In the early days after Jesse’s death, I would frequent the flowering trees by his grave. I worked just down the road from the cemetery, so many days after work found me sitting under that tree on whatever blanket or coat I found in my car.
One day I decided to attempt to read my bible, which I hadn’t wanted to do in the fog of grief and the feeling I couldn’t shake of being betrayed by God. I remember journaling that I still felt close to God but that I “couldn’t look Him in the eye”.
I flipped the pages open to the gospel of John, because I have always felt comforted by those red letters and John as a writer seemed tender. I didn’t think I could handle any extra harshness besides that of my current reality.
So starting in chapter 11, led by a “nudge”, I read. (Anyone who knows this book well may know where this is going, but I swear even as a bible student I had no idea what I was diving in to.)
The heading: “The Death of Lazarus”.
Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”
My brother. I felt like Mary. Mary was always a biblical figure I identified with, I felt like I had been close with Jesus like she was. That I chose nearness with Him over everything. That I had trusted Him and now my world was in shambles and if You had been here…
Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”
He wept. Son of heaven, knowing the glory that awaits, knowing perfect unity with the Father, did not look at these people as means to an end in that moment. They were not a future story to tell or an archetype that we, thousands of years later, can follow devoid of emotion or feeling. He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
Jesus knew He was about to resurrect Lazarus. He knew everything was going to be fine, and within a matter of hours at that. But Jesus looked at Mary, and even though He didn’t have to, He wept.
In that moment as I read, I felt like maybe I could trust Jesus again. I could trust a God who looked at the plight of humanity and wept and knew that this is not how things are supposed to be. This passage has shaped, and continues to shape, my faith. It deepens my love and reverence for my God, my Jesus who understands, who was not too holy to feel.
You know that bond that happens when you have a shared experience with someone? That “me too” moment? There is perhaps no greater “me too” moment than when you have a similar understanding of suffering and pain. The vulnerability of saying “this hurt me/almost destroyed me/actually destroyed me” is often met with blank stares or empty (albeit well-meaning) platitudes. But when you encounter an understanding nod or a knowing deep sigh in response, and the weight of your experience is not avoided but held with compassion…
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
2 Corinthians 1:3-5
On this Holy Saturday I am especially struck by the fact that we have a God who not only understands our suffering but has shared in it. That I experience suffering or sorrow means that I have something in common with Jesus. My God does not sit distantly judging us for our pain or our grief but He is called the Father of compassion. I am filled with anticipation and edge-of-my-seat hope for Easter Sunday– for tomorrow and also for the Easter of all Easters when Jesus makes all things new.
But for now, in the waiting, in the proverbial Saturday of this Redemptive Week, I am comforted that Jesus wept.
And He said “me too”.