John 11.35 is one of my favorite, if not the favorite, bible verses. Simply, “Jesus wept.”
We know the story well. Jesus was summoned by Mary and Martha to come and heal their dying brother, Lazarus. Jesus at first refused to go, but after knowing that “he had fallen asleep,” Jesus and his disciples finally went.
After arriving, Jesus met with the little faith of the sisters, and their anger. He broke down and wept. Why? Often interpreters suggest this was because of the little faith. I believe it helps us to focus on the humanity of Jesus. Here, perhaps because of exhaustion, or maybe even something about self-arrogance, Jesus broke down and wept for the death of his friend. He knew it wasn’t everlasting and knew he would bring Lazarus back. Yet, he wept.
While reading Plutarch’s Cato the Younger, 11, I happened on a passage that was familiar. Remember, Cato is writing in part to correct the myths swirling about Cato while creating a myth himself. When Cato’s brother was dying, he took a boat and few friends to race towards him, but encountering a storm, was slowed.
He narrowly escaped drowning, and by some unaccountable good fortune came safe to land, but Caepio had just died. In bearing this affliction Cato was thought to have shown more passion than philosophy, considering not only his lamentations, his embracings of the dead, and the heaviness of his grief, but also his expenditure upon the burial, and the pains that he took to have incense and costly raiment burned with the body, and a monument of polished Thasian marble costing eight talents constructed in the market-place of Aenus.
For some people cavilled at these things as inconsistent with Cato’s usual freedom from ostentation, not observing how much tenderness and affection was mingled with the man’s inflexibility and firmness against pleasures, fears, and shameless entreaties.
I am further convinced that the mention of Jesus weeping is not about meeting the lack of faith, but about his humanity. We are called to focus, in the one Gospel proclaiming the highest of Christologies, on the lowly and weak humanity of Jesus. He cried for his friend, for his brother.