“Jesus wept.” John 11:35
The shortest verse in the Bible, yet packed with profound and intense meaning. To get to the heart of it is beyond full human comprehension, yet to only embrace even a glimpse of it is to be filled with hope.
So what was the scene behind those tears? Why did Jesus cry?
The setting was a small Judean countryside. Jesus had been in public ministry for close to three years but the time for his greatest life’s purpose was fast approaching. He had walked the earth and loved deeply. That is what he did. He never ascribed to be a worldly king or political leader. His mission was certain and he never lost sight of it. He literally came to earth to die…to die for you and to die for me. It is the greatest love story ever told. He paid the death penalty for sin on our behalf. The wages of sin is eternal death. If you are reading this, you are a sinner and you need a savior. Your savior is Jesus. There is no other. He is God in the flesh and only he has the power to forgive and save you for eternity. He has already chosen you, but you must choose him too.
Back to the story…
Jesus had some friends that he loved dearly. Their names were Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. They were all siblings. Jesus learned that Lazarus was very ill. Messengers had sent for Jesus in the hopes that he would come quickly to heal Lazarus, as word had spread that he had miraculous powers, but Jesus waited and Lazarus died. Yes, he allowed for an incredible hardship and pain to happen. When he finally arrived on the scene, Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days. The sisters were weeping and in deep mourning. The rebuke in their hearts poured out…’If only you had been here, our brother would not have died.’
Have you ever questioned the Lord God in such a way? “If only you had been there…If only you had stopped that accident from happening…If only you had caused that disease to never happen…If only you had intervened before that poor decision was made…If only you had stepped in and stopped that evil person from doing that evil thing…If only you had quieted the storm…If only, If only, If only…”
God has never promised a life without pain and suffering. On the contrary, we are assured that this life will be wrought with hardship…”In this world, you will have trouble…” John 16:33. When sin entered, so did pain and heartache.
So why did Jesus wait only to allow Lazarus to die? The question is compounded by the fact that Jesus knew that he, in fact, was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. So why didn’t he just do that sooner and avoid all of the messy heartache in the first place? Or better yet, why didn’t he come in a blaze of glory and raise this dead man immediately so that the happy celebration could commence? The answer is that God’s plans and purposes are far bigger and greater than ours. Even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy, he will call forth eternal life and hope to rise from the ashes. Death and heartache were never part of his original plan, but in his mercy, he will use even the dark things of this life for eternal good. We only see a very small part, while the Lord God sees the whole entirety.
When Lazarus died, it was so the glory and revelation of God could be revealed. There could be no denying who Jesus was when he literally spoke, and Lazarus, who had been dead for four days, came walking out of a tomb with grave clothes on. All of those present were forever changed, and countless others through following generations to now have come to faith through this biblical account as well. Who could raise the dead to life, other than the author of life himself? It was time for God’s plan of redemption for all mankind to proceed, and the more Jesus showed who he really was, the more evil mankind despised him. This final earthly miracle before his crucifixion sealed his fate. Masses of people were coming to faith in him due to the enormity of this event and the religious leaders at the time decided firmly that he must die as his influence was becoming far too great. Raising the dead was the line in the sand.
We must see that God’s greatest blessing to all mankind came on the heels of deep sorrow and grief for some. Human loss and sadness were followed by indescribable goodness and hope. This takes great perseverance and trust as we walk by faith in Jesus and not by the sights of this cruel world. Can we admit that we reach our greatest moments of surrender and humility before the Lord when we are at the end of ourselves?
Jesus Christ crucified was the most heinous and agonizing reality this world has ever known, and yet, his shed blood is the only reason that there is any hope for human beings to inherit eternal salvation. Without the cross, we are hopeless and helpless. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever should believe in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”…John 3:16. Praise God for this good and wonderful news!
So why was Jesus crying? The scriptures report that when Jesus arrived and saw the sadness of those who loved Lazarus, he was moved to tears. Did you catch that? Jesus knew that those sorrowful people only saw the pain of that temporary earthly moment and experience. He knew that there was a far greater plan and purpose happening and that soon their deep anguish would turn to joy. He knew that he was the one and only answer to their every longing and need. He knew that he too would suffer and be put to death but for a glorious purpose. He knew all of that, and yet he also knew that their pain and earthly suffering were real and it moved him deeply. He did not weep for the death of Lazarus for he knew that death would be conquered. He wept because it pained him to see the ones he loved hurting. We weep for the circumstances we face, Jesus weeps to see us struggling through them. He knows that a greater eternal hope awaits but also knows that we struggle to lay hold of that hope sometimes. He is not some far off savior who is waiting for us to strengthen and firm up our faith muscle in the midst of trials. He is a savior who suffered himself and weeps right alongside us. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed.”…Psalm 34:18. He loves you so very much. Every tear you have cried matters to him. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.”…Psalm 56:8.
In the book of Revelation, a river of life is mentioned that flows from the very throne of God. This depiction is in the eternal life to come. The water flows crystal clear in this majestic place. I like to think that all of our collected tears will be poured out into this heavenly river. Even Jesus’ tears will be mixed in. Those tears will literally be transformed into living water that brings life, and then there will be no more tears of pain and sorrow. It is a glorious and blessed hope.
Yes, in this world you will have trouble, but I left the best part of the verse out…”I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”…John 16:33. That is the savior of the world talking right there. Whatever burden you face, he has overcome it. Press on and never give up hope. And it is ok to cry. He is crying right there with you.