John 11:35. I’ve often wondered about this verse. It’s the shortest one in the Bible. Just two words. And yet that one short verse, in the midst of the account of the death of Lazarus, conveys volumes to us…if we let it.
But therein lays the problem. Will we let it? Jesus wept.
“In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:1;14). Jesus lived and dwelt among us for only 30 years. A very short time when it comes to human life. Yet it was long enough for Him to see everything we all witness in life. The good and the bad. The happy and the sad. The joy and the pain. Life and death. Even the death of a close friend. He knows all we go through. And Jesus wept.
We often talk about how, when a Christian dies, it should be a thing of joy if we really understand the hope of heaven. And for those who are believers in Jesus this is true. But even Jesus understood what death is truly about. He wept.
Sadly, we have some people who have seen too much of sickness and death. We have specialists to deal with the ugly things we want to stay far away from until it’s forced upon us. Professional doctors, nurses, hospice workers, emergency personnel, and funeral directors do most of the dirty work. We can be thankful for that. But I wonder if having to deal with sickness and death in such quantity is a good thing for them? Have some, as a result of this, become somewhat callous to what God may want to teach us? Jesus wept.
On the other hand, the vast majority of people perhaps have not seen enough of this downside of real life. Whether by their own desire to keep it at arms length, burying their heads in the sand, or by lack of truly having to come in contact with it. Most people’s experience may understandably be limited and is probably a good thing. God is merciful and knows how much we can handle. But is it possible our lack of experience keeps us from knowing what is really happening all around us? Jesus wept.
Some people may say the reason Jesus wept was because He had lost His friend Lazarus, whom He loved, and was stricken with grief. But I have to believe Jesus knew what was about to happen. He knew He would raise Lazarus from the dead. He alluded to it before He even got there. When Jesus heard it, He said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). His dear friend would soon be living again. Hardly something to weep about.
Is it possible Jesus could have been caught up in the emotion of the moment? Others there were weeping over the loss of their beloved Lazarus. “Weep with those who weep” is a natural and biblical response (Rom. 12:15). Our God is a compassionate God and Jesus weeping would certainly be consistent with that. Perhaps another account can help us to sort out why He wept.
In Luke’s gospel we learn Jesus also wept over His beloved Jerusalem. Why did He weep here? Maybe this incident can shed some light on what made Jesus weep when Lazarus died. As He approached and saw the city, He wept over it, saying, “If you knew this day what would bring peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come on you when your enemies will build an embankment against you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).
Jesus wept because Jerusalem and its occupants failed to understand what kind of world they lived in. A world in need of peace. A world under the influence of the Destroyer. But they also did not recognize their Savior. They failed to see God had indeed come as He had promised. When Jesus came He could have brought them true peace. It could have been the peace that brought an end to the works of the Devil. But because of their rejection of Him, sin and death would continue on its path of destruction. They didn’t get it. Thankfully, God had the only remedy already planned out…at the cost of His own Son. And Jesus wept.
It was the same thing with Lazarus. The Life of God was in their midst and would be proving it to the people there. Victory over sin and death was close enough for them to touch. Yet, many of those who witnessed Lazarus coming out of the tomb wouldn’t get it. They failed to see. They missed it to the point where, later, they wanted to kill Lazarus because Jesus gave him new life (John 12:9-11). It’s enough to make a person cry. It’s enough to make God cry. Jesus groaned in His spirit (John 11:33) and wept.
The enemy is still hard at work today. Recently my wife and I suffered the death of our blue-front Amazon parrot. It was very unexpected. Although he was over 15 years old, Amazon’s will live 60 years or more. We raised him from a baby and he was very much a part of us both. It was a hard day. We wept. We wept because we loved him. We wept because we both were sad for each other. And I’m sure we will weep in days to come over him being gone.
But through this hard time I’ve realized that much of my weeping is because Jesus lives in me and my heart, like His, is broken over the fallen world in which we live. A world of sin and death. A world that has rejected our Savior. A world that ignores the clear everyday signs that point to Him and the truth of His Word. A world in the control of the enemy who wants to steal and destroy all God has given us. Some day God will change all that.
“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful” (Rev. 21:4-5).
Until then, Jesus came to give us life. A life that recognizes the world for what it is; a world that has no hope apart from Him. A life that can live in the midst of a fallen world because of the hope only He can give. A life that can have joy knowing our sufferings are only temporary. A life that can love as He loves us. A life He gives to those who believe in Him. A new life. His life, in us.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to futility—not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it—in the hope that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage of corruption into the glorious freedom of God’s children. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits—we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Now in this hope we were saved” (Romans 8:18-24).
Even so, come Lord Jesus.