Yesterday, I had the privilege of preaching at the memorial service for Giana Bartolucci. This service was mainly for immediate family, and the Church Family at Clarkson who have all endured this tragedy together. Though the grief of her loss weighs heavy upon so many, its sits especially on her Mom & Dad – my dear, dear friends, Tony & Lois. Tony pastors the Clarkson Community Church in Clarkson NY.
Giana was only 14 when she passed. She succumbed to complications after surgery while still convalescing from the head-on collision Giana and Tony were in on Christmas Eve 2015. Months of being in the pediatric intensive care burn unit at Strong Memorial Hospital. Then off to neurological rehab to deal with her severe brain injury. And then this.
The testimony of the faithfulness and hope they have in Christ, by Tony and Lois through this all has been very public and profound.
Later today, we will have the public funeral service. Because so many in the community watched all of this unfold in the news and through associations of one kind or another – it will be a tremendous opportunity once again for the Gospel.
Below is the text of my sermon for yesterday’s memorial. Along with the remembrances of so many, it was a powerful day.
I’ll post the text of today’s funeral service later. And then on Monday, we will have the graveside committal.
Do pray for the Holy Spirit’s comforting for Tony, Lois, the families and their church. And for the Gospel to find purchase in the hearts of the lost who may be with us.
Read: 1-5; 17-24; 32-37.
As you might have guessed, my focus this afternoon, on this occasion of such grief in the loss of Giana, is v. 35 – Jesus wept.
The entire passage is filled with circumstances and statements that are difficult to unpack.
And I do not want to give an exposition today, as much as to simply make a series of observations about things in this familiar and precious passage.
There are high and divine glimpses here that are not to be trifled with.
I. One such is found in v-33 “When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.” (Repeated in 38)
The words that He was deeply moved and greatly troubled indicate far more than mere sympathy.
The words indicate anger and agitation.
Don Carson writes: [Jesus’] inward reaction was anger or outrage or indignation…It is lexically inexcusable to reduce this emotional upset to the effects of empathy, grief, pain or the like.
While the text does not expand upon that, we can be certain that at the very least, He experienced anger and rage and grief over the effects – especially the final effect – of sin’s curse.
Every drop of pain, grief, suffering and woe in this life is directly traceable back to the Fall in Eden, and what that Fall has done to those made in His image, and most especially those redeemed by His blood.
And Jesus’ is not complacent in our pain – but as we see here in the most sweet and graphic terms, is that He is both outraged, and broken on our behalf.
God, Jesus, is never detached or indifferent to our suffering.
Jesus was not detached from the pain and confusion we experienced contemplating the accident itself which so severely injured Tony and Giana.
So tied is Christ to His people, that when the resurrected Jesus confronted Saul – soon to be Paul on the road to Damascus, He did not say “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting my Church?”
Or – Why are you persecuting my People?
Why are you persecuting my loved ones or even “MY Children”.
No – it was “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?!”
II. There is a natural question which we cannot help but ask inwardly, even if we do not verbalize it. But it was expressed by some there at Lazarus’ tomb.
John 11:37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
And we might well ask: If God loved us so, could He not, have prevented the Fall?
Or in our case today: If Christ loved Giana and Tony & Lois so, could, could He not have prevented this?
But there is a love which is so high, which transcends our wishes, desires and conceptions of love to such a degree, that it overrides what we would expect as the normal expressions of love.
Who would ever have dreamed of a love so extraordinary, that God Himself would give His own Son to save the wretches we are?
Or of a love so divine and excelling that as the eternal Son of God, Jesus would leave His divine excellencies, joys and privileges, to come in the likeness of fallen man, to suffer and die in our stead, that we might be His?
Who would have fathomed such things if the Word of God hadn’t disclosed them?
Because of His great love, His divine love – that we might know the Father in grace and mercy beyond measure, He planned to raise us up from the dead instead or merely preserving us from the Fall.
This is so we might see the glory of God – glory that only God could know about Himself.
Do I understand that?
I confess, I do not.
But I haven’t the slightest doubt that Giana understands it right now. That all the saints who have preceded us to Jesus’ throne do.
And I am cast back upon the unbreakable and reliable Word of God and thus required to think it so, and to let my thoughts and my heart rest there.
III. We need to note here that Jesus wept even tho He knew the immediate joy which would be right around the corner.
And, He wept even though He knew the eternal joy which would be Lazarus’ eventually.
The immediacy of Lazarus’ death and the impact of that on Lazarus’ dear sisters, was not tossed off as frivolous.
He wept with them.
He hurt with them.
And even in the face of the fact that He would only moments later raise Lazarus from the dead!
It was not just a friend who wept here, JESUS wept.
How much more fitting then that we grieve sorely over the loss of Giana – though in light of the coming resurrection.
The hope and promise of that great day of reunion with Giana and all the saints in no wise diminishes the proper grieving we do now.
And Jesus taught us that so starkly and personally in this event.
IV. I’ve touched on this briefly already but let me say just a few more words on it: Jesus wept because of the effects of the Fall on humanity made in His image.
He wept because of the effects of the Fall on His own beloved friend.
He wept because of the sorrow this brought upon Lazarus’ sisters whom He also loved personally.
There is not the slightest doubt in my minds that Jesus weeps with us today.
V. And because all these things are so, it is thus we see the profound delight He has in being able one day to wipe every tear away from the eyes of those He has purchased with His blood.
And we should note that the text of Rev. 21:4 says “He” – He personally shall attend to our tears in the New Heavens and the New Earth.
This is something He reserves for Himself.
He does not relegate it to us to do for one another.
He does not pass it off to the highest archangel in Heaven.
No, this – He reserves for Himself.
He wants to come to each one, and be the one who touches our every grief and sorrow, and draws every atom of pain and suffering from it – by the touch of His own nail scarred hand.
VI. No one can argue that there is something difficult to comprehend in John 11:1–6 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”
But note how 5 & 6 are to be fitted together: 5 Now Jesus LOVED Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 SO, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.”
SO when He heard, He stayed 2 days longer.
And here is a very high and difficult lesson to learn – We need to see here too that Christ’s love for us isn’t one iota less when His providences are painful and confusing, than when they are pleasant and clear.
The text says BECAUSE He loved Lazarus, He waited.
And we may equally say BECAUSE Christ loved Giana, and Lois, and Tony, He did not raise her up at this time – but took her home.
And in all of that: Jesus wept.
So we weep.
And that, not alone – but in chorus with the very Son of God.
The One who gave His life for her.
The One who will one day raise her up in a new and glorified body like His own.
The one who has ushered her into His eternal glory with unspeakable joy and sweetness unimaginable.
I want to close with something which has been such a blessing to my own soul in contemplating it over and over, and I trust will be so for you.
I steal it verbatim, with absolutely no apologies from a sermon given by Sam Storms on Jonathan Edwards’ view of Heaven.
I want us to taste and savor something of Giana’s present bliss. And just what it is Tony and Lois gave Giana up to when they committed her into the care of Christ when she departed this earth.
Negative: “Nothing which shall offend the most delicate eye”
Abrasive, irritating, agitating or hurtful
Harmful, hateful, upsetting or unkind
Sad, bad or mad, harsh, impatient, ungrateful or unworthy
Weak or sick or broken or foolish
Deformed, degenerate, depraved, or disgusting
Polluted, pathetic, poor or putrid
Dark, dismal, dismaying or degrading
Blameworthy, blemished, blasphemous or blighted
Faulty, faithless, frail or fading
Grotesque or grievous – Hideous or insidious
Illicit, illegal, lascivious or lustful
Marred or mutilated, misaligned or misinformed
Nasty or naughty, offensive or odious
Rancid or rude, soiled or spoiled – Tawdry or tainted, tasteless or tempting
Vile or vicious, wasteful or wanton – None of it!
What WILL we see there? What IS Giana seeing there right now?
Everywhere she turns her eyes, there is nothing but…
Glory and grandeur and beauty and brightness
Purity and perfection and splendor and satisfaction
Sweetness and salvation and majesty
Only and all that is adorable and affectionate
and beautiful and bright
Brilliant and bountiful and delightful and delicious, delectable and dazzling
Elegant and exciting and fascinating and fruitful
Glorious and grand and gracious and good
Happy and holy and healthy and whole
Joyful and jubilant and lovely and luscious
Majestic and marvelous, opulent and overwhelming
Radiant and resplendent, splendid and sublime
Sweet and savory, tender and tasteful
Euphoric and unified –
And all of this for Hell deserving sinners like you and me.
And why? Because she’s looking at the face of the Lord Jesus Christ.
 Carson, D. A. 1991. The Gospel according to John. (The Pillar New Testament Commentary). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.