jesus serves as a powerful testimony to this lost and dying world. It is ok to grieve. It is ok to cry. It is good to mourn for lost loved ones, but may our emotions turn outwards to radical, Gospel driven, compassion.