Poet Donna Swanson posed these questions in one of her poems:
Did you ever cry, Jesus? Did the world ever pile up on you ’til you wanted to quit?
Did you ever cry, Jesus? Did you ever get so tired of humanity that you wished you’d never come?
Did the blind eyes, the twisted bodies, the warped minds and the maimed souls ever get to you? Were you ever just plain mad?
Did you ever cry, Jesus? I think you must have, for you know me so well. So well. I think you must have cried a little.
Sunday’s scripture lesson–Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead–answers the question. Of course he did. I still remember my fifth grade teacher, Mr. Phillips, teaching us about nouns and verbs and illustrating his point by quoting “the shortest sentence ever written”: John 11:34 –“Jesus wept”. And if we look at the verse before that, we learn that Jesus “was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.” If you check various Bible translations, that verse is translated in a variety of ways: Jesus was “deeply moved, greatly disturbed, his heart was touched, he was deeply moved and troubled, he was visibly distressed, he became angry in spirit and very agitated, he gave a sigh that came straight from the heart”, or, in the King James Version, “He groaned in his spirit.” The word for “groaned” is one that can also be used for the snorting of an animal. It’s as if the emotions are wrenched from Jesus, and the tears flow.
As Kathleen Stegall and I were searching for a bulletin cover, one possibility was a picture of a statue that perhaps you’ve seen: Jesus standing tall but placing his face into his opened palm. We decided against it because it actually looks more like the reaction he might have to some of the outrageous things his followers do and say in his name–but that’s the subject for another week’s sermon. And you’ll be happy to know that we picked a more traditional picture.
Of course Jesus wept. He was with a family he loved and among a community of deeply grieving people. His humanity demanded nothing less than his participation in their grief.
On Sunday, we’ll reflect on John 11:1-6, 17-44. In John’s gospel, the raising of Lazarus takes place a short time before Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. John makes it clear that Jesus’ miracle and the perceived threat it provides against the religious leaders of the day sets into motion the drama of Holy Week, which begins next Sunday, Palm/Passion Sunday.