Jesus Was No Stranger to Death and Sorrow
by Elli Atchison
Jesus was no stranger to death and sorrow. Jesus lost loved ones during his time on earth. He knows that the death of someone we love creates a hole in the heart that is hard to fill.
It is assumed Jesus' earthly father, Joseph, passed away before his ministry began. As a young man, Jesus would have grieved the death of his earthly father. He would have had to walk through that grief with his mother and his siblings. Jesus' own cousin, John the Baptist, was unjustly imprisoned and brutally murdered by Herod Antipas. Jesus, himself being fully human, sought solitude and prayer to deal with the pain of this tragic loss (Matt 14:10,13). He also loved a dear friend named Lazarus who became sick and died. Jesus was deeply moved by the pain of Lazarus' sisters, and he wept openly with them (John 11: 33,35).
How would Jesus comfort an Israeli man who lost his wife to a violent stabbing by an angry Palestinian? Surely this husband would be justified in his feelings of bitter hate and a longing for revenge (Exodus 21:24). Left alone to raise their children, he would live with the constant reminder of the family's tragic loss. The course of their lives would be forever changed.
I believe that Jesus would weep with this grieving friend, just as he did with Mary and Martha, and that he would encourage the man to release his pain by crying out to God with every angry emotion. "When the righteous cry out the Lord hears them and delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:17-18). This time of honest emotion shared together would not end the pain, but it would surely act like a soothing salve to the man's wounded soul.
I think that, before departing, Jesus would have some suggestions to help the widower find comfort for his broken heart. He would remind his friend to spend time alone with God in prayer often. This act alone brings peace. But Jesus would also ask him think of the Palestinian man who had taken away his beloved wife and caused this pain. "You have heard it said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:43-44). Jesus was no stranger to this idea. He practiced what he preached. With his last breath, while hanging from the cross, he prayed, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing" (Luke 23:34).
By Jesus' Kingdom rules, remembering his enemy in prayer is the secret that will bring healing to the husband's heart. With the help of God, praying for the Palestinian will begin the process of setting his heart free from a prison of sorrow and grief. It will also stop a chain of revenge and violence that so many in the world choose. And in the process of this miracle of mercy and love in the life of this man, God will be glorified.
We thank you that your ways are not our ways. Our hearts want to harbor hate, bitterness and revenge when we are wronged. You tried to teach us that in doing so the only person who truly suffers is ourselves. Israeli and Palestinian people have both been wronged by decades of hurtful and malicious acts. We ask that you help them both to release their pain to you through prayer. Help them to pray for each other and find forgiveness to end the cycle of violence between them.
In your holy name, Amen.
Elli Atchison is an ambassador for World Vision, working alongside the advocacy team to promote peace and justice in the Holy Land for all God's people, especially children. This Holy Week meditation originally appeared at Prayers for the Holy Land.
See all the parts of Atchison's "Jesus Was No Stranger To…" series.