March 25, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 11:28-37.
When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him. For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him. So when the Jews who were with her in the house comforting her saw Mary get up quickly and go out, they followed her, presuming that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at this feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.” But some of them said, “Could not the one who opened the eyes of the blind man have done something so that this man would not have died?”
Isn’t it interesting that Mary said the very same words to Jesus that Martha had. The difference was that Mary was crying and fell at the feet of Jesus while Martha was composed, a woman on a mission. It doesn’t seem like Mary is reproving Jesus as it seemed Martha did. Mary was simply confessing her grief. I think Jesus was moved to tears in seeing Mary’s distress and tears. He knew that he was going to raise Lazarus, so why would he cry over Lazarus? It seems obvious to me from the gospels that Jesus had a special affection for Mary. When I see someone I love hurting and crying, it always makes me cry in response. It’s empathy, identifying with and sharing in another person’s feelings, a blending into another person’s reality. The Greek word translated as “perturbed” underscores this conviction for me. Barclay interprets the word in this way, “Here it must mean that a such deep emotion seized Jesus that an involuntary groan was wrung from his heart….So deeply did Jesus enter into men’s sorrows that his heart was wrung with anguish….He showed us a God whose heart is wrung with anguish for the anguish of his people. The greatest thing Jesus did was bring us the good news of a God who cares.”
I remember being taught that God doesn’t have feelings; He is above or beyond our human emotional responses to one another. It took me decades to discard that conception. Becoming immersed in the gospels and coming to the realization that Jesus was God’s word enfleshed led inevitably to the awareness that God loves me and shares in all my emotions. Jesus was God’s heart for His people. When I cry because someone else is hurting that is God’s love moving me to be His emissary, to reach out in love to console, to embrace, to empathize. It’s His way of both loving me and the other. God is love and God is among us by being in each of us and acting through us.