I never thought it was strange that Jesus wept when he saw Lazarus dead. Why would he not? You’d have to have a weird notion of some robotic, emotionless Christ to imagine him facing the death of his close friend without feeling grief and anguish.
These tears of Christ are usually explained as evidence that he was truly human, just like us. We see him displaying human emotions many times: Getting angry, being affectionate, getting sarcastic. So this time, the explanation goes, he felt sad, just like us; he felt sorrow and pain, just like anybody.
But I think when he wept at the death of Lazarus, we are seeing something more than that. I think we’re seeing his grief as God.
What I mean is that humans know that death is bad. No one has to teach us this; it’s an innate understanding that death is an ugly, awful, unnatural thing that we hate and fear and do not want, for ourselves or for anyone.
But it is possible for us to get over this knowledge. It’s possible, over time, with repeated exposure, to become comfortable and blasé toward death. Sometimes it’s just a necessary attitude that people must develop so they can do their jobs, as health care workers, as hospice workers, as soldiers, as morticians. Some people who care for the living are repeatedly exposed to death until it no longer provokes strong emotions.
And some people, without good reason, deaden their consciences so that they no longer feel horror and repulsion at the death of other humans. They expose themselves to such violent imagery and exploitative forms of entertainment, or to such utilitarian social thinking, that they don’t feel even baseline human emotions of grief and repulsion around death anymore. They have successfully amputated that emotional organ, and the tears no longer flow.
You might think that God, of all people, has been exposed to death more than anyone. He who has existed from before the dawn of time has been present for every death — every human death, even the ones that no one else in the universe was there to witness, and every other possible kind of death as well — plant death, animal death, bacteria death, planet death. God has seen it all. Talk about overexposed….Read the rest of my latest for Our Sunday Visitor.