Day twenty-eight of ninety days. Twenty-eight posts of ninety straight posts. This little cursor blinks on my screen, and I can’t help but wonder what God is doing through me with this journey.
For those of you who write, I have already penned about 28,000 words. And I did so without even thinking about it. It is my true belief that God has done something supernatural in me through these days, because, though bible study and reading is very, very dear to me, making my thoughts available to the world, every day, is such a trial for me. I would rather take a break, but God still beckons me to this screen. So I type.
Today’s reading is from John 10 through John 12, and contains one of Jesus’ most beloved signs.
More than that, though, it shows this mobile God to be fully a man. Blood coursed through his veins. Emotions were raw. Of all the readings in John, so far, this one, to me, is most relatable.
Look at Jesus’ emotions around the story of Lazarus in John 11.
In verse 33 we see the first bit of rawness in Jesus. He reacts to the weeping of both Mary and the Jewish mourners with indignation. Groaning. Literally, “snorting with anger.”
The story the NIV tells is much nicer. ” … he was deeply moved in spirit …”.
I’m not sure what it means to be “deeply moved in spirit.”
Jesus is upset. Maybe even mad. And he’s mad enough to shake. The idea that Jesus was “troubled,” at the end of 11:33, indicates that he was either “shaken up,” or that he was shaking from this anger and dissatisfaction at the entire moment, because that’s how “troubled” appears in it’s original language of Greek.
And even if that sort of translation is too extreme for most scholars, it makes sense. It’s the grief of Mary and the mourners that moves him to this state. Not the death of Lazarus.
Their tears, their crying, hurt him. Jesus was in pain over their grief. It physically hurt him.
His emotions, too, in this story, swing from snorting to weeping, within two verses.
When he turned his attention to the death of his friend, he wept. Those who saw Jesus crying believed it was because of his own grief (“See how he loved him!”). And though we’ll never know what prompted the tears, it’s enough for us to see Jesus as real.
This mobile God, this God-among-us was a God-like-us. He was fully “in the flesh” and in the moment. The last miraculous sign of Jesus has exhausted his body, his emotions.
Later, though, in John 12, Jesus’ very public and very controversial and very liberating ministry ends. I think John wants us to see that not only was it time for Jesus to die, but also, John wants us to see Jesus as exhausted. Extremely exhausted. He’s done all he can do.
All of the signs in John are now over, and have ended with the ultimate sign of a resurrection. What more is there?
In John 12:36, after Jesus entered Jerusalem, after he heard a thundering voice, after he indicated how he would die, he retreated, and hid from the crowd. He did this, before, in 11:54, after he raised Lazarus. He retreated into the desert, or literally, the wilderness.
So before he entered Jerusalem he retreated, and after he entered Jerusalem, he retreated.
He was human. The stress of the moment was overwhelming. And the stress of all of the moments in John has finally caught up to Jesus. Watching the sadness of his friends hurt him, hurt his body. John is telling us that the moment of his death is near, because his physical body had grown weary and tired. He is a God in control, but his physical and emotional limit had been reached.
And all I can do is be so thankful for a God who understands exhaustion.
So, if you will, please allow me to personal for a few moments. If I am to be real with you, and with where God has me today, then you’ll understand the following comments.
Few people understand the physical and emotional toll ministry takes on those of us who engage this calling. And while I will not try to invoke your sympathy, the demands of listening to the burdens and confessions of so many people can, at times, be exhausting. I, like most ministers, are asked to bear the burdens of so many, and the grief and hurt of friends is painful to bear, but God constantly speaks validation to me, and my obedience to those callings is essential.
I am not on a grand stage in life, but rather, I am called, now, to the people I see in every moment. God gives me the strength to bear more than I think I could.
I had the extreme privilege and honor to eulogize my grandmother, at her funeral just a few months ago. My grief was heavy. I failed to realize, though, that as the “preacher” of the funeral, I would be called to stand by her casket and accept the consolations of those attending. Even though I’ve preached many funerals, I still forgot this final obligation.
So not only was I called to deliver God’s words, I was also called to minister to my family, as grief-stricken as we all were.
My contribution that day wasn’t spectacular. I make no claims that my presence there allowed many to stand and survive their own sorrow. It is more a testament of what God was doing in my life. God gave me the strength to stand there, with a smile, with the hope of a resurrection. I could stand, and hold fast to those who needed my strength. There were two embraces that day that I won’t soon forget.
But it exhausted me. That week was the final days of preparation for a conference in Memphis, and my responsibilities for such were needed. I attended the visitation and preached my grandmother’s funeral, only to find myself on a stage, later that night, just four hours after the funeral, leading people in worship.
I went from intense preparation, to intense grief, to intense hope, all within 24 hours.
So, yes, today, I am thankful for a God who knows the grief of others’ burdens and the exhaustion of those moments. I am thankful for a God who needs time in the wilderness, and time to retreat. That is such a blessing to me today.