If Jesus was not capable of weeping for the love of a friend, resurrection would mean very little, and I doubt that two-billion people worldwide would continue to call him Lord and Savior.
Jesus didn’t make it in time to be with his close friends in their greatest time of need!
Maybe you’ve been there, and if not, you most likely can imagine the guilt that might well up in one’s soul in such a situation.
As a priest in the church, I think I understand just a little bit of what Jesus must have felt running through his heart at that moment.
How many times have I said to someone, I’ll be back to visit you soon,only to find out that soon wasn’t soon enough? I can tell you, it isn’t a pleasant feeling. How much harder it must have been for Jesus who hears Martha’s piercing words running through his head:
If you only had been here.
Now, as someone once said, and I believe it to be true,
Jesus never met a corpse that didn’t sit straight up.
We can’t even imagine how amazing it must have been to see Lazarus coming through the opening of that cave, blinded by the desert sun, with his grave wrappings flapping in the wind, as he stumbled toward his friend and his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. None of us have ever seen such a sight. . . or have we?
St. John’s story of this encounter with the most certainly dead Lazarus isn’t just about the revival of a corpse. The authors of the New Testament weren’t interested in resuscitation. They were interested in Resurrection.
The story of the raising of Lazarus from the grave, given to us this late in the Lenten season, prefigures the Christian Easter experience! The raising of Lazarus is a most fantastic sign, but like all signs this one too is meant to point to something beyond itself. In our anticipation of Lazarus emerging from the stone tomb, let us not miss the many moments of resurrection in St. John’s story. Let us not miss how humanly tender this Jesus of Resurrection really is.
I submit to you, that the human tenderness of the Christ of the Living God is also a sign of great importance and has everything to do with resurrection in our own lives. When Jesus finally meets up with Martha and Mary and the others gathered at their home, it becomes very clear that Jesus is disturbed deeply. He is, in fact, so deeply disturbed that he breaks down and weeps with a piercing sadness in his heart.
For those who prefer a Jesus who doesn’t have too much human blood running through his veins, Jesus offers himself here as the archetypal human being, the one who can show us how to best achieve our own true humanity.
If Jesus was not capable of weeping for the love of a friend, resurrection would mean very little, and I doubt that two-billion people worldwide would continue to call him Lord and Savior. When we bleed and when we cry, and when we die a little inside, if that pain can’t somehow reach Christ’s heart, then what real difference can Christ make in our lives, no matter how many times we might shout Alleluia inside the church?
The Christ of God, The Lord and Savior of the World weeps with us. That alone is enough to call me forth from the grave of loneliness. That alone makes Jesus the Resurrection and the Life for me.
In the little town of San Jose de Gracia, in Mexico, there is an 82-foot statue of the broken Christ. The huge stone statue is missing an arm and a leg, and part of the face. The little town is finding it difficult to manage the number of pilgrims who come to see the statue. Thousands of people every year flock to see a broken Christ.
The inscription at the bottom of the statue is in Spanish and reads in part:
Leave me broken. . . I’d like that when you look at me broken like this, you’d remember many of your brothers and sisters who are broken.
For thousands and thousands of people that broken image of Jesus has brought resurrection and hope and new life. It is a pillar of comfort for many who pass by.
In our Gospel this week, we should take notice that when Martha speaks of resurrection, she makes the same mistake that most all of us make. She places it in the future. She says, Oh I know that my brother will rise again on the last day.
Isn’t that how most of us think about resurrection, that whatever it is, it waits for me out there somewhere near my last day. . . somewhere out there after my physical death?
But people so often need resurrection now, not sometime down the road, and Jesus understood just that, and so he answers: I am the Resurrection and the Life.
I am (present tense), RIGHT NOW, the resurrection and the life. I can raise you up and give you life right now and in every moment of your existence. It is only after all of this, that the sign of the raising of Lazarus is given. It is the broken Christ who calls out:
Lazarus, come forth!
It is the broken Christ who gives the command to Unbind him.
I truly believe that what people want and need the most from their God is an enduring, caring, understanding presence.
There are lots of walking dead in our midst, and they don’t particularly want to hear about an Olympian God. They want the Jesus who wept at his friend’s funeral. They want a Christ who is the wounded healer. They want and need resurrection now, not only at the hour of their death. They want resurrection that comes from the hope and knowledge that no matter what — they are loved, that their tears are always mixed with the tears of a God who knows and loves what is inside them.
And Jesus said, I AM the Resurrection and the Life, right now, this second, in this place or wherever you are, always, and for life everlasting. Amen.
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