The Questions of Jesus: "Where have you laid him?"

Then Mary, when she came to where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. (John 11:32–35)

In the first chapter of this gospel, two disciples of John the Baptist hear the proclamation that Jesus is the Lamb of God, so they start following him. Jesus turns to them to ask what they seek, and they say they want to see where he is staying. And Jesus says, "Come and see" (1:39). So they went and they saw and they stayed with him.

What did they see and where did they stay? The place where Jesus weeps.

When the sisters of Lazarus seek Jesus in their grief, Jesus does not stay where he is. He does not heal from afar, he does not offer a word from a distance. Rather, he asks them where they have put the dead body of their brother, Lazarus. He asks them to take him to the source of their sorrow. He asks them where the darkness is. And they say, "Come and see." So he goes, and he sees, and he stays there. 

This is the divine way, the way of the Word who becomes flesh and dwells among us. As St. Paul declares, "He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave" (Phil 2:7). A slave of what? Of our sorrow and suffering, to heed it, to serve it, to dwell in it. He does not keep his distance, aloof in grandeur. No, he goes right to the source, where the wound is raw. And he weeps.

The turning point happens at the very bottom, where things are bleakest. 

"Where are you staying?" those first two disciples asked him. In following Mary and Martha to their dead brother, he shows us. "I am dwelling in the wounds that are even too painful for you to accept. They're your wounds I seek, to take them on as my own." All Mary and Martha have to do is direct him to the source of suffering and sorrow. Then he goes, and from there he raises up.

He will show his disciples his wounds after he himself rises from dead (John 20:20, 27). Those first witnesses of the Resurrection will see in full what the disciples of John the Baptist glimpsed in the beginning, what Mary and Martha began to recognize when Jesus drew near, what Lazarus experienced in his once dead flesh. These are the marks of divine mercy; the One who listens to the cries of His people, who wills to become a slave of our suffering, and who goes to heal us of what ails us, in person (see Exod 2:23–25; 3:7–10; Isa 53).

The obedient steps of this Jesus who wills to suffer what poor sinners suffer will, shortly after leaving the his friends' household, take him through the streets of Jerusalem. He'll walk first into acclamation but steadily move into the wickedness of those who will wrap him in contempt. He goes willingly.

Those same obedient steps will ascend the hill of Calvary, where each step up is a step closer to the depths of disdain. "What do you seek?", he asked those early disciples. In the end, he means for all to ask him the same question.

When the journey is complete, his obedient steps leave him unable to walk any further. He has walked and walked so as to be handed over into the hands of others, and, ultimately, it is only by the hands of others that he can be moved. They take him from the cross and carry him to the tomb. "Come and see": all tears flow here and dry up, this place that he has sought and where all who seek him find him. "The form of a slave" who gave himself to the sickness and malice of others, the very source of their own sorrow and shame, is seen in the One who is carried into the place of the dead. They show him the way to what is darkest and most forsaken. They lay him on the stone slab, they enclose him in their sorrow, and from there, on the third day, he rises.

When the Word made flesh asks us "Where have you laid him?", he is asking "where is the dead flesh?" We show him that and he shows us mercy.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, help me to see enough of my own sin and sorrow to show you the way there.