Jesus Wept for He Knew Friendship
The story of Lazarus is a long one. In terms of Gospels, it is an in-depth examination of personal relationships, an example of Jesus’ humanity and range of emotion. What I take from this story is the importance of friendship. Jesus comes to the aid of his friends Martha and Mary and ultimately foreshadows his own resurrection by bringing his dear friend Lazarus back from the dead. It is clear that Lazarus means a great deal to Jesus; his sisters summon Jesus by saying, “Master, the one you love is ill” (Jn. 11:3). They do not say, “Your friend is sick” or “our brother is under the weather” - they say, “The one you love.”
Throughout his ministry, Jesus moved from place to place quite often. Those who came with him undoubtedly became a surrogate family to him. While I do not know how Jesus met Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, I imagine they came with him during his ministry. I imagine they answered his questions and spread his word, living as true disciples live. I imagine they had known Jesus from childhood, connecting on a shared love of faith and practice. I imagine they would have witnessed Jesus coming into his own as the Messiah, that they would have been aware of his miracles and familiar with his teachings.
Martha and Mary know Jesus - very well in fact. They both state they feel their brother would have lived if Jesus had been there while he was suffering. They must have known the power of Christ to heal and forgive. Of course, this must be true; Jesus even knew that Lazarus would not survive his illness. Yet, he makes a conscious choice to stay away for a few more days, perhaps not ready to face the reality of his sick friend. It is human to want to avoid the realities of suffering present in our lives. Personally, I find it very difficult to visit loved ones sick in the hospital, a failing on my part as this is clearly when support is most needed. While Jesus seemingly shies away from the pain at first, he feels the true tragedy of losing this close friend upon his arrival in Bethany.
“Jesus wept” (Jn. 11:35). He deeply felt the loss of his beloved friend, Lazarus. He felt the weight of his own emotion at his new world, which lacked the presence of his friend. He felt the pain of his friends Martha and Mary at the loss of their brother. He felt the community missing out on the gifts Lazarus brought to the table. How devastating to lose someone and to feel the weight of one’s own decisions that might have prevented their loss.
I have been reflecting a lot lately on how critical friends are to our development and the discovery of our identity. From the time we are young children, we start developing relationships outside our family, usually with people who share something in common with us. From proximity to common interests, friendships sprout out of all different circumstances. Friends can certainly become like family, and the importance of these relationships cannot be downplayed, especially in scenarios where home and family life might be difficult and harmful. This example from Jesus’ life reminds me of what we discover about ourselves through our friendships. His compassion and care for his friends - Martha, Mary, and Lazarus - comes through in his decision to raise Lazarus from the dead in that moment, rather than waiting for the end of days mentioned by Martha. Jesus knew he had this power, but he dispensed it carefully, based on the needs of those around him. Perhaps raising Lazarus from the dead was a way for him to restore a piece of himself he was not ready to relinquish in Lazarus’ death.