Ask a class of Christian school students who are forced to memorize Bible verses to recommend one, and inevitably some wise guy will suggest “Jesus wept.”
“Please…can you give us that one? The one we did last week was sooooooooo long.”
Why don’t I want to give them that one? Well, duh, they already know it. However, they do not know it in French, so I agree.
Weeks ago, I agreed that we would memorize “Jesus wept” in French. Jesus pleura. It provides a good example of the literary past tense and happens to be shorter than the modern translation: Jesus a pleuré. It’s a nice short verse for a three and a half day week, with some sobriety for Holy Week. Furthermore, it’s the end of third quarter and we are all feeling a little fried.
So Friday I began typing Jesus pleura on my “week sheets” of lessons for next week, but with the fresh news that a dear colleague of eighteen years has end stage pancreatic cancer. He goes from classroom to diagnosis to hospice in one fell swoop. The news is a punch in the gut.
And God has done it again. He has taken a verse that was scheduled for some random reason–it’s the next page in my Bible, it’s part of a sermon series planned months in advance, whatever–and entered my world. That’s one of the tricky things about selecting memory verses. If I pick one like “Love is patient; love is kind” I inevitably find the circumstances of my week challenging the lack of patience and kindness in my heart.
This time God has prepared in advance a comfort that he knew I would need.
Jesus pleura. Jesus wept when his friend Lazarus died. With that, Jesus says, “I know. It hurts. Death sucks.”
Why did Jesus weep? Was it because Lazarus was dead? He was really, really dead, too. Not like the sickbed miracles Jesus had done before. Three days dead. In the tomb dead. But Jesus brought him back to life. If he had the power to do that, why weep over it?
Or was it because of the grief of separation–a separation that Jesus himself would soon experience from his Father? Seeing the grief of Lazarus’ sisters Mary and Martha got him weeping. It hurts to be separated and death is the ultimate separation. It hurts even when God is saying, “It is time.”
Wait, God, we’re not finished enjoying Tim yet. We don’t want him to die. We want him to get better. We want his laugh to roll down the hall again and interrupt our classes with our own responsive laughter. “There he goes again!” We want to enjoy his curmudgeonly attitude during faculty meetings–an outward appearance that represents what we all feel on the inside. Ok, I even want a bear hug, even though he does it in front of students and makes me feel unprofessional.
Jesus pleura. Jesus gets it. He feels it. Good Friday commemorates Jesus’ death and his separation from his Father, but Easter Sunday celebrates his victory over that separation. Good Friday is why I weep for the pending departure of my friend and colleague, but Easter Sunday is why am not despondent. Death is the ultimate separation, but in Christ it is not permanent. We have an eternity of fellowship without lesson plans and emails to look forward to. And I don’t know about the streets being paved with gold, but the setting in heaven has got to be better than the pathetic table in the hallway that is considered our “teacher’s lounge.”
Jesus pleura. Jesus comforts me in my sadness.
Jesus is risen. Jesus assures me of eternity.
When it’s my turn to go, I expect a booming laugh to greet me when I arrive. Tim is sure to be assigned celestial “car pool” duty. (And if he doesn’t want it, he’d better put his request in now!)