Grief in the Midst of Resurrection
“About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. 20 The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; 21 but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. -Luke 24:19-21
Grief is the natural reaction to loss, we often think of grief in the context of death, specifically death of a close friend or family member. But we can experience grief with all sorts of losses; loss of a job, the breaking of a favorite coffee mug, and less tangible losses, like a favorite place (perhaps your hometown) changing and becoming different than what we knew it to be.
Loss, and thus grief, is an inevitable part of life. It doesn’t always look the same. Our grief is shaped by our loss. The bigger the loss the deeper the grief, grief over the breaking of a favorite coffee mug is not likely to be as deeply felt as the grief over the loss of independence due to illness or disability, for the two are not the same. Yet grief is still present.
We see the disciples of Jesus grieving in various ways following his arrest and execution by the authorities. Their grief, like much of ours, was complex, because they not only lost a friend and teacher, but they also lost their hopes for the redemption of their people by Jesus the Messiah. In Jesus’s death they lost not only a relationship, but also hope, as we see in the words of Cleopas and his companion to Jesus on the road to Emmaus.
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” - John 20:26
The disciples' grief was likely intermingled with fear that the authorities would come after them next. Thus we see in John’s gospel that they remained behind locked doors in the days, even weeks following Jesus’ death. Which brings up a curious point, why after they have met the resurrected Christ (as we see in the verse above) do the disciples remain behind locked doors? The friend and teacher they thought they had lost is alive again and surely if he can break the bonds of death they have nothing more to fear from Rome.
Perhaps the disciples are still experiencing grief, even after meeting the risen Lord. Their loss was great and still very fresh when Jesus rose from the dead, so despite the joy they may have felt there was still fresh memory of their loss. Along with the grief of Jesus’ execution the disciples may have felt new fear and grief upon his resurrection. Even though his rising is cause for joy and hope it still brings grief and fear. Grief, because the way they knew things to be was no more, the familiar was slipping away and they were entering a different way of life. Fear, because resurrection is not an ordinary occurrence and that sort of power can be frightening.
Grief of any sort takes time to diminish and it may or may not fully go away. Over time the disciples' grief over Jesus’ death dissipated and their fear of Rome was overcome by hope through the Gospel. Yet for a moment in time their grief sat side by side with their knowledge of the resurrected Jesus. So too might we experience grief in the midst of hope and fear in the midst of joy. In fact I think it is a terribly normal thing to experience that range of feelings intermingled, for that is what it means to be human.
So when you find yourself in a mix of grief and joy may you recognize that you are not alone and it's a perfectly human place to be.
Peace and Blessings,