10 April 2021

John 11:17-44

... 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. (vs 33-35)

Psalm 145


John’s Gospel is laden with long discourses and ‘signs’ which often lead, as in the case of Lazarus, to reveal more about the identity of Jesus. This passage explains Jesus’s strong friendship with a family of three siblings: Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus, who has been dead for four days. When Jesus arrives in the village of Bethany, Martha seems to express a mixture of disappointment and trust, ‘’Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died’’ (v. 21). These sentiments that are echoed also by Mary in verse 32. Jesus’s response to this intense pastoral crisis is twofold: he declares that, ‘’I am the resurrection and the life’’ (v. 25) and then weeps (v. 35).

During these intensely difficult Covid months, many of us will identify with the emotions of this story: the 'if only' moments; the struggle to hold onto faith in the midst of loss; the need to weep; the yearning for hope; the importance of a funeral; and the desire for God to be present in our loss.

Martin Rinkart was a Protestant minister in the German town of Eilenburg, when in 1637 a great pestilence struck the town, and thousands died. In one year he performed more than 4000 funerals, including that of his wife. Following the plague came a famine, and in the midst of his poverty, Rinkart shared what little food he had.

 In the aftermath of such suffering, Martin Rinkart wrote a hymn. But what kind of song could come out of such tragedy? A lament, a plea for vindication, or a cry for mercy? No, instead, Rinkart wrote a hymn of gratitude and thankfulness which we know as:
 Now thank we all our God,
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers' arms, has blessed us on our way,
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.


To Ponder:

  • Do you find it helpful to read that ‘’Jesus wept’’?
  •  In response to Covid-19, might you attempt to write a hymn or a poem or paint a picture?
  •  Imagine that you were part of the crowd gathered in Bethany. What would be your response to Jesus saying, ‘’I am the resurrection and the life’’?

Bible notes author

The Revd Tony Morling

Tony is a Presbyter in the Jersey Methodist Circuit and has a particular interest in making connections between faith and community life. Among many pleasures in life he likes to grow potatoes and play tennis – but not at the same time.

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