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Jesus the Grief Counselor

Jesus – The Counselor

An Exposition of Luke 24:13-32

By: Martie Spurgeon

Having lost our daughter to SIDS several years ago I have had countless opportunities to talk with other families who have also experienced the same loss. God has allowed my heartache to be a springboard that has allowed me to counsel other Mother’s who are walking through the deep grief that follows loosing a child. After our daughter died from SIDS in 1997 I felt like my life had shattered right before my very eyes. I lost my way. I needed someone to come alongside and share with me truth – a counselor. As the years have passed and God has healed my heart; He has placed within me a burden to be a counselor to those who are grieving and hurting.

A few weeks ago as I was in church and listening to the message a passage of scripture became so clear to me. I saw it in a whole different light than I had ever seen before. I saw it in the light of grief counseling. I was so encouraged by watching the Master Counselor at work in the passage. Clearly He was counseling two grieving hearts; and how He handled their heartache and grief was nothing short of breathtaking. ( Luke 24: 13-32)

It was nearing Resurrection Sunday and our thoughts, and the pulpits of America were using this time of year to proclaim the story over and over again. I love Easter; and the part of the story being told during this particular Sunday was the story of the men walking on the road after the crucifixion. They were troubled and Jesus used the word ‘sad’ to describe their emotional state. I listened as the pastor read through the text and then one verse stood out to me:

Verse 16: “But their eyes were holden that they should not know Him.”

As I read those words the preacher’s voice became distant and my heart focused on those words. “They should not know Him.” I saw the verse in a counseling text. Is that not a common problem for most people having just lost a baby to SIDS? Have they not lost the ability to see God clearly? Has that not been the issue in my heart when our daughter died expectedly? Through the hurt and grief and pain and tears I could not see God. I knew He was there – but I just could not see Him clearly.

I meditated upon the story and the verse. The events that had happened the few days before this account had been intense for these men. The passage goes on as the men explain to Jesus what they were talking about and why they were sad. As I read this passage, I put myself in their shoes.

These men had witnessed blatant misuse of power. The government and political powers had deceitfully brought charges against Jesus that were simply not true. Jesus’ followers had witnessed this. It was unfair, in human standards. It caused them great distress to see this happening and to be in a place where they had no recourse, no defense. They had watched the one that they loved be hurt and murdered by a corrupt system.

Jesus’ followers had also witnessed horrific trauma within the past few days. They had seen their leader beaten (more than even most hard core criminals were beaten) for a crime He did not commit. The trauma that they had witnessed had to have been extreme and caused them much distress. Can you imagine seeing someone you loved dearly bloodied and physically broken in body? They also had witnessed His death. Watching a loved one die a traumatic death causes much distress to those whom witness such an event. These followers were human too, and they were not an exception to the rule.

They also felt hunted. In other passages we see that some of the followers of Jesus were hiding from the corrupt government. They were fearful of their lives too; and who would blame them? They had witnessed their teacher suffer unjustly and cruelly in their government and religious systems hand’s. For all they knew they would be next. Fear gripped their hearts and immobilized them.

As I read through the passage I realized that their emotions are often felt by us as parents when our children die unexpectedly. We relive the horror of finding our baby; or perhaps we wrestle with emotions of blame for the person who was watching our baby when they died ( a babysitter, a spouse, a grandparent). The fear that follows us after the death of a baby can be immobilizing; for in one instant we experienced first hand what we had known in our hearts – that life can change in an instant. Fear follows us as we are afraid of all the things that could happen in an instant; and no amount of assurance can change our fears because we know it can happen – we’ve experienced it already.

‘Victimized’ by the events of life, traumatized by an event that caused them great distress, and fearful. Most people who have lost a child to SIDS experience at least one of these emotions; if not all three of them. Parents who have lost a baby suddenly will find somewhere in the grief journey that their baby’s death has caused their eyes to be blinded; and just like these men who loved Jesus, they can not see Him through the circumstances that have come into their lives.

I loved reading how Jesus counseled these grieving men through them their distresses.

Verse 17: “And He (Jesus) said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”

The verse before that tells us that Jesus ‘drew near’ to them. How He knows how to counsel and how much I can learn from Him as I watch how he worked. First, He came close to them and then asked probing questions for them to be able to open up to Him and talk to Him.

These men were shocked that this ‘man’ who walked with them had not heard about all that had happened in the area the past few days before. They ask Him about how it could be that He would not have heard about all these things that had happened.

Then Jesus continues the counseling ‘session’.

Verse 19: “And he said unto them, ‘What things?’ And they said unto him, ‘Concerning Jesus of Nazareth which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people. And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him.”

Jesus walks along with them listening as they recount the events that have caused them trauma, fear, and the reality of a corrupt system that was far worse than anything they would have ever dreamed. We watch and see that Jesus did not interrupt them; but rather kept listening and letting them talk about the things on their hearts. Has He not called us as Christians to come alongside the hurting and help bind up the hurt they are experiencing? I feel most assuredly, that this is what Ally’s death has allowed me to do. I want to be able to come along side another parent who has lost their baby and point them to Christ in the hurt. Offering a listening ear as Jesus did to these hurting men is often the first step in helping the hurting grieving parent.

It is interesting that as they continue dialoging to Jesus about what was on their hearts they come to the core issue of what was truly bothering them! The reason why they were so distressed.

Verse 21: “But we trusted that it had been He which should have redeemed Israel…

Ah Ha! Here it is. The heart issue! Yes, the events of the past few days had caused the distress, fear and trauma; but what had caused the most problem had been that what they had believed about Jesus suddenly appeared to be untrue. God had not responded to the events of the past few days in a way that they thought that He would. Here was the main issue! Their view of God was wrong and causing serious problems with their grid of faith.

Is that not what is so hard for us as grieving parents? The issue that causes us the most distress is not the trauma of finding our baby not breathing or the fear that comes suddenly almost choking us. No, the issue that causes us the most distress is that God did not do something to cause our baby to remain with us. He did not work it out the way we thought He would. Our fervent prayers we prayed when we were watching them trying to get our baby breathing again seemed to go unanswered; and if we’re honest our most heartfelt prayers felt like they fell on deaf ears. Somewhere in the grieving process we have to sort through the reality that the God who spoke the world into existence has the power to bring life back into the shell of our baby. He could have in a moment brought breath back into the little lungs that were housed inside our baby’s shell; but He didn’t. He had the power; but He had not used it the way we had begged Him to. We find ourselves disillusioned with the silence of God during the tragic moments and days following our baby’s death.

This is exactly how we find these men. They too were disillusioned with how God has chosen to respond to Jesus’ death. Then we watch the Master Counselor work. I loved this! Jesus listens to their distress and their heartache and pain and He does what every counselor should do when brought to the heart of the issue. He presents to them Christ.

Verse 26-27: “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.”

He showed them HIMSELF! Perhaps you are reading this wondering how you can help someone who has experienced the death of a baby. May I challenge you to do what Jesus did for these grieving men. Show them Christ! Show them their Redeemer.

Jesus assures them first of God’s sovereignty. He assures them in verse twenty-six that all of the events they had witnessed in the past few days were supposed to have happened. He, with the authority of the Word of God points them to the fact that the events they had witnessed were not out of God’s control and did not take God by surprise. He took history (‘starting at Moses’) and showed them how everything in the Old Testament had pointed to this one event.

Is this not what we have to be reminded of after our baby dies? God is still in control. The events of that day did not alter God’s plan for us. They did not take Him by surprise. He knew before our baby ever was born the day that he/she would die. It was all part of His plan. What comfort we can receive from this fact. God is still in control. Just like the crucifixion was horrible and traumatic God had a plan for it all that was so much better than the pain of death. Jesus points us as grieving parents to Himself and assures us that He has everything under control and that He has a plan for our lives that is so much greater than the hurt and grief that we are experiencing now.

Then, in our text we see that they reach the place where they are going and the two men ask Him to stay with them because of the hour of the day. Jesus agrees and ‘abides with them’. He was not willing to just share truth with them; but also fellowship with them and build a relationship with them. This fellowship time was key in allowing these men to be brought out of their state of despair. Jesus sits down to eat with them, breaks the bread and blesses it and when He gives them to eat suddenly they see it! The light bulb comes on. They realize that this is Jesus!

When they see Jesus right in front of them suddenly they understand all the events of the past several days! It was not a corrupt political system that brought about these injustices and left them all victims. The trauma of the horrific death they had witnessed suddenly did not seem quite so horrific. The fear that had filled their hearts for the government that was coming to get them and had taken Jesus’ body – suddenly did not even matter because HE WAS THERE! When they saw Jesus all the events that had caused such distress completely changed.

May I challenge you that Christ is with you right now in the hurt. Perhaps the hurt is new. He is with you right now. Perhaps the hurt is something that you have carried for years since your baby died. He is with you! He reveals Himself through His Word and the promises of His Word. When you open it up you will find Him; and when you see Him there is an understanding that He has everything under control. As you draw close to Him in your grief He will draw close to you. In the nearness you will experience just what these men did that day. You will know Him. You will understand His heart and His love of you and in this understanding you will find that He is all you need.

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