If you have a friend, you are lucky. If you have a friend, you are blessed. If you have a friend, you are rich.
Jesus had a friend. His name was Lazarus. The Gospel of John says that Jesus loved Lazarus.
And then Jesus lost his friend. Lazarus got sick. And then he died.
Jesus went to the grave of Lazarus. It was a heartbreaking scene. And it is summed up in two words: "Jesus wept."
Why? Why did Jesus weep? He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead, after all. What was Jesus crying about?
Maybe it was a cry of resistance. Maybe it was a cry of protest. Maybe the tears of Jesus are saying "It's not right!"
It's not right for loved ones to die early. It's not right that natural disasters come and bring death. It's not right that children are born with disabilities. But it is right to shake a fist at the forces of destruction. It is right to protest. It is right to cry out for divine justice and mercy.
I think we need to shout defiance once in a while. I think we do just that in our funeral liturgy, of all places. These striking words come from our Prayer Book burial service:
So did you ordain when you created me, saying, "You are dust, and to dust you shall return. All of us go down to the dust, yet even at the grave we make our song: alleluia, alleluia, alleluia.
In my book, that is a shout of defiance at death itself.
So when Jesus comes to the grave of his friend, he weeps. He cries in defiance. With his tears, he says, "This is not right!"
Now, John's Gospel is the boldest of all when it comes to who Jesus is. John is more blatant, more in-your-face, than the other three. John starts out by writing that Jesus is somehow God in the flesh with us.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word
was God...and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
Pretty clear, and pretty bold. John says Jesus is God with us. John says that in Christ God enters this messy world. John says God feels all the suffering and loss of death itself. And it makes Jesus weep.
Why has God created such a hard world? Why has God allowed so much tragedy? Why do we see and feel so much suffering? I don't know. You don't know. And in spite of thousands of years of religion and philosophy, no other human being knows.
But I do know something. I know it from reading the Gospels. I know it from my own life. I know it from being a priest for 30 years.
This is what I know: Answers are not what we need. What we need is strength. What we need is friendship. What we need is a hand to hold.
And that is exactly what we have. We have the companionship of Christ. We have the friendship of Christ. We have the hand of Christ to hold.
Now, I have to say that this companionship, this friendship, this hand to hold, usually comes to us through the hand of another human being with us. It's like Christ will slip inside the heart of someone nearby when we need him and inhabit that person in order to hold our hand.
It's not surprising. It's his style. It's what he does. 2000 years ago, he invaded the world by becoming one of us. Tomorrow he might he invade my life or yours by slipping into the heart and hands of another human being nearby.
John's Gospel says that God is not uncaring, not apathetic, not far away. John's Gospel says that God comes close. God becomes one of us, and becomes one with us.
As I get older, I have had to unlearn a lot. I'm not anywhere near as smart as I thought I was when I was 20. I really don't have many answers. But what I do have is more important. I know where to find the strength I need. I know where you can find the strength you need.
That strength is found in the One who wept. That strength is found in the One who still weeps with us. That strength is found in the One who will raise us and all we love on that ultimate future Easter Day.
You see, Lazarus was not the only one Jesus loved.
He loves us, too.
You have a friend.