“Jesus wept” is the shortest verse in the Bible, yet much has been made of it. And many questions asked. Especially ‘why?’
Fr. Thomas Keating makes an interesting interpretation, linking Lazarus’ death and resurrection with the incident involving his two sisters. Not long before Lazarus died Jesus had been in Bethany to visit his best friends. During the evening Martha was preparing a meal alone while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to him talk. Martha complained to Jesus that her sister was not helping her. Jesus responded that Martha was busy about many things and that Mary had chosen the better way.
Keating says all three siblings suggest various responses to the gospel message and also three stages to deepening individual spirituality.
Martha is the level of spirituality that wants to provide hospitality, serve the needs of others, and show compassion wherever needed. Martha is not condemned but rather celebrated for all she is able to do. Jesus makes the observation, however, that she seems worried and upset with her self-appointed responsibilities.
Mary’s decision to sit and listen to matters of the spirit constitutes a deeper level of spirituality–and a higher level of conscious awareness. This stage actively seeks the Kingdom of God through reading, listening, pondering, and meditating on insights that come from the Spirit.
Lazarus, the male sibling, representing the will, the ego, the rational conscious awareness, undergoes a veritable death experience—the third and deepest level of spiritual transformation. His is the counterpart to the initiation into the Greek mystery religions, where the initiate must travel to the deepest realms of the dead, undergo a transformation, and return to the world of the living.
And Jesus, a key player in the story, as closest friend of Lazarus, represents the part of Lazarus that experiences authentic sorrow. Only then can transformation into a new living being take place.
We see in the two sisters and brother from Bethany three stages in the life of Jesus as well. He was a compassionate provider, meeting the needs of many people on many levels. He chose both solitude and conversation as he sought to deepen his understanding of the Kingdom of God. Finally he experienced death in order emerge a new being.
Our spiritual journey, if we allow it, will take us through the same three stages.
(Note: On this website is the story of one who has experienced all three stages. The key to transformation is the will giving permission for something deep inside to do the work. “Humpty Dumpty Hatched” is available free of charge.)