why Jesus wept

jesus-weptWhen I read John’s Gospel, I can’t get past just how many times Jesus points out the lack of faith in his followers.  It seems on just about every page of that Gospel in my Bible, he’s grumbling and poking and asking Why do you not understand what I am saying?  He grows weary, in my opinion, of those who remain blind to who he is, who can not have faith in his words alone but require signs.  I love this weary Jesus.  I love that he sighs, groans, rolls his eyes.  It makes him human, this subtle impatience.  I’m pretty sure this eyerolling Jesus isn’t the traditional reading of his character, but it’s how I read him in this Gospel and his wry complexity makes the narrative interesting for me.

Last night my littlest love and I put down Homer and read instead the day’s scriptures, the readings that in the Catholic Church are said at daily Mass.  Some of you may be familiar with John’s story of the adulterous woman thrown before Jesus by an angry mob ready to stone her to death.  Jesus famously responds with, Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.  Littlest love is quiet and snuggling into me as usual beneath her cozy blankets, and after a minute or two of silence, she says to me, Shouldn’t Jesus have thrown a stone at her, then?  I didn’t know what to say.  She’s sort of right, if you follow the logic.  More complexity.

On Sunday we heard John’s story of Lazarus raised by Jesus from the dead.

When Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said to him, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and he said, Where have you lain him?  They said to him, Sir, come and see.  And Jesus wept.

Many believe that Jesus weeps at Lazarus’s tomb because he sees Mary and Martha and the others crying.  Such an emotional scene would forge a lump in anyone’s throat, and the usual interpretation is that he is filled with compassion and joins them in their sadness.  But I think Jesus is “perturbed” and crying because they don’t truly believe in him.  I can almost imagine a soft and slowly emitted sigh just before he asks where they’ve lain him because he’s thinking, here I go again, proving myself.  My Bible has a footnote explaining that the word “perturbed” is a startling phrase in Greek and translates to “He snorted in spirit,” and the editors suggest this snorting was perhaps in anger at the presence of death.  I don’t think he’s angry, though.  I think he’s annoyed.  This is the eyerolling Jesus I love so much, and he is about to perform the miracle of all miracles to prove once and for all he is the Son of God.  He loves Martha, Mary, and Lazarus, and when someone you love does not have faith in you, that is certainly cause for tears.  Jesus wept for them and their disbelief.  He is the light of the world, but people prefer to live in darkness.

O faithless and perverse generation, how long will I be with you and endure you? ~ Luke 9:41

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  1. susan board says

    Thank you for your insight; I love your interpretation complete with eye rolling. Bob always gets your blog at least a day before me, and he had to read it to me last night, so we had an interesting conversation around this eye rolling Jesus. Littlest love’s observation is more fodder for discussion. I’ve always loved the Lazarus rising passage, especially because of a silent retreat revelation that Jesus always meets us just where we are. Witness his explaining in detail the salvation plan to Martha when she comes out to meet him. With Mary, he simply weeps with her. Such different responses to two very different women, whom he loved deeply. That made my retreat that year. Keep it coming…

    • As we get nearer to Holy Week, I am so close to these women. Yes! And I wish you and Dad a wonderful EASTER. XO

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