It has been almost a full week since we all heard the news of the sudden, tragic death of Kobe Bryant, his daughter and 7 other souls, as a result of a helicopter crash. By now we have seen or heard about countless tributes, and public displays showing how this calamity has affected people. Prayers have gone out for the families. Tears have been shed by those who knew them and many who never met them. For the past week there has been a palpable sadness in the air. I have had to wipe away moisture from my eyes a few times this week. Many Facebook friends have confessed their deep shock then sadness, searching for consolation in memes, GIF’s and videos. The flags of our hearts are at half-mast.
But like any other time, there have also been whispers and statements made calling into question why the reaction has been what it has been. There are those who think that all of the fuss is too much. There are some who fault the media for talking too much about Kobe and Gianna Bryant, neglecting the other 7 who passed away in the same accident. Arguments have erupted because some have dared to bring up shameful incidents from Kobe’s past. The side-eye is being cast by people who wonder why so many who didn’t know Kobe and weren’t even Lakers fans are “mourning”. I’ve heard it said that those who are weeping have inappropriately made an idol of Kobe. I have no condemnation for these non-mourners. I do have an opinion about how we Christians can respond to this moment.
John chapter 11 verse 35 is reportedly the shortest verse in the Bible. Despite its brevity, it is powerfully relevant. It says, “Jesus wept”. The trigger for Jesus’ tears is told in the preceding verses, “When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled, and said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus wept.” John 11:33-35. To put this into context, it is important to note that Jesus knew about His friend Lazarus’ demise days earlier but did not break down then. In fact, Jesus delayed his trip and didn’t make it to the funeral. Jesus even told those around them that He was glad that Lazarus was dead, because it would be used to build their faith. You see, Jesus knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. But when he got to Bethany and saw Lazarus’ sisters and the Jews crying, “He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled”. Jesus wept because He felt compassion for those who were experiencing the pain of loss. He wept with them.
The tragic death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant; John, Keri, and Alyssa Altobelli; Sarah and Payton Chester; Christina Mauser; and the pilot Ara Zobayan, is an opportunity for Christians to exhibit compassion. The families and friends of these departed souls are hurting. Fans and admirers of Kobe Bryant are also hurting – perhaps unreasonably so, but they are. Many don’t really understand why their feel how they feel. Personally, my strongest emotions have erupted when witnessing the cries of the men who knew Kobe. I have wept at the thought of those teenage girls riding to their basketball game one minute and hurtling to their death in the next. Jesus, facing people lamenting a loss, responded with empathy and compassion. Though He knew he would solve the issue in spectacular fashion, He mourned with those who mourned (Romans 12:15). As Christians, we know that Jesus is the answer. He is the balm in Gilead. He is the healer. He gives eternal life. But I’ve heard it said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Perhaps those of us who are wrestling with feelings of sadness are perfect targets for an understanding hug, a warm knowing glance, and a demonstration of the compassion of Jesus Christ.