“Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place…. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great” (Job 2:11-13, ESV).
The past few weeks have been, it seems, a series of personal tragedies among some of my friends and colleagues. Terminal illness and death of young people runs counter-intuitive to our existence in this world. It’s just not how life is meant to be.
And, in the midst of great tragedy we are left wondering–why did this happen?
Then, we wonder what to say to our friends who are grieving and struggling with overwhelming loss. How can we explain “Why”?
For those who read and study the Bible, the Book of Job in the Old Testament is often the Bible story we fall back on for comfort and understanding in confronting adversity and tragedy. After all, Job’s ten children and who knows how many grandchildren died when a tornado caused the house where they were all eating together to fall in on them.
Besides his children Job lost all of his considerable wealth and his health and then even Job’s wife scorned him in his affliction.
And, all this happened as a result of some seemingly diabolical wager that Satan made with God.
“The Lord ’s word came to me: Human one, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you in a single stroke. Don’t mourn or weep. Don’t even let your tears well up. Sigh inwardly; be deathly still. Don’t perform mourning rites, but bind on your turban and put your shoes on your feet. And don’t cover your upper lip or eat in human company” (Ezekiel 24:15-17, CEB).
Like several of the Old Testament prophets, Ezekiel’s prophecies were often intertwined with his personal life. On one occasion God told Ezekiel that his beloved city of Jerusalem was about to be destroyed. Then, God told Ezekiel his wife was about to die!
And if that wasn’t enough bad news, God told Ezekiel not to mourn over his wife’s death and not even to participate in the rituals of grief and mourning that were a part of that ancient culture. Ezekiel was to keep his grief to himself.
“Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and He told His disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be deeply distressed and horrified. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is swallowed up in sorrow—to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.’ Then He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, ‘Abba, Father! All things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will” (Mark 14:32-36, HCSB).
If the Transfiguration revealed Jesus’s divine nature, then Gethsemane revealed His humanity.
A lot of theological interpretations and explanations have been offered for the anguish expressed by Jesus at Gethsemane. Certainly He was about to bear the sins of all humanity–past, present, and future–and it was a horrific proposition!