Tag Archives: grief

Matt 28:16-20

In Matthew 28:16-20 Jesus commissions the disciples to go out and make more; that’s what they are to do. It’s just a few lines, and many of us have heard these lines many many times. So it is surprising to me all that I am finding in them. On first glance, I honestly thought it was Jesus way of just keeping the disciples busy until the grief of His leaving them was less. When someone dies/leaves, just keep busy. Clean the fridge. Wash the windows. Plan a new garden. And for the prime person left, of course in our world the paperwork alone can be overwhelming. So I thought, well they likely didn’t have paperwork back then. And maybe the Romans would hold a grudge against the disciples, maybe it was for the best if they leave town for a while. So Jesus got them to Galilee, to the mountain, and then is sending them off to all the nations. Keeping them busy and keeping them safe.

All that may be true.

But of course, the disciples did go to all the nations. There is Christianity, however robust or fragile, everywhere, I think. And the task was not just busy work for them. They were given the power to tell their story — and have it believed. I mean really — elsewise who would have believed: your God had a son, okay lots of Gods do, carry on. Oh but your God’s son died. Okay, well that happens too, so sorry. Oh wait, he came back? To forgive us? To defeat death? What sort of crazy talk is this guy; look let’s just feed him and treat him gently and get him out of town, eh?

But they persisted. They did as Jesus said — went, baptized, taught, and remembered. It may be the first time the disciples did anything right!

I was going to write about Mountains in Matthew and how surprising and mystical and full circle it is that Jesus met them, for the last time, on a mountaintop. Next time!



Interrupted by Poetry

The nameless

The violent quiet dead in Dallas, DC, Philly, Chicago

Anywhere, other years even,

The ones that we don’t know

Not names or ages or who

They loved or who loved them

Let our hearts ache for them too

since we now sit sunlit in dark uncertainties of grief

Yes, throw in all the nameless

Who weren’t the final straw

Who didn’t break or bless our hearts

What happens next

“When Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.”

Jesus didn’t really get what he wanted, did he? At least we assume that he wanted — even needed — a little time alone to miss John, time to just be by himself. Or perhaps that little time he had on the boat, as the crowd followed along the shore, was enough? Did they call to him, plea for him to cure them?

“Master my baby, he can’t hear, please please heal him, please.”

“The pain, dear Rabbi, the pain, it stabs.”

Jesus had compassion for them and cured their sick. Grief and sadness transformed to healing and connection.

I recall a pastor once explaining that the word “compassion” used in the Bible often has a context of a great twisting of the guts — a feeling of compassion so deep that another’s pain is felt in your gut. That how he looked at us along the shore, as we desperately were hope for healing, that perhaps he wasn’t annoyed or dismayed. Perhaps he was deeply moved, touched to his core, and eager to help. Perhaps he was extremely sad that the world was a broken place. Perhaps he was relieved to be able to help.

Anne Lamot in her recent book on prayer “Help, Thanks, Wow” talks about her experience of being told as a child that she was “too sensitive”.  The adults in her life didn’t want her to question the brokenness around her, didn’t want her touching it to help or heal or understand. They just wanted her to care less.

Jesus would want us to feel the other’s sorrow and be moved to help in any inadequate way we could. Because that’s the next thing that happens — he teaches the disciples to feed the crowd and to not ignore the problem that this huge crowd will presently be very hungry and there was no food for them. This is one of the miracles of feeding, yes, but I think we could press it a bit further to a teaching of not ignoring problems but working together.


Coming up — there’s a bit more of John in this gospel believe it or not! Then I’ll look at John the Baptist in the other gospels. What I might do after (if) I ever get unstuck by John the Baptist (and how that transforms how we see Jesus) is to get stuck on something else — maybe Mary the sister of Martha. Maybe wells in the Bible, maybe stretch that to include springs — that is fascinating. But I won’t know what is next until it happens!