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Greetings to all who love to wander along the paths of the Holy Scriptures! The purpose of this blog is to share some of the insights of ordinary Catholics who have begun to delve into the mysteries of the Sacred Scriptures. Hopefully you will find these reflections inspiring and insightful. We are faithful to the Church, but we are not theologians; we intend and trust that our individual reflections will remain within the inspired traditions of the Church. (If you note otherwise please let me know!) Discussion and comments are welcome, but always in charity and respect! Come and join us as we ponder the Sacred Scriptures, which will lead us on the path into His heart, which "God alone has traced" Job 28:23.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Jesus Wept

A Reflection on John 11:17-44

By: Larry T

Here’s a riddle: Mary of Bethany fell at Jesus’ feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Then she began to sob over the death of her beloved brother Lazarus. The Jews, who had come to comfort Mary and Martha, wept with them at the tomb. Jesus became deeply troubled and wept with Mary, Martha, and the Jews. In the end Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. If Jesus knew all along that he was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, why did he join the mourners in weeping over the death of Lazarus?

17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb for four days.
18 Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, only about two miles  away.
19 And many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother.
20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him; but Mary sat at home.
21 Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.
22 (But) even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.”
24 Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.”
25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,
26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”
28 When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary secretly, saying, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.”
29 As soon as she heard this, she rose quickly and went to him.
30 For Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still where Martha had met him.
31 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.
32 When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed  and deeply troubled,
34 and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.”
35 And Jesus wept.
36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him.”

37 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?”
38 So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the dead man’s sister, said to him, “Lord, by now there will be a stench; he has been dead for four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believe you will see the glory of God?”
41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you for hearing me.
42 I know that you always hear me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that you sent me.”
43 And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”
44 The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.” – John 11:41-44, N.A.B.

Principle characters in this story are Mary, Martha, Lazarus, the Jews, and Jesus. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are well known to us as siblings, but what about the Jews? In John’s gospel the Jews are not necessarily Jewish people, but anyone who rejected Jesus and his teachings. In this story the Jews were present to comfort Mary and Martha.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, offers eternal life to all who believe in him. This gospel story is all about the rejection, misunderstanding, or acceptance of Jesus and his offer of eternal life. The Jews had already rejected Jesus and his teaching. But what about Martha and Mary, how did they receive Jesus’ offer? Let’s begin with Martha.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming she rushed out to greet him and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Martha clearly believed that Jesus was a miracle worker; she was convinced that whatever Jesus asked of God, even then, would happen. Sadly, her belief in Jesus’ miracle working ability fell short of true faith because she believed that Jesus was simply a teacher from God who did wonderful signs because God was with him. When Jesus tried to correct her misunderstanding of him by saying, “Your brother will rise,” she impatiently interrupted to tell him that she knew what resurrection meant: “resurrection at the last day.” When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,” and bluntly asked, “Do you believe this?” She said, “Yes Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.” Martha was expressing the first-century hope and belief that the messiah (the new King of the Jews) would come into the world, overthrow the Roman Empire, and restore the Davidic Kingdom. 
The disciples (Jn 1:41), Nathaniel (Jn 1:49), and the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:25, 29), had also expressed the same belief in Jesus as the messiah, and as exalted as their declarations were, they had all arrived at a partial conditioned belief in Jesus. The “Son of God” expression was based on 2 Samuel 7:14 and Psalm 2:7. Martha’s limited faith was exposed again when she returned to her sister and said, “The teacher is here and is asking for you.” 
Particularly important for the calling of Mary in this story is Jesus’ allegory of the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:1-18). When the Good Shepherd called Mary by name she got up quickly and went to him, and when she saw him she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here my brother would not have died.” Mary’s unconditional trust in the power of the presence of Jesus was plain for all to see. At this juncture it was Mary, not Martha, who accepted Jesus as the resurrection and the life.

To this point in the story the Sheep was completely focused on Jesus. Then without warning Mary’s attention suddenly shifted from the Good Shepherd to the Jews who were weeping over the death of Lazarus. The center of attention should never have been the death of Lazarus, but when Mary joined the weeping Jews she made it so. When Jesus saw her weeping with the Jews, he was strangely moved. It was not compassion – or the lack of compassion – that moved Jesus to anger in spirit and being troubled. Mary had earlier shown every sign of transcending the rejection of the Jews, and surpassing the partial conditioned belief of Martha to understand the true meaning of the death of Lazarus and Jesus’ self-revelation as the resurrection and the life. Her weeping with the Jews was a reversal of her earlier response to him, and it generated anger and severe disappointment in Jesus. Would no one come to believe? 

Jesus was deeply moved by a justifiable anger and emotion, but had to proceed with the mission that had been entrusted to him - he had to wake Lazarus from his sleep - glorify God, and through this event be glorified. He asked to be led to the tomb of Lazarus, and they invited him to come and see. It was Mary and the Jews who issued this invitation. Mary’s total association with the perspective of the Jews led Jesus to tears. The Jews misunderstood the tears of Jesus as a demonstration of Jesus’ love for Lazarus, and said, “See how he loved him.”

Riddle Solution:Jesus weeps because of the danger that his unconditional gift of himself in love as the Good Shepherd, the resurrection and the life who offers life here and now and hereafter to all who would believe in him, will never be understood or accepted. While Mary moved toward Jesus there was hope that one of the characters had come to faith. Once she joined “the Jews” in their sorrow and tears Jesus’ promises seem to have been forgotten, and Jesus weeps in his frustration.”
– Sacra Pagina, Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B. pg 331-332.

Today who are the Jews? Aren’t they still those who reject Jesus and his teachings? How many of us are like Martha? We carelessly allow our belief in Jesus to be conditioned and limited by the newest and latest definition of him? When someone or some group hangs a new cool, fashionable label on Jesus, isn’t there a danger that he becomes a reflection of what they want him to be, rather than who he truly was and is? What about Mary? How often do we lose our initial focus and became distracted? Is Jesus simply an intrusion in our busy lives?
In this story the miracle of the raising of Lazarus can easily overshadow the importance of the call of the Good Shepherd. Perhaps one of the more important lessons in this story is that we must answer the call of Jesus and strive to remain focused on him.

1 comment:

  1. Larry this is amazing! I hardly noticed "the Jews" in the story before! Thanks for your reflection, it will keep me asking myself: Am I responding to His call? Who I am truly focused on? Do I cling to Jesus or drop back into the crowd?


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