Today’s Scripture focus: John 11:1-45

I’m a crier.  I don’t care if you know that.  I don’t care if you think less of me.  I don’t think that it makes me any less of a man for admitting that.  I cry at movies.  I cry when a particular song strikes me.  I cry sometimes when I preach.  I cry as a result of my deep love for my family.  I even cry during those sappy Hallmark commercials that are written to tug on a person’s heart strings.

This wasn’t always the case.  There was a season in my life that I was extremely emotionally constipated.  There was a time when nothing seemed to get through to me.  Movies didn’t seem to move me.  Music didn’t seem to move me.  Relationships weren’t moving me.  I became very distant, closed off to those that I cared about the most.  My everyday conversation changed as well.  I became increasingly sarcastic and cynical (I naturally lean in that direction already).  My once witty remarks were becoming more and more biting and hurtful.

Finally, a friend of mine confronted me about it.  “I don’t know what is going on, but you are not the same person.  You are becoming more and more isolated from the people that love you.  You are becoming more and more hurtful with your comments.  The joy just seems to be sucked out of your life.”  I was very appreciative for his courage in coming to me.  Ok, well actually I was angry and resentful at the fact that he had come to me, but later I was thankful.

The truth is, I had been struggling with one of those deeply imbedded sins in my life.  I had not acknowledged just how much I was hurting and just how many casualties I was creating because of my failure to acknowledge that sin and deal with it.  The confrontation from my friend was the first step in a process of healing and restoration that I desperately needed in my life.

Today’s scripture passage reminded of this incident years ago.  It is one of those strange passages in the gospels that I don’t fully understand.  Why would Jesus sit around and wait a couple of days while his close friend is dying?  Why would Jesus refuse to heal him, even though we’ve seen Jesus heal from a distance before?  Why would Jesus take his dear sweet time to get there, arriving four days after Lazarus has been placed in the tomb?  Of course, John tips his hand early on in the passage.  “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it,” Jesus says.

When Jesus arrives, Martha echoes these same questions when she says, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  Put a little less nicely, she seems to be saying, “If you hadn’t of sat around twiddling your thumbs, my brother wouldn’t have died.  I thought he was your friend, Jesus!  Thanks for nothing.”  Maybe that’s a little harsh, but it’s what I would have said.

And then, we have those two little words.  They are the shortest verse in scripture – the one we all wanted to be assigned to memorize in Sunday School because we couldn’t possibly mess it up.  “Jesus wept.”  Jesus wept at this confrontation with death.  Jesus wept at this confrontation with the reality of sin.  Jesus wept because those that he loved wept.  He wept because his friends were suffering.

Although Jesus’ power to heal is the main thrust of this passage, healing begins long before Jesus calls out into the darkness of the tomb.  Healing begins in those two powerful words – Jesus wept.  Healing begins as Jesus enters into the suffering of his people and joins in their tears.  He has become one of us and he has offered to shoulder the burden we cannot bear alone.

This is true of our Lenten journey as well.  As we travel along, we are forced to look into the mirror and confront the fallenness of our own soul.  We may very well find that we have become so hardened by our sin that we have lost access to that place in our soul where tears and emotions reside.  We may find that, just as tears fail to come, joy is likewise absent.  The healing that God desires for us may begin long before we hear the voice of Jesus calling out into the darkness of our soul.  That healing may very well begin when Jesus embraces us, places his head on our shoulder, and weeps with us over the reality of our sin.

Prayer:  God, I acknowledge that the sin in my life has estranged me from the life you have planned for me.  My sin has isolated myself from the very emotions that are intended to animate my life.  Thank you for joining me in my despair and for taking my burden upon your shoulder.  May your tears bring me life and healing.  Amen.

* Note: This blog post is part of a series of reflections for Lent.  The passages are based on a booklet Steven wrote for Ecclesia, the church he pastors in Fairview, NC.