Last week was a pretty crappy week for a lot of people. Sorry if it sounds blunt or disrespectful, but it was very much completely indeed crappy. One week ago today (I’m writing this on Monday, December 7), I received terrible news from my sister that a young friend of ours (as close as family) and her husband had been killed. I was in total shock at first. I had someone I needed to call with the news, so I held it together until after I talked to him. But then…I let loose. Twenty-two years old. Their whole, entire futures ahead of them…and their lights were extinguished WAY TOO SOON!
It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right. It was devastating and heart-breaking and wrong and…crappy!
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick to death of crying. There has been much to cry about in the Ramsey family over the last 5 years. I know that crying is cathartic and cleansing and whatever…but I’m just totes tired of it!
Most of us know that the shortest verse in the Bible is John 11:35…”Jesus wept.” I’ve known about that verse since I was a wee child. It has brought some degree of comfort to me to know that Jesus had real feelings like me. For so long I wondered, and I still sometimes find myself wondering even now, if they were real tears. I mean, Jesus is God. Jesus is holy. Jesus is above the dictates and confines of human emotions…right?? I often wondered if Jesus was “acting” sad and teary because that’s what was expected of him or to make him seem more human or if that’s what Martha and Mary needed at the time. You know, the “when in Rome” syndrome.
I decided to do some more reading and studying this week about this shortest verse in the Bible. Why did Jesus cry? If you know the whole story surrounding his breakdown, you can see why we might expect him to cry.
Martha and Mary, two very close friends of Jesus, had sent word to him that their brother, Lazarus, was extremely sick. They referred to Lazarus as “the one you [Jesus] love so very much.” (John 11:3) This is no casual relationship. Lazarus was like a brother to Jesus.
When Jesus heard about Lazarus’ illness, he said, “This sickness isn’t gonna kill Laz’…in fact, it’s gonna be an incredible display of the glory of God!” (LeeAnn paraphrase)
By the time Jesus made it to Lazarus, he’d been dead for 4 days already. But Jesus knew that. He had deliberately NOT healed Lazarus from far away (and you know he could) and had waited to show up. After a conversation with a distraught Martha and Mary (who were not only beside themselves with grief, but were a bit “put out” that Jesus hadn’t gotten there sooner), and then as he looked around at the crowd who was also mourning, he asked Mary to show him where Lazarus was. As they were walking to the tomb where he was…”Jesus wept.” Those two words actually speak volumes.
As I mentioned, it seems only natural that Jesus would weep while being in this situation…lots of crying Jews all around him, I’m sure wailing and crying out loud to God. The thing is, Jesus didn’t come to Bethany (where they lived) to mourn the passing of his very close friend…He came to raise Him from the dead. He knew that before too terribly long, all the weeping would stop…and be replaced with BIG joy! And then maybe some tearful relief…and then the worship of the God of all glory!
But just two verses earlier (John 11:33), the Bible tells us that Jesus was “greatly troubled”…another version says “an anger rose up in Him”…and then he wept. Why??
Here is what I discovered after diving into the subject:
• He cried because they cried.
Jesus truly felt compassion for those he loved that were hurting. Even though Jesus deliberately allowed Lazarus to die, and he allowed this so that He could display God’s power and glory, and he did all of this with good and merciful intentions…that doesn’t mean that Jesus took their mourning and sadness lightly. Lamentations 3:33 tells us “He [God] takes no pleasure in making life hard…” (Message)
Jesus is sympathetic. Hebrews 4:15 reminds us of this: “We don’t have a high priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all…” Right here, at the mouth of Lazarus’ tomb, we get a tiny glimpse of how our Father feels when we, His children, experience grief.
• He cried because he realized the unholy mess of sin in the world.
Death is a byproduct of sin. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, forever-life was over. They were cursed to spend only a limited number of days on this earth. Jesus knew this. He knew what could have been…and it broke his heart to be reminded that sin had entered the picture…and that death was a result of it. It grieved Jesus because death had claimed almost every single person he had created (except for Enoch and Elijah…look them up.) In this story, it had taken his very close and loved friend Lazarus…and it would come for him again eventually. Jesus’ tears were a complex mix of anger at sin and the grief of loss.
• He cried because of what redemption was about to cost him.
Jesus was very soon to pay the price to purchase not only Lazarus’ resurrection, but also his forever-life. You nor I, and I doubt anyone else, can even begin to fathom the inner turmoil and distress Jesus was going through as he faced what he was facing. The stress of it would eventually cause him to sweat drops of blood. The gift of grace that Jesus was about to provide through the cross was what made Lazarus’ resurrection possible. Not a free gift, but a gift paid for by a horrific death.
Horrific doesn’t even begin to describe what he was about to face. Not only the physical horror of it…but the spiritual horror of it. Jesus, who had never known sin, was about to be completely drenched in it. I have no doubt that Jesus was looking forward to the joy that would follow, but the reality of it all was destroying him.
• He cried because he knew the consequences of the miracle that was about to take place.
Jesus knew that bringing Lazarus back from the dead was going to be the beginning of the end. It was going to be the very first domino to fall in the sequence of events that would end at the cross. The religious leaders that were there were about to go into a frenzy and finally start taking action to put Jesus to death. And He knew that giving Lazarus life was going to be guaranteeing his own death.
So…when tragedy strikes…when disaster destroys…when loved ones die too soon…we can find great comfort in knowing that, in the middle of our ugly cries, the God we serve gets it. He feels it. He’s not faking it. He’s not weeping with us because it’s the right thing to do. His heart truly breaks when ours break.
But here’s the KICKER!! “The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.” (Psalm 30:5 Msg) And when those days finally come, “He’ll wipe every tear from our eyes. Death is gone for good–tears gone, crying gone, pain gone–” (Revelation 21:4 Msg)
I. Can’t. Wait.