Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (John 11:32-44)
This is an intimate story in the life of Jesus. We see things with Jesus here that we do not see in other places. We see how he interacts with people who are very dear to him. We see him mourn and even cry. Jesus has feelings and we may be a little surprised by this. Over the years, some commentators have tried to explain this away. They think that emotion is a sign of weakness and that God has none. This was a belief the ancient Greeks held, but it is not a Biblical idea. A careful reading of the Bible will reveal that God is an emotional being. At times he is angry. Other times he is sad. In the New Testament, God is described as love.
This text is about a time of lament and grief. Lazarus dies and his family is distraught. Death and tragedy is something we must deal with, and this story gives us some insight about how God comforts the mourning. We like easy answers. We want something to say that makes everything better, but the truth is there are no magic words. There is nothing we can say that will erase the pain of the loss of a loved one. In this story, Jesus offers no words of comfort, but instead he enters into their grief. The text simply says, “Jesus wept.” Whenever we experience loss, we can take comfort in the fact that Jesus is with us. He understands our pain. He identifies with what we are going through. His presence is never far from us and he is grieving along with us.
This should bring us a since of comfort. We don’t have to have any words. We know that the God of the Universe understands our grief and is mourning alongside us, but this is not the only thing we learn from this story. It also gives us a since of hope because this story foreshadows an event that will forever alter human history. Jesus has the power to bring Lazarus back from the dead. He speaks and Lazarus comes to life. This is remarkable, but what is even more remarkable is that not too much longer after this event Jesus will be crucified and he will be raised from the dead three days later. Jesus will claim victory over death. The pain and separation we experience in this life is not permanent. One day death will be no more. One day we will be reunited with the loved ones we have lost. One day all things will be made right. What a bright and glorious day that will be!