John’s gospel is unique in that before the events of Holy Week, it gives us a sneak peak of what is to come.
In chapter 11, Jesus receives a message from His friends, Mary, and Martha, that their brother, Lazarus, is very sick. They know what Jesus is capable of, and they know that He can make Lazarus well again, so they ask Him to come to them in Bethany.
By the time that Jesus arrives, though, Lazarus is already dead. In fact, he has been dead for four days.
So, Jesus brings Lazarus back from the dead. He has the mourners roll the stone of Lazarus’s tomb away, prays, and then shouts, “Lazarus, come out!”
Lazarus walks out alive and well, and in the very next chapter, they all eat dinner together. It’s a gorgeous, poignant story about resurrection, life, and relationships.
New life — this story tells us — is not just something to look forward to in the future. It’s something that we can have here and now.
But the part of this story that speaks the most to my current condition — and I suspect that I am not alone in this—is the interaction that Jesus has with Mary before He brings Lazarus back to life.
Upon learning of Jesus’s too-late arrival, Mary goes to Him, heartbroken, devastated, and angry. She is weeping, and she cries out, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” And Jesus — in what is one of the most human moments in all the gospels — responds to Mary’s grief with grief of His own.
Jesus weeps. When Mary’s world is falling apart, Jesus doesn’t come at her with platitudes, or try to redirect her towards the bright side.
Rather, He enters into her pain with her, and He weeps alongside her.
The past few years have been hard ones, Friends. Covid. Political turmoil. A racial reckoning. War. Division. The world feels scary, and overwhelming right now.
Like Mary, many of us are grieved, and angry. And while I do wish that God would just make all the suffering go away, I also know that the Kingdom of God is both here and not yet. Suffering is simply part of the package.
So, it helps me to know that if weeping is going to happen, at least God is weeping with me.
God is with you, and He is grieving with you as you navigate the loss of a loved one. God is with you, and He is lamenting with you as your heart breaks over violence and injustice in the world.
God is with you, and He is mourning with you as you get bad news from your doctor. God is with you, and He is aching with you as you watch someone who you care about spiral into addiction.
God is with you, and He is hurting with you as you deal with disappointment, shattered dreams, and all the other things in life that leave us battered and bruised. Like it says in the book of Hebrews, we have a God who knows what it is like to suffer, and to be human. Life hurts sometimes, but we are never alone.
Our Creator — who loves us enough to have been born into this world as a defenseless baby, to live as one of us, and to die on a cross at our hands — stands in solidarity with us. Our God is a God who weeps.
Darkness, Friends, is no match for love. Love illuminates, and even if it does not solve the problem at hand, it makes the path through the chaos visible. God’s solidarity with us is Light. So, this week and every week, may God’s grief be strength to you. May it be grace.
May our loving, weeping God be a source of hope and peace. May lament be a road to resurrection.
Hannah Lutz is Pastor of Ada Chapel Friends Meeting.