God Makes Himself Scarce

When Jesus wept over the dead body of his friend Lazarus, many things seem to have been at work in him, and there seems to have been many levels to his grief. He wept because his friend was dead and he had loved him. beneath that he wept because as Mary and Martha both tactlessly reminded him, if he had only been present, Lazarus needn’t have died, and he was not present. beneath that, he wept perhaps because if only God had been present, then too Lazarus needn’t have died, and God was not present either, at least not in the way and to the degree that he was needed. Then, beneath even that, it is as if his grief goes so deep that it is for the whole world that Jesus is weeping and the tragedy of the human condition, which is to live in a world where again and again God is not present, at least not in the way and to the degree that man needs him. Jesus shed his tears at the visible absence of God in the world where the good and bad alike go down to defeat and death. He shed his tears at the audible silence of God at those moments especially when a word from him would mean the difference between life and death, or at the deafness of men which prevents their hearing him, the blindness of men which prevents even Jesus himself as a man from seeing him to the extent that at the moment of all moments when he needs him the most he cries out his Eloi Eloi, which is a cry so dark the four evangelists, only two of them have the stomach to record it as the last word he spoke while he still had a human mouth to speak with. Jesus wept, we all weep, because even when man is good even when he is Jesus, God makes himself scarce for reasons that no theodicy has ever fathomed.

Frederick Buechner

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