When Jesus Weeps

 

Holy Spirit – Come to us, reside in us, that we may sense the will of God alive in us, empowering us to do what it is you would have us do. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

After our wonderful discussion last week on the Canon of our Bibles in lieu of a sermon, two things occurred this week that speak volumes to me of God’s sense of humor. First, as I was researching this week’s revised common lectionary in Feasting on the Word, my favorite interdenominational commentary, for the first time since I started using it one of the books of the Apocrypha was added to the regular scripture passages in the lectionary for today: the first nine verses of chapter 3 of the Wisdom of Solomon! So I double checked with the Presbyterian denominational website, which lists the revised common lectionary passages we use, and sure enough, it did not appear on that list. Interesting!

Then, thanks to the curiosity of a couple of dear members of this worshiping community, it was discovered that this book, which I am guessing might be the original pulpit Bible since it is dated 1872, includes the Apocrypha! I am sure God must be chuckling somewhere in God’s awesome cosmos.

Incidentally, the Wisdom passage is a very interesting passage reflecting on our eternal hope. For those of you for whom this text is a part of your sacred tradition, I invite you to look it up later as we turn now to our other texts.

Lisa Maugans Driver summarizes Psalm 24 eloquently in her reflection from Feasting on the Word:

“Those in the church already enjoy the benefits of God working within them. The church is a community of grace where temptations can be overcome and the faithful may be lovingly prepared for immortality. When souls look to the eternal and allow themselves to be shaped by divine stability and simplicity, actions of like kind radiate toward neighbors.”[1]

Michael Morgan takes that message a step farther by digging into the text and breaking down Psalm 24 into three sections; which, he says, could be described intentionally as celebration, instruction, and expectation. First, the Psalm celebrates that all is God’s. Second, it answers the question, “who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in God’s holy place? Those with clean hands, a pure heart, a humble spirit, integrity and honesty.” Third, God knows and understands our human weaknesses, suffers and endures with us, and longs to welcome us into the divine presence.[2]

Looking at today’s scripture from the Gospel of John, it isn’t hard to imagine what those feelings of longing look like. “’Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, ‘Where have you laid him?’ They said to him, ‘Lord, come and see.’ Jesus began to weep.”

What a curious passage. Why does Jesus weep? The scripture records the Jews’ perspective on why they think he does; “’See how he loved him!’ But some of them said, ‘Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?’ Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb.”

Interesting: we are told how the Jews have interpreted Jesus weeping. “See how he loved him!” they say in verse 36. But what if it wasn’t for love of Lazarus, as they think? What if his weeping was his reaction to his friend Mary and the Jews that are with her in verse 33? What if he weeps because they are weeping? Which would lead to another question.

Why do they weep? Mary, at least, is weeping because of genuine loss. Despite her intimacy with Jesus and his inner group-even being allowed the place of disciple-sitting at his feet (which you may recall Martha didn’t appreciate all that much), Mary still didn’t understand who Jesus really was. Jesus was and is God, Mary! God Emmanuel among you! All things are possible with God! Eternity isn’t even out of the question. Of course Lazarus isn’t dead, he’s very much alive in his next state of being, one which we all will join one day. But Mary cannot grasp the eternal, can she? She only comprehends this physical realm and her very real loss. I wonder if that is why Jesus weeps.

The Jews referred to in the text are most likely not family members but professional mourners, who come and weep and wail on purpose (as a job, mind you) to proclaim the loss of someone to the community on behalf of the bereaved family. This was common practice in ancient times.

In which case, in verse 38 when Jesus is again “greatly disturbed”, I wonder if this time it was in reaction to the Jews asking, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” In which case, it is again the case of an entire group of people – his own people to boot – who have completely missed the point of Jesus’ healing ministry. It is not about this physical realm, which as we know, will pass away. It is about the central, eternal message of God’s love being extended in grace to all so that all might truly live in the One who makes us fit for our eternal home. And that is most definitely Good News; for behold, our Lord speaks:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end…”

May all glory be unto the One who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ. Amen? May it be so.

[1] Ibid.

[2] Ibid.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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