Teach your children this simple round for Lent and use it as a way to reflect on Jesus’ humanity and divinity.
by Regina Lordan
My children, in general, love to sing. I, almost always, love to sing. And as such, my house is at times filled with song. During Advent and Christmas, we play carols on the stereo, on the piano, and sing them together. Car rides are never quiet (both with song and song requests).We listen to the lyrics, and we use music to talk about Jesus’ birth.
Lent is different. It is a time of reflection, prayer and quiet. And yet, there is one song I can’t help sing over and over in my head. I figured it was finally time to let it out and sing it aloud. The lyrics are inspired from the apparent shortest verse in the English-language version of Bible, “And Jesus wept” (Jn 11:35). These words come from the biblical story of the raising of Lazarus.
In this powerful story, Jesus reveals yet again through his actions and his words that he is truly human and truly divine: He, at times, has emotions like us; He is also God. In all their beautiful innocence, children tend to grasp this idea without too much question. But sometimes it takes prayer and reflection for us adults to get it. Just like Martha and Mary in this story, the truth is right in front of us but we cannot see it.
The Story of Lazarus
My children love this story. It seems so absolutely intriguing that a dead man walked again because of Jesus’ miraculous powers. Jesus also is depicted as a good friend in his relationships with Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Friendship is a human experience that children easily understand and observe in their lives.
And we also see Jesus’ humanity when he witnesses Mary weep over the death of her brother. She tells Jesus, “Lord, if you would have been here, my brother would not have died.”
Jesus was “troubled” and “perturbed,” perhaps because Jesus was confronted again with our doubtfulness, reflected in Mary’s frustration with Jesus’ absence. Jesus was faced with the situation that his dearest friends still could not understand fully his divinity. For he had foretold that Lazarus would die and rise again, like the temple in Jerusalem; like he himself. But we didn’t believe.
“And Jesus wept,” so John tells us.
John also reveals to us that Jesus is truly the son of God. Jesus asks the mourners to take away the stone from the tomb to reveal that Lazarus had risen from the dead. When they did as he asked, Jesus called for Lazarus to come out. And so he did.
Teach your Children “When Jesus Wept” by William Billings
“When Jesus wept, the falling tear in mercy flowed beyond all bound; when Jesus groaned, a trembling fear seized all the guilty world around.”
Taken apart from their biblical roots in the story of Lazarus, these lyrics are laden with imagery of the cruxifixction. They leave us waiting, in the darkness, until we can sing joyfully again on Easter Sunday.
This song is a traditional acapella round, just like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” The entire family can sing the song together, then break up into parts. The best way to learn is to listen to a performance of the song. This song is best suited for older children, but younger children might enjoy listening to the song and lyrics.
You can view the sheet music for the song here.
Talking points with kids
Below are a few questions I used to help my young children understand the story of Lazarus. After each question, I offer some suggested answers to help stretch your conversation with your family.
- Who are your friends? Do you feel sadness when they are sad? Jesus is our friend. He feels sadness when we are sad and wants us to know that he loves us like a true friend.
- How can we comfort a friend who is sick or sad about the loss of a loved one? What are ways that Jesus shows us in this story that he was comforting his friends? No, we can’t raise someone from the dead (we are only human, not divine!). But, we can remind a friend who is sad that we are there for them. We can remind a grieving friend of God’s promise to us of everlasting life, boundless mercy, and love. We also can be like Jesus by helping a person who is sick. We can make cards, make extra food to share and show Jesus’ love through our actions.
- How do you know from this Bible story that Jesus is God? Why do you think this is an important Bible story to remember during Lent? Jesus rose from the dead after he died on the cross to save us from our sins.
- How does this Bible story also reminds us that our time on earth is only temporary? If we believe in Jesus and live the life he wants us to live, that is to ask for forgiveness, try our best to live authentically as he intended us to be, we will live forever in heaven with Jesus.
- For older children: What do the lyrics of “When Jesus Wept” mean to you? How does it relate to the darkness that follows Good Friday until the light of Easter Sunday?
Regina Lordan, a digital editor at Peanut Butter & Grace, is a mother of three with master’s degrees in education and political science. She currently reviews books for Catholic News Service and is a former assistant international editor of Catholic News Service.