For the Love of Lazarus
We know the story of Lazarus. As a seminarian I love learning about John 11:35 “Jesus wept.” As they say: it’s the shortest scripture in the bible. And, the word wept, in the aorist tense, is from the root δακρύω, dakruó, to weep, and is only found in the bible here in this verse.
What’s more, is that this weeping happens after Jesus asked for and was taken to where Lazarus laid in his tomb. Those around Jesus notice this weeping and call out: “Witness, see, how (Jesus) loved (Lazarus).” The word translated as “loved” in this text is translated from Greek, φιλέω, phileó, meaning “warm affection in intimate friendship, characterized by tender, heartfelt consideration and kinship.” This kind of cherishing of someone in Greek would probably include loving someone so deeply, so intimately, that it would be impossible not to kiss them.
Lazarus, a eunuch and his two barren sisters, Mary and Martha, seem to be Jesus’ family of choice, Jesus’ kin. In Bishop Rohrer’s book Queerly Lutheran, it states “Ancient Israelites believed there were more than two genders: male, female, barren women and Eunuchs. (p 63)” Rev. Dr. Nancy Wilson, now retired leader of Metropolitan Community Churches, shared in her book Outing the Bible that it was possible that Mary and Martha were sisters as much as Maureen and her lesbian partner, Joanne, are “sisters” in the musical Rent; when Maureen famously says in the song La Vie Boheme, “Hey, Mister, she’s my sister.”
Still, Jesus seems to love Lazarus so much that he thanks God, his Father, for hearing Jesus’ plea for Lazarus as the tomb is rolled away. (v 41) Jesus loves Lazarus so much that Jesus wants to be near him after being in a cave for four days (v 39). Jesus exclaims to Lazarus to come out (v 43) so that the crowd standing around Jesus may know that God sent Jesus here for this moment. (v 42). The name “Lazarus” itself is derived from Hebrew, אלעזר, Elʿāzār (Eleazar), meaning “God has helped.”
For the love of Lazarus, for his queer kin, Jesus helped.