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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | John 11:32–44

When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt 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 came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” (NRSV)

John 11:35 is considered the shortest verse in the Bible in the King James Version, where it simply says “Jesus wept.” Here Jesus is weeping because his beloved friend Lazarus has died. Another time that scripture notes Jesus wept was when he drew near and saw the city of Jerusalem, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace!” (Luke 19:41).

The depth of sorrow or anger a person feels shows how much they truly care about something or someone and wish things were different. Some who saw Jesus weep over Lazarus said, “See how he loved him!” But others said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

Those two responses to Jesus capture what many of us think in the midst of tragedy, whether personal or as a society. Part of us believes God loves us so much that when we suffer God suffers with us, weeping when we weep. God’s compassion for us—which in Latin means “co-suffering”—may be the very thing that unleashes God’s power of healing. God strengthens us to face whatever trials life brings, granting us peace that passes human understanding.

Another part of us wonders why God didn’t prevent tragedy and loss from happening in the first place. But there is the mystery: we don’t fully understand why God allows humanity to experience illness and death or to sow evil and experience its consequences. What we know is that there is nothing in life or in death that can separate us from God’s love. That’s huge. May that be enough.

Quiet my questions enough, God, so that I can experience your gift of solidarity and presence with me in all seasons of life. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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