Tears of Jesus show he understands sorrow

| Father Dan Haugan | March 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Banksy, the anonymous English street artist and vandal, once said, “You die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

This weekend’s Gospel is about a man who actually died twice, Jesus’ friend Lazarus. The Gospel of John makes the raising of the dead man Lazarus the climax of the miracles showing the world that Jesus truly is the Son of God. The beginning of the Gospel speaks of how these miracles provoked faith in Christ’s followers, and hatred in those who opposed him.

The Gospel reminds us Jesus Christ is our brother and friend. “Lord, the one you love is sick.” This simple message was sent to Jesus by both Mary and Martha, who were Lazarus’ sisters. Jesus didn’t need Lazarus’ name. Jesus knew who and what the sisters were talking about, and they believed Jesus would know what to do.

The writer of John’s Gospel doesn’t use Lazarus’ name in Martha and Mary’s message, nor does he use his own name when describing his personal account of being at the foot of Christ’s cross. In both cases John and Lazarus are described as individuals whom Jesus loved. John means for us to understand that at those pivotal moments in salvation history, both he and Lazarus stood for all those whom Jesus loved. In both cases, they represent all Christian believers, ourselves included.

“See how much he loved him,” the bystanders say. This is their response to the shortest verse in the Bible, “Jesus wept” (Jn 11:35). Washington Irving once wrote, “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.”

We call Jesus “God made man.” It’s easy to think that means that he is part God and part man. This is wrong; Jesus is completely human and completely divine. What could be more human than Jesus’ tears at the grave of his dear friend Lazarus? Jesus was no superman, immune to suffering, unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. When you think that no one can possibly understand what you are going through, you are wrong. There is one who truly understands your suffering and sorrow; he is your brother, your friend, he is Jesus. Yet, Jesus is so much more than just that. He is also the eternal Son of God.

The Gospel according to John begins by saying of Christ, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men” (Jn 1:4). In last Sunday’s Gospel we see in the healing of a man born blind that Jesus is the giver of light. Today, as we see him raising Lazarus, Jesus is the giver of life.

However, between the resurrection of Lazarus and that of Jesus, there is a crucial difference. Lazarus was brought back to the old life, the life that you and I live every day, and he would die again, like we all will someday. Lazarus came forth from the grave still wearing his burial clothes; he would need them again many years later when he died a second time. Jesus was raised to a new and eternal life, and he left his burial cloth behind in the tomb; for he had passed beyond death. As a man like us, Jesus wept for Lazarus, his friend. As the eternal God, he raised Lazarus from the dead. In his love for all of us, Christ gives us the sacraments to lift us up to everlasting life.

Father Haugan is pastor of Holy Spirit in St. Paul.


Sunday, March 29
Fifth Sunday of Lent

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Category: Sunday Scriptures