4/2/2017 Fifth Sunday in Lent The text is John 11:1-45.
Grace and peace to you from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus wept. Those two words are often associated with the pain and agony of the gut-wrenching struggle that Jesus felt in the Garden of Gethsemanes. Jesus wept, in the face of death, in the face of his own imminent death on a cross. But, according to John, Jesus wept not in the Garden of Gethsemanes. Jesus wept not in the face of his own death. Jesus wept in the face of death, period. For as Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus shed tears at the loss of human life.
Tears are such healthy things. They release the pain we feel inside. In tears, we share our pain with others instead of hiding it from public view. Tears show the depth of relationships and the magnitude of losses. And tears help wash away the grief so that we can move on in life.
Jesus wept, and his tears were taken to be a sign of love. Jesus wept and his tears revealed his feeling of loss over the death of a friend. Jesus wept tears of compassion over the pain of others. He wept tears of anguish over death itself. Jesus wept in the face of death and the loss of human life.
But, what do we do with this crying Jesus? This is hardly the image we have of a savior – a savior who is strong, a savior who is brave, a savior who can do all things. What do we do with this Jesus who cried, this Jesus who came late to the side of his terminally ill friend, this Jesus who delayed coming until the man had died? What do we do with this Jesus who bent down and cried, who wept in pain over the loss of life, a life he could have saved? What do we do with this Jesus who shared the pain of his loss with those who loved Lazarus? What do we do with this crying Jesus?
This is not the image of a savior. For how often have we told our children not to cry? How often have we told them to be brave in the face of fear and pain and loss, as though tears are a sign of cowardice, weakness, lack of trust and immaturity? As adults, we live in a world where tears are a sign of emotional weakness and hiding our emotions is a way of live. We live in a world where “real men” don’t cry.
So, what do we do with a crying Jesus? Do we dismiss him as less than a man, as less than a savior, as a weakling and coward because of his tears? The Jews accepted the tears a sign of great love, not as a beacon of weakness. Yet, they, too, had trouble with tears for they saw his tears as a sign of Jesus’ acceptance of death as a final event. They saw his tears as a sign of his inability to do anything now that Lazarus was dead. All he could do was weep. Yet, it was in the face of death that Jesus asserted, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
As Christians, we are accustomed to hearing these words that Jesus spoke at the graveside of loved ones. They are words of great hope…great hope, that despite the reality and pain of death, we have the promise of life. That promise begins not at the funeral home, not at the grave site and not at the end of time. That promise begins with Jesus. It begins with a savior who cries at the loss of human life and has the power to do something about it.
For, on that day, by the tomb, Jesus prayed and called out to a man who had been dead four days and whose body was decaying in its grave. Jesus called out to Lazarus and Lazarus came out of the burial cave on his own two feet. With bandages flapping in the wind, I imagine the gasp of the crowd that had gathered as Lazarus, who was dead, was alive – not as a ghostly figure, but as a man; not in a resurrected body, but in his own flesh. Of course, this wouldn’t last forever – Lazarus’ life would someday come to an end as all must. But for now – he who was dead, walked among the living, and ate and slept and did everything as before.
This was a sign of what is to come through Jesus Christ who is the resurrection and the life. We who are connected to Jesus in baptism live in the hope of sharing an eternal life with him and all the saints, a life without end.
So, what do we do 0with this crying Jesus? What do we do with this Jesus who cried over the loss of human life and who then acted to restore that life? Do we dismiss his tears as signs of weakness and cowardice, or as signs of his lack of power? Or do we accept the tears as signs of compassion and great love? If we accept the tears, then it’s okay for us to cry, to express our pain and grief at the death of those we love. We don’t need to “man up,” or try to hide our emotion as an embarrassment or a sign of weakness or lack of faith.
And what do we do with this Jesus who acted to restore the life of Lazarus? Do we dismiss his act of mercy as a hoax or a cruel joke, bringing Lazarus back to life only for him to die again? Or do we accept the resuscitation of Lazarus as a sign to us that in Christ, everything is possible, even the gift of eternal life? For the resuscitation is only the foretaste of the feast that is to come.
The choice is ours. What do we do with this crying Jesus? The choice is ours as it was for Mary and Martha and for all the Jews. It was amidst the tears and the pain of loss that Martha believed that in Jesus, the one who proclaimed himself the resurrection, there was hope of restoring Lazarus to life. And her hope and faith in our Lord were affirmed by the act of God.
Yet, in this very act comes dismissal and outrage. For how dare he? How dare he, the one who cried, do such signs? So, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered in council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, everyone will believe in him… and our life will be different.” And from that day on, the chief priests and the Pharisees took counsel on how to put him to death.
So, what are we to do? If we let Jesus continue to be part of our world and our lives, if we proclaim our faith in him, our way of life will change. It will be different. So, what will we do with his crying Jesus, the one who wept in the face of death and then acted to restore life? Do we dismiss him or do we believe in him? It’s up to you, my friends.
May we journey together in faith and may the peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.