“For as true man he wept for Lazarus his friend, and as eternal God raised him from the tomb.”
– from the Mass of the 5th Sunday of Lent
One of the great questions that has occupied theologians throughout history has been how to maintain the truth that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Many great heresies have their origin in emphasizing one of the two natures in Jesus to the detriment of the other. Today’s gospel gives us a view of each of these aspects of Jesus at their maximum. On the one hand, we see Jesus crying at the death of his friend Lazarus, “the one he loves.” We see him become “perturbed and deeply troubled” to see his friends Martha and Mary so upset. This is the human side of Jesus on full display… and this is good. If Jesus can get emotional, surely we can too.
What makes the human emotion of Jesus so interesting in the gospel is that the death of Lazarus is also the occasion for perhaps the greatest display of his divinity. Jesus weeps that Lazarus is dead, yet he knows that he will be alive again in just a few minutes. Jesus had worked many miracles already, but even his closest friends, who had faith in him and believed, couldn’t see what was coming. Jesus had raised two other people from the dead, but never someone dead for four days in a tomb. Everyone just knew that four days was too long, even for Jesus. There was no hope.
Jesus uses this occasion to take the faith that they already had and to expand it. He does something completely unexpected. The same power that allowed God in the beginning to say to the darkness, “Let there be light,” and there was, now says to a corpse in a dark cave, “Come out,” and he does. This Jesus who weeps human tears at the death of his friend is also the God of the universe who conquers death and gives life. As we journey through these last two weeks of Lent, perhaps we too are experiencing some human suffering or doubt. Fine… bring that to Jesus; he understands. But then allow Jesus, the lord of life, to surprise you. He will hear your prayers. He just might seem to wait two days and then do the impossible.