December 12 – Memory and Light – Reflection
John 11: 1, 32-36
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha.
32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
In the reading we heard this evening from the Gospel of John, Jesus has just arrived at the village of Mary and Martha, arriving after their brother Lazarus has died and too late to save him from his fate.
If Jesus Christ is God-made-Flesh, if Jesus Christ is God-with-us, if Jesus Christ is God who thinks with a human-and-divine mind and feels with a human-and-divine heart, what does this lesson tell us about the way God thinks and feels about death? About the way God thinks and feels about loss?
The text tells us that as Jesus reached the place where Mary was, as he reached the place where she and the members of Lazarus’ community were weeping, he too began to weep.
And not only that.
Not only did he join them in their weeping but he was also “greatly disturbed in sprit and deeply moved.”
Jesus not only joined Lazarus’ grievers in their sadness, he too joined them in their anger.
John says: Jesus was “greatly disturbed and deeply moved.”
He was angry.
Jesus beheld death, Jesus beheld the pain it caused those who loved whom he loved and he was angry.
However, we tend to think about Jesus:
As a calm teacher.
As a steady healer.
As a peaceful presence among confused or frightened disciples.
John tells us that when Jesus came to the place of Lazarus’ tomb, he was angry, he was upset, he wept bitter tears, he had the same pain in his head, and his heart, as any of us do when we experience loss.
The loss of a friend.
The loss of a family member.
The loss of a relationship.
The loss of a job or an identity.
As a man, Jesus felt our pain, he knew it in himself, he recognized the destructive power of death and he reacted to it in the same way any of us do.
And as God, as God, Jesus lived out his human suffering, he experienced death with his human mind and his human heart and therefore entered as God into our experience.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that even in times of grief, even in times of weeping and anger and pain, Jesus is still God-with-us.
Sometimes in our lives, we try to apologize for death, we talk about death as “a natural part of life,” we talk about death in logical and impersonal terms in an attempt to make it not so painful. I know I have done this.
There may be a time for this, there may be a time where this makes sense, but there also needs to be a time when we see death for the enemy it is. A time when we join one another and Jesus in our sadness, our frustration, and our anger over death
Death is the enemy.
Death snuffs out what God has put on earth to dwell and thrive.
Death is the end to God’s beginnings.
Death is the destruction to God’s creation.
Death does not deal fairly. It acts as a coward and a cheat; coming when we aren’t ready, coming seemingly at random, coming without compassion.
Death ought to make us upset. Death ought to make us angry. Death ought to make us grieve and make us weep as Christ did that day.
But as upset as we ought to be with death, we must not let death, nor our anger or sadness at it get the last word in our story.
Those of us you who know how this story ends know that death is not the ending.
That Jesus raises Lazarus, that Jesus, in His anger and in His grief and in His power is not satisfied to let death have the final say over his friend Lazarus.
Jesus reaches across the divide of death and plucks Lazarus back up.
He does it to right the wrong committed by death, he does it to heal the broken hearts around him. He does it to demonstrate to those gathered there and to us gathered here that death doesn’t get the last word when God is around.
That in the person of Jesus Christ, in His passionate sacrifice on the cross, and on his resurrection three days later, that death has been overcome, and death has to be overcome.
Friends, there are times in our lives, there are times throughout the yearly calendar where we do not feel that the News is all that Good.
There are times when we feel that God is far away, times when we doubt that God hears our cries, times when we feel utterly and hopelessly alone.
Times when we want to tell God what Mary tells Jesus:
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
And even though the pain is real, even though the darkness of this time (this time of life, this time of year) is real, there is still a light that shines in the darkness.
A light: to give us light, to give us warmth, and to weep with us when we are weeping.