Today is part 3 of a series on the second Beatitude from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” – Matthew 5:4. The first two are here and here. We begin with story of the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus:
“Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” – John 11:39
Before this dead man Lazarus died, Jesus got a message that he was ill. Lazarus was in Bethany, near Jerusalem, and Jesus was about a day’s journey away avoiding the Jewish leaders who sought to stone Him to death for claiming to be God (Jn 11:30 and elsewhere). After saying “this illness does not lead to death”, Jesus stayed away for two more days and after the time it took to travel to Bethany, He found Lazarus already “dead four days.”
Martha and Mary, sisters of Lazarus, were deep in mourning, along with many others who had come to mourn with them. Then “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Reading this we might assume Jesus’ reason for weeping was the same as everyone else’s. However, pastor and author Tim Keller notes that: “Both verses 33 and 38 say that while He was weeping with grief He was also snorting with anger. Jesus could not have been weeping for Lazarus because He knew he was about to raise him from the dead. What, then, was He so grieved and angry about? He was furious at the sin and death that had ruined the creation and people He loved.”
Jesus knows that “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Since Adam and Eve, mankind has been facing, and mourning, the consequences. From the repetition of “and he died” in the genealogy of Genesis 5 on, we are reminded of the result of missing the mark of God’s righteousness. Nobody is more aware of this than Jesus. As God, He understands our loss more deeply than we do, and He is indignant, consumed with righteous anger.
When Jesus got the message Lazarus was ill, He could have healed Him on the spot from a distance as He did the official’s son in John 4:46-54. Instead, Jesus delayed in coming to raise Lazarus “so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4b). The miracle convinced many, but not everyone: “the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well” because so many were later believing in Jesus that they plotted to bury the evidence.
However, Jesus used the miracle to increase His disciples (and our) faith, particularly in times of loss and mourning. Jesus taught Mary to replace her “if” statement “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died” with His statement “I am the resurrection and the life.” As man, He feels as we do, and in compassion for us He weeps. He steps right into our suffering with us – the odor of death does not deter Him. He knew He would have to die to save us from our suffering, and He willingly took it on. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15
Just as He could have healed Lazarus before he died, Jesus could return right now and take us to heaven, but He waits until His purpose (not ours) is fulfilled so that He may be glorified. For now, we can know as Mary did that He is “the resurrection and the life,” rather than wonder “if” He could have come sooner. Therefore, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” – Matthew 5:4. In time, Jesus will fix it all.
With the next post in the series, we move to the next Beatitude in Matthew 5:5 – “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” – and we begin with that odor.