5 Lent, April 7
Jesus’ raising of Lazarus from the dead is first and foremost an act of love. It is a miracle of new life, rooted in the eternal love that is the source of all being. The condition of Lazarus was reported in this way: “Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11:3). The story continues: “Jesus loved Martha and [Mary] and Lazarus” (John 11:5). Jesus loved this family. Jesus loves you and your family.
It has been said that a distinctly Christian form of love is agape, which extends even to one’s enemies. This is not, it is suggested, a mutual and emotional love, but a power and strength of resistance in the face of unjust oppression.
“Love your enemies,” says Jesus. “If you love only those who love you, what profit is that to you?” Such love can only occur because “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom. 5:5). This is a love that may not have the warm glow of mutual affection. It is a bracing love, it is the power of love, and it is suffering love. Still, it would be a mistake to think that this love is entirely devoid of emotion, nor is it always directed toward those who would reject it.
The verbal form of agape is used to describe the love Jesus had for Martha and Mary and Lazarus, which certainly cannot suggest a love that is only one-sided. Indeed, agape can include these connotations: to take pleasure in a thing, prize it above all other things, be unwilling to abandon it, or do without it, to welcome with desire and longing.
Jesus loved Martha, Mary, and Lazarus with the full depth of his emotional life, and it is a love that they, in their capacity, returned and shared. A different verb is also used to describe the love of Jesus for Lazarus. Phileo has a range of meanings too: delight in, long for, take pleasure in. In this case, however, there is an unmistakable suggestion of feeling and deep emotion.
Did Jesus have an emotional life? The answer must surely be yes, for the Word became truly human. “When Jesus saw [Mary] 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 began to weep” (John 11:33-35).
Jesus wept, and cried, and suffered, and bled, and died for love. He is love. He is shaking, quaking, grave-breaking love. He has loved us to the end.
What can we do? There is nothing we can do to earn this love, but there is something we can do and should do in response to it. “Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. There they gave a dinner for him. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him” (John 12:1-2).
They gave a dinner for him. In the Eucharist, by the offering of bread and water and wine, we are sitting at table for him. We are calling Jesus to the table. We are calling with our love. There is more. “Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume” (John 12:3). This too is love. We pour out such love because, incredibly, he first loved us.
Look It Up
Read Psalm 126.
Think About It
Hear shouts and songs of joy, of love.