This past Sunday, Catholics around the world heard the story of the Raising of Lazarus proclaimed by their priests or deacons. It’s a wonderful story, and there’s so much commentary out there that it’s easy to get lost in all the different explanations about what’s happening in the story. Besides my own priest’s homily, I listened to three other homilies, and enjoyed each of their takes on the meaning of Lazarus’s raising. All three priests paid a lot of attention to the shortest sentence in the entire Bible, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
What They Tell Us
Much has been said about this line. It has been analyzed, scrutinized, and explained to the point where I’m sure most people think, what more can be said? I mean, it’s only two words!
I’ve heard that Jesus wept because He was human. We’ve been told that He wept to let us know that He understands our feelings and what we go through. He wept because Lazarus was His friend, and even though Jesus knows He’s going to bring His friend back to life, it’s still a sad moment.
It is said that Jesus wept to show us that He cares, that He is there for all those who have died in some way and wants them to know that they matter. He wept to teach us that it’s okay to cry, that weeping can move us to a higher place or to the next step.
We’ve been told that Jesus wept because He loves. He loves deeply; and when we love, we feel. Feeling, loving, has a cost. The cost of Jesus’s love was death. Jesus wept because He knew His love for Lazarus would lead Him to Calvary.
The focus of Jesus’s weeping is always on what is to come. It’s about the man who has died and will be raised. It’s about our sadness, our emotions, and our weeping–all those not even born at this time. It’s about loving so deeply that a life will be given out of that love.
But let’s back up because there is something missing from all these explanations, something that nearly everyone misses. Let’s back up and look behind. Let’s look at what has already happened – to the past that was Jesus’s three years of ministry as well as the past moments when Jesus arrived in Bethany.
What we Need to Know
Let’s begin at a dinner that took place earlier in Jesus’s ministry. At this dinner, we have three siblings. We’re not sure where Lazarus was at the time of this meal. If he was there, he most likely was sitting with Jesus, listening to His teachings. The siblings who were there for sure were Martha and Mary. I think that, perhaps, Martha was meeting Jesus for the first time and was unaware of His importance. She was worried about many things and didn’t take the time to listen to Jesus. Her sister, Mary, who had been traveling with Jesus, knew better. She had witnessed many miracles, heard his sermons, and experienced her own conversion from the demons she battled. She knew that she was choosing “the better part” by listening attentively at the feet of Jesus.
By the time of Lazarus’s sickness and death, both Martha and Mary know who Jesus is. Martha again takes charge, leaving Mary on her knees once more. While Mary weeps over her brother’s body as he lay in the tomb, it is Martha who goes in search of the Lord, asking for her brother to be raised. Martha tells Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Then she goes on to say, “Whatever you ask of God, God will give you” (John 11:22). She tells Jesus, “I believe that you are the Christ” (John 11:27).
Martha then goes to Mary to tell her that Jesus has arrived. Mary rises quickly and goes to Jesus. And this is when we see this monumental moment in Jesus’s life. Just looked at how Mary’s reaction to the arrival of the Lord affected the scene. “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 wept” (John 11:33-35).
What We’re Missing
In its simplicity, this one sentence tells us all we need to know about Jesus’s love for this family. Jesus, who knows He will bring Lazarus back from the dead, who has preached endlessly on the resurrection of the body, who knows that this world is the not the end for us, is moved to human tears by the death of His friend, but even more so by Mary’s tears. This woman, who meant so much to Jesus, who financed His ministry and traveled with Him, who sat at his feet, who anointed him for burial, who stood at the cross, who shed countless tears for the Lord, moved Jesus to weep.
I believe that all the other commentaries get it right. Jesus wept because, though he was God, He was also human. he wept because He shares our emotions and wants us to know this. He wept because death is sad, and His own imminent death is being foreshadowed.
Most all, though, He wept because His beloved friend, Mary, wept.
How often have you been in a situation where someone begins to cry, and without being able to stop yourself, you cry, too? Mary wept, and the Lord wept.
Why it Matters
Let us not dismiss the impact that this woman had on Jesus. From the moment they met, and He exorcised her demons, Mary followed Jesus faithfully. She was a woman, disregarded by society but not by the Lord. She was a sinner, estranged from her family and the temple until Jesus entered her life. She was a follower and the first missionary of the Church, and Jesus held her in high esteem, calling her by name as she wept at His own tomb.
In the Church at Magdala, there is a circle of eight columns. Seven of these columns have names on them: the named and the unnamed women who followed and supported Jesus. The eighth column is blank and represents you and me and all the women throughout all of time who have followed and still follow Jesus. Standing next to that column, hearing the explanation of the blank column, it is impossible not to weep.
Mary wept. Jesus wept. I wept.
May we never lose sight of the importance of the women in the story. They are there for a reason. The early Church fathers and the writers of the Scriptures told us their names and their stories because they mattered to Jesus. Therefore, they should matter to us.
You matter to Jesus. You, Woman, reading this. You matter.
To learn more about these women and other women of the Bible who mattered and who impacted the lives of people then and now, watch for my upcoming book and Bible study, Clothed With Strength and Dignity, from which several parts of this blog were excerpted.
Meet Amy in Person!
Saturday, April 1, 2023 10:000am-5:00pm – St. Clement’s Island Museum
Amy will be a vendor at the Festiival. Experience a full day of fun sipping wine along the Potomac at St. Clement’s Island Museum with St. Mary’s County wineries on the First Landing Wine Trail, as well as local artisan and craft vendors, live music, food, kids’ activities, boat rides and more.
Event admission is FREE – there are various costs for food, museum admission, water taxi rides or any vendor or wine purchases. Official First Landing Wine Trail glasses will be available for purchase in the museum store, along with other great local items.
Get a discount on my books, Whispering Vines and The Good Wine!
Chincoteague Sunsets Trilogy Book Two Book Launch!
Date TBA – Sundial Books, Chincoteague Island
Amy will be signing the newest book in her Chincoteague Sunsets Trilogy! Details to come.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. The Good Wine, the sequel to Whispering Vines was released in June of 2021. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s chapter book is The Greatest Gift, and her most recent suspense novel is Summer’s Squall.
Amy’s second book in the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, was awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019. Amy’s book, Desert Fire, Mountain Rain begins her new Buffalo Springs series. Book two, Under the Summer Moon, was released in December of 2021. Amy’s latest book, Sapphires in Snow, was released in November, 2022.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020), The Good Wine (2021), Under the Summer Moon (2021), Meet the Saints From A-Z, A Child’s Introduction to the Saints (2022), Seeking Tranquility (2022), Sapphires in Snow (2022).