Fifth Sunday of Lent: Weeping

Today’s Gospel (from Year A, which is also optional for Years B and C) presents us with the intimate story of Jesus raising His close friend Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was the brother of Mary and Martha of Bethany. Martha is best known for serving Jesus dinner while Mary sat at His feet, listening to Him. Mary is also “the one who had anointed the Lord with perfumed oil and dried his feet with her hair” (John 11:2). John’s Gospel says, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus” (John 11:5).

Today, illness does not often result in death, but, given the limited medical knowledge in Jesus’ time, death from illness was far more common. There was grave concern when someone became sick with a fever. Martha and Mary, out of their concern, sent word to Jesus about Lazarus’ illness, “Master, the one you love is ill” (John 11:3). When Jesus heard this, He said to the apostles, “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)

Jesus, however, remained for two days where He was staying before traveling to Bethany. By divine intuition, Jesus knew that Lazarus would die before His arrival. When He arrived, Martha greeted Him, expressing her deep sorrow. Mary also came to Him, despairing and sorrowful. When Jesus saw her, He became “perturbed and deeply troubled” and He wept.

Why would the Son of God weep? He knew what He was going to do. He knew that everyone’s sorrow would soon turn to joy. So why weep? As soon as Jesus wept, some of those present said, “See how he loved him.” (John 11:36).

Jesus’ tears reveal the depth of compassion within His human heart. He is not only the All-Powerful Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He is also fully human, and His Sacred Heart is truly a human heart, perfectly united with His divinity. Jesus expressed the perfection of His divine love in this intimate moment when He encountered such grief, confusion, faith, a lack of faith, pain, loss, and even despair. He experienced all of these emotions from the people present and was moved with the holiest and purest compassion that a human heart has ever felt.

As we continue to journey toward the end of Lent and continue to ponder our sin and our need to repent, use this story as a reminder that it is the same Jesus Whose heart is exploding with compassion for you and Who calls you out of sin. Continue to examine your conscience honestly, humbly, and thoroughly. Jesus loves you as He loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. As you experience your own sin, pain, confusion, or even despair at times, Jesus responds with holy sorrow, with weeping, and with compassion. At the end of time, He will be the Judge of all. For now, He is pure mercy and compassion, longing to say to you what He said to Lazarus, “Lazarus, come out!” and “Untie him and let him go” (John 11:43–44). Come out of your sin. Be set free from all that burdens you. Rise to the new life of grace.

Ponder this compassion today. Ponder Jesus’ tears for you, for all you struggle with, for all you suffer. Know that the joy experienced by those who saw Lazarus walk out of the tomb  awaits you, if you only allow Jesus to call you forth from the tomb of your sin and guilt to the newness of life.

My compassionate Lord, Your mercy is endless and inexhaustible. It is pure and perfect in every way. Please lavish that mercy upon me so that I will not fear facing my sin and confessing it to You. Untie me from these bonds that hold me down and call me forth to the newness of life. Jesus, I trust in You.

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