Tears of the Lord

April 9th, 2011 Posted in writing

The story of the raising of Lazarus comes near the end of the public life of Jesus. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had revealed the compassion of his Father by bringing freedom to people who had been imprisoned by illness, blindness, fear, isolation, condemnation, and death itself. All Jesus’ miracles were acts of compassion.

The raising of Lazarus, however, was different in that Jesus was calling back to life a man whose death and burial he had himself mourned. Lazarus was his friend; John’s gospel tells us that Jesus was very close to him and to his sisters Mary and Martha. “See how he loved him,” said those who witnessed his tears at the tomb.

“Jesus cried.” These words say as much about Christ as any volume of theology because they assert that Jesus is not simply aware of suffering and loss; he has felt them himself and been moved, literally, to tears, just as we are when the pain and loss are too great.

At a funeral I attended a couple of weeks ago, the church was full of people who were feeling sad and helpless in the face of their loss. The readings and sermon on that day reminded the congregation that God is not helpless in the face of death. To believe this is a consolation.

But Jesus’ tears show us that, in Jesus, God has experienced our sorrow and pain as well. That doesn’t make God’s power any less, but it brings him closer to us in our times of grief. And that, also, is a consolation we can rightly treasure.

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