“Jesus Wept” is, to me, the most profound passage in the Bible. After I gave a recent lecture on this verse at Duke University, Richard Hays commented on my reflections: “The Incarnate Word of God stood wordless at Bethany.” Indeed, Jesus’ tears make no logical sense, as he came to Bethany with the specific mission to raise Lazarus from the grave. He told the disciples his mission (and why he intentionally delayed his arrival, knowing that Lazarus lay dying) and revealed to Martha that he was and is the “Resurrection and the Life.” So why did he, upon seeing the tears of Mary, waste his time weeping, when he could have shown his power as the Son of God by wiping away every tear, telling people like her, “Ye of little faith, believe in me!”?
In my reflections, this “irrational,” emotional response from Jesus became a central means to understand the role and even the necessity of art in the midst of sufferingâ€”what I have began to call our “Ground Zero” conditions. Art, like the tears of Christ, may seem useless, ephemeral and ultimately wasteful. But even though they evaporate into our atmosphere, the extravagant tears of God dropped on the hardened, dry soils of Bethany, or onto the ashes of our Ground Zero conditions, are still present with us. Because tears are ephemeral, they can be enduring and even permanent, as with â€œJesus wept.â€ In the same way, perhaps our art can be so as well. What seems, at first, to be an irrational response to suffering may turn out, upon deep reflection, to be the most rational response of all. —Makoto Fujimura
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