Scripture: John 11:28-35
28 After she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary aside. “The Teacher is here,” she said, “and is asking for you.” 29 When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 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.
32 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.”
33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked.
“Come and see, Lord,” they replied.
35 Jesus wept.
This shortest verse in the Bible underscores this whole passage. Why did Jesus weep? He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead. He knew what was coming. So why would he cry? 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 the sadness of their own grief? Is there more to it, something we are missing?
The weeping of Jesus was of a different kind. Normal Jewish expression of sorrow at death would be a loud wailing which was the case of the sisters and those comforting them. The Greek word used for Jesus’ weeping is used only one time in the New Testament and it is here. John wanted us to know that Jesus’ weeping was of a different kind from the traditional mourning and loud wailing. The word is for a soft, subdued weeping.
In other places in the Gospels where Jesus expressed a depth of emotion, it was specifically related to his mission (Lk.19:41). It may be that he wept over his people’s failure to recognize and understand his mission of bringing redemption to this world. The Son of God was in their midst, and they did not fully recognize him. The people were so immersed in their own world and their perception of their world that they were unable to get outside of themselves and see who was among them. As the end of his earthly ministry approached, they still did not grasp what was happening. Have you ever felt frustrated that someone you deeply loved just couldn’t understand something, and persisted down a wrong path? Jesus knows exactly how you feel when we weep those soft tears.
Music: “When Jesus Wept” –William Billings,1746-1800, American composer
When Jesus wept, a falling tear
In mercy flowed beyond all bound.
When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear
Seized all the guilty world around.
Prayer: 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
An outstanding book on dealing with grief is Jerry Sittser’s, A Grace Disguised: How the soul grows through loss