Compelled by the Spirit

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Acts 20 New International Version 

Paul’s Farewell to the Ephesian Elders

13 We went on ahead to the ship and sailed for Assos, where we were going to take Paul aboard. He had made this arrangement because he was going there on foot. 14 When he met us at Assos, we took him aboard and went on to Mitylene. 15 The next day we set sail from there and arrived off Chios. The day after that we crossed over to Samos, and on the following day arrived at Miletus. 16 Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus to avoid spending time in the province of Asia, for he was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem, if possible, by the day of Pentecost.

17 From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church.18 When they arrived, he said to them: “You know how I lived the whole time I was with you, from the first day I came into the province of Asia.19 I served the Lord with great humility and with tears and in the midst of severe testing by the plots of my Jewish opponents. 20 You know that I have not hesitated to preach anything that would be helpful to you but have taught you publicly and from house to house. 21 I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus.

22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God,[a] which he bought with his own blood.[b] 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.

32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”

36 When Paul had finished speaking, he knelt down with all of them and prayed. 37 They all wept as they embraced him and kissed him. 38 What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again. Then they accompanied him to the ship.

Jesus the Comforter

John 11 New International Version

Jesus Comforts the Sisters of Lazarus

17 On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. 18 Now Bethany was less than two miles[b] from Jerusalem, 19 and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.

21 “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.

“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.

3Jesus wept.

36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

The story of the illness, death, and resurrection of Lazarus (John 11:1-45) provides the context for this hymn for those who are grieving deeply over the death of a loved one. Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary had sent word for their friend Jesus to come when Lazarus was ill. But Jesus took his time, finally arriving “too late,” and joining the grieving sisters who said, “If only you had been here…..” Jesus also grieved; he loved all three of them. The text ends with a prayer that the risen Christ still speak to those whose grief is raw and to assure us all “from your empty tomb…that life never dies.” This text is the first of sixteen hymn-like choral pieces in the collection The Last Journey: Songs for the time of grieving (GIA), with texts and music prepared by John Bell of the Iona Community. Each piece is also available separately from GIA. Some texts, like this one, were co-written with Graham Maule. The tunes were composed or arranged by John Bell, usually for organ, and often with a descant instrument. Bell’s original tune published with this text was named PALMER, but a note at the end says that “other tunes, such as ROCKINGHAM, may be used if the text is to be sung by a congregation.” That old beloved tune is well suited to this text, and in Lift Up Your Hearts, there is even a link to a psalm often sung at funerals: ROCKINGHAM is used again with a setting of Psalm 116 that includes the line, “His saints the LORD delights to save; their death is precious in his sight.” 

O Christ, you wept when grief was raw,
and felt for those who mourned a friend;
come close to where we would not be
and hold us numbed by this life’s end


The well-loved voice is silent now
and we have much we meant to say;
collect our lost and wandering words
and keep them till the endless day.


We try to hold what is not here
and fear for what we do not know.
Oh, take our hands in yours, good Lord,
and free us to let our friend go.


In all our loneliness and doubt,
beyond what we can realize,
address us from your empty tomb
and tell us that life never ends.