Reader: “Jesus wept.”
Response: “But why?”
Scripture John 11:28-35
And after she had said this, [Martha] went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there.
When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”
When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
Reader: This is the word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
Martha joins Mary in failing to fully grasp the power of the Son of God, even though they used his appropriate title. From their identical comments, “Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died,” they reveal a belief that Jesus needed to be physically present in order to do the miraculous, even though he at times had healed from afar. From her standpoint, Jesus needed to ask God for permission, failing to understand Jesus’ fully divine authority as God in the flesh. Jesus interacted with Martha with words. Now he interacts differently with Mary who fell at his feet weeping. Jesus’ response is somewhat of a surprise. Deep anger welled up within his own spirit in reaction to the response of the people’s mourning.
This shortest verse in the Bible is a kind of bottom line from Jesus’ perspective in this whole passage. Why did Jesus weep? He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew what was coming. The mourners visiting Mary and Martha, assumed he was weeping because of the death of his friend. Or was he weeping out of pity for the sisters because of his empathy for their own sadness? His was a different kind of weeping. Normal Jewish expression of sorrow at death would be a loud wailing which was the case of the sisters and those comforting them. The word used for Jesus’ weeping is used only one time in the New Testament and it is here. The word is for a soft, subdued weeping. It seems most likely that his sorrow was for Mary, Martha, and their friends in not grasping who he was and what was his mission on earth. Three years in their midst, eating meals together, seeing all the miraculous works, hearing his teaching with such authority and still they missed it. This community was so immersed in their own world and in their perception of their world, and in their own limited view of their faith, that they were unable to see God’s own Son fulfilling the Law in their midst. They simply did not grasp who it was that was in their presence. Have you ever felt frustrated that someone you deeply loved, just couldn’t understand something of great significance and read it all wrong? My guess is you’ve shed some tears over your loved one. Our Savior understands.
Music: “When Jesus Wept”
William Billings, was an early American composer at the time of the Revolutionary war.
When Jesus wept, a falling tear
In mercy flowed beyond all bound.
When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear
Seized all the guilty world around,
O Jesus who wept over the death of Lazarus, be with all who grieve. O Jesus who wept alone in Gethsemane, be with all who feel alone, all who face difficult decisions. O Jesus who cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” be with all who are tortured, all who are victims. O Jesus who offered up prayers with loud cries and tears, hear our prayers. O living God who knows all our pain and joy, be with us in our lives. Amen. ―The Worship Sourcebook,p.573