Lent 5A, March 26, 2023

New Covenant, John 11:1-45

“Tears in Heaven”

     While today’s lesson might be the most familiar story of Jesus resurrecting someone, it’s not the only story. In Luke chapter 7, Jesus and his disciples arrive in the village of Nain. A funeral procession is taking place. Jesus has compassion for the widow who’s only son has died and he touches the casket and brings him back to life. In the next chapter, Luke records Jesus reviving Jairus’ daughter, whom everyone in town believes has died.

Here in Bethany, when Jesus arrives at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, he too is overcome with grief. He doesn’t hug Mary and tell her, “He’s in a better place.” He doesn’t say to her, “Everything happens for a reason.” He doesn’t say, “It’ll get better with time.” He doesn’t repeat any of the words or phrases that we so often use, thinking that they will bring others comfort. Instead, he weeps with her and her sister and the entire community. He shows us that a Christ-like response to grief is to grieve with the grieving. Sometimes, the best thing to say is to say nothing at all. Sometimes, it is best to let our tears do the talking.

In this story, Jesus illustrates that simply letting our emotions show is a faithful response as well. He cries for the same reason we cry. He has a relationship with Lazarus and his sisters and when he’s standing outside Lazarus’ tomb, he’s overcome with emotion. He cries because he cares. He cares because he’s God.

“Jesus wept.” This is the heart of the story. Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us is so overcome with grief that he too stands outside the tomb of his friend and cries. “Jesus wept.” Are there any other words that reveal how much God loves us? That reveals that God knows what it’s like to be human? That God knows what it’s like to experience grief? To experience pain? Tragedy? Loss? Suffering? Disappointment? Heart break? Are there any other words that can be said that reveal how much God cares?

That’s the good news in this story. When we are in pain, God is not indifferent. When we are in pain, God is crying with us. This story reminds us that in times of pain and sadness, God grieves with us. This story reminds us that God is compassionate. That God is loving. That God’s heart breaks when our hearts are breaking. That God’s tears flow when our tears are flowing. When we grieve, we aren’t grieving alone. We grieve together. Our family and friends grieve with us. Our community grieves with us. God grieves with us.

The story goes that a little girl was scolded for getting home late. Her mother asked where she’d been? She said her friend’s doll was broken and they tried, but couldn’t fix it. She continued, “So, I just sat with her and cried with her.” Sometimes, there are just some things we can’t fix and all we can do is weep with those who weep and know that God is weeping with us. And when this is all we can do, it’s enough. Amen.



Rev. Bradley A. Walmer,
a 2008 graduate of Lancaster Theological Seminary, where he received his Master of Divinity degree and was awarded the 2008 Rev. Delores Berry prize for preaching. He was ordained into Christian ministry by the Lebanon Association of the Penn Central Conference of the United Church of Christ on June 1, 2008. Prior to beginning his pastorate here at New Covenant on August 1, 2015, he served as the pastor of St. Paul’s Summer Hill UCC in Auburn, Pa  (located southeast of Pottsville, PA).

Pastor Brad and his wife Michelle were born and raised in Lebanon County and now reside in the area with their dog, Barkley.


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