“Jesus Wept” Alan Creech (2006) [Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)]
John 11.25-27 (NIV)
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”
These verses express the core of Christian hope – Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
They show up in the middle of a story.
When John wants to make an important claim about who Jesus is – He usually doesn’t write a long paragraph with difficult theological language to make a claim about Jesus … he tells a story and usually its a story about Jesus interacting with someone. Through the story John makes a claim about Jesus’ identity and he shows us, for good or bad, how people respond to Jesus.
These statements, Jesus’ and Martha’s, are a conversation right in the middle of a story about a family and friends making their way through sadness and disappointment.
This conversation comes during, what seems like, a really low point for Martha. She is telling Jesus she is disappointed with him – she is asking questions we catch ourselves asking (especially during weeks like this), “Lord, how could you let this happen? Lord, couldn’t you have done something to stop this … something to change this?”
These verses also mark the point in John’s Gospel where we see, clearly that, Jesus’ path is headed straight toward the cross … this lamb of God, this Good shepherd … this one who takes away the sins of the world … and lays down his life for his sheep, soon will lay down his life for the world he loves so much.
Here’s how this story goes…
There was a man who was sick. His name was Lazarus. Lazarus lived in a village named Bethany with his two sisters; Mary and Martha.
His sisters sent a message to their friend Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days … (11.4-6)
Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, but he didn’t hurry to Bethany … Jesus was across the Jordan river, near the place John the Baptist had been. Jesus went there after people tried to kill him … some of the religious leaders approached Jesus, and asked, “Don’t beat around the bush, just tell us, are you the Messiah.”
This wasn’t too long after Jesus had talked about being the Good Shepherd, about how he knew his sheep and they knew him.
Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you don’t believe, because you do not belong to my sheep”… Jesus continued on about how his sheep hear his voice, how he knows them, the sheep follow him, how he gives them eternal life, and they won’t ever perish. Then he said something that really set them off –“The Father and I are one.”
They were so mad they could have killed him right there.
Surrounded by angry people with rocks in their hands, Jesus said, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”
“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied,“but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (10.33)
Jesus said something more about how he was doing God’s works. They tried to arrest him, but somehow he escaped.
I don’t think the disciples expected Jesus to actually go to Bethany to see Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. They knew about all those angry people with rocks who had it out for him in Jerusalem.
Two days after Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, Jesus said to the disciples,
“Let us go back to Judea.”
“But Rabbi,” they said, “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”
Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light. It is when a person walks at night that they stumble, for they have no light.”
After he had said this, he went on to tell them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.”
His disciples replied, “Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.” Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep.
So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.”
Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
On his arrival, Jesus found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days. Now Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.
“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (11:7-27)
Before the story hits its high point … in the middle of everything that comes with loss – sadness, pain, and frustration, we hear Martha’s confession of faith. Even as she approached Jesus with that ache of disappointment in her voice, she could say; “Yes, Lord, I believe … you are the Messiah … the Son of God … the one coming into the world.”
This is the confession John is hoping we will make as we respond to Jesus.
This confession is not disconnected from pain. This confession does not shield people from pain. It is the confession that leads to eternal life … life with God right now as we walk through all the good stuff and all the hard stuff … and life forever with God … where there is no more of the hard stuff.
After [Martha] had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.”
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
“Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.
“Take away the stone,” he said.
“But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.”
Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?”
Jesus, the guy John introduces as the one who “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made… the life and light of all mankind … The Word become flesh … dwelling among us … the one and only Son … full of grace and truth,” saw the sadness and pain of his friends … And. He. Wept.
When we are experiencing pain, instead of imagining God is far away somewhere comfortable and unmoved and inflicting things on people, instead of speculating why God would allow something terrible like this to happen, maybe it would be more helpful, and more biblical, to remember that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is right here with us … and knows and grieves our pain.
So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.”
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave-clothes and let him go.”
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.(11:28-53)
The religious leaders could be so painful … so ironic. They just don’t get it. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, and in response they decide they need to kill Jesus.
There is so much to this story … Jesus is doing so much … he is claiming so much. He is the source of abundant life … he is the “Lamb of God” who takes away the sin of the world … the “Good Shepherd” who loves his sheep … the Son of God … who will lay down his life so we can have life.
Jesus is the resurrection and the life.
John invites us in the middle of our stories, in the midst of goodness and pain, joy and whatever else life brings to us, to share in Martha’s confession, “Yes Lord, we believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”