Thursday in the Twentieth Week of Ordinary Time

John 11:28-44

Jesus Is Greatly Troubled – By Our Lack of Faith

The account of the raising of Lazarus hastens to its climax.  Martha runs and tells her sister, Mary, that “the Teacher is here and is calling for you.”  Mary runs to Jesus and, falling at his feet, repeats the words of her sister, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”  The crowd which had followed her to Jesus joins the crowd that was already there in lifting up their voices in loud lamentation.  At this point, the Bible says that Jesus “was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled.”  Then he says, “Where have you laid him?”  They begin to lead him to that place.  Then comes what some say is the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept.”  Seeing this, the people around him were moved, saying, “See how much he loved him!”  But there are others who say, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”  And just after this, we read that Jesus was “deeply moved again.”

I am going to state my opinion of what Jesus is “deeply moved” about, which happens to be a minority report.  I certainly agree with those who claim that Jesus is deeply moved whenever he sees human suffering and sorrow.  Jesus is deeply moved when he sees others weeping over the loss of loved ones.  Jesus hates death and came to destroy death and take away the keys from the one who held us in death’s clutches (Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18).  But the passage makes clear that Jesus knew exactly what he was going to do even before he got there.  He has now twice been tacitly blamed by the grieving sisters for their brother’s death.  He told Martha, “Your brother will rise again,” but Martha did not understand what Jesus was telling her.  And now the crowd is wondering aloud if he could have kept Lazarus from dying – implying that he can do nothing about it now.

It has always been my sincere belief that Jesus is deeply moved and troubled in spirit because the crowd, including Martha and Mary, still did not really believe in him.  Martha could even call him “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” but when Jesus commanded, “Take away the stone,” she objected, “He has been dead for four days.”  In other words, “He’s done died dead!  And there’ll be an odor.  What are you thinking?”  And then Jesus speaks those majestic words, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”  Then after praying, Jesus thanks the Father out loud, so that after the miracle, the people would know that the Father had really sent him.  Jesus calls Lazarus forth, and Satan loses his grip.  Jesus demands more than lip service; he demands resurrection-style faith.

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