Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 51; 148, Job 29:1, 31:24-40, Acts 15:12-21, John 11:30-44
Anyone who grew up attending Sunday school has almost certainly been asked, at some point, to select and memorize a favorite Bible verse to share with the class. If the teacher isn’t savvy enough to exclude it, there’s always the one kid who picks John 11:35. In many (most?) translations, it’s the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.”
When did Jesus weep? He wept when his friends were mourning the death of Lazarus. They kept insisting that he would have survived if Jesus had only gotten to Bethany sooner. Why did Jesus weep? We could suppose it was because Lazarus was his friend too, but Jesus had known for days that Lazarus was dead – and that he would bring him back from the grave. The story might suggest he was weeping in solidarity with his friends, but when the scripture says Jesus “was disturbed and greatly moved,” the original Greek points not to sadness but to indignation. Could it be that Jesus wept because he was frustrated and infuriated that after all the time he’d spent with them, those closest to him still understood neither who he was nor the life God offered through him? A Jesus who weeps because he grieves with us is a comforting image, but in this case it just isn’t so.
The weeping of an angry Jesus may at first seem disappointing or even unsettling. On reflection, what seemed like a humanizing, relatable moment may begin to feel like condemnation. Upon further consideration though, how can we not be touched by the idea that God deeply desires a relationship with us on a level that is so primal our inability to conceive of it frustrates Christ to tears? At one time or another all of us have been frustrated, also sometimes to tears, by a loved one who just seems lost. We want them to be whole and well. Christ loves us so much that he doesn’t just want to cry with us, but to help us understand how God’s love can lift us from this vale of tears to a place of peace.
Comfort: God’s love for you – for each of us – is beyond measure.
Challenge: Sometimes it is also beyond understanding.
Prayer: Merciful and Gracious God, thank you for the love you give me. Even when it is greater than I can understand – greater than I can believe I deserve – I remain grateful. Amen.
Discussion: Even death could not separate Lazarus from the love of Christ. Do you ever feel like you’ve stepped outside the boundaries of God’s love?
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