The Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost (All Saints' Day, Year B)

“Jesus Wept Because of Love”

Jesus wept.

The people around Jesus also wept, but the Greek words are not the same for Jesus and the other people. At the time it was the custom that people would wail loudly at any death. In fact, the wealthy would hire professional mourners to wail loudly at burials. The Greek word used to describe the people who are crying over Lazarus’ death refers to this kind of bold, customary, almost obligatory loud wailing.

The Greek word for Jesus’ tears instead refers to a quiet kind of cry.

Now I’m not saying that quiet weeping is better than loud weeping. Having seen many people weep in the Emergency room, I think there is something so cathartic about loud crying and something so peaceful about quiet crying. One is not better than the other.

What I want to point out here is that Jesus was not weeping out of obligation or because it was what was expected. Jesus was not doing the customary loud crying. Jesus was crying because he felt.

He was human.

He was God and he was human and he felt. John tells us that Jesus “was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.”

I listen to my patients all day tell me their stories and rather often a patient will quietly tear up in front of me as they talk and I ask, “What is bringing up the tears for you now?”

Some people tell me that it is their shame over not being a better person. They should have prayed more or done more to help the world. A few express regret. They wished they had done life differently. They wish they had worked less, enjoyed more, spent more time with family and friends. Almost all my patients at one point or another say it is their guilt over how being a burden to their families as a patient. Most are tearful at some point because they love this world so much and it is hard to imagine leaving it.

I wonder what was bringing up the tears for Jesus.

When Lazarus had become ill, Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus that Lazarus was sick saying, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” When Jesus heard this he told his disciples and those around him, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Even though Jesus was only a 20-30 minute walk from Lazarus he stayed ministering to the people where he was for two more days. After two days, Jesus told the disciples that they must go to Lazarus, yet as they prepared to leave Jesus told them “Lazarus has died.”

He knew in the Spirit that Lazarus had died.

Could it be that Jesus was quietly crying because he felt remorse?

Do you think he was angry with himself that he did not leave earlier?  Did he second guess himself, “Oh I should have left earlier. I don’t know why I didn’t leave when I first found out.”?  Did Jesus weep because he felt he had done the wrong thing, made the wrong choice? Did he feel anger, stress, or regret.

In fact Jesus expresses no remorse here for delaying. When he tells his disciples that Lazarus is dead, he then says, “and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” Jesus’ beloved friend just died and  Jesus is glad because this will somehow increase the faith of those around him. At this point no one around him thought that he could or would raise someone from the dead.

As they walk toward Lazarus’ house, Martha meets them along the way. She had heard that Jesus was coming finally and she began to walk toward him. When she found him, she said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

As they approach Lazaurs’ house, Mary comes out to greet him and says the same thing, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

And it is at this point that Jesus is said to be deeply moved and troubled in spirit. Then he asks where they have laid Lazarus, and it is as they lead Jesus to his friend’s tomb that Jesus cries this quiet cry.

People notice his tears and whisper to one another, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

At that moment Jesus is said to be “once more deeply moved.”

What is bringing up the emotion here? He has already told his disciples that he is glad that he was not there, it is not remorse.

Does he feel shame that he did not do what he was supposed to do? As his friends Martha and Mary and the crowd question him, does he wonder if there was something wrong with him that he did not come here right away? Did he play the script that so many of us can play, “this is the worst thing I ever could have done. What’s wrong with me? What was so important that I didn’t just walk over here right away? I must not be the son of God. The son of God wouldn’t do something so dumb. Look at all that I have caused! Now my friend is dead. How is that really going to help anyone believe. I’m such an idiot. ”

No Jesus did not go down the shame spiral as Brene Brown would say. As he was walking with Martha toward their compound, he tells her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha misunderstands this and thinks Jesus is talking about the afterlife, but Jesus knew he would raise Lazarus, so how could he be weeping from shame. He knew he was not dumb for delaying his trip to his friend. He knew his friend would live again right here and right now.

So why does Jesus weep? What is bringing up the tears for him? What is moving him and disturbing him so deeply?

Empathy. Jesus did not weep out of regret, guilt, or shame because he did something wrong. Jesus wept because he put himself in their shoes. As he walked to the tomb, I wonder if he wept thinking about what Lazarus must have gone through as he died. As he arrived, I wonder if Jesus wept seeing the grief and sorrow in his friends Martha and Mary and the others who had gathered. I wonder if if he felt their grief, the pain of their loss. I wonder if Jesus wept, because we weep.

He wept because his creation, the ones brought forth in and through him, the ones brought into being through him were grieving.

God brought us into the world for joy, peace, belonging, purpose, meaning, life, fun, but he does not turn his back on us when we grieve, when we are distraught he does not walk away – scornfully saying to us you troublesome creatures why are you sad?

God made us for love and happiness and freedom, but when we are full of sorrow and grief, he does not walk away, instead he leans in and places himself in our shoes. The creator of all things empathizes with his creation.

All Saints Day can bring up a lot for all of us. All of us have been touched by grief of one form or another, loss of a pet, a colleague, a house, a friend. Loss of our independence. Loss of a sister or brother. Loss of a mother, father. Loss of the love of our lives.

I believe that when we grieve, when we weep even now, Jesus weeps. He sits right down beside us, puts his arm around us and weeps with us.

And he calls us all to do the same. To love one another as he loves us.

All Saints day can be a hard day, but it is good to get together once a year to acknowledge the incredible human beings, the saints who have gone before us, the dear ones we have loved and lost from this earth and it is good to acknowledge that we all have experienced loss, to be with one another in our grief and walk with one another.

Jesus wept. Not out of regret or guilt or shame. Jesus wept because of love.