Wept,” the shortest verse in the Bible simply states (in at least 10
Gospel of John, chapter 11, verse 45.
remember this verse from childhood because I always tried to get credit in
Sunday School for having a memory verse. At the time I had no idea why or the
context. As I have experienced life, though, I have come to understand this in
a very different way.
is performing miracles and teaching in the crowds when he receives news that
one of his friends, Lazarus, is extremely sick. And, as the Gospel of John
tells it, Jesus takes an extra couple of days before going to see him, and in
this time Lazarus dies.
and Martha (Lazarus' sisters) question and second-guess Jesus. The Gospel captures some of
their words in a rather serene way, yet I’m sure they had others, too, and rage – even if
unspoken. ““Where were you?If only you didn’t lollygag for two more days when you heard the
news; if only you would have showed up on time, this wouldn’t have happened; if
only you would have… Some Prophet, Some Messiah, Some Son of God you are…”
knows he can raise Lazarus from the dead, yet he does not walk stoically,
unaffected by their rage, questions, tears, and grief. Rather, in being
encountered by the grief of those around, he weeps. Other translations range
from “Jesus cried” to “Jesus gave way to tears.”
that last translation resonates with me as it portrays the scene. Jesus knows that
he has the power over death, yet Jesus doesn’t defend himself or try to answer
their questions. Instead, Jesus becomes ever present with those around him, and
he gives way to tears.
Cries. God feels the hurt and despair and agony and rage, and God gives way to
Advent and Christmas Christians sing, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” requesting God
to be present and not removed from the daily toils and tragedies in life. Yet
it is not just in December when we desire God’s presence. We need God’s
presence all of the time.
times, we DEMAND it. At times we rage against God. When the news flashes a story about a mudslide or suicide
bomb in a market or a school shooting. When the phone call comes that alters
our lives – our hopes, dreams, and plans – forever. And years later whether we
still rage at God or sigh with resigned depression – we may still wonder the
same thing, “God, do you even care? Have you ever?”
the scene from John’s Gospel comes to mind – and I imagine God giving way to
tears. In this imagery I imagine God wanting us to know divine presence, divine
grieving, and divine hope.
book of Psalms in the Bible reminds me both that God is big enough to handle
all of our rage, disillusionment, and despair, and that God wants us to brings those things out in our prayers.
Why? Because God is the only one who can truly restore.
reminds us that God is at work to make all things new and to restore creation.
We are not there yet. The work is on-going.
because it is on-going, we are still going to face more pain from life –
following Jesus does not eliminate that. Yet following Jesus means that we will
never have to weep or rage alone alone.
Sometimes God's presence is felt in a super-natural way or with a tangible peace deep inside our very being. Sometimes we experience God's presence through the presence of a pet or another person who simply sits, and possibly weeps, with us.
will give way to tears. And ash will give way to beauty, and dry ground will
give way to flowering gardens.
I wonder if you know someone who may feel like Mary and Martha did. I wonder if you might be able to help them not to feel alone alone.