He wept. His friend was dead. One of the people he loved in his life, someone he cared deeply for, and just like that he was gone. At this moment nothing else mattered. His friend was already in the tomb for four days when he had arrived there. He stood outside, looking at that final resting place with contempt. His friends who traveled with him were crying, mourning in their grief. The weight of death was certainly too much to bear.
On hearing the news of the loss of his friend, Lazarus, Jesus has a very human response. He is not immune to the emotions of humanity; he is not immune to the reality of death. It touches everyone, even him and it cuts to his very heart. Jesus’ response to death, at least as he stands outside of Lazarus’ tomb is not some foreign feeling. He does not say something profound, not here, not yet. He doesn’t speak a word of promise to those around him but instead, the Lord of Life feels the same pain and brokenness that everyone who grieves has felt. He feels the sorrow. The emptiness. The sting. Although Jesus knows what he has come to accomplish and what he has come to do, he doesn’t rebuke death or speak words condemning this enemy. Instead, he feels it as we do. He suffers its cold grip and feels the emptiness it leaves. Yet Jesus doesn’t comfort himself with empty platitudes like “everything happens for a reason,” and he doesn’t argue that death is merely just a natural part of life. Instead, he acknowledges how unnatural it is, he feels how tragic it is, and at this moment streams of tears flow from the eyes of God.
This is who Jesus is. He is not some far-off deity who sits on his immaculate throne in the clouds scoffing at the poor people in their suffering. No, he is not far off from those he loves and creates. Jesus enters the creation. He is Lord over it and he comes into it’s pain, suffering, and sorrow. So that he knows how it feels to lose someone he loved. Christ knows the sting that death brings. Yet, this does not fill the void for us here, the emptiness that is felt when someone we love dies, and the missing piece in our lives. Death is still the enemy, and it still stings, and grief continues to grip us.
But death does not get the final word. Death does not get to claim victory, because death does not have dominion over us any longer. We belong to Christ who not only suffers with us in our grief, but he also went and suffered death for us on the cross. It was there where he met his enemy, death, and he entered its embrace. For a few days, it seemed as if death would claim another victim, that death would be victorious while the earth held its breath on that Holy Saturday… But when the sun rose on Sunday and cracked the horizon the tomb, where God rested was no longer sealed and it was open and empty. Death is defeated.
So there Jesus stood, outside of Lazarus’ tomb. His face was still wet from the tears that he shed. They opened the tomb and stared into the darkness of its abyss. He opens his mouth and as he exhales, he speaks a phrase, a command, an order, and he authoritatively says “Lazarus, come out!” And his friend who was once dead rises and comes out from his tomb. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in him will live, even though they die, and whoever lives by believing in Jesus will never die. Do you believe this?
Be at peace, dear Christian. We are one day closer to the Resurrection.