You shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and make you come up out of them. Throughout Lent we’ve been reading from the prophets who spoke about the signs and wonders we would see to know that the Messiah was in our midst.
St. Augustine notes that Sacred Scripture only records three occasions in which Jesus raises the dead to life
- The daughter of Jairus;
- The son of the widow of Maim
- And Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary.
The raising of Lazarus from the dead, however, is different from the rest. St. John tells us that Lazarus was the one whom Jesus loved. His love for Lazarus was so great that Scripture tells that upon hearing that Lazarus had been laid in the tomb and then witnessing Martha and Mary crying, he wept. Jesus wept – one of only two recorded times in Scripture in which Jesus cries. The word used here δακρυω (dakruo) literally means the sob, to weep audibly – to cry as a child cries. Jesus was literally stricken with grief.
Jesus weeps not merely because Lazarus has died – for he knows the He can and will raise him from the dead but also because He is angry with the prince of death and the misery he has brought about. Jesus weeps because he sees the pain and sadness of the reality of death and witnesses its effect upon Martha, Mary, and the friends of Lazarus.
We do not have a savior who is unable to sympathize with our human condition. We have a Lord and Master, who humbled himself and became man and experienced all things but Sin yet he knew the wages of Sin is death, and so we as humans experience death because of our sin.
In the raising of Lazarus we experience a foreshadowing of what is yet to come. Hopefully, each and every one of us has someone whom we are willing to lay our lives down for – someone who we’d trade places with in an instant without even thinking about it should their lives be in danger. The Lord Jesus Christ tells us that there is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
The raising of the Lazarus from the dead occurs for two reasons 1) to fulfill the prophecy that the Messiah would be one who would come who could raise the dead and 2) that Jesus Christ would destroy death itself.
My friends, Jesus had a great love from Lazarus and he wept because of that love but his weeping was not just for Lazarus, but for us as well – for all of humanity. The love that the Lord had for Lazarus is an expression of the love the Father has for His people a love so great that just as Jesus Christ raises Lazarus from a physical death, so too by Jesus’ passion, death, and resurrection we are raised from eternal death. There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. This is the central mystery of Christ’s death on the Cross – that God would strip himself of His majesty to become human, that which he created, and then allow himself to be put to death by those whom he came to save. This is the mystery of the Love of God.
My friends, as we enter this fifth week of Lent, the beginning of Passiontide, we must ponder the ineffable mystery before us – How Christ could love us so much while we honor him so little. That the Lord God would come to free us from our sins, yet it is our very sins that placed him upon the cross. As we focus more intently upon the Lord’s passion and death, let us pray to not become another nail that pierces the skin of the one who loved so immeasurably. Amen