Jesus Wept

March 17, 2023; John 11: 1-45; 5th Sunday of Lent

“Jesus wept.” This statement from today’s gospel is possibly the shortest sentence in the New Testament. But what does it mean? Why did Jesus weep? Jesus knew that in a few minutes he would call Lazarus out of the tomb, so it is not likely that his weeping was because he lost his friend. What were Jesus’ tears for? They were for compassion. Jesus saw the grief of Mary and Martha and those that had gathered to console them, and he knew that their pain and loss were real. So, he identified with them. He not only felt sorry for them, he grieved with them.

Now this reaction of Jesus is important because it reveals the deep compassion that God has for us whenever we must face sorrow or loss. When there is a problem in our family—a sickness, a divorce, an addiction that destroys life—we trust that God has the power to bring about healing and recovery. But as we wait for God to act, we suffer. Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus suffers with us, caring for us and sharing our pain.

When we look at the senseless loss of life in our world because of war—families ripped apart by violence in Ukraine and Palestine—we hope that God will lead men and women of good will to find a way to peace and reconciliation. But until that happens people continue to die, and children are lost forever. Today’s gospel tells us that Jesus does not ignore such pain but enters into it, supporting those who have lost so much and preventing them from despair.

When we see death approaching—our own death or the death of someone we love—we believe that there is life after death, that we will have joy with God forever. But until we reach that joy we still must cope with sickness, the loss of our abilities, and the depression that can assail us as life fades. Jesus does not dismiss our struggles. He makes them his own as one who knows personally what suffering and death entail.

The good news of today’s gospel is that God’s love for us is not postponed until all things are as they should be. God is with us in every sorrow and loss, and God is with us in the deepest sense. God does not simply care for us. God weeps with us.

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