In 12 days, we will gather to mourn the light of Christ being extinguished from the world as we observe Good Friday. The Crucifixion fascinates us as Christians, and it fascinates non-Christians, who wonder and shake their heads at the fact that we worship a criminal – one who committed crimes so heinous in that time and place, that they were punishable by death; so offensive, that they dictated one of the most agonizing methods of execution mankind has ever devised. Many Christians and non-Christians ask, “Did Jesus have to die?” Obviously, for the Resurrection to have occurred, yes, and some say that he had to in order to show what it means to be obedient unto death, and to serve as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. For many, this is the crucial moment which proves Christ’s love for us. This is the moment which makes them Christians. Do I believe that Jesus died on the cross to wash away my sins? Yes - but it’s not why I’m a Christian.
During these last weeks of Lent, as we attend passion plays and read the scripture passages leading up to the Resurrection, many will ask, as others have for thousands of years before us, “Did Jesus know that after his death, he would be resurrected?” This question fascinates Christians, and it fascinates non-Christians, and both wonder and shake their heads, trying to understand Jesus Christ’s dual nature – perfect humanity and perfect divinity. We ask, “If Jesus knew that he would rise on the third day, why did he beg in the garden that God take this cup away from him? Why did he sweat blood when he considered what was in store for him?” We wonder why he humbled himself, rather than striding boldly to his fate, sure in the promise that he would conquer death itself. For many, the debates that arise out of these questions help them to determine if they believe that Jesus was both divine and human. For many, this is the crucial moment which presents the mystery of holiness. This is the moment which makes them Christians. Do I that Jesus Christ was both human and divine? Yes - but it’s not why I’m a Christian.
Today, we heard today from the Gospel of John. I want to read part of to you again, but from the King James version of the Bible. While the language is neither modern nor politically correct, for the time it was written, it was an incredibly accurate translation from the ancient languages the bible was first written in, and its poetical voice still moves us. This story contains the shortest verse in scripture.
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.
And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!
Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead fascinates both Christians and non-Christians, who wonder and shake their heads that we require miracle stories to prop up our belief. For many, these miracles do just that. They are crucial moments which prove the power of God. This is the moment which makes them Christians. Do I believe that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead? Yes – but even this is not why I am a Christian.
I am a Christian because of what happened before Jesus called Lazarus out from his tomb, as he would walk away from his own. I am a Christian because of what he did when they told him that his friend had passed. He did what any of us would do. He cried.
I believe in the power of God, I believe in miracles and I believe in the divinity of the risen Christ, but that is not why I am a Christian.
I choose Christianity because I believe in a God who knows me, because I believe that God walked with humans and still abides among humans, because in Christ God WAS human.
I am a Christian because of the Jesus who didn’t just have disciples; he had friends. I am a Christian because he understood what it was to eat and drink and laugh with people he loved. I am a Christian because he felt terrible loss and sorrow when one of those friends died.
I am a Christian because through Christ, I know that God gets me, I know that God understands me, and I know that God truly CAN love me.
I am a Christian, and my theology can be summed up in two beautiful, poignantly poetic words.
I am a Christian because “Jesus wept.”