Suggested Reading: Acts 20:17-38
And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.—Acts 20:36-38
It was a sorrowful, weepy time when Paul departed from the Ephesian Elders. Knowing they would not see their dear friend and mentor again in their lifetime brought them all to tears and made their hearts heavy. If they had one comfort to cling to it was that they had departed on a good note, having spent a wonderful time with him and could look back on their last visit with a sense of peace.
You my have had times like that, after a dear friend’s or close relatives passing, remembering the last time you visited or talked with them and especially if their passing was sudden or unexpected.
Because the Spirit had forewarned and Paul had a sense that his life and work was coming to a close he was able to prepare mentally, emotionally, relationally and spiritually. One way he did so was taking time to visit those he wanted to see one last time and perhaps share something that might be of great service to them. More than likely he had a lot to reflect on: his work and ministry, missionary journeys, friends he had made, conversations, warm embraces. Good memories that had to tug at his heart maybe even bring a smile to his face.
When my own mother died unexpectedly we were living in one state and she in another. There was no time to travel to see her one last time. During the days following her we were comforted by the remembrance of our last visit with her that previous Thanksgiving weekend. I could still hear her laughter, see her smiling face, smell her perfume, and feel her warm and welcoming hugs. These memories carried me a long way and helped me cope with her sudden death. The same has been true with my husband’s parents. At the time we did not know it would be our last visit, but as it turned out it was. These and other visits like them have reminded me and made an indelible mark on my heart and spirit to always treat each visit with family and friends as precious. Not in a morbid sense but with an awareness that we can never know for sure if we will see or talk to someone again. The reality we do not know the future
Like the apostle Paul Jesus knew his death was coming and so he, like Paul, prepared others for his departure. Even though the disciples did not fully recognize or know what was going to happen they knew something was amiss. Their memories of their last visit with their friend, teacher and Master would have held them together, comforted, strengthened, and given them peace also.
As difficult as last visit may be when we belong to Jesus our last earthly visits will be just that: our final visits with family and friends on earth. The great reunion is guaranteed and awaits us. We will most certainly see family and friends again in heaven then the hugs will not be solemn, tearful embraces, but delight and happiness, the tears will not be ones from deep sadness but great joy. Shouts of joy and praise resonate all over heaven as family and friends see one anther again; the years of separation will melt away and the joy of knowing we will never be separated again will overflow. Let’s Pray,
God, none but you know when we will be having a final earthly visit with someone we care about and love. Help us to make each visit and conversation glorify you and fill us with good and comforting memories. In Jesus, name we pray. Amen
Reflection: What final earthly visits and conversations with friends and loved ones have encouraged you to cherish visits and conversations with those who are still with you?