Friday, March 22, 2013

A Lenten Reflection for March 22, 2013

Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” (John 11:14-16)

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. (John 11:21)

Jesus began to weep. (John 11:35)

The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is a deeply emotional one. Lazarus and his sisters were not just faces in a crowd—they were Jesus’ friends. It seems odd to us, at first, that Jesus waited to go to Bethany where the family lived, but perhaps he knew that it was too late, since it would take two days to get there. Jesus also knew what he was about to do, so he wasn’t in a panic.

Nevertheless, he encounters deep pain when he arrives. Jesus enters into the family’s grief, even though he knows that Lazarus will be returned to them.

Jesus was not a magician who performed medical parlor tricks for the crowds. In every act of ministry he revealed the true face of God, the God who was Emmanuel—God is with us. Jesus was profoundly with the people in their pain and suffering. And so he wept.

Martha was only partially right in what she said to Jesus. Yes, he could have prevented Lazarus from dying at that time. But at some point death would claim him just as it would claim others. And just as it would claim Jesus.

Was Jesus weeping because his friends grieved? Or did he weep because he knew that death remained an inevitability for all? Yes, in his coming death and resurrection, death would be defeated in that it would be revealed that death did not have the last word for human beings. Still, it would come to all.

Thomas (who is unfortunately labeled by tradition as “the doubter”) made a significant theological statement when he insisted that the twelve go with Jesus to die with him. We have come to believe that Jesus’ death was not only unjust and politically motivated, but was also representational. When Jesus died he represented all of Israel, and also the entire world. Jesus would absorb the power of sin and death and take into himself the inevitable end of all human beings. And in his death, in a very important way, God would endure suffering and death.

I wonder if Jesus still weeps? Yes, he has come through death and into resurrection, just as we hope for ourselves. But does he still weep as death cuts it swath over the fields of humans that suffer under its effect? In his place of exaltation with God the Father, is his joy constantly lubricated with his tears?

If he is truly Emmanuel, if he is truly with us, then he is with us in all aspects of our lives.

And perhaps he still weeps.

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