Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jesus Wept (Chuck Burgen 1933-2012)

Death is just part of life, right? I mean, all of us have experienced it in some form or fashion; whether we've lost a dearly loved family member or the family dog, cat or hamster. Either way, we know the pain and ache of loss. And I don't care what the circumstances might be. It always hurts.

Twenty-some years ago, my grandfather died after an excruciating battle with esophageal cancer. The last three months of his life were the worst. Radiation and chemotherapy had left him frail and emaciated—a skeletal shadow of the wirer-y muscled farmer he had once been. And as thankful as we all were when Grandpa Foote died (easing his pain and suffering), it was still a mournful day at his funeral. Our family laughed and reminisced about life with him throughout the calling hours and...we cried, equally as much, at the family cemetery where we buried him.

I've thought a lot about this since Monday, January 30th. That morning Jim Burgen sent word out that his dad, Chuck, had died. Chuck had really left his mark on our church—not only because of the son he raised, but also because of his inspirational testimony in last year's "Grow a Pair" series. But over the past few months, Chuck has been in a lot of pain, fighting through his own battle with cancer. And even though there was a great celebration of Chuck's life and legacy at Bunker Hill Christian Church in Indiana today (February 4, 2012), and the family was comforted knowing that Chuck got to see Jesus face-to-face that still hurt. Chuck still leaves behind his loving wife Ann, Jim and his sister Julie, and all the rest of the Burgen clan.

I’m sure that over the next few days, weeks and months the Burgens will continue to miss Chuck...and mourn. And you know what? Jesus does the same thing.

I take comfort knowing that Jesus understands what it's like to lose someone. The story in the Gospel of John about Jesus bringing Lazarus back from the dead is one of my favorite stories of Jesus in the Bible. Not necessarily because of the end of the story...when Lazarus is raised from the dead...but because of what happens before…when Jesus wept.

Every kid who grew up going to church having to memorize Bible verses in Sunday School knows what I mean: John 11:35 was every kid’s favorite verse in the Bible. Why? Because it’s the shortest. And I was no different. Today, though, it’s still one of my favorites. But I love it now because of what it means...and how it shows me that Jesus knows my pain and suffering when someone I love dies.

In this story, Jesus is away from home and is told that His good friend Lazarus is sick and dying. And what does He do? Does He pack up immediately and race to heal His buddy? No. Instead, Jesus basically tells everyone, "We're going to stay put. We'll get to Lazarus later...after he's dead and buried." Jesus even tells His disciples that He's going to bring Lazarus back from the dead to bring glory to God—so that they’ll truly believe in Him. But when Jesus gets to Bethany, He's met by Lazarus' sisters...and they're upset. Really upset. Lazarus is dead and in the grave...and Mary and Martha are confused…and hurt…and angry at Jesus. They want to know why He took so long getting there...because they know He could have done something... He could have healed Lazarus and kept him alive. And He didn't. We’ve all been there, right? Questioning why Jesus didn’t do something to stop a tragedy. And what does Jesus do?

Jesus wept.” (John 11:35).

Now, I've heard all kinds of sermons where pastors and teachers have pontificated about why Jesus cried (i.e., Because He was mourning the plight of sin and death for all mankind, etc.). I don't know. Maybe. Here's what I think, though: I think Jesus was just sad. I think He was mourning. I think (knowing full-well He was going to bring Lazarus back from the dead) Jesus was doing exactly what God says we should do when we love each other. We should “…rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn…” (Romans 12:15)

Even when our faith in Jesus is rock-solid…and when we know that our dead family and friends are in a better place with still hurts. It's still hard saying goodbye. We know we're going to miss having them around. And Jesus not only sympathizes with us...He empathizes with us too (Hebrews 4:14-15). He knows exactly what it's like to mourn a loved one.

I take great comfort in that. And I know that the Burgen family does too. Chuck’s funeral (from start to finish) echoed Chuck’s love for Jesus…and his love for others. It was a great old-school, Midwest, small church funeral and celebration—held in a church at the top of a hill that was established over 150 years ago…a gravesite service at the family cemetery (a stone’s throw from the church’s front steps)…and a full-on potluck dinner…served by church ladies. It was just as Chuck requested; simple…and always pointing to Jesus.

And Jesus was there—to be sure…comforting and supporting the Burgens. Jesus was surely there…and even though Chuck was standing at Jesus’ side the entire time…I am also convinced that Jesus was standing alongside of Ann, Jim, Julie and the rest of the family and…

Jesus wept    


1 comment:

  1. Great post. I agree... Christ's tears were real and directly related to the circumstance, the sadness that enveloped the entire family at that moment. What is really amazing about Christ is that He lived in the moment... I mean, He knew that within moments, Lazarus would be alive again. Yet, He wept. The shortest verse in the Bible is maybe one of the most powerful. For it shows Christ's love at the most personal level.