Seems Like a Lifetime Ago…
It was eight years ago today that Janet’s father passed away. Janet was with him in Williamsburg at the end, while I was here in Carmel. We had just returned about two weeks earlier from Williamsburg where we had attended the funeral for Janet’s Mom.
Nancy had unexpectedly passed away while Janet and I were celebrating our 40th anniversary in Hawaii. We had thought about going there for many years and a major anniversary seemed like the right time to head west. Having only been there several days, we headed back to Virginia to spend time with the rest of the family and put together Nancy’s memorial service. Little did we realize at the time that we would return to Williamsburg several weeks later to bury Janet’s father.
We always assumed that her Dad would go first so it was something of a surprise that it didn’t happen that way. However, the family had a chance to come together and, on hindsight, it was a blessing that we were all able to spend time with one another.
John had asked me to come to Williamsburg months earlier for the purpose of understanding his finances and last wishes. Of course, he asked me to watch over the family in his absence and I was honored to be asked. One of the things that really surprised me was the fact that he asked me to do his eulogy when the time came.
I’ve known my father-in-law since I was a very young boy. I knew him more years that I knew my own father. John and Nancy had three daughters and I considered myself their son. So I wanted to do a great job when I was called to speak at his memorial service – it was a sacred trust.
Janet and her two sisters all participated in the funeral. And then it was my turn. I chose to focus on the shortest verse in the Bible – Jesus wept. The story hinged around the death of Lazarus and how Mary and Martha, his two sisters, mourned the loss of their brother.
Everyone was dealing with the death of Lazarus and as was the custom in the day, there were mourners who were a part of the proceedings. If you are familiar with the story, Jesus arrived and ordered Lazarus to come out of the tomb where he had been buried. In other words, Jesus brought His friend back to life. The Scripture tells us that Jesus wept.
There has been great discussion over the reason that Jesus wept. Did He miss His friend? Was he impacted by the mourning of Mary and Martha? What caused His emotion over the death of Lazarus. After all, Jesus already know that He could, and would, raise Lazarus from the dead.
But I have always thought that Jesus wept because He would have to bring Lazarus back from heaven if He raised Lazarus from the dead. And maybe Jesus knew, having come from heaven Himself (it is the dwelling place of God from where He descended) that once in heaven, how difficult it would be to leave there and return to an earthly life.
By bringing Lazarus back, he would eventually have to die again. Maybe that is part of the reason that Jesus wept. So, my message at John’s memorial service put forth the idea that while we may miss him, who would want to return to earth having already been met in heaven by God?
I was surprised when a pastor friend of the family approached me after the service and admitted that he had never considered that possibility for the reason that Jesus wept. We miss John. I think of him often and I’m sure that the sense of loss is even more profound because I knew him so many years of my life. Additionally, when we said goodbye a day before he passed, John told me that someday we would be together in heaven. I think he died at peace.
As the years pass by, it still seems like a dream. I think of calling John on the phone and bringing him up to date on what is happening here with our family. That reunion will have to wait. In the meantime, tonight’s verse is the short one I have already been discussing. The apostle John tells us in his Gospel a small detail that had profound impact on the people who had attended the service for Lazarus. John tells us, in John 11:35, “Jesus wept.”
My encouragement this evening is that Jesus loves all of us and heaven rejoices when someone accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life. My prayer is that each of us may feel the love of Jesus and that we will rest eternally in heaven at His side. But while we are here, let us do everything we can to be great ambassadors for the Kingdom and point people to the Father and His Son. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…