Read John 11:32-37
32 Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at his feet, saying, “Master, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33-34 When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, “Where did you put him?”
34-35 “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept.
36 The Jews said, “Look how deeply he loved him.”
37 Others among them said, “Well, if he loved him so much, why didn’t he do something to keep him from dying? After all, he opened the eyes of a blind man.” (THE MESSAGE)
It is becoming quite common nowadays for people who have to arrange funerals to see them as primarily a time for celebration. And of course it is good to celebrate the memories of a special person and have those memories gladden our hearts.
But this can go too far. We are sometimes urged not to be sad or mournful, to be bright and cheerful. Again, fair enough that we find the time for cheerfulness and fair enough we don’t all dress up in sober black. And yet we may be in danger of burying our grief. We don’t like the idea of sadness and mourning and lament, so we put them aside and adopt at least a façade of cheerfulness.
It wasn’t like that in Jesus’ day. Jesus himself is strongly moved at the reality of death. It got to him. (The exact phrase is ‘he snorted like a horse!’). He wept, and perhaps these were not a few discreet tears but real sobbing like the other mourners. They knew death was an alien intruder and mourned the loss of someone they loved.
In our desire to not be overwhelmed by grief, let’s not forget to properly lament death. In our desire to remember the good things in a person’s life, let’s not gloss over the fact they are no longer here with us. Nothing can make death pretty or cheerful, even the death of a follower of Jesus. Sure there is a time to celebrate and be glad, but also a time to mourn and be sad.