Did Jesus have mirror neurons? (part 1)

Excuse me? Did Jesus have what ?  And what kind of question is that, anyway?

Bear with me.

Let’s start with a pop quiz: what’s the shortest verse in the New Testament? We probably know it in the King James Version: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35 — it’s actually three words in Greek). But the question is, why? What’s the significance of his tears?

Here’s the context. As we’ve seen in recent posts, Jesus has returned to Bethany to be with his friends Mary and Martha, who are grieving over the death of their brother. Martha meets Jesus outside the village. Though she laments that Lazarus would not have died if Jesus had been there, she makes a remarkable confession of faith. After that, she returns to the house to tell her sister that Jesus wants to speak with her too.

Mary, of course, is not alone. The house is filled with mourners, some of whom have come from Jerusalem to condole with the family. The atmosphere is charged with emotion. This is not a politely subdued memorial service, where people sniffle quietly and try to avoid uncontrolled expressions of grief. People are wailing out loud. For some, the grief is genuine. Others are wailing because everyone is wailing, and they can’t help themselves. And still others are doing so because it’s the socially appropriate thing to do.

I’m a bit more buttoned up than that. To me, it would feel like chaos.

When Mary gets the message, she gets up quickly and goes out to meet Jesus. The mourners follow her. Mary’s first words to Jesus are nearly identical to those of her sister: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died” (John 11:32, ,CEB). She is weeping as she says it, perhaps choking out the words between sobs.

Imagine the scene. Your friend is sobbing, racked with grief. You’re surrounded with people who are wailing loudly. How would you respond?

John tells us that Jesus was “deeply disturbed and troubled” (vs. 33). The words John uses describe a deep, visceral reaction.

Jesus asks to see the tomb, and there he weeps.

As with virtually everything else Jesus does, his weeping prompts a mixed reaction from the crowd. Some remark how much he must have loved Lazarus to weep so (vs. 36). But others echo the lament of Mary and Martha: “He healed the eyes of the man born blind. Couldn’t he have kept Lazarus from dying?” (vs. 37). There is a grain of faith in what they say. But coming from them, it sounds more like a complaint.

But again, why was Jesus weeping? The words John uses don’t mean that he stood there quietly with a tear rolling down his cheek. He was obviously upset and his emotions were strong.

And what the heck are mirror neurons anyway? What have they got to do with anything?

I’ll tell you in the next post.