When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. John 11:32 -35
So often when we think of what a real man looks like we envision a lumberjack sort of man. Chiseled jaw, great beard, and a handsome flannel. In fact, if we push this stereotype further, we can probably picture this man eating a Slim Jim and drinking Mountain Dew right from the 2-liter bottle. Real men think and act kind of like this guy. The problem is that I do not believe that it paints masculinity in a fair light. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love a great flannel, but is this really what being a man is reduced to? Of course, we cannot forget the added clichés of “real men don’t cry” and “toughen up buttercup”. All of this leads to an image of what we think manhood is about, but in this passage, Jesus paints a very different picture.
First, when Jesus sees Mary and the other Jews weeping, Jesus is deeply moved. He is empathetic towards what is happening. He feels the pain that is happening around him, and instead of sweeping it under the hypothetical carpet, he moves toward it. Jesus moves toward Mary, not away. Jesus embraces the moment and is present with Mary in the midst of the hurting.
Secondly, Jesus shows respect. We know this by the sure fact that he asks Mary a question: “Where did you lay him?” This is a big deal because during the time of Jesus, women were not considered equal. Here, Jesus is speaking directly to Mary and being compassionate toward her. Jesus respects her in a day and age where that was not the norm. Jesus is being a gentleman and not looking past her for someone else. He cares deeply for Mary and her sister, Martha, and shows that in the respect he gives.
Lastly, Jesus weeps. I have always loved this verse mostly because when I was younger and in Sunday School, this was the easiest verse to memorize–it is the shortest in the Bible. So it was my “go to.” But more recently, I have understood that it shows Jesus’s humanity. He had just lost one of his closest friends and he was sad. So often as men and boys, we are told to have a stiff upper lip and to keep our emotions from showing. I would agree that being emotional is not always beneficial, particularly in terms of anger, but what we have been taught is that you ought not feel. Good, bad or sad. It is as if we are some sort of robot with programmed responses for everything, none of which are real or accurately depict what is going on in our hearts and souls. We do not know how to grieve, so we just act as if everything is okay. This is silly, and Jesus gives us a better way. He weeps.
Jesus is the MAN, literally. He is the Son of God, so if he can cry for the loss of one of his dearest friends, it is okay for me to act like I care, too. I do not have to pretend I have my stuff all together all the time. Jesus gives us permission by the example he sets forth. He understands empathy and being in a moment, he understands what showing mutual respect to others is all about, and mostly when he feels something, he does not try to cover it up. He is just present in the moment. Obviously we cannot go around crying all the time; we would run out of tissues. But we can certainly practice not trying to hide when we have been hurt or mistreated, and find the words to talk about what is going on. We do not have to be afraid of emotions, we just need to learn to talk about them like real men and boys becoming men.
Rev. Joe Torrence
Lower School Chaplain
Sermon given to 3-5th Grader Chapel on Monday. April 3,2017.