Loss. I think everyone I know has experienced a loss of someone dear to them. Having always lived and worked on a farm, I’ve come to expect death as a natural part of life. But the death of loved ones – no matter their age – is always a challenge. Fifteen months after he was imprisoned, John the Baptist was beheaded. All attention shifted to Jesus from this point forward. Matthew recorded that, “When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (Matthew 14:13) I get why Jesus wanted some alone time. Personally, I don’t do well grieving in public. I need quiet time alone or with those in my innermost circle.
At this point in Jesus’ life, very few of those who had witnessed his birth were still alive. Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, Anna, the Magi, the shepherds and likely even Joseph had all died. John had known who Jesus was. He had proclaimed Jesus’ divine Son-ship even while still in Elizabeth’s womb. Now John was gone and Jesus needed time to pray.
It’s interesting to note the marked change in Jesus’ ministry from here on out. It was more of a “no holds barred” kind of teaching. He was more intent on explaining how counter-culture His kingdom was. And, in turn, that put a bigger target on Him with the Pharisees. You see, in grieving John’s death, Jesus was anticipating His own.
Today’s fast challenges us to stop speeding past sorrow. Jesus could have easily kept teaching and preaching in an attempt to distance Himself from the sadness of losing John. Instead He sent everyone away and carved out space and time to pray in solitude. Deaths are defining moments in our lives. They change us. Today, honor the losses in your life. Instead of speeding past sadness, slow down and be present to your emotions. With Jesus, sit with your sorrow and let loss do its eternal work in your soul.
Nearly 10 months ago we lost our granddaughter, Skylar. We had prayed for months on end that God would heal her and He did….just not how we wanted Him to. Skylar was born with multiple health issues and only lived on this earth a few minutes. I had a hard time figuring out how to grieve while we were still celebrating her birth and the birth of her sister, Avery. Two opposite ends of the spectrum. God found me in the early morning hours and during my commute to work to walk me through this process. I had dealt with grieve many times before – some expected, some not. But this one, she changed me deeply. The loss of Skylar (and all the possibilities for her) taught me more about grace than anything and everything else in my life. It just took time walking with my Savior.
Today’s reading is John 12:44-50. We close out the 12th chapter of John with a message from Jesus. He came to be the light of the world. He did not come to judge us but to save us. Soak in that today.