Letters from a Pastor to His People- March 29, 2020
The raising of Lazarus is one of my favorite Gospels. There is so much to pray with in the account. On my private retreat I make every year, whenever it is, I spend at least one afternoon meditating and reflecting upon this powerful scene. In last year's parish mission, I offered an extended meditation on the passage. There is so much to glean from Jesus' encounter at Bethany that I encourage you to pray with this yourself. You have time!
Jesus wept. This the shortest verse in all Scripture. The Gospel of John, chapter 11, verse 35. Two words. Jesus wept.
Christ shed tears about the death of his friend Lazarus, about the sorrow Martha and Mary and the people of Bethany were experiencing, and about the reality that pain, suffering, and death will always be present as long as the earth exists.
In the Greek text in the Gospel, the word used for Christ's weeping is different than the word used for Martha, Mary, and the residents' weeping. Jesus' weeping is silent. Tears soundlessly poured from his eyes. The others' was more of a sobbing or even a wailing out loud. It's not that Christ's form of weeping was better or worse. It's he practicing the exercising of silent pain, which he will invoke when he stands before Herod and Pilate, and doesn't speak, and when he carries the cross and then hangs upon it.
There are two other times in the Gospel Jesus soundlessly weeps. He cries when he looks out over the city of Jerusalem, foreseeing its destruction (cf. Luke (Luke 22:44), and when he has his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Luke 19:41-44). The Letter to the Hebrews also mentions Christ's crying: "Christ, during his earthly life, offered prayer and entreaty to the God who could save him from death, not without a piercing cry, not without tears" (Hebrews 5:7).
There is another instance in scripture where we find the laconic phrase, "he wept." It is from Genesis 42:24 and is the scene when Joseph encounters his brothers in Egypt, the same brothers who wanted him dead and sold him into slavery. Joseph wept about his brothers.
Like Joseph, Jesus never cries for himself. He cries for Jerusalem when he overlooks the city, for the sins of the world in Gethsemane, and for the reality with which he is confronted by Lazarus' death.
Christ feels your pain. Christ understands your sorrow. When you weep--whatever the reason might be—our Lord weeps with you.
Our world and church is weeping right now. Christ weeps with us.
And he will raise us.
Yours in Christ,