5th Sunday of Lent, Year A
Another Kind of Temptation for Jesus?
Jesus waits two days before He goes to his friend Lazarus who is dying. Jesus knows the situation is dire. He knows that through Him, God can save Lazarus. Yet, Jesus still waits two days. Then when He gets there and learns that Lazarus has died, “Jesus wept” (v.35).
Why does Jesus get upset? It’s not exactly a surprise. Lazarus’s dying is the natural consequence of Jesus’s delay. It’s like missing a deadline despite being reminded of it and then crying when you can’t participate in the event. It’s not exactly a surprise. It’s a natural consequence.
Jesus’s humanity and His divinity are wrapped up tight in this event. They are inseparable; here He is both human and divine and experiences all the messiness that duality entails.
Jesus waits to go to His friend because by waiting for the time to be right, God’s power and authority will shine in “glory” (v.4) in ways it wouldn’t if Lazarus were healed before death. In raising Lazarus from the dead, Jesus establishes Himself as divine. If anyone has become inured to Jesus’s healing miracles and doesn’t find them as amazing now, Lazarus’s raising would turn that notion on its head. Jesus’s hand in Lazarus’s emergence from the tomb demonstrates His divinity. But Lazarus has to be good and dead for that shake-up to happen.
Yet, still Jesus waited to go. He could have gone immediately and still waited to perform the miracle. Surely that would have accomplished the same thing. Then he could have been with Lazarus and his sisters while Lazarus died. He could have held their hands. After all, the gospels demonstrate again and again that presence and touch, the simple act of being there is often all that’s required. After Lazarus’s death, then Jesus could have waited two days to perform the miracle. Surely that would have gotten God the same amount of bang for His buck.
But He didn’t. Jesus waited two days to go to Bethany, to go to His friends. I wonder if He waited in part because He knew if He went, He would be consumed by grief? He might not be able to keep from begging God to save His friend. Maybe He knew He couldn’t stand to watch them suffer. Even though Jesus surely knows that He’s about to bring Lazarus back, He weeps upon learning of his friend’s death. He loves Lazarus. He loves Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and Martha. He loves us all, but these people in particular were His special friends. Because Jesus had special friends while He lived here on earth. After all, Jesus was human. And humans want to do all they can for their friends.
Jesus was tempted by the devil in the desert and seemingly easily brushed those temptations away. But maybe it’s possible that Lazarus presented a different kind of temptation—the temptation to protect those He loves. Maybe Jesus knew distance was needed to do the work God had sent Him to do. Being both human and divine, Jesus had the wisdom to combat both lures that would point Him away from God. How lucky we are to have His example to try to emulate!