23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people. 24 So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought to him all the sick, those who were afflicted with various diseases and pains, demoniacs, epileptics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25 And great crowds followed him from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.
“See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away.”
Several years ago, I was with some friends when they received news that a relative had a terrible accident, and it looked like he wasn’t going to make it. It was unprovoked. It could not have been prevented. It just happened. We stopped everything we were doing and prayed. We prayed for a miracle. We prayed for peace over his wife and kids. And then one of my friends spoke these words that I will never forget: “God, we know that death is not natural…” They were important words to hear.
There are a lot of things we say and have been told to help soften the blow of unimaginable grief—things like, “Death is just another part of life,” or, “God just needed another angel in the heavenly bouquet,” or, “God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle.” But when my friend said that death was not natural, she called it like she saw it and professed that death and suffering doesn’t belong. It isn’t right. It shouldn’t be like this. And she called on God to set it right.
After selecting his disciples, Jesus goes straight to work setting things right. People come to him in droves seeking healing for themselves and their loved ones—people who are suffering from physical and mental torment. They know that as common as their illness and suffering may be, it is not right. So they go to the one who can make it right. And when these crowds found healing, they didn’t just go back home. They kept following him. Their pain pointed them to the kingdom.
This isn’t to say that we endure pain so that we will see God’s kingdom. Nor does God cause our pain in order to make us holier. But when we are being crushed by the strange, unnatural weight of grief, we place our hope in the one who will set it right. Jesus embodies what is to come—that God will be with us, wiping our tears, putting a definitive end death and suffering just as Christ defeated death and suffering on the cross. And while we wait for God to enact these last things, Christ employs us just as he employed his disciples to join in the work of setting things right. We wipe people’s tears. We feed the hungry. We fight for justice. We do all of these things in the spirit of what is to come and in the name of the one who will put the broken pieces back together again.
When we are blinded by pain, you point us to your kingdom. Empower us to be honest in our grief, not diminishing or dismissing the reality of suffering but rejecting its finality. You are a God who has the final say, and you are a God who says that death, and mourning, and crying, and pain will be no more. So we look to you, God. Amen.