Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jesus Wept

The words “Jesus wept,” in John 11:35 are perhaps the most profound words in the Bible. In them we see the God of the universe, in the humble form of a Jewish carpenter, sharing a most human moment: grief. Jesus’ friend Lazarus has died. He is now standing at his tomb. As our Lord and Savior he knows what fate awaits Lazarus. He needs no one to tell him about the fragile nature of this life. He needs no one to tell him about the glorious nature of the next life. Also, as the Son of God in our world, he knows that he has been given the power over life and death, the power to work miracles. He knows that, in a moment, he will call Lazarus from the grave and Lazarus will answer, becoming a timeless example of the resurrecting power of God.

And yet, as he stands at the tomb of his friend, though he knows that death certainly does not have the last say, Jesus weeps. He has, in fact, come to this Earth to do just that. He has left his throne in glory to become a mortal man, subject to pain, subject to frailty, subject to brokenness, subject to grief, so that, in this moment he can share in our experience of humanness. And, as he shares our experience, so too, we can share our experience with him, confident that the God to whom we pray knows first hand what we are going through.

But, as profound as these words, “Jesus wept,” are, their place in scripture would have come as no surprise to Joseph and Mary. After all, the man who would become God’s plan for the redemption of our world began his life the same way as everyone else; as a baby. And, if there is one thing we can be sure that babies do, it is cry. This is not a bad thing. Crying is, in fact, a test for a healthy baby. You know that if your baby is crying then his or her lungs are working, and that things are going to be OK. And so the Jesus who so profoundly wept for his friend as a grown man, sharing in our experience of grief, must have bawled many times as a baby.

It is, I suppose, appropriate that tears are a sign of healthy life. After all, our lives are seemingly characterized at times by so much suffering. And yet, in the tears of the baby Jesus, as well as the adult Jesus, we can take comfort in that, when God decided to share our experience of life, he shared it all the way. Not just as a triumphant Saviour, nor even as a suffering servant, but as a baby, crying in the arms of his teenaged mother, interrupting the sleep of his carpenter father.

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