Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Champion

"Jesus wept."  — John 11:35

Imagine: Jesus delayed coming to his friend Lazarus as he lay dying.  Now he arrives, seemingly too late.  His friend is now dead and buried.  Jesus wept.

At first, you may simply view Jesus' emotional display as an empathetic response to the loss of friend in this life. But wait;  Jesus owns eternity! Why would he cry at the loss of a friend, and why did he wait when he was told that Lazarus lay dying?  In modern perspective, it doesn't make sense

But when you look at this simple turn of a phrase, there is much to learn.

The word John used for 'wept' is a key element. it doesn't mean tears in the sense of mourning. Instead, the word is a word used when describing something very different. I am unfamiliar with the source, but I understand a passage exists in the literature of the time that uses that same word to describe how a champion stallion, charged for battle, will secrete tears from his eyes as he enters battle!

Now that's a whole different kind of weeping.   Jesus is a charging champion here! Here's what is really happening: Jesus has been teaching for months about the kingdom of heaven, and the nature of everlasting life. Now, the brother of his friends lay dying, and he allows it to happen without his intervention. Death to our mortal bodies is supposed to happen. He says plainly, that Lazarus is dead, and that he is glad he wasn't there, so that they may believe.

Only after Lazarus dies he goes to him. Thomas thinks that Jesus dawdled because he was afraid for his own safety, but that was not Jesus' intent.

No. He has an important lesson to teach. Jesus is met by the family, and of course, typical of a funeral, there is a lot of mourning and wailing going on. He is met by an entourage of mourners, and when confronted by their distress, he is moved.

But this is not a response to sorrow; remember, these are the tears of a charging champion. He turns to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, and says "Did I not say to you "you will see the glory of God?" In other words, "Hey Martha! Don't you get it?" And ordering them to remove the stone from the cave, Jesus cries out "Lazarus, come forth!"

The charging champion is making a very clear point! He, poised for battle against human grief, shows in a very tangible way that the power of everlasting Life is in His hands! He thanks God for the opportunity to show them what he means. And finally, at least some of them, John tells us, get the message!