The Gospel for this upcoming Sunday is the story of the raising of Lazarus, one of Jesus’ closest friends, and it’s one of the last miracles that takes places before Jesus’ arrest and eventual execution. We were reading it at Bible study last night, and I was particularly struck by this small segment:
33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he(AJ) was deeply moved in his spirit and(AK)greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35(AL)Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, “See(AM) how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he(AN) who opened the eyes of the blind man(AO) also have kept this man from dying?” 38Then Jesus,(AP) deeply moved again, came to the tomb.
(If you can picture this in movie form, by the way, it’s all so epic. Right? Like you can just see Jesus all upset and determined and striding down to where the tomb is. And there’d be these big Technicolor clouds and this great John Williams score swelling in our ears just before the tomb opens and Lazarus appears. But…that’s neither here nor there.)
A lot of folks point to this section of the reading as an illustration of Jesus’ humanity. He loved Lazarus, and He’s grieving for His friend. That’s a human thing. As a divine thing, there’d be no need for grief, or sorrow, or pain, because Divinity has no need for those things.
Which makes Jesus as God so much more interesting…and so much more a God I want. Because Jesus, being God, knows that Lazarus is going to be raised. He knows what’s going to happen. (In fact, He made sure Lazarus died, staying where He was an extra two days so there could be no mistake.) He knows that there will be amazement, and rejoicing, and He knows what The Plan entails. But those around Him are suffering. They’re mourning; they’re crying; they’re in pain. And so Jesus identifies with it, is troubled by it, and He becomes one with it when His tears flow. He doesn’t ignore those cries around Him; He doesn’t dismiss them as something that will soon stop and be forgotten. He acknowledges them. He owns them.
A couple of years ago around this time of year, I was laid off from a job I had and was unemployed for about nine months. I was miserable and depressed, and although I prayed fervently to accept God’s will for me and trusted (weakly) that He would provide, I still felt that incredible pain and insecurity. And what I love so much about God is that He shared in that suffering with me. It could’ve gone like this:
Me: God, I am in so much pain. I feel so lost. What do I do? What will happen to me?
God: Listen, don’t worry about it. I have a new job lined up for you in a few months. Just hang tight until then.
And He could’ve left it at that. He knew that I would get a new job, He knew that He would provide, and He could’ve left me without any consolation.
But He didn’t. He knew I was suffering, and although He did have a plan to provide for me that hadn’t yet come to fruition, He, in such great humility, cared for me exactly where I was at, in my suffering. I’m sure if I would’ve seen His face physically during my bouts of crying out to Him, He would’ve had tears in His eyes too, because He loves me and hates to see anything He loves in pain.
He ministered to His people during Lazarus’ time, just as He does for us today. He grieved because we did. Our God is that good.