In today’s Gospel, we read the words ‘and Jesus wept’. The idea of our Lord being so upset is unsettling, and intensely sad.
What made Jesus weep?
Was it the death of Lazarus, as the onlookers thought?
No. Jesus knew that Lazarus had died days ago. He even said to his disciples, “Lazarus is dead. And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” (John 11:14-15)
At that time, he showed no sign of regret for the death of his friend, and why would he? Jesus knows that he is going to raise Lazarus from his tomb. He reminds Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.” (John 11:25)
Such a strong emotional response must have been triggered by witnessing the pain of his good friends, Mary and Martha. They were very close with Jesus, and he cared about them deeply. What this story shows, therefore, is that Jesus feels the pain of those he loves, whatever that pain looks like. This is true for us, why wouldn’t it be true for God? When our loved ones are hurt, so are we. We are God’s loved ones. When we are in pain, it must hurt him, too.
So why does he allow us to get hurt in the first place? Just as he could have prevented the pain of Lazarus’s death, he could also prevent our pain, right?
We find some hope and an answer to this at the conclusion of these dramatic events. It is in the image of Lazarus emerging from the darkness of his tomb, and the joy that must have caused. Faith has that pattern. We can be at our lowest ebb, utterly and completely crushed, but we can trust that God will restore us.
The rub is that it happens in his time and not ours. We must believe that there is a purpose to the pain we endure as we wait for him to help us. Jesus allowed Lazarus to die so that he could perform a miracle that led to many new believers. The raising of Lazarus is also a key event in his paschal story. It is from this point that Jesus is in imminent danger and his ministry comes to an end.
We can’t possibly know why God keeps to the timeline he does, just as Mary and Martha could not have known why it was so vitally important for their brother to die.
We may have to dig deep to find it, seriously deep at times, and still have the meaning of our suffering elude us. Yet, as challenging as it is, we have to trust there is always a purpose in pain.
Source: Fifth Sunday of Lent ASuffering , This Sunday