Jesus wept - the shortest verse in the Bible
PUBLISHED: 09:00 04 April 2020 | UPDATED: 12:01 04 April 2020
Diocese of Norwich
The Revd Canon Susanna Gunner, the Spirituality and Discipleship Adviser for the Diocese of Norwich explains why the commonly-used phrase has been on her mind this week
It would make a good Mastermind question: “What two words form the shortest verse in the Bible?”
They are words which have been on my mind for the last few days because they appeared in last Sunday’s reading from John’s gospel. Millions of Christians across the world heard them in podcasts or live-streamings or read them in their own homes: “Jesus wept.” This tiniest of all sentences has huge implications and speaks with great power into our current global situation.
These two tiny words, then, lie at the heart of a Christian take on the deeply distressing times in which we find ourselves. But there is more. Jesus does not only weep with the sisters. In a passage which looks ahead to his own resurrection, he calls Lazarus out of the tomb. He offers them, even in the midst of what looks like an utterly hopeless situation, a new beginning. He gives them Life.
We do not have to look very far before we see instances of this same holy newness in the midst of our global pandemic. Yes, there is acute isolation and vulnerability, there is trauma and exhaustion for those on the front line, there is distressing illness and devastating death. But Covid compassion is being called forth out of the Covid chaos. The virus is wreaking its havoc all over our global home, but our shared humanity has risen up in protest. Scientists, engineers and strategic planners worldwide have come together, an army of volunteers is mobilising. Life and Love with their capital “L”s are being summoned out of the loss and lament.
We are just days away from the beginning of Holy Week when Christians all over our world will focus on Jesus’s journey to the cross. That lonely walk towards suffering and death will have resonances this year that even a few weeks ago would have seemed impossible. And it underlines the fact not only that God-in-Jesus walks with us on the Covid path, but also that he calls forth a new hope out of the hopelessness, and lovingly brings to birth multiple instances of resurrection out of all the loss and grief.
The churches of our region will be exploring this over the next few weeks. Go to achurchnearyou.com/live-stream. Or you might like to listen to the podcast “Sunday Hope” at www.dofn.org/podcast. They start, as this article did, with Jesus’ own tears and try to express the holy movement from lament to hope and from death to life, which we will see played out as Good Friday – in its bleakness and darkness – moves towards the dawn of Easter Day.
Jesus, you wept at the tomb of Lazarus, your friend:
weep now with us,
join our lament for all that is lost
and stay close to the dying and grieving.
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Jesus, you shared with Martha the astounding truth
that you are Resurrection, that you are Life:
give us, too, the grace to hear this truth,
to relearn its meaning in these testing times,
to live our altered lives in its power.
Jesus, out of the premature ending of life,
out of inconsolable grief,
and out of a closed tomb
you brought to Lazarus and his sisters a new beginning:
embolden us to look for this same holy newness today,
awakening us to your presence in the midst of death.
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