Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is He There? Does He Care?

    There hasn't been a day that's gone by since I wrote "He's Dead. What Does That Mean?" that I don't think about my friend and what has become of him. I have thought about his family and the emotional devastation that follows when one's hopes and dreams die in fiery flames and one is powerless to intervene. I remembered the funeral of a little boy I had attended in India 6 years ago, and the sight of his mother sobbing her heart out in uncontained grief. And as I write this, I feel the twinge in my own heart as well.

    I had ended the last post contemplating the thread that ran through all the expressions of condolence, grief and sorrow - the implicit cry to God for answers, hope and comfort in all that people say and feel at such times. That's who I've turned to in the pages of my Bible, believing that He will answer. And it's been strange how events have come together over the last few days to help me write this post.

    I've thought a lot about Jesus during this time. The more I learn about this shattering personality that emerges from the pages of the Bible, of the God that walked among us clothed in humanity, the more I realize how little I have really known Him. One of the most frequent phrases used of Jesus is that of His compassion on the shattered lives that come pleading for help. Time and again, stories are recorded of Jesus' encounter with the blind, lame, deaf, mute, lonely, opressed, diseased and even the dead. And each time, there is a phrase along the lines "Jesus had compassion" (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32, Mark 1:41, 6:34, 8:2, Luke 7:13). In the English translation of the Bible, the word 'compassion' originates from the Latin stem 'compati', meaning 'to suffer with, to feel pity'. In the sense in which it is used of Jesus, it  means so much more than just supercharged sympathy that accompanies the tearful melodrama of tragedy, or maudlin emotion. It refers to a pity born of deep love that compels one to do something about the situation. In essence, the compassion of the Christ is the kind that says: "This is not right. And I'm going to do something about it." And there is one potent story that I turned to at this time. 

    In the book of John is recorded the story of Lazarus,  a friend whom Jesus raises from the dead (John 11:1-44). Listening to a sermon on this incident titled "Befriended" and delivered at my church in 2005, I was struck by the fact that Lazarus was dead by the time Jesus set out to go to him, that it was a four day walk (~150 km) for Jesus to get there. I reflected on the God that never gives up, who waits till the seemingly irreversible has happened, and then set out on the long, dusty walk through the Judean wilderness toward the one He loved and called 'friend'. The God who created the known universe by the words of his mouth (Psalm 33:6), but patiently endured the limitations of the human frame as He put one tired foot in front of the other for four days, even as the dust seeped through His sandals. The God who "spoke and it came to be", but showed the depths of His compassion in enduring the frustrations of walking speed, even as the friend He loved disintegrated in his tomb. The God in whose presence angels fall down and worship, and demons shiver, yet who "...was deeply moved in His spirit and greatly troubled" as He witnessed the grief and sorrow of inconsolable friends and family. The uncreated, self-sufficient God who needs nothing from anyone, yet of whom it is written "Jesus wept", as He who is infinite in power and multiplied in capacity was moved with emotion. The God who undertook this long journey to confront Death and shout at the top of His lungs: "Lazarus, come out!". And it is recorded that the undefeated terror that stalks all of humanity bowed in the presence of its Master, and gave Him back His friend.

    While roomates on campus in our second year of undergrad, Yeswanth and I had many conversations about God, karma, fate, destiny and many more. Somehow, as things went, we never got around to the topic of Jesus. I believe the Christ I follow is present in the midst of the sorrow and grief of those who are trying to come to terms with his passing.

Yes, I believe that He is there. And that He cares.

    I'm going to talk about why I believe that Christ offers hope that none else can in the next post. I have so much to write, but I'm going to stop here. To those who read this and weep because of the searing anguish in the heart that forces the tears out at the thought of a loved one that is gone: may you feel the presence of the God of all comfort. He does not need to undertake a four-day journey through wilderness to reach you. He is already there. He cares. See you soon.
- The Wisdom Seeker