The Pas Lent 5
2 April 2017
Psalm130 pg 880
God of compassion,
you call us out of the bindings of death
on this, our resurrection day:
make us ready to surrender the fear in which we hide
to step into your future alive and unashamed;
through Jesus Christ, the life of the world. Amen.
“Jesus wept.” (Jn 11:35)
Jesus wept. These two words, in the minds of the biblical translators rates their own verse.
And these two words speak volumes to us, to today’s gospel, to Jesus heart and mission, to the attachments that God makes with all of humanity, including you and me.
I’d even say it ranks right up there with Shakespeare describing the death of King Lear with the simple, yet profound words. “He died.”
Our text for today talks about the death and the resurrection of Lazarus. It talks of the faith of Mary and Martha, of the growth in understanding of the disciples and of the enmity of those Pharisees and higher Jewish officials who add today’s events to the growing list of grievances they have against Jesus.
But the most profound part of today’s gospel are these two words: “Jesus wept.” (vs 35)
Lazarus has died, one of Jesus’ close friends, and although he has the ability and the intention to resurrect him, today, this doesn’t mean its an occasion without emotion, or human doubt.
When the Corinthians doubt the resurrection of Christ, Paul says “14 if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. …17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. (1 Cor 15:14-19)
And to the community at Thessalonica he says: “13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.” (1 Thess 4:13-14)
Christ admits that Lazarus has, in fact, died so that the faith of the disciples might be strengthened by God’s action through Jesus.
And up to the time that Jesus is leading the disciples back to Bethany, this is business as usual – increasing the faith of those who will take up the mangle of leadership after him.
This is what he’s here for – to open our eyes to God’s love, God’s ability to change the ways we perceive even life and death.
We can see this as a precursor to the action God will bring to Jesus death on the cross and raising him from the grave.
And then he comes face to face with Mary, with the mourners, with the friends and family who have come out to support Mary an Martha in this time of loss.
“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. 35 Jesus wept.” (vs 33-35)
We are not told that he tears his garment which would follow Jewish mourning customs, but he is feeling the depth of love, and faith, and loss that we all experience in our lifetimes.
So we can see, through this passage, that when we bring our burdens before Jesus, our losses, our joys, our anger, our triumphs, then as we express ourselves, Jesus is right beside us, holding us, supporting us, walking with us every step of the way.
As we weep in the depths, the details, the drama of our lives, so does Jesus.
And we can see in other places that Jesus fully enters into our human experience.
We are able to see the puzzlement of youth when Mary and Joseph find young Jesus among the elders and teachers in the temple. He says “why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Fathers house?”(Lk 2:49)
We can see annoyance at the request to turn water into wine in Cana, before his work fully begins. He says: “Dear woman why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” (Jn 2:4)
When the woman with the alabaster jar of perfume anoints Jesus, he feels love and compassion for her, whether it’s the story about the oil being poured on his head, or on his feet, Jesus feels love and compassion for the woman doing the deed. (Mt 26:6-13, Mk 14:1-9, Lk 7:36-50)
How about the anger Jesus expresses at the temple when “he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (Jn 2:15-16)
Or even love when “Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’
9 Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” Lk 19:8-10)
Even at the Last Supper, we see Jesus love his disciples, all of his disciples, even Judas.
It is through his engagement with society, with humanity, with each one of us that we are able to see Jesus laugh, weep, mourn, and react with joy. I think surprise is a little out of the way for one who is omniscient, yet from time to time Jesus is surprised, and so are we, in the details of our lives.
But today, we see that “Jesus wept.” We see that Jesus mourns, and that he grieves.
In that weeping, we are able to see the depth of love that Jesus has for not only you and me, for the living who surround him, but for Lazarus and for all who have ‘fallen asleep in the faith’.
At the same time, he is overcome with emotion. Here is one whom he loves who has died. We know it’s a death that is meant to bring God’s glory when Jesus raises him to new life, yet, Jesus does love him and is overcome with our oh, so human expression of loss, and grief, and Jesus grieves with us.
This doesn’t mean that his purpose is set aside; after all this is the Son of God, and his purpose, among us, is to prove to the disciples, to all who are here, today, to you and to me.
That God does more than just miraculous healing, that God is Lord of Heaven and Earth, and that God cares for each one of us to the same degree that he cares for the lilies of the field and birds of the air. (Mt 6:26-34)
Yet, today, Jesus weeps.
At the grave, he is still moved, yet, he has a mission, today – to show the glory of God in doing what only God can do for humanity, give the gift of life.
“41 So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’“(Jn 11:41-42)
We know the outcome: Lazarus is raised from the dead, restored to the living, to the love of family and friends. Yet Jesus wept.
He is moved, by love, to keep on the path that God puts before him, the path that leads him to the cross, not for his benefit but for yours, mine, even Lazarus’ benefit.
We’ve seen that, like the rest of us, Jesus has his good days, bad days, even his sarcastic days, but throughout he remains he Son of God. He remains the one who dies for our sins. He remains the one called to this from the creation of the world.
We know this, we know the law of Moses, we know Jesus summary of the law that urges us to seek life, not death, to seek God’s presence in our lives, rather than the absence of that presence.
We know all of this, yet we forget that Jesus is human as well as divine. We ignore his humanity to focus on his divinity, on his miracles, on the lives he’s influenced, even our own. Yet, the ability to do all of the above is rooted in his humanity, in his ability to love, feel compassion, and to weep.
Today, we still live, we love, we grieve, we strive to keep moving forward in todays world, often burdened with these emotions and the bonds they place on our lives and hearts.
Yet, we are able to find comfort, encouragement, in the words “Jesus wept.” We can hold to the image that when we weep, we do not weep alone.
An old proverb says: “laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep and you weep alone.” But this isn’t true. When we weep, Jesus weeps, when we laugh, Jesus laughs.
God has never left us alone in our lives. As Jesus wept, today, God wept with him. As Jesus called for God’s action in the world, Lazarus was raised from the dead.
“Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’” (Jn 11:41b-42)
And this is the answer. all Jesus asks of us is that we believe in the one who sent Jesus, God, the Father.
We see that all God wants is to be an active part of our lives, not just at Lazarus’ grave, but every day of our lives.
God wishes to encourage our hearts to grow in love and faith toward God, toward ourselves, and toward our neighbour.
To encourage us to see that God feels as we feel, and always reacts in a way that is beneficial for each of us.
But it’s rooted in the summary of the Law. It’s rooted in the love of God that consumes our whole being, as well as love of our selves so that we can love our neighbour.
We do not stand alone. Jesus stands with us. He weeps when we weep, when we rage, when we lash out with emotion that is too large to be contained, not just at the grave of his friend, but in the depths of our lives, every day. Why? Because today, Jesus weeps. (vs 35)