Those two words caught my attention in preparing for this week's sermon. "Deeply moved." They are in John 11, the story of Lazarus, and describe how Jesus responds to the situation. John tells us that "he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved." In fact, so profound is Jesus' emotional response that he cannot contain his own tears.
I've been pondering why this incident is recorded. Why does John share this intimate glimpse at the inner emotional life of Jesus in his gospel? I mean, this is the Messiah here! God's anointed. The light of the world come to shine in the darkness and all that. What's he doing crying?
But perhaps the question answers itself. John tells us that he wrote his version of the story down "so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believeing you may have life in his name" (20:31). So John wants us to believe. That's his agenda - to move us from un-belief (maybe dis-belief?) into belief. I don't know about you, but it sure is a lot easier for me to believe in a Messiah who expresses empathy in response human grief than a Messiah who would stand stoically by, unmoved by the pain and suffering of the people he loves.
What was it that moved Jesus to tears? Perhaps is was simply grief for his friend Lazarus; perhaps compassion for the others who were crying all around him; perhaps he was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer weight of his mission and frustrated that so many people around him weren't "getting it." After all, the resurrection for which the Jewish people were longing (i.e. Daniel 12:1-2) was no longer a distant, "one of these days" event - it was here and now. "I am the resurrection," he said. Not some abstract teaching about the end of the age, but him. Not just the things he was saying and doing, but him. Embodied. Incarnate.
As Mike said last night at Bible study, "It must have been a lot of pressure to be Jesus."
And so in order to accoomplish his mission, he decided to reveal God's power through the death of Lazarus. He basically allowed Lazarus to die in order to make his point. And how far fetched would it be to think that maybe, upon seeing the grief Lazarus's death caused, he may have had a pang or two of regret? Maybe just for an instant he thought, "Oh God, I hope this is worth it."
The confluence of all of that stuff hit Jesus with a powerful impact. And because he loved deeply, he was deeply moved. And because he was deeply moved, we believe. Even in our human relationships, how much easier is it to be friends with someone who is compassionate and empathetic, as opposed to someone we percieve as cold and aloof?
The story of Jesus' relationship with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus helps me believe, because I see in Jesus' emotional response the love of God as a vital, vibrant, responsive movement to human pain. I guess I would say that this intimate glimpse of Jesus's inner life makes God more real for me, and helps me figure out what it means to love, because God first loved us.
Make Room--A Sermon for Christmas Eve
1 week ago