Jesus does two incredible things in John 11.

He weeps at death. He calls forth life.

Jesus must know, somehow, that he has the power to raise Lazarus to life. But before he calls his friend from the tomb, he stops to mourn. There it is, John 11:35: “Jesus began to weep.”

Even he, “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), bends to acknowledge the profound loss death brings, the powerful way death destroys, the immense grief death can bring. Death is no little thing to move some kind of spiritual magic wand at so that—presto!—it can be gone.

Death works against life. Death works against God’s deepest will for God’s people.

So Jesus wept.

But he doesn’t stop there. He, the resurrection and life, calls forth his friend to the same. “Lazarus,” he says, “come out!” (John 11:43). Death grumbles for once-and-for-all victory, but Jesus won’t let it be. His voice is stronger, surer. Love will not let loved ones go, especially the love at the very heart of God.

Jesus’ call, “come out!” is the very voice we will hear in our own call to resurrection and life. And it is the call we hear today, to live with resurrection on our lips and with life in our hearts, even as we weep and place friends, brothers, sisters, wives, husbands, children, parents, grandparents in the way of death.

Over years of ministry, I have seen the people of God live with this profound hope in countless ways. But probably none more powerful than this: Ron, a parishioner, had lived large but loved—and death had taken him too soon. I listened as his mother, his sister, his brothers wept, telling me stories of his youth, his childhood, his coming of age.

One of them, I don’t remember whom, asked if we could have communion at the graveside service. Such a gift, for the faithful to ask. So, we arranged to have a little table present, and the elements set out.

And we put Ron to rest—but then heard this: The voice who would call him to resurrection and life speaking in these words: “broken for you” … “shed for you.”

There was weeping—but not, as St. Paul puts it, a grief “without hope.” Jesus will have the last word, with Ron, with all his beloved. Jesus, who knew the depth of what it is to lose a loved one, but who cried at the tomb, “come out!”


Read parts one, two and three in this series.

Karen Bates Olson
Karen Bates Olson is pastor of Resurrection Lutheran Church, Tacoma, Wash.

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