Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read John 11:1–45
As I wrestled with my faith as a young twenty-year-old, one of the things I had trouble grasping was the concept that God knew and loved me personally. I had no trouble accepting that there was a God, a Creator. But that He could know me and see the depth of my heart, my fears and failures, my hopes and dreams—that seemed impossible. In a sense, what I was grappling with was the goodness of God. I know I am not alone in this. From my time in parish ministry and as a high school theology teacher, I’ve walked with both the young and the old, the faithful and those farthest from God, as they, too, struggled at various times to believe in a God who is good and loves them personally.
This wrestling is not unique to our time. From the beginning, people have searched for God and, when they encounter Him, have tried to comprehend who He is. Throughout Scripture, we see this played out repeatedly—the story of people searching and God revealing Himself to His children. This revelation is brought to a culmination in Jesus. God the Father sends His only Son, Jesus, into the world—not only to save us from our sins—but also to reveal the depth of His love for each one of His children. Jesus tells His disciples, “If you know me, you will know my Father also” (John 14:7). Thus, to know God, we must encounter Jesus.
Sunday’s gospel is powerful and puts on display Jesus' human and divine nature, providing us with an opportunity to know Him more intimately. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is the final event of Jesus’ public ministry that John narrates before turning to His passion and resurrection. The story begins with Jesus receiving word that the one He loves, His dear friend Lazarus, is ill (John 11:3). Rather than rushing to his side, Jesus remains where He is for two days. But He notes that “this illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4), foreshadowing the good that is to come.
Upon His return to Judea—a decision the disciples are surprised by because there had been attempts to stone Jesus to death—Jesus meets Martha, who boldly proclaims her faith in Jesus despite grieving the loss of her brother (John 11:21). Jesus responds to her by saying that her brother will rise (John 11:23). Martha agrees, assuming that Jesus is referring to the resurrection at the end of the time (John 11:24). In a sense, He is. Still, He is simultaneously referring to something more imminent. A little later, Jesus encounters Mary, who falls at His feet in despair, weeping, and states that if Jesus had been there sooner, He could have saved her brother (John 11:32).
The following three verses highlight the essence of Jesus’ humanity in this story:
When Jesus saw her weeping and the Jews who had come with her weeping, he became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept (John 11:33–35).
Perturbed. Troubled. Wept. Strong words that reveal to us the depth of Jesus’ emotion and His willingness to be vulnerable.
C.S. Lewis, in his book, The Four Loves, explains that to love is to be vulnerable:
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.
For some, it is easy to conceal emotions. To display emotion, particularly those that reveal the depth of the heart, is unthinkable because it requires vulnerability.
But this is not who Jesus is. He does not conceal Himself from us. He does not remain stoic, untouchable, or indifferent, despite being God. No, our Savior goes to great lengths to reveal that He loves each of us personally, is one with us, and is the God of the brokenhearted. His willingness to be vulnerable, for our sake, is not limited to His entrance into this world as a helpless infant; it continues throughout His life and public ministry so that we might come to know Him and, in knowing Him, see the love of the Father.
The story does not end with Jesus weeping. Nor do our stories end in tears. Jesus proceeds to raise Lazarus from the dead. Thus the story pivots from sorrow to hope, from death to new life. At this moment, we see the grandeur of Jesus’ divine power. He is not only the God of the brokenhearted but the God of hope, the God who triumphs over death, who offers us new life and the promise of the resurrection.
The story of Lazarus is our story, too. Whatever darkness is in our lives, keeping us captive to despair, whatever is causing us to question whether God knows and loves us personally, Jesus sees. And He weeps. Our brokenheartedness is not lost on Him; it troubles Him and moves Him. But to us, Jesus also says, “come out.” He longs to free us from our bondage. His power is more significant than anything, even the chains of death.
Food for thought or journaling…
In what ways do you struggle with vulnerability? How can Jesus help you to reveal your heart to others in the way He reveals His heart to you?
Jesus, thank you for the gift of Your vulnerability and healing power. Thank you for being one with me. Help me to know You more fully so that even on my most challenging days, I, like Martha, may profess my belief that You are the Christ, the Son of God. Amen.
 Lewis, C.S. The Four Loves (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2017), 121.