On Really Mourning with Someone
If you spent any time in Sunday School when you were younger, you probably know the answer to this question:
What’s the shortest verse in the Bible?
Got it? Yep. John 11:35. “Jesus wept.” When I was younger, and snottier, I would boast about how I had memorized Scripture, only to trot out this verse when challenged.
The context surrounding John 11:35 is fascinating. Lazarus has died. The text tells us that he had been in the tomb for 4 days by the time Jesus arrives. Previously, Jesus had promised that Lazarus would be alright. In verse 4 he says, ““This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” So, by the time we get to verse 17, here’s the issue: Jesus said Lazarus would be fine, but clearly he’s not.
Because of this, Lazarus’ sisters Martha and Mary (remember them?!?) have two problems. First, their brother is dead, and that of course is cause for mourning in and of itself. But, perhaps worse, their convictions about Jesus are on the line. In other words, their grief at their brother’s passing is accentuated or deepened by their feeling that Jesus had not delivered on his promise.
In the midst of this, what is Jesus’ initial response to the women’s grief?
He weeps. Sure, later in the passage Jesus will do the miraculous and the women will indeed see a resurrection. He’ll make good on his promise. But, make no mistake about it, Jesus’ first step is to mourn alongside them.
And in doing that, he validates their grief.
I’m not a huge fan of generalizations. You know, statements like “all Californians know how to surf.” It’s because often I feel like the generalization doesn’t apply to me. On the other hand, generalizations can provide helpful ways to talk about bigger issues, and so here’s a gender generalization for you this morning:
In our culture, men are action-oriented problem-solvers.
That is, by nature and/or nurture, men are conditioned to jump in, take action, and solve a problem. In our minds, as men, we’re all Bruce Willis in DieHard.
And, heck, whether or not this is generally true, it’s specifically true for me. Have a question? I’ll answer it or find the answer. Need help? I’m your guy. Struggling? Find me and I’ll make it better. Broken? I’ll fix it. Honestly, I can’t wait to solve your problems!
This “jump in and solve it ” masculine drive gets me a lot of advantage. It reinforces my privilege. After all, the world needs leaders who take action and solve problems.
And right here is where Jesus really challenges me.
Was Jesus an action guy? Yes. But was he also reflective? Yes again. See Mark 1:35-36. And, more to the point, Jesus was willing to first meet Martha and Mary in their grief.
Sometimes people don’t need a problem solved; they need someone to share their mourning.
Friends, my male identity compels me to act, and I get privilege because of it. Surrendering that privilege to Jesus can mean that I sit first and act later.
Because, sometimes, the right response is to just weep.
What about you? How have you seen this generalization be true or not true in the men around you?