“Come and see.” humanity’s pitiful cry.

"Work will set you free", the main gates at Auschwitz.

For generations, the words “come and see” (Jn. 1:39, 1:46) have been for Christians the most sincere expression our encounter with Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as revealed in the pages of scripture. These words are an invitation to experience in the saving work of God, not as some philosophical abstract to think about, but a relationship by which we will be comforted and confirmed, headed and restored. But with the death of Lazarus (11:1-44), we hear the words “come and see” choked with the pain of loss, and grief.

As I was considering this, I happened to catch the tail end of an amazing interview. The renowned author and philosopher, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks was being interviewed on the CBC.

In the course of the interview, he was asked if he had ever had a crisis of faith. His reply was that “he certainly had, but that it was not a crisis of faith in God, but in humanity”. Sacks went on to talk about a BBC show he did at the Auschwitz death camp for the 50th anniversary of its liberation. Surrounded by the shadows and grim monuments, he was asked: “Where was God in Auschwitz”? His unscripted reply was to ask: “where was God in the words ‘Thou shalt not murder; thou shalt not oppress a stranger; and thy brother’s blood is crying from the ground,’…I do not know how a serious human being can have faith in humanity after the Holocaust.” It was as if those millions who suffered untold horrors cried out to the world “come and see”.

Humanity, for all its good intentions and desires, has for ages been unable to offer anything more than death and destruction such as the Holocaust. From the death of Able, to the broken homes, families and people that we are surrounded with (and come from), humanity has only offered pitiable solutions and visions of a better tomorrow, that ultimately leave us with only an unmarked grave to show for it all.

And it is over this that the Lord weeps. He weeps not just for Lazarus, whom He loved, but for what He sees in humanity, broken and mortal, abandoned and wasted as if discarded in unmarked graves. Yet those tears for our stormed-tossed nature become the context for His saving work.

For He acts to save humanity: breaking sin, by submitting Himself in humility and silence through His life saving passion; breaking death’s hold, by dying on the Cross, by rising on the third day, reconciling our estranged nature to Himself.

It is only in Him, that the horrors of war and poverty, violence and injustice are vanquished, and the pitiful visions of a better tomorrow are blown away like cobwebs. It is only in Him that those heavy words “come and see” become the promise for those who desire life eternal where there is no weeping, sighing and sorrow. And it is only in Him that our sorrowful lament can become a new song (Rev. 14:13).

“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life”!

Raising of Lazarus Icon (Sinai 13th century)