It’s often very difficult to say ‘goodbye’ – especially if it’s a member of the family or a close friend who is going away for a while. Railway stations, airports, bus stations and ferry terminals can be pretty awful places at times.
There are many ‘goodbyes’ in the Bible…..
- We’re going to start with that grand old man Moses who led the children of Israel out of captivity in Egypt through the wilderness toward the promised land.
Moses at the end of so many years of service to Israel, is not allowed by God to enter the promised land. He looks back at what they have done together, then he looks forward, and bids them farewell.
He says goodbye to his people – ‘Happy art thou, O Israel’ he cries, ‘A people saved by the Lord.’
He knows that God has protected them in the past, and has no fears for their future – for he knows they are in God’s safe keeping.
- Then there is Jacob, a very elderly man. What a long and exciting life he has led; what a man he has been.
Then had come the loss of his son Joseph, whom he had believed had been killed. But years later, Joseph, now a great man in Egypt, was reunited with his family.
In his old age, Jacob moved with his entire household down to that strange land to settle there. He lived in Egypt, but his heart was still in his homeland of Palestine.
Even as he lay dying and said his goodbyes, he begged that his body should be taken back and buried in the land he loved..
- Then there is the parting between Jonathan and David.
Jonathan was a prince, the son of King Saul, and David was a shepherd boy, and they became very close friends. But David was perceived as being a rival to Saul, so the King forced them apart. They met secretly to say goodbye, embraced and wept.
Then Jonathan said these last beautiful words:
‘Go in peace…the Lord shall be between thee and me…forever’
They had to part, but in their love of God, they would always be one.
- There is the parting between St Paul and the elders of Ephesus
The old Apostle, having done his work in these parts, is on the way back to Jerusalem.
He knows that he is running into danger, and, therefore, says goodbye to his friends. Even grown men at such times can break down in tears, so Paul asks them to stop as they are making things harder for him.
How these Christians really did care for one another.
- And lastly we come to the story of Christ saying goodbye to his friends at the time of his Ascension
It should have been a terrible occasion. Here was Jesus whom his disciples had known so wonderfully, and who had changed their lives forever, now going away from them.
Here was the one who had brought God into their lives in a real and living way, now saying his goodbyes. What a blow that should have been.
But when they parted, the disciples went back to Jerusalem, ‘filled with great joy’ as we heard. ‘Filled with great joy’ Why? Because they had his promise that although it was goodbye and an end of meeting together in the old way with him before their eyes, it was the beginning of his being with them in a new way.
He would be with them, in spirit, always. And not just with them, but with us too.
- In our lifetime, there are many goodbyes and some of them can be hard, even painful.
Imprinted in my mind most vividly is my beloved wife asleep on her death-bed – just a matter of hours before she died. I bent over her, kissed her on her forehead and said “Thank you; I’ll see you again soon enough somewhere, some time. You’ll be safe”
We never have to say goodbye to Jesus, he is with us forever.
Remember what he said ‘ I am with you always, even to the close of the age’ And he is, as king of kings & lord of lords – and in that we can all rejoice.