Sunday, 20 April 2014

The Hurt and the Healer

The trouble with us is not simply that we are sinners, but that we are sinners with God-hearts and God-desires. We have sometime known the perfection of fellowship, and we are filled with longing for it, but we are always stumbling over self and sin, and these overcome us. We long to trust and be trusted, but we are faithless and unfaithful. We cannot be believed. What a cruel trap we find ourselves caught in!

There is real consolation in Jesus. Emmanuel. God-with-us.

It isn't his power or even his vastness that call out worship from our hearts; the beauty of the Man from Galilee is that he knows, as no God has ever known, our pain and our brokenness. He, like us, is too-soon tired. He bleeds. He knows first-hand those peculiarly human agonies - being misjudged and misunderstood, fear and dread, humiliation, betrayal, rejection.

See him as he goes, in dusty sandals, to the house of his friends on the outskirts of the city. To them he has given, and from them he has received - true friends, they. Mary has sat at his feet. Martha has worked long and hard to serve him and the guests that came with him. If anyone knows who Jesus really is, surely it is these two. If there is love and trust in friendship, surely he will find it at their house in Bethany. Their brother Lazarus is dead now, but he too has been a friend. The Scripture says it, straight up: "Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus".

The practical Martha is there to meet him as he comes, too late to save her brother. Lazarus is already in the grave, and she is full of grief. She squashes the reproach in her heart, but she can't help wondering: why hasn't Jesus come in time? He, the great Healer, was surely able to cure Lazarus. He has healed so many others.

Mary can't bring herself to meet her friend. She has listened to him, trusted him, loved him. She sent him word that Lazarus was sick; she didn't doubt that he would come. But her brother lies in the grave, and Jesus is there too late. When he finds her, she is inconsolable. She stops short of blame, but she voices her bewilderment, weeping: if Jesus had but come - !

It's enough to make God cry: the disappointment and the hurt of dear friends, and the pain of being misunderstood. Jesus himself weeps. God cries hot, bitter, human tears. He can raise Lazarus from the grave, but he is not above the pain of a friend's reproach.

Now watch him as he goes to Gethsemane. His closest friends go with him, eleven men - once twelve - who have been with him constantly for three full years. They have left livelihood and family to follow him, and he has watched them go from amazed wonder to able helpers. He leaves eight of them to watch, then goes further in to the garden with those closest to him - Peter, James, and John. They have seen him full of glory, transfigured in the presence of Moses and Elijah. If anyone knows who he is and why he has come, it is these three. The Man of Sorrows knows that the cross is his alone, but surely these three closest men will support him as he prepares his heart for the difficulty to come.

He asks them to pray. They have promised to die with him; surely friends such as these will share his suffering as far as they are allowed. He is overwhelmed with the sorrow and dread of what awaits him; surely they will bear him up in prayer.

They fall asleep. He wakes them up, reminding them of the night's urgency. He has told them plainly of his coming death. Again, they sleep, and Jesus is alone in his darkest midnight. Alone, he cries to God. Blood and sweat mingle and fall. Alone, he hears the answer: No. Alone, he bends his will and weeps.

Emmanuel. God-with-us. He can heal disease. He can forgive sin. He can even raise the dead. But he knows the longing of the human heart to depend on its fellow, and the sting of disappointment and betrayal. He knows the wrenching pain of being the one to let down a friend; he knows what it feels like to be mistrusted.

Some day, we will love as God loves. We will give selflessly, trust implicitly, and be worthy of the trust of others. We will know unbroken friendship and fellowship. Until then, we walk the road that Jesus walked. Why doesn't God rescue us? Why must we learn amid such pain? He who knows first-hand the brokenness of humanity, and the trap we find ourselves in - why does he consent to our hurt and our frustration?

We are too much like children, ever quick to believe the lie that power is everything, and that it works like magic - with the muttering of words or the wave of a wand. Power is great, but it pales before the greatness of love, which enables its bearer to endure the ache of disappointing and and being disappointed. We will, some bright day, know as we are known. Think of it: we will know God as he knows us. We will each know the other through the fellowship of suffering. God knows our hurt; now we, in our hurt, are learning how to choose the beauty of his anyway-love.

If Jesus did not suffer; if he did not know our brokenness, our common ache, our bleeding - how could we ever trust him? If we do not love through suffering, how could we ever know the greatness of that Heart of Love that bends itself to bear our hurt?

Jesus. Emmanuel. God-with-us. Only he who suffered as we suffer is able to console.

1 comment:

Bobbiann said...

That was beautiful.