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Unholy Sh+t: Jesus Wept… but why?
Many years ago, one of my close friends was murdered. His family asked if I would give his eulogy. Sean and I had spent many hours philosophizing over beer and cigars. We talked about life, love, and death (but mostly about girls).
When it became time for me to speak, I felt a lump forming in my throat. I said, “the shortest verse in the Bible is ‘Jesus wept.’ I’ve always thought that was a bit unfair because he immediately raised his friend from the dead. Please forgive me if I, unable to do the same, also weep.”
Unholy Sh+t: An Irreverent Bible Study
Fifth Sunday of Lent
Today’s reading: John 11:1-45
I’ve always found Lazarus to be a strange character. He’s pivotal to the story of Jesus. Everyone knew that Jesus and Lazarus were close friends. But without much imagination, historians might even refer to Jesus and Lazarus as *clears throat* roommates.
When Mary and Martha send word to Jesus that their brother is sick, their note simply says, “…the one you love is sick.”
This is one of those situations where Jesus’ privilege is showing. Being the Son of God has its perks, and here we see Jesus riding that nepotism train full steam ahead. Unbothered, Jesus just hangs around a few more days and basically says, “this story won’t end in death, but it is going to show everyone how dope my necromancy skills are, er, I mean to give glory to God (which is also me, it’s going to give glory to me).”
So Jesus just hangs around turning water into one or whatever it is that Jesus does when he’s just dilly-dallying while his friend is on his deathbed.
When Jesus finally decides to bother himself with his friend being sick, he arrives to find out that Lazarus has already died. And you know what, good for him. Honestly, which one of us hasn’t been in a situation where someone wasn’t taking us seriously enough, and wouldn’t it be nice to be able just to die and be resurrected so we could be like, “see, I told you I didn’t feel well, and YOU didn’t believe me.”
Anyway, Jesus arrives on the scene of his definitely-not-boyfriends wake, and needless to say, not everyone is pumped about Jesus showing up.
First, you’ve got to understand that healers aren’t unusual during the time of Jesus. In a world without penicillin or hand washing, magic was basically your only hope for survival if you so much as stubbed your toe. However, Jesus has proved himself to be impressive compared to your run-of-the-mill wizards running around Judea. Basically, the point I’m getting to is healing the blind, and stuff was kind of a normal routine for messiah candidates. But what a lot of folks didn’t know is that Jesus had another trick up his sleeve.
Quite a few people scolded Jesus for not showing up sooner because he could have just healed Lazarus, and he wouldn’t have died, but now Lazarus is not mostly dead; he’s all dead. And there’s not much you can do with all dead exempt for go through his pocket and look for loose change.
Martha is upset and yells at Jesus, “if you had come sooner, he wouldn’t be dead!”
“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles,” Jesus responded.
Now, this is where the big line comes in about Jesus getting all teary-eyed over Lazarus dying. Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I had always been taught to believe that Jesus was so overcome with grief that he started crying uncontrollably, as anyone would do at a funeral. However, that always seemed a bit weird to be because why is he crying if he knows damn well that he can raise his *Dr. Evil air quote motion* best friend from the dead?
Jesus is really being arrogant in this story. From the onset, he’s just completely unconcerned with the whole idea of Lazarus dying. He doesn’t get worked up over the note, he even leans over and tells the disciples that he knows Lazarus is already dead, and he keeps telling everyone how cool it will be when he does this new trick. But when he arrives, he sees something different.
It says in the Gospel of John that “when Jesus saw Martha and the others weeping, he was deeply moved and troubled.”
I have absolutely no theological basis for making the claim I’m about to make. I’ve never read any works on the subject to imply that my theory is sound at all, but I have a hunch I might know what’s going on here.
Jesus is a pretty overly confident dude. At this point, he’s been able to hang out with the dead, he has a direct line to Daddy God, and he knows that when people die, they just pop on over to his other house, and he will see them later. To Jesus, death isn’t scary; it’s just like walking from one room to the other. The rest of us don’t have that kind of access to the ones we love when they are dead.
Jesus is having to face this reality. He just thought it would be cool to raise someone from the dead so he could show off how powerful he is (his words, not mine, go read the verse yourself). Instead, now he’s looking into the face of his besties little sister, and he sees her heartbreak. She’s never going to see her brother again. Suddenly, this prank Jesus pulled isn’t funny, Steve-o actually got hurt this time.
I think what we are seeing is Jesus learning what it’s like to be human. He’s seeing the pain in his friends and having to understand how permanent death has been for the rest of us. I think he got hit right in the feels with empathy.
Jesus wept, not for Lazarus. He was crying for Martha, for Mary, for you, me, and everyone else who has been stung by death. For those of us not blessed with the Black Gift. Jesus had to look into the eyes of his earthly friends and family and realize what a deep pain we feel when death isn’t someone walking from one ethereal plane to the next but that they are just gone, rotting away in a tomb.
I think the lesson from this story is that Jesus wasn’t here just to teach us but also to learn. The hard lesson he learned that day is that death hurts and that the promise of an eternal life just isn’t enough.
Or, in other words, “I want my father back, you son of a b+tch!”
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