Jesus meets those who are grieving
As we search for comfort in times of tragedy, suffering and loss, the Bible gives us profound pictures of compassion in the life of Jesus. In this passage, John 11:17-44, Jesus comes to Mary and Martha following the death of their brother, Lazarus. May God speak to you and your friends through this Bible study.
Death is a painful encounter with loss and grief. We experience grief in losing people we know, as well as hearing about the suffering of others. Pray that through this passage in Scripture God will speak with us about responses of people in grief, ways that he cares, and glimpses of how we can represent Jesus in a suffering world. The questions below can guide you in personal Bible study. Also consider inviting friends to discuss the passage, including those who do not yet know Jesus. You may want to focus on one section at a time. (See also the companion article, We have witnessed a tragedy.
A story of grief
- Read John 11:17-37. Observe everything you see about the response of Mary and Martha to the death of their brother.
- Contrast the behavior of Mary and Martha, and describe their emotions. Look more closely at what Martha may have been dealing with in verse 21. Compare their responses to feelings of grief you have experienced, including your responses to the tragedy on your campus.
- Describe the attitudes and behavior of Jesus in this passage. How would this have been helpful to the sisters in their grief? Discuss the meaning of Jesus’ statement in verses 25-26. How would this bring hope to the sisters, and to people who are grieving the loss of someone they know?
- Summarize qualities of Jesus’ life described in this passage. How does this compare and contrast with your view of God?
- In verses 36-37, note the attitudes of other people in the story. How do people express these thoughts today?
Inviting Jesus into our grief
- Reflect on the responses of grief in Mary and Martha. With whom do you identify? How are others you know responding to the current mourning on your campus?
- Focus on the part of the passage where Jesus meets the person representing feelings you have. Meditate on Jesus coming to you as he did to Martha and Mary. Think about Jesus also coming to others in their grief.
- Also read verses 38-43, and describe the response of Jesus and others in this group of people. Invite God to come into our own experience of helplessness over death and evil — personally and as a community.
Representing Jesus among those who are hurting
- Focus on the qualities of Jesus in verses 17-35, the statement that Jesus was “deeply moved” (verse 38), and his words (verses 40-42). What does God want to say to us about who he is? Specifically think about the Lord weeping and being deeply moved by the death and suffering of people in your community, and around the world. Talk with God about this, and thank him for being present with us in our crisis.
- Why do you think that Jesus asked the people to unbind the cloth wrapped around Lazarus? Describe some of the thoughts and emotions they may have had as they began to do this. What are similar responses that we may have?
- Jesus brings life to people, and gives us the privilege of being involved in what he is doing. People around us are grieving, “bound up” by fear and anger, and spiritually dead. What are some specific ways that you and your Christian community can represent Jesus through showing care like he did? (He came, listened, cried, communicated that Jesus is the resurrection and the life, involved others, etc.)
- Talk and pray about what God is saying to you personally and as a Christian on your campus.
See the companion article to this study, We have witnessed a tragedy.
— Mary Thompson, RN, MSN, former director of Nurses Christian Fellowship, a ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. This Bible study was adapted from a message to the NCF group at the University of Arizona after a male student shot three faculty and terrorized students in the College of Nursing in October, 2002.