When I was growing up, I attended a small church with my family. The small church shared a pastor with another church. Sometimes when the pastor wasn’t there for the mid-week prayer service, those in attendance would be asked to recite a favorite text. Being somewhat of a smart alec, I thought it was amusing to say that my favorite verse was the shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35 – “Jesus wept.”
As an adult, it has become a favorite verse of mine. I believe the simple words, “Jesus wept,” may reveal as much about Jesus as any other words ever said about him.
I’m sure that you remember the story of Lazarus. When he became ill, his sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, the one you love is very sick.” Jesus chose to wait until Lazarus had died before he came. “When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, he was moved with indignation and was deeply troubled. “Where have you put him?” he asked them. They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept.”
Let me ask you a question? Why did Jesus weep? Was it because of his love for Lazarus? He knew Lazarus would be alive in a few minutes. Jesus was crying because his friends were sad. Their sorrow moved him. Jesus is painfully aware of your grief. He knows why we are here today. He knows that we are saying goodbye to someone we love. When we cry, He is aware. Psalms 56:8 tells us, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”
I want you to know that it is appropriate to grieve. Jesus understands our grief, and I believe that just as He cried at the tomb of Lazarus, He cries with us here today. But even as He grieves with us, Jesus holds out hope. When Martha confronted Jesus, telling Him that if He had been there, her brother would not have died, Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered Jesus, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus holds out the same hope to us today.
Paul wrote some of the most comforting words found in the Bible in Romans 8:37-39. “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
I want you to know for sure today that nothing can separate you from the love of God. Nothing can keep God from loving you. Nothing can keep God from loving Roxie. I want to read that scripture again and personalize it for Roxie.
Roxie is more than a conqueror through Him who loved her. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate Roxie from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
In 1 John, the Bible says, “we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” Let’s remember how much Roxie is valued in God’s eyes! We are here today to remember Roxie because we love her. But it is also essential to understand how much God loves her. The Apostle John continues, “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”
I love that equation. God = love
One of the most beautiful descriptions of love is found in 1 Corinthians 13. “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. Love does not count up wrongs that have been done. Love takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. Love patiently accepts all things. It always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.”
I know that no one is here today to hear an algebra lecture, but we have the rule of symmetry in algebra: If a = b, then b = a. So if God = love, then love = God.
Since love = God, if we were to replace love in the passage with God, it would read like this.
God is patient and kind. He is not jealous, does not brag, and is not proud. God is not rude, is not selfish, and does not get upset with others. God does not count up wrongs that have been done. He takes no pleasure in evil but rejoices over the truth. God patiently accepts all things. He always trusts, always hopes, and always endures.” What a beautiful picture of God this paints. I hope that it makes an impact on you like it did me.
We want to make sense of suffering. Why does a loving God allow such pain to continue in this world? I know that while there are no words that can stop the pain today, there are words that give us hope. In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul tells us that “we can see and understand only a little about God now, as if we were peering at his reflection in a poor mirror; but someday we are going to see him in his completeness, face to face. Now all that I know is hazy and blurred, but then I will see everything clearly, just as clearly as God sees into my heart right now.”
Even if I only understand a little about God now, there is comfort in realizing that God loves Roxie, and He loves you. There is comfort in remembering how Roxie touched our lives and made them better. And there is comfort in the words Paul wrote to the Thessalonians. “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.”