5th Sunday in Lent


I’m only human

I make mistakes

I’m only human

That’s all it takes

To put the blame on me

Don’t put the blame on me

I’m no prophet or Messiah

Should go looking somewhere higher

I’m only human after all

don’t put the blame on me.

When we come to read this passage in John’ gospel we meet Jesus and his humanity, and we meet Jesus and his divinity. Fully human. Fully God.

Rag and Bone man sang I’m only human, don’t put the blame on me. What does it mean to be human? Philosophers and scholars have spent lifetimes trying to understand, trying to explain, there have been schisms and heresies over who is Jesus?  Man, or God, and yet in this account in John 11 we get to hear it all,

We get to totally understand what it means for Jesus to be human in the one verse. Jesus Wept.

We get to totally understand what it means for Jesus to be God in one verse. Jesus wept

So what does it mean to be human? What sets us apart from the animal kingdom? We weep. We cry. We cry because of Covid-19.

Some animals do have tear ducts and can produce tears to moisturise the cornea and wash away dust and irritants that may be present.

But animals do not cry like we do. Animals do not cry emotional tears. Crocodiles cry but not because they are sad or lonely. They produce tears when they eat. Big crocodile chomping down on their dinner. They cry. But not emotional tears. Only humans can cry emotional tears. And tearing up emotionally does not mean necessarily we are sad. We can cry when we are happy, laughing, grieving, angry and sad.

In the German language there is a word weltschmerz, it literally means world pain and is considered inconsolable and inexplicable grief. Immense sadness for the world. When Jesus wept over Jerusalem in Matthew’s account of Jesus ministry. Chapter 19 From verse 41:

41 And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.

Jesus loved and he wept. He loved the people of the earth and he felt such immense sadness that he wept.

But here in the account about the raising of Lazarus we meet Jesus weeping.

So let’s get there first.

Lazarus of Bethany lay dying, we haven’t met him before by name but we know his sisters… Mary and Martha. Mary is the one who poured nard over Jesus’ feet, and the two of them are the ones who thought they were doing the right thing in the small vignette of Martha and Mary from Luke 10 which is a reminder to us that to sit at the feet of Jesus is the better thing.

A message was sent to Jesus – Lord the one you love is ill. In two or three sentences we hear that Jesus loves Martha Mary and Lazarus.

But look at verse 6… So when he heard that Lazarus was ill he stayed where he was for two more days. In our human understanding this is bonkers. He should have gone immediately because that is what we do when we hear a relative or good friend is ill. We get up and we go. It is one of those places in Jesus ministry when we want to give him a push and say do it our way. Our way is better.

But Jesus had a plan. Now to back track a little or just to give an overview of what is happening we need to go before and after this story.

You see in John 10 Jesus predicts his own death. Verse 17 and 18:

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

And at the end of John 11 the plot to kill Jesus gains momentum because he raises Lazarus from the dead. This passage is bookended with death.

But in the middle in the story of Lazarus there is life. Life from death. There is resurrection. And there is hope.

But he hasn’t got there yet. And what if he is too late, or gets delayed, or all of these tumbles from our minds because there is suspense in this drama and until Jesus weeps we cannot comprehend what he is up to.

He meets Martha first when he is almost at the village. Martha who knows Jesus so well and has such faith in him says I know God will give you whatever you ask. Meaning Please Jesus save my brother. However, you do it save him.

Sometimes and this can be hard to hear if your heart is breaking. Sometimes the best thing that can happen to us is having a broken heart. Because our posture changes when we meet with Jesus. We meet like Mary pouring nard on his feet rather than in a challenging pose of how could you let this happen.

When Jesus wept it wasn’t because he was the sentimental meek and mild Jesus from a Christmas carol. He was not overwhelmed by the situation weeping how can I get out of this.

It was his character, his heart, his life. Jesus incarnates God for us in a way we can relate to. He became one of us. And because he became one of us, he had human emotions and human actions. In the passages that we read during Lent he was tired, he was hungry, he was sad, angry, he learned, he worked, he was obedient, he was tempted. He was fully human. And in this place, he shares the sorrow and the suffering of this family he knows well. When we look to Jesus, we see God’s suffering servant well-acquainted with our sorrows. We see the compassionate heart of God on display as Jesus shares our suffering and weeps for those whom he loves.

And even though we know he weeps, sometimes we lose the weight of those simple words. In the midst of our virus-controlled lives have we lost sight of Jesus weeping with us.

He meets Mary, now he still isn’t in the village but Mary goes out to meet him. Mary doesn’t have the deep theological discussion Martha has she goes straight in with…

Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died. But look at her posture – she has fallen at his feet. This is a broken hearted woman, who loved her brother vey much and thought Jesus would come and save him and has lost hope in that. She is spent. She cried all her tears.

She fell at his feet. When we are broken hearted when the situations of our life are too much to bear. We can follow her example and fall at his feet.

But it is not to her or Martha that Jesus responds in weeping.

He asks the people around Mary Where have you laid him

They say Come and see, Lord

And then he weeps. I do not often go to the King James version for the words I want to express but in this case they are perfect. The NIV for verse 38 says Jesus was deeply moved but the King James says “Groaning in himself” He is tied in knots in grief. There is an old very short hymn that goes like this:

When Jesus wept, the falling tear
In mercy flowed beyond all bound;
When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear
Seized all the guilty world around

Jesus loved Lazarus so much he groaned in himself. That same love is available to us. Jesus groans in himself when the stuff of our lives overwhelms us, when we are mourning, or grieving the loss of a person, The story of Lazarus has a piercing personal connection for all of us who have lost beloved ones to death; who are wounded by the termination of their time on earth and resultant separation. He is groaning in on Himself today as he weeps for the world in its Covid-19 panic and uncertainty.

In this account John does not spare us the painful reality of human mortality and bemoaning its stench of destruction. Human beings, the crown of God’s creation, were not intended for exile from God’s presence in Paradise, for corruption, nor ultimately death.

Jesus is not distant or removed from our pain, from this broken world. He enters in and participates in human activity.

But he also God. He is also divine. And he has a broken heart. The things that break the heart of Jesus are the same things that break ours. And he moves in our life redemptively, he begins the fulfilment of the great promise of the new covenant. To bring us back from the distant place we have settled to the place of intimacy. To the place of family. To the place of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. To forgive us to welcome us home, to renew us to breathe new life into us. In that place, Jesus waits. Jesus weeps and Jesus waits. He waits for a response. A response like Martha as we think through what life with Jesus is about. A response like Mary, throwing ourselves as his feet in worship and surrender. A response like Lazarus, when Jesus says to him to come out of the burial place. He is obedient. He comes out. The dead Lazarus is raised to life and comes out, still in the grave clothes he comes out. Jesus calls us to life and life everlasting.

This passage of course is a precursor. And we cannot read it in this season Lent in isolation. It is a foretaste of what is to come in Jesus’ life. It reminds us that Jesus will willingly enter Jerusalem knowing the authorities are out to get him, knowing he will be betrayed by the ones he loves, knowing he will face an agonising death on the Cross, He still goes. He still fulfils his destiny. Because for him the stakes are the highest. And not just for him for us all. The fulcrum of all history is not in the death of Jesus but in the resurrection. When we know, when we can live in eternal life. When we can be assured of eternal life. Once we respond like Martha, Mary and Lazarus.

Jesus wept.

Let us Pray

Jesus wept at the world, the sin, the jealousies, the wars, the pain

Jesus wept for the people, for their turning to him, for their lives

Jesus wept with family, with Mary with Martha with Lazarus and he weeps with us too

Jesus wept Jesus waited Jesus wept and groaned inside.

Help us weep with him as we weep for the world, our community, our neighbours, our family, all affected by Covid-19. Help us Lord help us this day