Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, was sick. They sent word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick”(John 11:3). Jesus loved Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. But by the time Jesus arrived in Bethany, the town where Lazarus, Martha, and Mary lived, Lazarus had died already. For Martha and Mary, we can imagine that the death of Lazarus was devastating despite believing and knowing that that they would see him again.
First Martha ran up to greet Jesus. When Jesus told Martha, “Your brother will rise again,” Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” (John 11:23-24). Then “25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25). Jesus tells Martha that he is the resurrection and the life. Death is no more in Jesus, for he is resurrection, to be risen from the dead. Death is no more in Jesus, for Jesus is the life. One who believes in Jesus “even though they die, will live.” Martha knew who Jesus was, “27 She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’” (John 11:27).
Then Martha runs to get Mary and Mary comes to greet Jesus:
32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt 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 came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. (John 11:32-34).
Mary says to Jesus expressing her grief and sorrow, “Lord, if you had been there, my brother would not have died” (John 11:32). You could almost hear the feelings and thoughts of Mary “Lord, if you had hurried and arrived sooner, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw Mary weeping and those who came with her also weeping, Jesus “was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved” (John 11:33). Jesus was moved by the tears of Mary, her grief, her sorrow and her disappointment that Jesus had arrived too late. Moved and deeply disturbed, Jesus began to weep. Why did Jesus weep and What do the tears of Jesus mean for us?
Jesus knew, as Martha and Mary knew, that Lazarus who died would rise again in resurrection in the last days. If so, they would be reunited and see each other again. If Lazarus died and went to heaven to be with God, was he not in a better place now in his death than in this world where he got sick? And also, Jesus was about to pray for Lazarus and raise him from the dead. But instead of rejoicing in Lazarus who would soon rise, Jesus wept. Was Jesus grieving the death of Lazarus? For sure, he was grieving and weeping for the sense of loss of Lazarus that the sisters were experiencing. Jesus was empathizing. In his compassion, he felt the painful sorrow of the sisters and those around them. Seeing their tears, Jesus felt their sense of loss and grief. Even though Lazarus would soon be living again, Jesus wept because now, in that present moment, the sisters were mourning the death of their brother.
We can be sure that when we are experiencing hardship, when we are grieving the loss of our loved ones, when our hearts are experiencing pain and sorrow, that God is with us, and when we weep that God weeps with us. In these months, as a church, as a community and as a nation, we have seen many loved ones die. We have experienced isolation, loneliness, and perhaps even hopelessness. How long, Lord? How long will we weep without our tears drying up? How long will we cry asking for God’s speedy help? In those moments, even when we feel our prayers have yet to be answered, God has heard our prayers, the longings of our hearts, and even the desires, feelings, and thoughts, that we do not know how to express. Have you lost your job and not know when you might be hired again? Have you received poor diagnosis of your health and not know if your health will improve? Have you worried about how to pay rent? Have you wondered for how much longer you can endure the difficulties of life? Pray as Jesus prayed, “And Jesus looked upward and said, ‘Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me’” (John 11:41-42). Our help comes from God. So, let us thank God for having heard us. And believe that God always hears us.
In moments when you can’t even pray, know that the Spirit helps us:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27).
In our weakness, the Spirit helps us. When we do not know how to pray, the Spirit “intercedes with sighs too deep for words,” interceding for the believers according to the will of God. So, when we need God, pray. Pray as you can: pray in silence, pray out loud, pray in tongues, dance your prayers, write your prayers, however you can pray, pray in the way you know how. And our Father in heaven hears our prayers. God always hears our prayers.
Lastly, come to Jesus. Jesus invites us and calls us to himself:
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Let us come, let us show up, let us draw near. Jesus is gentle and humble in heart. Let us learn from Jesus, taking Jesus’ yoke rather than carrying our heavy burdens by ourselves. In Jesus, we will find rest for our souls. Do we not need rest so desperately? Rest for our souls. Breathe in a deep breath, then exhale, knowing that we can come to Jesus, all who are weary and carrying heavy burdens. And Jesus will give us rest that we need so much.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus, call us each by our name. As you call us to yourself, help us to come to you. Holy Spirit pray and intercede on our behalf especially when we do not know how to pray as we ought. Jesus, walk with us and give us rest for our souls. God, hear our prayers. Thank you for always hearing our prayers. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.