Saturday, April 4, 2015

Why does Jesus weep at Lazarus' tomb?

The Orthodox faithful have now reached the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week.  In a way, today and tomorrow are small, short-lived breaks or feasts, prior to the trial, agony, suffering, scourging, crucifixion, death, burial and triumph over Hades of Jesus before His Resurrection.  Today, we commemorate the rising of Lazarus from the dead, an event only recorded in the Gospel according to St. John, an event that occurred before His triumphal entry into Jerusalem where He would be humiliated and sentenced to a horrible death. 

The story is familiar to most people and its entirety is read today at Liturgy as the appointed Gospel reading.  It is some 45 verses long; a little longer than most Gospel readings.  However, as I was standing there, my thoughts concentrated only on one verse which has only two words:  Jesus wept (verse 35).  In context, it makes perfect sense.  In the verses prior, Mary was weeping as she chastised Jesus for not being present while Lazarus was still alive, although ill.  The company of Jews who had come to console her were also weeping.  There was a lot of weeping all around.

Why does Jesus weep?  There is no shortage of explanations, some of which can be found here.  The Canon written by St. Andrew of Crete which is appointed to be read at Compline the night before unambiguously attributes Jesus' weeping to His human nature which contrasts with His Divine Nature which allows Christ to raise Lazarus from the dead after four days.  Perhaps Jesus was weeping because it is perfectly acceptable to do so at a funeral as many of us know. Or perhaps Jesus wept simply because He knew that death was a tragic consequence of the sin that our parents, Adam and Eve, dared to commit in paradise.  If I dare to be presumptuous, maybe Jesus will weep over my tomb.

Though no theologian, I would posit a slightly different reason for Jesus' weeping though it is based on several of the explanations above.  As I wrote earlier, Jesus' raising of Lazarus occurs before His entry into Jerusalem and thus also right before His Trial, His Suffering, His Crucifixion, His Death and His Burial.  Before he was betrayed by Judas and lead by the guards to Pilate, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsamene that His Father would let this cup pass from Him, that there could be a way out.  Of course, Christ goes on to pray, saying "Let Thine, not mine, be done."  Even on the Cross, Christ cries out in agony "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"  There are no shortages of instances in the Gospel according to St. John where Jesus shows us that He is even afraid, scared to death, as it were.  I think that his weeping as he stands before Lazarus' tomb may indicate that He is frightened of the impending death and burial that is to await even Him in but a few short days.

Of course, this is only a guess.  St. John the Theologian doesn't explain why Jesus wept and maybe the question itself is, in the scheme of things, an unimportant one.  However, as we embark upon Holy Week and a walk with Christ in His suffering, crucifixion, death and burial, even though we know the joyous outcome of all of this, maybe we are called to weep before His tomb as He did at Lazarus' and even our own.

No comments:

Post a Comment